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Coffee 101: How to Use a French Press

Jul 23, 2019 | Coffee, Coffee & Tea 101



Using a French press is an easy, economical, and expedient way to brew your morning java, and when done correctly yields a creamy and robust brew that’s truly hard to beat.

Even better, coffee brewed using a French press can accommodate one coffee-lover, or a small group.

An immersion brewer, the French Press comprises a carafe and a plunger assembly outfitted with a metal screen at the bottom.

Coffee steeps for 3-4 minutes in the press’s basin or beaker, before a plunger is engaged, separating the grounds and trapping them at the bottom.

Because coffee sits on the grounds for a while, bitterness can sometimes be an issue. This makes water temperature and coffee grind absolutely critical when using a French press.

Keep in mind:

  • Water that is too hot will burn your grounds.
  • Water that is lukewarm will cause your grounds to be over-extracted.
  • By far, a coarse grind is recommended for French press users.

Finer grounds are denser and less permeable, requiring more force when pushing the plunger. This can permit sediment to seep around the filter and result in a gritty, muddier brew.

Evenly sized, larger grains are the key, and require something like a burr grinder to ensure consistency.

Generally speaking, the following water/coffee ratios will ensure a solid cup of French press coffee.

  • 1 serving: 1 cup water (8 fluid ounces) — 2 tablespoons ground coffee
  • 2 servings: 2 cups water (16 fluid ounces) — 4 tablespoons of ground coffee
  • 4 servings: 4 cups water (32 fluid ounces) — 8 tablespoons of ground coffee

Let’s assume you’re entertaining your book club. Here are the steps required to use a French press successfully.


  • 4 cups of cold water
  • 8 tablespoons of ground Orinoco coffee
  • A coffee grinder (preferably a burr grinder)
  • A kettle for boiling water


  1. To prep your French press, rinse out with hot water prior to starting a new brew.
  2. Measure out your coffee beans.
  3. Set your burr grinder on the coarsest setting. A blade grinder can also work – but will need slightly more finesse. (In that case, use brief pulses to grind, and check your consistency periodically.) Ultimately, grinds should be large and course, but evenly matched. Too course, and you could clog your filter. Aim for the consistency of Kosher salt. Or breadcrumbs. Your coffee, your analogy.
  4. Pour your ground coffee into your French press.
  5. Heat your water until boiling. Remove from stovetop and allow to sit for one full minute. Water should technically be heated to 195º Use a thermometer if available.
  6. Start your 4-minute timer.
  7. Add half of your hot water to your French press. Pour in a circular motion and make certain to wet all grounds.
  8. Stir it up.
  9. Fill French press to the top with the remaining water. Place the lid back on.
  10. Allow your brew to steep until the timer rings. (Note: Different roasts may react better to different steeping times. Trial and error will allow you to determine the perfect process for your particular press.)
  11. After four minutes have passed, depress the plunger on your French press. Use slow, steady pressure. Completely push through to the bottom.
  12. Serve coffee immediately.
  13. If not drinking coffee immediately, pour into a carafe to avoid bitterness.

Did we mention “enjoy?”