The Caffeinated Chemist

How to: The French Press

How to: French Press Coffee in Under 5 Minutes.

How to French Press

With so many different brewing methods out there it can be overwhelming figuring out what’s the best method to use. The French press is one of the oldest, simplest, and easiest ways to make coffee that has a more robust flavor then many other methods. It is a type of full-immersion brewing that is very similar to how you might brew tea. It differs from pour-over methods by allowing the grounds to steep which results in a more fully extracted cup. Additionally, you get more of the natural oils and subtle flavors that may be absent from pour-over coffee as there is no filter to trap the molecules and limit taste. The result is a full bodied mouthful of flavorful goodness. 


How to Make French Press Coffee:

French Press Aesthetic

Step 1 - Choosing Your Beans:

As with most full-immersion brewing, you will want to add fairly coarse grounds when using a French Press. Try to aim for grounds that are between the size of sea salt and sugar. We want this larger size due to the longer steeping time causing over-extraction if the grounds are too fine; the result is a bitter, acidic taste that will stop your French Press days before they begin. 

I recommend using a burr grinder to get a more even grind size the gives a much more consistent flavor to the coffee. However, an electric grinder can work in a pinch. But if you bought ground coffee from the store it will definitely still work! It just might not taste as good.

You will want to start with a coffee-to-water ratio of ~ 1:16. To make a standard two cups, this means adding about 30 grams of coffee (~ 5 tablespoons) with 475 grams of water (~16 oz). I know that sounds like a lot of coffee, but I recommend you start here and adjust it to your personal preferences. Just add the coffee grounds into the carafe and move on to the next step!

Step 2 - Adding the Water

As with most coffees, you will want to heat the water (preferably purified/filtered for best results)  to a rolling boil. Then, take it off the stove and open any lids to let it cool for ~30 seconds. 

Note: If you live in a higher elevation (such as Colorado) then you can pour the boiling water directly over the coffee due to differences in the boiling point. 

Pour into the carafe over the grounds until the water reaches about the half-way point. Take any stirring utensil (I just use a spoon) and give it a gentle stir in small circular motions to promote the release of carbon dioxide and allow the grounds to get evenly dispersed. But be careful, you don’t want to cause too much agitation as that may result in over extraction and mess with the brewing times.

After about 15 seconds of stirring let water steep for 45 more seconds before pouring the rest of the water in till near full. Place the lid on but DO NOT PRESS DOWN ON THE PLUNGER yet. Set a timer for 4 minutes and let it sit. Feel free to adjust the time it steeps for however you like your coffee. Letting it steep for longer will result in a much more powerful/bitter cup. 

Step 3 - Plunge and Sip!

Thankfully the hard part is finished and all that’s left to do is compress the grounds. After your four minute timer goes off, gently press down on the plunger until all the way compressed. The mesh filter will trap most of the grounds, but don’t be alarmed if some smaller grounds get into the coffee. It also allows the oils to flow through giving the coffee a smoother, almost buttery taste. 

After fully compressed gently pour the coffee into your cup being extra careful to not pour in too much coffee grounds. If you have any coffee left over in the carafe, be sure to transfer it into some other insulated container as it will continue to brew if left in the French Press. This will give a super nasty bitter taste that is often associated with bad Press coffees. Now enjoy your coffee the way you like it and admire all your hard work! 

French Press Coffees

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