While this magical, single cup brewer will always have a place in my heart…


And nothing could ever make me break up with my favorite coffee house…


There comes a time when a coffee lover needs to go beyond their comfort zone.

For me, that involved learning how to use a French press.

I mean, I get it. If you’re used to automatic coffee makers, it can look kind of intimidating. Can coffee be that simple?

Spoiler: Yes, it can!

Let me guide you on this journey on how to use a French press. I can’t promise that it will be life-changing. But at the very least, you’ll learn how to brew a great cup of coffee.

(And isn’t that life-changing enough?)




How To Use A French Press -- What Is It?


Before we get into learning how to use a French press, let’s learn a little more about it.

I mean, where did it come from? What do we use it for? And what is it made of anyway?

Fear not, for we will get into it right now:

History of the French press

It’s a logical conclusion to think that a coffee maker called the “French press” is French. But really, there’s a little more history than just “it’s French!”

In French and Italian, the device is called a cafetière.

Sharp Italian drinking espesso

Sharp man enjoying morning cup in Turin, Italy. Image By starsstudio

In 1852, two men by the name of Mayer and Delforge patented a coffee brewing device that included a plunger and flannel screen to help filter the coffee.

Though invented in France, it remained relatively unknown.

And then came the Italians:

In 1920, an improved version of the original cafetière design received a patent in Milan, Italy.

The Italian patent holders continued to improve upon the design which paved the way for the device we know as the French press today.

In essence:

The French invented the French press. But the Italians made it famous.




Manual Coffee Makers


The French press is one type of manual coffee maker.

Unlike automatic coffee makers that dispense the magical brown liquid with little more than a push of the button, manual coffee makers take a bit more time and effort.

Trust me. I get it:

Making your coffee by hand seems like a lot of work.

(Especially before you’re sufficiently caffeinated!)

But for many coffee aficionados, manual coffee makers reign supreme because of the control you can exert over your cup of coffee.

Immersion method coffee maker

A French press works using the immersion method for making coffee. That is, you brew your coffee by immersing the beans in water to extract its magical properties.

Aside from the French press, other immersion method coffee makers include:

Here’s something interesting:

All immersion type coffee makers do require filtering of some sort to separate the brewed coffee from the grinds.

Other manual coffee maker types

Immersion is not the only manual coffee making method. Infusion and percolation are also typical.

Infusion type coffee makers pour water over the coffee beans, allowing it to drip down through the coffee. Pour over coffee makers are an infusion type of coffee maker.

Another type of manual coffee maker is a percolator.

Percolators heat water which sprays water over coffee grinds and then drips down back into a holding chamber.




Advantages Of A French Press Over Other Methods


So what makes the French press such a great coffee maker?

Well, let’s see here:

It’s easy!

If you can boil and pour water, you can make an incredible cup (or pot) of coffee.

Coffee + water + French press = GREAT COFFEE

It’s cheap!

As far as coffee makers go, the French press is downright affordable.

Well-known French press manufacturer Bodum has French press coffee makers starting around $10.

That’s not a bad price to pay for some excellent coffee.

Complete control

Like other manual coffee makers, a French press gives you a significant amount of control.

You control the temperature, the agitation, the brew time, everything.


No extra filters

If you’re eco-conscious, a French press is an excellent manual coffee maker choice.

Unlike some other manual coffee maker types, a French press doesn’t need an extra filter.

No extra filter means no waste!




Picking Out A French Press


When it comes to French presses, there is not too much difference in the general features.

However, the difference comes in different sizes, materials, and construction.

Have a look at your options:

Parts of a French

press

As far as coffee makers go, the French press is dead simple.

You’ve got two main parts:

The carafe holds your coffee grinds and water. Stainless steel and glass are the two most common carafe materials.

The plunger assembly is usually attached to the lid. The metal filter that will eventually separate your brewed coffee from the grounds is attached to the end of the plunger.

The plunger and filter are generally made from metal. However, sometimes plastic is used for the lid.

Image bydanymena88

Glass French press

Heat resistant, borosilicate glass is a standard material for French presses.

While the carafe itself may be glass, it is usually paired with other materials for the base and handle, usually metal or plastic.

A good thing about a glass French press:

They are PRETTY!

There’s just something so satisfying about seeing your coffee brewing right in front of you.

(Or maybe that’s just me?)

Not to mention that glass looks great in your kitchen or on your living room coffee table.

A potential downside is that the glass is fragile.

Remember:

French press coffee makers require you to plunge to filter the coffee.

If you’re naturally butterfingered, that may be a recipe for disaster. (Especially in the morning when you’re not yet sufficiently caffeinated!)

