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How to Use a French Press

For many, using a French Press is the preferred method for brewing the perfect cup of coffee. While perhaps not as convenient as an automatic drip machine that you can program to have your coffee ready for you when you wake up in the morning, the press is simple to use and will produce a very rich, superior cup of coffee once you understand the basic technique.

One of the primary advantages of the French Press is the ability to better control the brewing process. You can extract a richer and more flavorful cup of coffee by better managing the optimum temperature of the water and controlling how long the grinds remain in contact with the water while the coffee steeps. Because the press pot does not use a paper filter, more of the flavor oils that give the coffee a full body and richness will infuse into the brew. And there are no paper filters to dispose of after you are done.

The French Press

The French Press, also known as a “press pot” or a “plunger” has been available for over one hundred years. The simple design commonly in use today can be traced back to the original models as early as 1930. Today, Bodum is a leading manufacture and produces one of the most popular brands.

A French Press is a simple device that consists of a glass beaker or carafe (can be ceramic), and a tight fitting plunger device with a mesh filter that's used to separate the grinds from the coffee once the brew has finished steeping.

See our selection of fine French Press brewers

The Water

As with any coffee brewing method, water is the predominant ingredient so always start with fresh, clean water. If your water has a bad taste or aroma, the tainted effect will be even more pronounced in the coffee you brew. If your tap water isn’t fresh or good tasting, use a water filter or bottled water instead.

You’ll need a separate tea kettle to boil the water for brewing the coffee. Always rinse out your tea kettle and start with fresh water. Don’t use water that you might have left standing in the kettle for any length of time. The ideal temperature for extracting the optimum flavor from the ground coffee is between 195F and 200F. A good technique is to bring the water to a full boil and then remove from the heat before you grind your beans. By the time you’re done grinding the beans (about 30 seconds or less), the water will have cooled down to the ideal temperature.

The Grind

For the optimum cup of coffee, always start with fresh beans. Beans quickly lose their freshness once they’re ground, so always wait to grind the beans until just before you’re ready to brew.

Grinding the coffee beans is the most important step to get right. The mesh filter used in a French Press requires a slightly coarser grind to prevent the grind from passing through the filter. The key is to produce an even grind, where the particles are of uniform size. For the most part, the common blade grinders aren’t capable of producing an even grind. With a blade grinder, even when you try to produce a coarser grind, finer particles are always unavoidable which will pass through the mesh filter and wind up as a muddy brew with too much sediment.

A burr grinder gives you the improved control to produce a coarser grind with even and consistent particle size. You might need to experiment a little, but you want to use as fine a grind as you can, but coarse enough to avoid having the grind pass through mesh filter. A finer grind will allow more of the desirable flavor oils to infuse into the coffee. But remember, as fine as possible, but coarse enough to prevent the grind from passing through the mesh filter. Although more expensive, a good burr grinder is well worth the investment. Getting the grind correct is the biggest difference you can make in brewing great coffee with a French press.

The Step by Step Method

See our selection of fine French press brewers


Mistobox delivers premium fresh-roasted coffee right to your doorstep, hand selected from the finest artisanal coffee roasters.
Mistobox delivers premium fresh-roasted coffee right to your doorstep, hand selected from the finest artisanal coffee roasters!

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