If you haven’t tried using a French press yet, you’re in for a surprisingly satisfying home coffee brewing experience. This elemental, low-tech coffee brewing method is elegant in its simplicity. But, as with so many simple things, there’s definitely an art to it. The details — like water temperature, grind size, brew time, and of course the amount of coffee to use — make all the difference. Used with care, a French press coffee maker brews an excellent cup of coffee. We’ll take you step-by-step through the French press brewing process.

Getting to Know the French Press Coffee Maker

You’re probably familiar with the French press. Its simplicity and good looks, the fact that it doubles as a serving vessel, and the fact that it needs no power source make this coffee maker popular in many places throughout the world.

The French press goes by many names — cafetière, coffee press, coffee plunger, and press pot. It’s sometimes also called by one of its popular brand names.

The design consists of a beaker set into a base, and a separate component of a lid, mesh filter, and plunger.

In a French press, ground coffee brews in hot water right in the beaker. When the brewing time is reached, the coffee grounds are plunged to the bottom of the pot by the filtering screen. It’s one of the simplest brewing methods you’ll find.

How to Use a French Press Like a Master in 5 Steps

French press on a stove

Whichever model you choose, the method you use to make French press coffee is essentially the same. A French press brews coffee using the immersion method, meaning the ground coffee is immersed in hot water and then the coffee grounds are filtered out. However you choose to brew your coffee, details are important. Used with care, a French press brews some of the best coffee around.

1. Pick the Right Grind Type

A coarse grind offers the best results with a French press. Most presses don’t use paper filters, which can filter out even the finest coffee grounds. Instead, they use a mesh filter. Using a coarse grind helps ensure a smooth, silt-free brew.

Using a coarse grind also results in a balanced flavor. Optimal extraction brings out the fullness of a coffee’s bouquet, with all of the bright and lively acidity present. Since in the immersion method the ground coffee is in prolonged contact with the hot water, using a coarse grind lessens the possibility of over-extraction, which can bring out unwanted bitterness and dull the coffee’s brighter notes.

Also, in order to extract the fullness of the coffee’s aromas, the water needs to be able to flow around the coffee grounds. Coarse grounds swim freely around in the water for even brewing.

For maximum flavor and aroma, start with your favorite whole beans and grind them in a home coffee grinder. Using a burr grinder ensures your coffee beans are ground to a uniform size. Experiment with slight variations in size to find the one that brings out the best of your brew.

If you’re buying ground coffee, ask for a coarse grind intended for use in a French press.

2. Dial in the Coffee to Water Ratio

This is an important detail. But there is no single correct answer for what the ideal coffee to water ratio is.

Popular suggested amounts range from 2-3 tablespoons of coffee per each 8-ounce cup of water. (Note that the size of a cup of coffee is not universal. For example, the 8-cup Bodum Chambord has a 1 liter capacity — which is just over four 8-ounce cups.)

This ratio is a good place to start. Assess the resulting brew, and tweak the amount of coffee to suit your taste, using less for a lighter brew, and more for a stronger brew.

3. Boil Water to the Correct Temperature

Most devoted users recommend very hot — but not boiling — water, about 200-205°F. If you have a kettle with a thermometer, this is a good time to use it. Otherwise, bring your water to a full rolling boil, but then let the boiling water rest off the heat for 30 seconds to a minute before you start brewing.

Some people warm up the carafe with hot water before they brew so that their coffee stays hot longer — this is a good idea in a cold climate or a chilly apartment. To do this, heat the carafe with hot water, pour the water out, then dry the carafe so that the ground coffee does not stick to the sides and can brew properly.

When it’s time to brew, you’ll need to measure out the correct amount of water to pour into the French press beaker. A large glass measuring cup with a pour spout — like a Pyrex — is the perfect tool for the job.

4. Brew Coffee for the Proper Amount of Time

Start the brewing process by blooming your coffee. Measure out the correct amount of ground coffee into the beaker, and pour in roughly the same volume of water, so that the grounds are completely moistened. Let it sit for about 30 seconds and you will indeed see the coffee grounds “bloom” — swell and bubble slightly.

Give the bloomed coffee a stir, add the remaining water, and stir again. A chopstick works well for this, and protects your glass beaker from an accidental chip or crack.

