how to make french pressed coffee the right way

French press coffee is nothing new. French press pots have been around for at least a hundred years. The design that we know was patented in 1929 by, get this, an Italian! Not a Frenchman!

In England, French press coffee makers are known as cafetieres.

French press coffee makers consist of a beaker (aka carafe), and a plunger assembly that consists of a post, a lid, and a series of screens to press the coffee grounds to the bottom of the carafe once the coffee have been brewed.

French press coffee

French press coffee is rich and satisfying. There is no filter in this pot, so all of the volatile compounds and essential oils that make coffee, well, coffee, find their way into your cup, rather than absorbed into a paper filter (or stuck to a metal one). So here’s how to make French press coffee.
happy couple enjoying a cup of french pressed coffee

How to Make French Press Coffee

The first step is begin with a scrupulously clean French press. The oils in coffee are highly volatile and go rancid quickly. Any trace of rancid oils on a French press (even one that looks clean) can ruin a pot of coffee. (Link here to how to clean your coffee pot article). If you’re brewing two pots in relatively quick succession, a simple rinse will suffice, but if you’re not brewing again until tomorrow morning, the entire pot should be thoroughly cleaned. And please don’t leave an empty pot with wet coffee grounds in it overnight. That will make it harder to get really clean! Start boiling water in your kettle. (link to teakettles on Amazon) The optimal water temperature for pouring over your French press coffee is 195F. That is actually the best temperature for any brewing method. There are lots of ways to do this. I simply bring my water to the boil in an electric kettle (link to electric kettles here). Once the kettle switches off, I wait about one minute. If you’re really type A, you can use a meat thermometer (link to Amazon) or an electric kettle with a digital temperature readout (link here to Amazon).

The steps you need to follow

sign saying drink coffee press
  • Preheat the carafe. Run your kitchen tap as hot as you can. Fill the pot with water and let it sit a few seconds. Dump out the water. Your pot is now nice and toasty warm! This prevents the pot from losing too much heat during the brewing time, and results in hotter coffee in your cup.
  • Place your coffee in the bottom of the French press carafe. I use a burr grinder and set it for coarse grind. Any finer grind will overbrew the coffee and make it bitter. Finer grinds will also deliver a gritty cup of coffee, as powder-like grinds will find their way through the filter.
  • It is not only important that you use good coffee, but the proportions must be right. I use two rounded tablespoons per cup (8 fl oz) of water.
  • Pour a little of the water over the coffee in the carafe. Let it sit for about 30 seconds to saturate the beans.
  • Fill the carafe with water and give it a stir. Some insist that a non-metal spoon must be used, but I use stainless steel and can not tell the difference…
  • Place the lid on the carafe, but DO NOT PUSH THE PLUNGER DOWN.
  • Let the coffee steep for 3 to 5 minutes. You will need to experiment here to find your optimal brewing time.
  • Slowly, and steadily, push the plunger down half-way. Pull it up again, and this time plunge all the way down. Slowly. And steadily.
  • Pour the coffee immediately. Do not wait 5 or 10 minutes. And if you aren’t serving the entire carafe at once, pour the rest into an insulated bottle. French press coffee overbrews in the blink of an eye, even after the plunger has been pushed down.
French press coffee is delicious and a very elegant way to serve coffee. It is French, after all… As with any method of making coffee, there is a bit of trial and error involved. You may want to use more (or less) coffee in the pot, and you may prefer to brew the coffee for a longer (or shorter) time than recommended. After a couple of tries, you’ll find the combination that suits you best. And, Voila! A great cup of coffee!

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