How To Use A French Press Coffee Maker – A Thorough Guide (Latest Release)

Only about 4% of people use a French Press coffee maker, so before we delve into How to Use a French Press Coffee Maker, let’s focus on what it is and why people like to use one.

There are many different ways of making a cup or 10 of coffee when you’re home.  Before we get into the details of making coffee with a french press coffee maker, you have to be aware that this process can take a little time.  This is how I make my coffee about half the time, and when I use my french press, it takes somewhere around 15 minutes from start to finish.

Before we get into using one of these, you should first understand why you would want to use one.  The main reason is that a lot of people feel that this makes an amazing cup of coffee.  If you are using a drip coffee maker that uses paper filters, these can remove some of the key oils that create the flavor you know as my cup of coffee; the majority of french presses do not use a paper filter isn’t an issue.

The most important reason for using a french press is that this method of making coffee allows you to ‘steep’ the coffee.  Much like when you are making a cup of tea, steeping allows you to control how the water absorbs the coffee flavor because your coffee grounds are really swimming in the water.  You control the amount of time that the coffee steeps, so you can make a more mild cup of coffee by reducing the steep time, and conversely, you can intensify the flavor by allowing it to steep longer.

How To Use A French Press

1. Start with a well-rinsed out coffee press

Many people suggest that you not use soap when you clean out your coffee maker for many reasons, so at the very least, you start with a very well-rinsed coffee press.

2. Put in coffee grounds

The suggested amount of coffee to use with your french press is 1 rounded tablespoon for every 7 ounces of water you are using.  Everyone will have a slightly different understanding of what this means, so this is something that you can learn what your preferred taste is and that will be your definition of what rounded means.  When I make my coffee, I use a measuring tablespoon, and I put in as much as the spoon will hold.

Keep in mind that you need to have your coffee ground, ground specifically for use with a french press.  This grind leaves the coffee larger than with either a drip or an espresso coffee maker.  Before the next step, make sure your press is on a stable and flat surface so there’s no spillage.

3. Add water to your press

While you are preparing your press and measuring your coffee, you should be heating your water.  I say heating because you don’t want the water to boil.  Ideally, you will want your water heated to between 195-205 degrees.  This is the temperature that maximizes the amount of flavor you can extract from the coffee grounds.  I’ve tested this out for my own taste, and I’ve found that I like my water a little bit cooler, but still around 190 degrees.  I use an old-school whistling tea kettle on my stove, and I’ve learned what it sounds like when it gets around the temperature I like, so you don’t necessarily have to use an instant-read thermometer every time you heat the water.

After you add the water, place the top/plunger into the press — but do NOT push it down.  

4. Let the coffee steep

After you place the top on the press, now comes the art of making the coffee.  The instructions for using a french press typically say for you to wait about 4-5 minutes, but as mentioned above, you will know how long to let the coffee steep based on how you like the flavor.  This length of time can vary based on the blend of coffee you use, so you will need to experiment.

I typically allow my coffee to steep for about 7 minutes as I like my coffee pretty strong.

5. Press the plunger

Once you’ve allowed your coffee to steep for as long as your palate wants you to, slowly depress the plunger all the way down.  You’ll want to go slow for a couple of reasons.  First, if you depress the plunger too fast, you can leave a lot of residue in your coffee.  Second, depressing the plunger too quickly could squirt coffee and grounds through the pour spout, or you can even topple the press and spill all of your work onto the counter.

6. Drink your coffee

This is what we’ve worked towards for the last 10 to 15 minutes.  Mix any sweetener or creams or milk or whatever you’d like to add in and enjoy.

How to Buy Coffee For Your French Press

If you don’t have your own coffee grinder, you’ll need to purchase your coffee ready to go for your french press.  If you go into one of the large coffee chains that sell beans, you can have them grind the coffee for you, but make sure that you tell them that you want it ground for french press.  If you don’t tell them, they’ll likely grind the coffee for a drip coffee maker, and that’s too finely ground to use with a french press.

If you purchase your coffee over the internet from a coffee specialty site, make sure that you check that you want your coffee ground for the french press.  If you don’t, again, you’ll get coffee ground for a drip maker.

If you purchase your coffee from a supermarket, do your research and test the results.  Most of the pre-ground coffee that you’ll get is not ground for the french press.  Many supermarkets have these big barrels of coffee with a grinder so that you can have fresh beans ground exactly the way you want them to be ground.  Be careful.  If there’s not a lot of turnover in that coffee, the beans can be very dry.  Dry beans are less flavorful because the flavor comes out of the oils in the beans.  So again, it would help if you tried everything available, but be careful with what you are buying.

Other Tips

1. Keep your press clean

While we rarely practice this ourselves, after you finish the last cup you’re going to drink from a batch, dump out the unused coffee and dump out the coffee grounds from the bottom.  [There’s a lot you can do with your spent coffee beans, so maybe don’t toss them all out.]

2. Rinse the coffee press

After dumping the leftover coffee and grounds, rinse out your press.  Leaving grounds at the bottom can get rancid and can build up some bacteria.  Let’s be safe and rinse everything out when you are finished.  It would be best if you also rinsed off the bottom of your presses plunger to get rid of those coffee grounds as well.

3. My coffee flavor is unusual

If you used pre-flavored coffee beans (I like a nice hazelnut), make sure you do an extra good job of rinsing out your press.  You might want to use a little baking soda and rinse it again to make sure that you get rid of any flavor before making your next pot.

4. Lots of coffee grounds in the coffee?

The sign of a well-made cup of coffee from a french press is a pretty empty bottom of the cup.  This means that when your coffee cup is little more than the back-wash from your last sip, there are no big piles of coffee grounds.  You might have a little film on the bottom when things dry out, but you should not have a lot of residue there.  If you have a bunch of stuff down there, you should look at your plunger to see if it needs to be replaced or a new screen installed.  Please note, some presses are not well made, and you will end up with this grime no matter what you do.

Finally

A french press coffee maker, when used properly, can make a superior cup of coffee.  The french press gives you the most control of the flavor you make, but it does take some practice to perfect it.  This method takes a little bit of time, but in my opinion, it is well worth the extra time.

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