But if that’s not an issue, here are some glass French presses that may suit your fancy:

Image byhabaconhomer

Stainless steel

If you want a sleek looking French press, try stainless steel. These are especially great if you entertain because they look great on any tablescape.

On the outset, stainless steel + hot coffee seems like a dangerous combination. (Burns, anyone?)

But never fear:


Most stainless steel French presses are double walled.

Not only is this better for safety but it’s also great for keeping your coffee warm.

However:

While smart looking and well-designed, this does come at a price. Stainless steel French presses tend to be more expensive than their same-sized glass counterparts.

If that’s not a concern, check out these stainless steel French presses:

Image byKuissential

Other materials

Glass and stainless steel may be the most recognizable, but they aren’t the only materials available for French presses.


Clumsy coffee lovers, rejoice! All-plastic, unbreakable French presses do exist!


Look:

Do you want something fancier than your usual glass or stainless steel? Ceramic or stoneware may be just your thing.

Not only is it beautiful but the solid construction helps keep your coffee piping hot.

Of course, that solid construction means that these coffee makers may be a bit heavier than other French presses.

These are a few unique French press options to set you apart from the crowd:

Image by: Sur La Table

Travel French press

​Are you a serious coffee fanatic on the go?

Then a good travel French press is a must-have!

A travel French press combines the convenience of an insulated, non-spill mug with the functionality of a standard French press.

Just dump your coffee in and fill with water. In three minutes, plunge.

Finally, screw the cap on, and you have your caffeine on the go!


Image by BRBHOM

Quick Guide to Travel French Presses

  • Materials: Stainless steel, foam wall, plastic
  • Capacity: Typically between 10-ounces and 20-ounces 
  • Hold it! Some have handles, and some don’t

Check out some of these travel French press coffee makers!




How To Use A French Press: More Than Just The Press



Knowledge is knowing that making coffee in a French press takes just coffee and water.

But wisdom is understanding that how you treat that coffee and water makes a difference in your final cup.

​Here’s what you need to make some incredible French press coffee:

Coffee

If you’re going to make coffee in a French press, then it stands to mention that you get some great coffee.

The great thing about the French press brewing method is that it works well with just about any type of roast.

However, what you do need to watch out for is the grind.

coffee grinder

Image byGellinger

Grind

​The one thing you need to think about when making French press coffee is the grind.

The grind on your coffee makes the most significant difference.

For French Press coffee, you want a relatively coarse grind. Aim for something that’s slightly coarser than table salt.

​Water

You can’t make coffee without water.
But more importantly:
Watch your water temperature!

Do not use boiling water!
Boiling water (212 F) will burn your coffee!

Water that’s too hot will over-extract your coffee and make it bitter and acidic. And water that’s not hot enough will under extract your coffee and make it dull and flavorless.

So what’s the sweet spot?

Coffee experts tell you to aim for between 195 F and 205 F.




​What More Do You Need?


​You can make French press coffee with just the coffee, water, and French press.

But why stop there?

If you want to up your coffee game, add these accessories to your coffee making arsenal.


tableware

Image byforcal35

Want to make great coffee?


Ditch the measuring cups and spoons.


I’m serious.

Though volumetric measurements like cups and tablespoons reign supreme for most things, it is quite inaccurate.

Using a scale to weigh out your coffee and measure out your water is THE KEY to reproducing accurate brews time after time.

It doesn’t need to be an extra fancy one. A digital kitchen scale that is capable of measuring in grams is all you need.



coffee beans and grinder

Image byLubosHouska

Repeat after me:

Fresh ground coffee is WAY better than pre-ground.

I’m not just saying that because I’m a coffee snob. SCIENCE backs me up on this.

Grinding a coffee bean exposes more of its surface to air. Unfortunately, air is coffee’s enemy. It makes it lose flavor.

If you’re going through the trouble of making your coffee with a French press, I’m sure you want as much flavor in your coffee as possible.

Another thing to remember:



Grind matters.

For immersion brewing methods like a French press, you want to aim for a coarse grind.

While some coffee shops will let you specify how coarse or fine you want your coffee, the pre-bagged stuff doesn’t.

The chances are that pre-ground coffee is too fine for your French press. Using coffee that is too fine in your French press will cause it to over-extract.


And that's not all.

Finely ground coffee can clog your filter. This will make it difficult to filter your brewed coffee AND make it a pain to clean.

Here are some great grinders to check out:



cup of coffee

Image bysuju

Time is as essential an ingredient as water and coffee when it comes to brewing.

Here's the bottom line:

Too little time and your coffee will just be brown colored water. (Yuck.) Too much time and your coffee will be super bitter.

There is no need to get fancy here as most any timer will do.



