Regardless of how it’s made, coffee is a morning staple for many. While some are only interested in the energy boost from the caffeine, others appreciate the experience as a whole. This includes the process of grinding and brewing the coffee, the aroma, and of course – the taste.
There are many different ways to make coffee, however, and all of them have different requirements, methods, and yield different results. One such method is with a French press, and it’s arguably underrated.
The French press uses an immersion brewing method, meaning the coffee beans are immersed in hot water for several minutes. The more commonly used drip method has water passing through the grounds for only a few seconds.
The immersion used with a French press creates a strong coffee with a much bolder, full-bodied taste. If this is what you’re after then you must read on and learn how to make French press coffee.
But before this, you might need to know:
What is a French Press?
The French press actually has a deceiving name as it is not, in fact, French.
The French press was originally patented in Italy. The simple and easy-to-use design hasn’t changed much since the beginning.
The French press consists of two main parts.
This is typically made from glass, though some are plastic, ceramic, or metal. The beaker is where the coffee steeps in the water. Its design also makes it easy to then pour the brewed coffee into your pot or mug.
This is a rod with a metal filter on the end. The filter serves two purposes. First, it keeps the coffee grounds suppressed at the bottom of the beaker. Then, as it suppresses the grounds, it allows the natural oils and fine particles to flow up into the brewed coffee. This is what gives it a bold and full-bodied flavor.
What Will You Need
When purchasing a French press, it will come with the two most essential parts – the beaker and the plunger/filter. But, your French press coffee will be greatly enhanced with some extra attention to detail:
1. Burr Grinder
No matter what method you’re using to brew your coffee, you’ll agree with me that the fresher the coffee, the better. Buying coffee grounds at the store is certainly easier, more convenient, and less time-consuming, but you won’t be able to achieve make fresh cup of coffee, you’re actually looking for.
The best practice is to grind your own coffee beans right before brewing in order to ensure the freshest possible cup of java.
Brewing with a French press is no different.
So, if you’re not in a huge rush every morning, it’s in your best interest to invest in a good grinder. It’s often recommended that you go with a burr grinder over a blade grinder. This is because the burr grinder uses two revolving, abrasive surfaces and grinds only a few beans at a time.
This results in a much more even grind compared to the uneven results you would get from a blade grinder.
This is especially important when brewing with a French press as the grounds are steeped in water for so long. If you have different-sized particles in the French press, the smaller ones will be under-extracted and produce a bitter taste.
2. Dark Roast, Coarse Grounds
With the insane amount of coffee variations out there, it can be overwhelming to find exactly what you need. The reality is, different roasts and even different levels of coarseness work better in different situations.
Whatever brewing method you prefer to use, the roast you choose and the coarseness of your grounds will make a difference. If you use a less than ideal combination, you might end up with a subpar cup of coffee.
Get the combination just right on the other hand, and your coffee should absolutely be perfect every time.
With a French press brewer, you’re better off using a dark roast. If you’re grinding your own coffee beans, aim for a more coarse grind. If you aren’t going to be grinding your own, make sure you specifically look for a coarse grind when you’re shopping for your coffee.
Of course, you’ll still have to play around with different blends until you find your favorite, but use this as a guide.
Remember: dark roast, coarse grounds.
Also check out: Top Rated Coffees for French Press
7 Steps to Make Perfect French Press Coffee
Now that you know what a French press is and how it works, it’s time to go over how to make French press coffee. Seven steps might seem like a lot, but many of them are quick and easy. It’s not a complicated method of brewing coffee.
Step One: Rinse with hot water
The keyword here is hot. You can simply rinse it or bring the water to a boil inside the beaker. Doing this will prepare the beaker for brewing at a steady temperature.
If you’re boiling, you can save a little time by grinding your beans while it boils.
Step Two: Grind your beans
As previously mentioned, you need a coarse grind for your French press – the grounds should be about the size of breadcrumbs, as a reference. If you’re using a liter of water, start by aiming for about 70 grams of coffee grounds.
Once you do it a few times you’ll get to know exactly how much to grind for your preferred taste and strength.
Step Three: Add the Coffee
Once you’ve emptied the rinse water from the beaker, add your coffee grounds. Once the grounds are in, it’s time for the water. To start, you want to add twice as much water as coffee grounds. So, for 70 grams of grounds, add 140 grams of hot water.
There are a couple of different ways you can do this. First, you can simply add all 140 grams all at once. This is how many people do it.
Or, you can add it in two steps – add half, wait a minute, then add the rest. The theory behind doing it in two sections is that it allows the grounds to soak up the water faster and therefore release the flavor faster.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. Whichever way you choose to do it, this part of the process is called “blooming.” This is essentially the degassing of the coffee, and the grounds will rise up.
Step Four: Stir
Once you’ve added your 140 grams of water, let it bloom for 30-45 seconds. Then, using a spoon or stir stick, stir it up until the grounds sink completely to the bottom of the beaker. If the grounds are still floating, they’re not wet enough and will produce bad coffee.
A nice bonus here is the smell this process diffuses. For those that like the aroma of coffee, this might be your favorite part of using a French press.
Step Five: Add the rest of the water
Once your coffee is properly bloomed, fill the rest of the beaker with hot water. The standard brewing time for a French press is exactly four minutes, so set a timer.
That being said, there are some that brew their French press coffee for up to eight minutes. The beauty of the French press is that you can play around with this. You can adjust both the amount of coffee and brewing time to get the best taste possible and your preferred strength.
Step Six: The plunger
This is when you finish brewing the coffee. Put the plunger in the beaker and begin pressing down, slowly. Many make the mistake of pressing too quickly, but this ruins the coffee.
