The Perfect French Pressed Coffee
As we continue with our Art of Making Coffee Series, I thought I’d shine a light on the French Press. It is so simple, easy, portable, requires no paper filter and yet can make a beautiful cup of coffee.
For many months now, I have been using my Moka Pot and Chemex pour-over as my go-to method. The Moka pot gives me a great stovetop espresso, and the Chemex always delivers a crisp and clean cup.
Last month, we featured our Elizabeth J 100% Kona from the Pacamara variety of Arabica. It is a coffee I look forward to every year.
I have been drinking this coffee for a couple of years now and when I made it using my Chemex and Moka Pot, although still good, it was not nearly as fruity and acidic as I had remembered. Pacamara trees can be fickle year to year, but I decided to French Press it and, boy! What a difference.
In fact, it was so good that I have been French Pressing daily for about two weeks now. When I shared this with guests recently, there was great interest in the best way to get the most flavor from the French Press.
So let me share with you my method of making the perfect French Press. This is not the only way, and I encourage you to do your own research as well as trial and error.
Get The Basics Right
As always, please start with high-quality filtered water. Heat this water to 205° F. If you do not have a thermometer on your kettle, after boiling let it sit for about 30 seconds.
Although many suggest a coarse grind, I find a medium (all-purpose) grind gives me a better taste. Just don’t grind too fine as the silt and sludge will come through the filter.
My French Press holds 320 grams of water so I use 20 grams of coffee grounds. That is a 16:1 ratio. You will need to determine the size of your press (usually in ounces). Use the Google calculator to convert that into grams and divide by 16. That will give you the amount of coffee to add. If you are still not using a scale to measure your grounds, try 2 flat tablespoons per 6 ounces.
The French Press Step by Step
1. Add fresh ground coffee grounds to the press.
2. Pour 205° F water in a slow circular motion just enough to cover the grounds (about 1-2 inches). Wait 30 seconds.
3. After 30 seconds have passed, continue to pour water in slow circles until the press is filled to the upper line. Cover it (don’t press yet) and set a timer for 3.5 minutes. Don’t touch the press.
4. After the 3.5 minutes have passed, gently stir the crust/foam at the top of the press with a spoon so that most of it falls toward the bottom of the press. Maybe 3-4 light stirs. Some people use their spoon to remove any floating grounds left at the top but I usually skip that step.
5. Let the press sit for 2 more minutes.
6. Very slowly, push the plunger on your press downward, but not to the complete bottom. Maybe 2 inches or so above where the grounds are.
7. With a finger on your French Press’ lid, pour the coffee gently into a cup.
You should now be able to enjoy one of the most flavorful and elegant cups of coffee you have ever experienced.
Let me know in the comments how it was and if you have any other tips or tricks to French Pressing.
About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.
13 thoughts on “The Perfect French Pressed Coffee”
I use the French press thermal pot you used to sell. We use it everyday. I do wish you could sell them again so I could have a back up since nothing lasts forever. Love my morning coffee made this way.
I follow a similar process with my french press but instead of a spoon i use a small whisk to stir the grounds. I find that it separates the grounds better resulting in better coffee sflavor
I’ve used French Press for years but I leave the grounds soaking for 10 min before plunging. I will try the shorter timing for sure! One question I had was why leave 2 inches above the ground. I have a small (2 cup) French Press, that’s leaving the plunger fairly high up on the press.
The reason I leave the plunger above the coffee is to avoid squeezing the grounds. This can extract some bitter notes. You will still be able to pour all of the liquid through the strainer so you won’t be losing any coffee.
As always, experiment and fine tune to your personal liking.
Wow, a total of 6 min! I only do 4 min, and anything more seems to make the coffee too bitter to drink.
Interesting. Are you agitating (stirring) the coffee? Personal preference plays a large role but I have done 8-10 minute presses and as long as I am not disturbing the grounds on the bottom have no trouble with over-extraction.
Thanks Matt – that does work surprisingly well. (Well, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve been doing this wrong all this time)
This is great, Matt! Do you have a corresponding tutorial for your ideal Chemex pour-over process? I use that daily and don’t own a French press (yet)
Aloha David! I will be sure to do a Chemex explanation in an upcoming blog.
Why press the plunger down at all? I leave it just above the surface of the liquid and pour the coffee through the strainer. This way no danger of stirring up the grounds on the bottom causing bitterness. Also, I don’t bother with the first 30 second bloom. Since the grounds are fully immersed in water for French press, there is no need to allow CO2 to escape. I let it brew for 4 minutes, then do the same as you, stirring the crust, and I remove the foam and any floating grounds. I then let it sit for 7 minutes. I love French press coffee.
I can see the partial plunge but I encourage you to try blooming first. Releasing that CO2 prior to your main extraction is well documented to reduce sourness and allow for beter extraction (as CO2 build up in the grounds can repel water)
I have compared side by side and the bloom does have an impact. Thanks for the comments.