Place the lid on the brew and adjust the plunger so it’s just resting on top of the brew. Let your coffee brew for 3-4 minutes. This is the optimal amount of time for extraction. Waiting longer will give you a stronger brew, but potentially an over-extracted one. For strong but well-balanced coffee, it’s better to try experimenting with the coffee to water ratio or the grind size.

5. Time to Drink

After the extraction time is up, slowly and evenly push the plunger down to the bottom. You should feel a gentle resistance. Your brew is now ready to drink and you can serve it right from the brewing carafe.

If you don’t plan to use all the coffee right away, consider decanting the brewed coffee. In a French press, the brewed coffee is still in contact with the coffee grounds, and if it sits too long, it can become over-extracted.

Other Uses of the French Press

Brewing Atlas Coffee Club 1

The French press is great for brewing and serving loose leaf tea. If your press has a glass carafe, you’ll have the added bonus of showing off the color of the brewed tea.

One of our favorite uses of the French press is making cold brew — it’s ideally suited to brewing and filtering excellent cold brew at home.

A Selection of Some of the Best French Press Coffee Makers

Using a high-quality French press makes a big difference in your brew. A good mesh screen filter is particularly essential for maximum extraction of aromatic oils and a brew that’s free of coffee grounds.

There are different types of French press coffee makers. Some are excellent for everyday home use, and others are great for coffee on the go. Here are some popular styles and brands to consider.

Bodum French Press

Best French press: Bodum

The Bodum French press is largely considered the classic French press coffee maker. The Bodum Chambord French press was designed in the 1950s and its elegant simplicity still looks great today.

The Bodum Chambord glass beaker is made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass. The glass carafe is set into a handsome stainless steel base and has a matte polypropylene handle for more good looks and comfort while you pour. There’s a three-part stainless steel plunger with a mesh filter screen that extracts essential oil while keeping your coffee smooth and free of coffee grounds.

Besides the standard Bodum Chambord 8-cup French press, there are also 3-, 4-, and 12-cup models. A Bodum travel model makes delicious coffee to enjoy on the go, built in to a travel mug.

Other popular Bodum models include the Bodum Brazil, with a borosilicate glass carafe in a BPA-free polypropylene base.

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Frieling French Press

Best French press: Frieling

The high-quality 18/10 double wall stainless steel Frieling French press coffee maker has great heat retention that keeps coffee warm longer. All the parts of the Frieling are dishwasher safe for easy care.

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Secura Stainless Steel French Press

Best French press: Secura

The Secura stainless steel press coffee maker is another top pick for durability and style. Its double-wall construction ensures hot coffee stays hot and cold brew stays refreshingly chilled for a long time. The triple screen filter ensures a smooth brew free from even the smallest coffee grounds. It even comes with a bonus stainless steel screen for the purest brew possible.

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Le Creuset French Press

Best French press: Le Creuset

With a glossy enamel glaze that comes in a variety of colors and a carafe of high-fired stoneware, the Le Creuset French Press combines style and durability. It has a stainless steel plunger and mesh filter for a smooth brew, and it’s dishwasher safe.

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Kona French Press

How to use a French press: Kona

This excellent budget-friendly option doesn’t skimp on style or quality. The Kona French Press has a thick borosilicate glass carafe housed in a good-looking plastic base for durability, and a BPA-free lid. Reviews praise the aromatic brewed coffee it makes.

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Espro Travel Coffee Press

How to use a French press: Espro

Sleek and compact, the BPA-free Espro is a coffee press and travel mug in one. A double micro filter ensures a smooth, silt-free brew. Your coffee stays hot for hours, thanks to the insulated double-walled stainless steel construction.

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Add the French Press to Your Coffee Arsenal

Since the French press needs no power source, it’s great for people on the move. Most don’t require a paper filter — a plus for both the environment and your coffee-making budget. Also, it’s hard to beat the ease of preparation and that four-minute brew time.

French presses are easy to store, easy to clean, and handsome to look at. There’s a great variety of styles, from rustic to modern and sleek. They come in any size you could want, and are priced from thrifty to serious splurge. Whatever your home brewing setup, a French press can make a terrific addition.

About The Author

Michael Shewmake

An entrepreneur and musician, Michael quit his full-time job in the corporate world to assemble a band of fellow storytellers, travelers, and coffee-lovers as enthusiastic as himself to share the unique stories and coffee from around the world.