Going too fast is too jarring for the coffee grounds and they’ll release a bitter flavor instead of the one they’re intended to, and ruin the taste of coffee.
As you progress down the beaker and the grounds get thicker, it may become difficult to press it. If this happens, back it up a little, and press it down again.
Once the plunger reaches the bottom, the coffee is finished brewing.
Step Seven: Pouring
Pouring your coffee might seem too simple to need a step of its own, but it’s important that you get the timing right. You must pour your coffee out of the beaker as soon as your plunger has reached the bottom.
If you keep it in there longer the coffee just continues to brew uselessly
How to Avoiding Bitterness
It happens to the best of us – despite the best of efforts, you’ve ended up with a cup of bitter coffee. This is as frustrating as it is disappointing.
There are several reasons coffee might go bitter, so you do need to be careful. The following tips will help you avoid that dreaded sip of bitter coffee:
Use High-Quality Coffee
At the end of the day, your coffee is only going to be as good as the beans. Regardless of the brewing method you use, the roast you prefer, etc, you need to ensure your coffee is high quality, to begin with.
It’s best if you buy whole coffee beans. This ensures maximum freshness. Beyond that, look for blends that are all-natural and USDA-certified organic. If you’re concerned with top quality over the highest possible caffeine content, look for 100% Arabica coffee beans.
Lastly, ensure the package is sealed properly when you purchase it. The coffee will spoil much faster if there is a broken seal or improper packaging.
Watch the Water Temperature
We all want our coffee nice and hot. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But, there is such a thing as too hot. Using water that’s absolutely scalding will burn the grounds quickly and the coffee will no doubt be bitter.
Many coffee makers regulate the temperature for you, however, a French press doesn’t. To avoid burning your coffee, simply let the water sit for a minute or two after bringing it to a boil. This puts it at an optimal brewing temperature.
Avoid Over Extraction
The longer brewed coffee stays on the grounds, the more bitter it will become. This is why it’s so important to remove the coffee from the grounds once it’s brewed. Again, most coffee makers take care of this for you, but not a French press.
With a French press, it’s up to you to remove the coffee as soon as the brewing process is complete.
How to Clean a French Press
Another way to reduce the risk of bitterness with your French press is to clean it regularly and properly. It’s essential that you clean it well after each use. If you don’t, old grounds and residual caffeine oil will stick around.
Properly cleaning a French press isn’t difficult, but there are a few things to note:
- Firstly, don’t scoop the remaining coffee grounds out with your hand. This may be tempting as it’s fast and easy, but it’s not effective. There’s a good chance of leaving some behind, and it does nothing for the residual oils.
- Fill the beaker with warm water and some soap. Using a scrub brush or even the plunger itself, scrub up and down the beaker. Using the plunger will ensure it’s cleaned evenly, and it doesn’t dirty another tool.
- Empty the water and repeat the process to ensure everything is cleaned out. Then, dry it carefully with a paper towel.
Get into the habit of doing this after every brew and you won’t have to compromise the taste of your next cup!
Benefits of Making Coffee Using French Press
While it may be a slightly more complicated method than a simple, automatic drip brewer, knowing how to make French press coffee is hardly rocket science. Plus, the benefits offered by using a French press make the learning curve worth it for most.
For starters, you can’t beat the taste. The way a French press brews the coffee allows for maximum flavor extraction that you simply can’t get from other brewing methods. The result is not only bold and strong but full-bodied. You’ll experience all the notes and every facet of the flavor.
The French press doesn’t use a traditional filter. Filters are meant to stop the grounds from getting into the coffee. But, in doing so, they often stop most of the oils and other nutritious ingredients from getting into it as well.
A well-made, high-quality blend of coffee contains a ton of antioxidants. Using a French press over other methods will get more of these into your coffee and into your system, offering many health benefits.
With a French press, the brewing temperature never wavers. While other coffee makers heat the water for you, it does so before the brewing process and then stops.
When you’re in control of the water and its temperature, you can keep it the same throughout. This gives the grounds a better chance to release the flavor.
While it does require regular cleaning, a French press requires fairly low maintenance overall. Many traditional and automatic coffee makers eventually break and need to be replaced or at least repaired. With a French press, take proper care of it, and you’ll never need to worry about this.
High Caffeine Content
Lastly, a French press will expel more caffeine than many other methods. For those that are after a high caffeine content, this will probably your ideal brewing method.
If you really want to maximize caffeine and aren’t as concerned with an exquisite flavor, you can pair the French press with robusta beans.
The quality might be slightly inferior, but the caffeine content is higher.
The Disadvantage of Making Coffee Using French Press
Time: This is really only one major disadvantage to using a French press.
Many drip coffee makers can guarantee you coffee in three or four minutes, and, you can do something else while you wait for it.
A French press, on the other hand, does require some time and effort. The payoff is wonderful, but some simply don’t have the time or perhaps don’t want to spend the time.
This is an important factor to consider when choosing a go-to brewing method. Are you rushed in the mornings? Do you have a very busy schedule? Do you prefer a quick, ready-made cup of coffee?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, a French press might not be the best option for you on a daily basis.
That being said, you can always keep a French press around for days when you do have the time. Even if you can’t do it every day, it can be a nice treat once in a while.
A Few Final Words
Now, you know everything you need to know how to make French press coffee. It takes some time, but it’s well worth it. There are some variables to tinker with, such as brewing time and coffee strength, but that’s all personal preference.
Make a few cups and you’ll have your personalized process down-pat in no time!
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