How To Use a French Press …And Why You Should!

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how to use a French press

Here is a guide on how to use a french press. French press coffee seems fairly straight forward but there are certain things you need to know to get the best out of your french press coffee.

French press coffee is one of the best immersion methods for brewing coffee. This method is best for extracting the most out of your coffee beans.

I recommend purchasing the right size french press. If you plan on only making french press coffee for yourself, then you do not need to buy the biggest french press.

Keep reading to find out on how to use a french press:

  1. Why You Should Use a French Press
  2. How Does a French Press Work
  3. Necessary Equipment
  4. Steps
  5. Best Coffee to Use in a French Press
  6. Coffee to water ratio chart

Why You Should Use a French Press

Paper filters from drip machines tend to soak up the flavors and oils from the coffee grounds. The great thing about french press coffee is that it does not do this. French press coffee contains small fine particles of ground coffee which helps percolate the flavor. This provides you with all the flavors that are in the coffee grounds due to steeping. Drip machines and percolators have special pouring techniques you need to know.  Drip machines often heat up and cool down as quickly so the right temperature only happens in the middle of the brewing process. French press coffee is able to maintain an ideal consistent temperature for brewing coffee. 

How Does a French Press Work

The french press works by blooming hot water and ground coffee together in a beaker. Once the blooming finishes, a metal mesh filter is then pushed down by a plunger. The filter catches all the ground particles when reaching the bottom of the beaker. This filter allows all the natural oils and fine particles of the ground coffee. This will help the fine particles push through giving the coffee a rich body. Immersion forms with french press brewing after the ground coffee and hot water has finished steeping. A problem with this method is that the ground coffee may over-extract with the water causing a bitter taste. So it’s important to know how to use french press properly

Anatomy of a French Press

Necessary Equipment

  • French Press
  • Coffee Beans (2 tablespoons recommended)
  • Scale
  • Timer
  • Burr Grinder
  • Hot Water (16 ounces)
  • Wooden Spoon or Coffee Paddle
  • Carafe or Mug


1. Heat up water

  • The ideal water temperature is about 200℉. If you don’t have a thermometer to measure the temperature and then boil a full kettle of water.
  • Make sure the water you boil is clean filter water. Coffee beans already contain 98% water and clean filtered water has fewer minerals.
  • Clean filtered water will allow your coffee to taste more like coffee. Due to lots of minerals with unfiltered water, it tends to taste bitter.

2. Grind coffee beans

  • While the water heats up, grind your coffee beans to a coarse grind.
  • Usually, a fine grind is recommended but french press works best with a coarse coffee grind.
  • Use the water to coffee ratio chart below to determine how much coffee and water you need. The ratios below show for a regular cup of coffee.
  • You can also use pre-ground coffee. My favorite pre-ground coffee is the original filter coffee by Illy.

3. Warm-up your beaker

  • It’s important to preheat the beaker as it does affect the taste.
  • The reason for warming up your beaker is to get rid of dust, residue, or any old coffee particles that sit in the beaker.
  • Place 1/4 of hot water into the bottom of the beaker.
  • Push the plunger all the way down, and swirl the water around to loosen any particles that lie in the french press.
  • Pour the water out and then you may take the plunger out afterwards.

4. Add your ground coffee

  • Place the ground coffee into the bottom of the beaker.
  • Shake the beaker to level the surface of the ground coffee.

5. Add water

  • Add the hot water into the beaker.
  • Keep adding hot water until it meets the ratio between the water and the coffee.
  • I recommend pouring the water in concentric circles at a consistent flow. This will allow all the ground coffee particles to have even extraction.

6. Stir with your spoon

  • Stirring the water gently will help ensure that all the coffee particles are wet. This will also help break the top layer “crust”.
  • Place the plunger all the way up on the beaker to keep a high temperature.
  • Let the coffee sit for 4 minutes to allow for steeping.

7. Press

  • After 4 minutes, gently push the plunger all the way down.
  • If the pressure is too hard then your grind may be too fine.
  • If the plunger drops with almost no pressure then your grind is too coarse.

8. Serve immediately

  • Once you have pressed the plunger all the way down, pour the coffee immediately into a mug or carafe.
  • If you do not serve soon afterward, the coffee may over-extract and taste quite bitter.

9. Clean your french press

  • Once you have made your cup of filtered coffee, add a bit of water to the beaker. Swirl the beaker around to collect all the coffee grounds.
  • Pour the coffee grounds into a compost bin and make sure you clean the french press properly for next time.

Best Coffee to Use in a French Press

Grind size

French press coffee works best with a coarse coffee grind. The main reason for a coarse grind is that if the grind is too fine, it will pass through the filter. This will leave your coffee being filled with ground particles. Another reason for using a coarse grind is that coarser grinds absorb more water than a finer grind. This will result in richer and stronger flavors. Since the french press method is easier to result in over-extraction, a coarse coffee grind will also help slow down the rate of extraction

Roast profile

I recommend using a medium roast. Darker roasts tend to have a higher acidic profile and are quicker to extract. A medium or light roast will have a longer extraction period. Medium and light roasts tend to have higher caffeine content (this is great if you are a caffeine addict)

Coffee To Water Ratio Chart

What to do next?

Make sure you wash and clean your french press after use for next time. Now that you know how to use a french press, you are one step ahead of becoming your very own barista! Make sure to read our guide on how to clean your coffee maker.

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