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A Beginner’s Guide to Making French Press Coffee

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A Beginner’s Guide to Making French Press Coffee

You need a decent cup of coffee to perk you up on days it seems impossible to get out of bed. It would be hard to go wrong with the back-to-basics vibe and raw flavor you get from a French press coffee, so you may want to give it a shot.

The Nitty Gritty

Like they say, the beauty is in the details. With coffee, getting your perfect cup is in the details of the basics.

Get your water temp right

I recommend this item for heating water, Gooseneck Kettle

hario kettle

When you brew coffee using a French press, it is essential to get the temperature of the water right:  your beans can burn if your water is too hot, leaving you with bitter coffee. Here’s a hot tip (literally): After the water boils, take it off the stove and after a minute, the temperature would be just right. At the same time, be careful not to leave it out for too long, tepid water doesn’t extract flavor very well.

Ground the beans properly.

The French Press is known to produce coffee with a lot of residue. Here’s the thing though, it’s not the French press’ fault. It could be your blade grinder’s.

Coarse, even-sized grains of coffee beans are preferred when brewing with a French Press because a) it wouldn’t get through the plunger and b) you can avoid having murky and bitter coffee. So how do you achieve this exactly? By using a burr grinder 

Aficionados make sure they get the right proportion of the water and coffee. It’s an art and a science and this is something you can experiment with later on after you get the basic techniques right. For now, do what feels and tastes right. It might take you a few tries but that’s part of the fun! But to give you a baseline to get started with, check out the table below.

Before you get all excited, remember that the beans have to be weighed or measured before it’s ground.  


Coffee beans

8 Cups (64oz)

1 Cup (85.1g)  

4 Cups (32oz)

½ Cup (42.5g)

2 Cups (16oz)

¼ Cup (21.3g)

1 Cup (8oz)

2 tablespoons (10.6g)

Make your First French Press Coffee



Burr grinder

½ cup roasted coffee beans (42.5g)

French Press (holds 32oz)

4 cups of cold water.  

Electric or stove top kettle

Long spoon  

Thermometer (optional)

Let’s get started

  1. Measure ½ cup (42.5g) of roasted coffee beans.
  2. Put the burr grinder in its coarsest setting and grind the beans. For blade grinders, do it in sharp pulses stopping every couple of seconds to give it a good shake. You want it to be the size of breadcrumbs.  Then, put it in the French press.
  3. Boil water in the kettle and get 4 cups (32oz) when it boils. Let it sit for 1 minute. For kettles with temperature setting, just set it to “coffee”. Remember that the right temperature for the water is 195°F. (check with a thermometer)
  4. Fill the French press with 4 cups of hot water.
  5. Stir the brew for a few seconds with a bit of force going up and down alternately.
  6. Steep it for 4 minutes. (try steeping it shorter or longer when you get the hang out of it)
  7. Press the plunger all the way down. Pour yourself a cup and enjoy!

french press

A few more extra steps…

Now you’ve got that perfect cup of joe. It was pretty easy, wasn’t it? But do you want to make it even better? Here are two more things to keep in mind:

  • Warm your French Press - Before putting the ground beans, heat the French press by filling it with hot water and discarding it after 1 minute.  
  • Transfer your coffee - To avoid ending up with bitter coffee, put it in a carafe after brewing. One of the reasons French Press coffee tastes bitter is because the brewed coffee sits directly on top of the grounds in the French Press. So move the brewed coffee if you’re not going to consume it right away to preserve the best flavor.

There are a million ways to geek out over coffee. But in the end, what we’re after is a hot, delicious cup of coffee to see us through the morning. A simple pleasure.

French press is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to make great coffee. Learn the essentials: here’s how to make a pot of great French press coffee.

The Pros and Cons of French Press Coffee

French press makes coffee by steeping the grounds in hot water, and then pressing the grounds out.

After the drip coffee maker, it's one of the easiest, least time-consuming ways to make a great cup of coffee. Also, unlike pour over and the Aeropress, it makes it easy to brew coffee for several people at once. But it is prone to bitterness and oiliness, since the coffee is sitting directly on the grounds for a period of time, and this can turn people off.


french press

Troubleshooting French Press Coffee

There are two things that really muck up French press coffee: water temperature — boiling water that scorches the grounds, or tepid water that doesn't extract fully —and badly ground coffee with too much fine grit that makes the pressed coffee muddy and bitter.

These are the two factors that, to me, are most commonly ignored and yet easiest to remedy. All you need is a sense of how hot your water is and a burr grinder.

→ Takeaway: Getting the temperature right is easy (just take the water off the boil and let it sit for a minute before brewing).

Why a Burr Grinder Is Important for Good French Press

And then there's the grinder. There aren't many processes in the kitchen that truly depend on one gadget or tool, but good French press coffee is one of them.

Here's why. A regular blade grinder like is perfectly good for grinding coffee beans for a drip machine and other methods, but a French press relies on having very evenly-sized grains of coffee, and they need to be relatively big. Smaller-sized grains will get through the filter, creating a sediment in your cup, and also get over-extracted, making your coffee bitter. It's essential that all the coffee beans are ground to the same consistency and the burr grinder (what's a burr grinder?) is far superior at making this happen.

french press

→ Takeaway: If your French press turns out too bitter for you, or with a lot of gunky sediment at the bottom, then consider changing your grinder to a burr grinder. Or have your local coffee shop grind the coffee beans for you; their commercial grinders will do a great job as well.

If you don't have space for a burr grinder, then another brewing method might be better for you, like the Chemex or another pour over, or the Aeropress. More on these methods soon!

Personally, I don't feel that one needs to quibble over 40 grams versus 36 grams of grounds to water, or whether you should weigh your beans and water rather than measuring them by volume.

I have a hunch that some of you will argue with me about that, but if you are Into Coffee, then there are a million things to twiddle all the time. That's part of the pleasure of coffee; like other things in cooking, you can improve and tweak to your heart's content, and find a lot of satisfaction in it.

But if you're just getting into French press, I think that this is the easiest method that includes the essentials but doesn't get too geeky. If you are more comfortable weighing your coffee and water than measuring by volume, go to it! If you are persnickety about how long to brew which roasts, have at it! I'm right behind you.

But for now, let's just talk basics. Because in the end, it's just a cup of coffee, and I do hope that more of you will find your morning sustenance in a cup of French press, as it is really so delicious when done (mostly) right.



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