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French Press Coffee How-to Guide and Instructions

Updated on May 19, 2013

The french press, also known as a plunger pot, brews a cup of coffee that many people find reminiscent of espresso. Not only does it look fantastic on your breakfast tray (or on a candlelit table after dinner), it creates a fine, full-bodied brew. This is because when you use a french press to make coffee, the grounds are steeped in hot water, and then strained through a metal strainer that leaves behind just enough sediment to add richness and body. The resulting cup of Joe feels almost like espresso in your mouth, and it tastes much better than coffee made in an electric coffee maker – especially if you use freshly ground beans.

The French press method of making coffee uses the same principals as brewing tea, and it's also the method used by professional coffee cuppers to brew the samples they plan on judging. With these types of recommendations, you know French press coffee just has to be good – and it is!

A French press brewing coffee.
A French press brewing coffee. | Source

Choosing a French Press Coffee Maker

The French press cannot be placed directly onto a heating element (i.e. the stove), so it's best used to brew coffee for immediate enjoyment. For this reason, you should look for a pot size that suits your needs. If you're only a single person, you don't need to buy an 8- or 12-cup press. However, if you regularly serve coffee to larger groups, a larger press may be just the thing. There is even a 1-cup model for the lone traveler. Just remember that it won't serve as a storage device/warmer for your coffee, and you'll need to serve what you brew just after it's made.

How to Brew Coffee In a Coffee Press

The following step-by-step instructions will show you just how easy it is to use a French press, and have you brewing a rich, full-bodied cup of coffee in no time.

  1. Preheat the pot and plunger with hot water. Simply pour some inside the pot, put the plunger inside and allow it to stand for a minute or two. This step is technically optional, but you'll end up with a warmer pot of coffee if you preheat the device first.
  2. Pour out the water you used to preheat, and measure 2 level tablespoons of fine- to medium-ground coffee (per serving) into the glass cylinder, sometimes referred to as a beaker. For the best results, use freshly ground coffee. It has a much smoother, richer taste than pre-ground, although you can use any type you have on hand with success.
  3. Bring 4 to 6 ounces of water to a boil (per serving), allow it to stand for 2 minutes until it's no longer bubbling vigorously, and then pour it over the coffee grounds in the cylinder. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture, making sure all of the grounds are thoroughly soaked. Do not use a metal spoon, as this can scratch or damage the glass cylinder.
  4. Place the plunger on top of the beaker/cylinder and let the coffee grounds steep for about 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly press the plunger straight down with a firm, steady hand after the coffee has steeped. Do not push at an angle, as this can crack the glass. If you have used coffee ground too fine, it may be difficult to push the plunger down; choose a coarser grind the next time.
  6. Pour the coffee into warmed coffee mugs and serve immediately with the desired additions (cream, milk, sugar, etc.) Enjoy!

Caring For Your French Press

Although the French press remains one of the most popular and sophisticated ways to brew a cup of coffee, it can be a pain to clean. You must unscrew and separate the filters, and very carefully rinse all the spent grounds from inside the glass cylinder. For the best results, refer to the manufacturer's instructions that came with your press at the time of purchase. If you don't have the manual any longer, you can usually figure it out just by taking the device apart and cleaning anything that needs it.

French Press Coffee How To Video

In this video, learn how to make coffee in a french press using JJ Bean's simple method.


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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I often use a french press to make coffee. Especially if I only want 1 cup or so. Good and informative hub. Well done.