Water kettle

Image byKboyd

If you’re super serious about your coffee, invest in an electric kettle with temperature control. (Or use an instant-read thermometer.)

No thermometer?

Bring your water to a boil and then let it cool off for about 30 seconds before brewing your coffee.



water filter

Image byrawpixel

A water filter is an optional but nice-to-have accessory.

Remember:

Your water will end up flavoring your coffee, one way or another.

If your tap water isn’t great, use filtered or bottled water for the best results.





How To Use A French Press To Brew A Cup Of Hot Coffee


Now let’s put all this new found knowledge about coffee and French presses to make a delicious cup of coffee!

Assemble your parts

Before brewing, get your tools together. You will need:

Coffee press with cup waiting to be filled

Coffee press with empty cup. Image from Danymena88

Measure out your coffee

Measure out your coffee:


A good ratio is 1 part coffee to 15 parts water. If you don’t have a scale, you’re looking at a rounded tablespoon per 6 ounces of water.

For best results, use a coarse ground, something slightly more coarse than salt.

Place in a container and bloom your coffee grinds

Place your grounds in the carafe and pour enough water to saturate the grounds to “bloom” your coffee.

This process helps the coffee release excess carbon dioxide, leading to a more tasty brew.

Let the saturated grounds sit for approximately 30 seconds.

Pour rest of the water and steep

Once your coffee is done blooming, pour in the rest of the water. Try not to agitate the grounds too much while you do so.

Now time to wait.

Set a timer for three and a half minutes.

Stir

At about one minute in, stir a little to make sure your grounds are all getting some watery love.

Plunge and enjoy

Once the entire three and half minutes has elapsed, here comes the fun part!

Time to press down:

Not too fast, now. Just apply even, steady pressure.

Plunge and enjoy

Once the entire three and half minutes has elapsed, here comes the fun part!

Time to press down:

Not too fast, now. Just apply even, steady pressure.

Ah. #SoSatisfying

And then pour yourself a nice, rich cup of coffee.

Now dress it up (or not, your choice) as you like it and enjoy!




Troubleshooting Your French Press Coffee



Did you brew up a pot of French press and found that it’s not up to your standards?

Here are a few fixes you can try out:

Is the coffee too strong?


GRIND: Make sure your grind is not too fine.


WATER: Increase the water to coffee ratio


Is the coffee too weak?


GRIND: Make sure your grind is not too coarse


WATER: Decrease the water to coffee ratio




How To Use A French Press For Cold Brew


While hot coffee is the iconic way to use a French press, let’s take the heat out of the equation and brew up some cold brew.


Wait!


What’s cold brew?


(I’m so glad you asked!)


Coffee is traditionally brewed using hot water to extract all the goodness from the coffee bean.


But hot water can also burn the beans. It can over-extract the flavor as well, making your coffee bitter.


Cold brew coffee steeps coffee in cold water to extract the flavor. It takes much longer, but it results in a smooth, less acidic brew that is not as bitter.


Cold brew makes an excellent iced coffee, but you can also serve it hot.

Cold Brew

Image byrawpixel

Why cold brew in a French press?

Simple:


Because it’s PERFECT for cold brew.


In cold brew coffee, you let the coffee sit and then strain it out. You can use a


But what does a French press have in it? That’s right! That plunger!


This way you reap the all the reward with less hassle.


black coffee and milk

Image byStockSnap

Making cold brew concentrate in a French press

Measure out your coffee and water. Stumptown coffee recommends a 64 ounces water to 12 ounces of coffee. (This comes out to a ratio of 16 parts water to 3 parts coffee.)

Place your coarse ground coffee in your French press carafe. Cover with your pre-measured water and stir well to combine.

Replace the top of your French press but do not press down.

Now you wait:

Place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. At the end of 24 hours, plunge to separate the grinds from the brewed coffee.

Serve and dilute as desired. (Stumptown recommends starting at a 1 to 1 ratio of cold brew concentrate to water.)

cold brew and snack



How To Use A French Press: Some Non-Conventional Ideas


Just because a French press was designed to brew coffee doesn’t mean you have to be limited by that!

Here are a few other ideas to get you started:

Brewing loose leaf tea

The same construction that makes the French press ideal for brewing coffee also makes it great for brewing tea.

You can even use the same general method:

Just place the tea leaves in the pot, cover with hot water.

Let it steep for a few minutes before plunging and enjoying some perfectly brewed and filtered loose leaf tea!

Don’t like hot tea? No problem! Use cold water and let it steep in the fridge overnight.
Afterward, plunge and enjoy some delicious cold-brewed iced tea!

