Brew Basics: How to Make French Press Coffee That Tastes Good [My #1 Top Tip]

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One of the oldest coffee makers out there: the French Press. Discover how to brew French Press coffee, with bold, strong flavors, and none of the bitterness.
a french press coffee maker
Photo by Rachel Brenner

A French Press is one of the oldest and most common coffee makers out there. It’s also known as a plunger in Australia and New Zealand. It’s simple to use, and makes a bold-tasting, strong cup of coffee. Today’s brew guide serves to teach you the basics of how to make French Press coffee, as well as my number one top tip on how to improve the brew – we want to make it taste good! 

What You’ll Need

  1. A French Press
  2. Coffee beans (medium to medium-dark roasted beans are recommended)
  3. A burr grinder
  4. A digital scale
  5. A kettle
  6. Clean water (filtered water is recommended)
  7. A timer (your smartphone’s timer works)
  8. A wooden spoon or whisk (optional)

The Brew Ratio

French Press coffee makers are so widely used that there isn’t one fixed recipe ratio. If you were to ask 5 baristas, you’d likely get 5 different answers. So, for the French Press, a range works best.

The coffee-to-water brew ratio for a French Press can range anywhere from 1:12 to 1:17.

In other words, use approximately 60 g – 85 g of coffee grounds for 1 Litre of water. 

  • 1:12 will give you a stronger and full-bodied cup.
  • 1:17 will be a weaker, more diluted cup.

It’s really down to your personal preference whether you’re in the mood for a stronger or weaker coffee that particular day. Experiment and play around with the brew ratios until you find one you really like.

This guide will use a common 1:15 coffee to water ratio, which is a great starting ratio to follow.

How to Make French Press Coffee: Step-by-Step

a diagram on how to make French Press coffee

Total Time: 3 minutes

Step 1: Set Up Your Tools

Remove the lid and the plunger (the stick with the mesh filter). Set them aside. Rinse the glass beaker of the French Press under warm to hot water. This is to better retain the heat and flavour of the coffee later.

Step 2: Grind Your Coffee

For a French Press, grind your whole beans to a coarse grind size. It should look similar to the size of salt. This guide’s recipe will make 500 ml of coffee, so using the 1:15 ratio, weigh out about 33g of coffee grounds. 

Scale this recipe according to how much coffee you wish to brew.

Step 3: Distribute Your Grounds

Place the French Press on top of your scale and tare it. It should read 0 g now. Tip the coffee grounds into the French Press and double check that it is still at 33 g. Tare your scale to zero again.

When you tip the grounds in, do so confidently and in one quick motion. You should end up with a relatively flat bed of coffee grounds. If there is a pile-up anywhere, shake the French Press left and right until it evens out.

Step 4: Boil Your Water

Bring clean water to the boil. If using a regular kettle, open the lid and let it cool for 30 seconds after boiling. If using a kettle with controllable temperature, set it to 91°C to 96°C  (195 – 205°F). 

Do not pour boiling water into coffee, as too high a temperature will destroy the taste.

Step 5: Pour and Bloom

Double check that your scale is at zero. Start the timer. 

Pour a small amount of hot water (about 100 g) into the French Press. Then, stop. The hot water will mix with the coffee grounds and turn into a slushy mixture. Let it sit for 30 seconds.

You’ll notice bubbles rising up and trying to escape. This is called coffee bloom. Excess gas, which causes undesirable tastes, is escaping the coffee, leading to a better taste.

During this time, you can opt to gently stir the slushy mixture so the coffee blooms evenly.

Step 6: Pour On

After 30 seconds have elapsed, continue pouring the rest of the hot water. Pour it slowly and in a circular motion. Water should be poured evenly across the bed of coffee grounds, so that all the flavours are evenly absorbed.

Stop pouring once the scale reaches 500 g (or your desired brew volume). 

If you’ve only poured the hot water in one spot, or are worried you have not poured it evenly, you can opt to very gently stir the mixture yet again. Stir it once or twice, then leave it alone. If you move the coffee grounds around too much, it will become over-agitated and turn bitter. 

Pop the lid and plunger on. Leave the plunger up – do not push down yet.

Step 7: Time It

Make sure your timer is still running. Your brew time is 3 minutes. You can adjust this later by increments of 30 seconds. 

Reduce the time if you want a weaker cup of coffee.
Increase the time if you want a stronger, bolder coffee.  

I do not recommend leaving it for anymore than 5 minutes, or the coffee will over-steep and turn bitter. The French Press uses the immersion technique of brewing coffee, so while my recommended 3 minutes may seem like a short time, bear in mind the water is constantly in contact with the coffee all the time (unlike pourover methods). This means a stronger extraction and taste.

Remember, if the taste really doesn’t seem to suit you, change the brew ratio. Refer to the above section: try a 1:12 or 1:16 instead.

Step 8: Plunge it Down

Press the plunger down slowly. Do so with an even force. If the grind size was accurate, you should be able to push it down steadily. If you’re facing difficulties, refer to this troubleshoot below:

A) If it’s difficult to force the plunger down, it’s too fine. Grind coarser next time.
B) If the plunger shoots straight down as though it were plain water, it’s too coarse. Grind finer next time.   

Carefully observe as the mesh filter descends into the glass beaker. Just as it almost reaches the bottom, stop. 

Barista’s Top Tip: Don’t plunge all the way down

Traditionally, you do push all the way down. However, I recommend leaving a small gap about one third of the way up from the top of the coffee grounds. I’ve found that if the plunger doesn’t touch the coffee bed, you get smoother, more delicious tasting coffee. 

If the plunger compresses the bed of coffee, and squashes it, this will further agitate the coffee grounds, leading to a bitter taste.

Step 9: Pour Everything Out

Pour the coffee out into your mug or a flask if you wish to keep some for later. 

Pour all the coffee out. This is important! The longer the coffee sits in the French Press, the more bitter it’ll get. This is a common mistake people make. The coffee is still brewing. And if it over-brews, it will not taste pleasant at all. 

Don’t forget to discard the coffee grounds and wash the French Press with soap and warm water. Then, let it air dry. Do not put the plunger with the mesh filter in the dishwasher.

Step 10: Enjoy

‘Nuff said. Time to drink a delicious cup of French Press coffee!

French Press FAQs

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