Brewing loose leaf tea

The same construction that makes the French press ideal for brewing coffee also makes it great for brewing tea.

You can even use the same general method:

Just place the tea leaves in the pot, cover with hot water.

Let it steep for a few minutes before plunging and enjoying some perfectly brewed and filtered loose leaf tea!

Fruit infused water recipe ideas
Strawberry, lime, cucumber
Orange and blueberry
Watermelon and mint
Lemon and thyme
Lime and mint

Take some of your favorite fruit and cut it into small pieces and place it into your carafe. (If you add herbs, use sparingly! They’re pretty intensely flavored.)

Cover with cold water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once infused, press down on the plunger to filter out the fruit.

Infused oils

Break out from thinking of the French press as only a beverage making tool. It turns out that a French press is a great tool to make infused oils to cook with!

If you love cooking, this is something to try:

Toss some herbs and aromatics into your French press. Next, heat some oil on the stove. (You will want it warm but not too hot.)

Pour the oil over the herbs and aromatics. Let it steep for about 5 to 10 minutes. Once done steeping, put the plunger on and filter out the solids.

Infused Oil Ideas
Asian-inspired: Peanut Oil + Ginger + Garlic + Sichuan peppercorns
Indian-inspired: Peanut Oil + Cumin + Coriander + Turmeric + Chili
Italian-inspired: Olive Oil + Basil + Garlic + Sun-dried tomatoes
Mexican-inspired: Canola oil + Ancho chiles + Cumin + Oregano

Infused oils

Bottles of extra virgin olive oil infused with mediterranean herbs. Image By Barbara Helgason

Milk frother

We’ve established that a French press is an excellent tool for making coffee. But if you like lattes as well, you may want to pay attention to this next hack.

Try this:

Just pour some hot milk into your French press, about a third of the way up. Put the lid on and pump the plunger for a minute.

Ta-da!! You now have frothy milk, perfect for cappuccinos or lattes.

Are you feeling creative?

Try your hand at some latte art with your French press frothed milk!




How To Use A French Press: Cleaning And Maintenance


Once you are done with your morning (or evening! #nojudgement) cup of coffee, you should clean out your French press as soon as possible.

Remember:

If you leave it for too long, the coffee grounds and oils will gunk up your filter.

Even worse, the oils can go rancid and make everything taste icky. (No one wants gross tasting coffee, after all!)


Best way to clean your French press

To clean your French press, you need water, soap, and a fine mesh sieve.

Yeah, a sieve.

sieve

Image bywebandi

I promise this is an INGENIOUS way to clean your French press!



Follow these steps:

First, take off the filter assembly and fill your carafe about halfway with water. Swish the water about and then dump spent coffee grounds and water it into a fine mesh sieve.

You can dump the coffee at this point. Just don’t drop the grounds down the sink.

(Unless you like clearing out clogged sinks, that is. I mean, it could happen, right?)

Green Ways to Repurpose Coffee:
-Garden fertilizer
-Nitrogen-rich compost material
-Natural pest control
-Natural odor absorber

image shows baking soda box with some of the powder in a small bowl

Image from: evitaochel

Is your filter clogged with oil and gunk? Add a teaspoon of baking soda for grease fighting power!

Next, fill the carafe again with warm water and a squirt of dish soap.

Place the plunger and filter assembly back in. Plunge up and down a few times to force water and soap into the filter and in the carafe.

Remove the plunger and rinse thoroughly. If needed, you can repeat to ensure you’ve got it squeaky clean.

Set the carafe and plunger out to dry.

Now you’ve got yourself a clean French press, ready to make more caffeine for you.


When to replace the metal filter

When you are cleaning your French press, take a good look at your metal filter assembly.

Here's why:

Over time, the mesh may become warped or develop holes. This can affect how your coffee turns out.

If this happens, it’s time to replace the metal filter.

Search online for your brand of French press coffee maker to order a replacement and replace according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

filters

Image byvdavasad


Savoring The Coffee

Making coffee in a French press may seem a little bit intimidating at first.

But as it turns out, it’s pretty simple:

Anyone that can boil water can make a great pot of French press coffee!

Part of learning the process of how to make French press coffee encourages you to learn more about coffee itself.

Because the French press method is so simple, you may feel inspired to learn how best to treat all the parts that go into your coffee.

Learning to make a great cup of coffee is a simple pleasure; perhaps one of life's greatest pleasures for a coffee lover.


So maybe I was wrong in the beginning. Maybe learning how to use a French press is life changing.

Whether it is or not, it is for sure the path to a great cup of coffee.

Fresh, soothing, and rich french press coffee.

Hold your cup of fresh, soothing, and rich French Press coffee. Image By thawornnurak


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