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How to Brew Coffee With a French Press

Updated on April 1, 2014

The Birth of the Press

Perhaps you are ready to move on from your automatic drip coffee maker and learn how to brew coffee with a french press. Or maybe you are already an expert, simply refreshing your powerful brewing skills. Whichever is the case, for a true coffee lover a french press is an absolute neccessity. This method of brewing coffee is thought to have been born from accident and whim in the 1800s, when a Frenchman boiled a pot of water but forgot to put his coffee grounds in the water to steep. Not wanting to waste the water, he poured it over some grounds in a jar. To his dismay the grounds floated, makig his coffee nearly undrinkable. Hunting for a solution he found some wire mesh, which he fitted into the jar and used to push the coffee grounds down, and so the French press was born! Over time others perfected the method, using glass beakers and plungers to create the coffee brewing device we know and love today.

What you Need to Get Started

Brewing coffee with a french press is very simple, you just need water, ground coffee, a heat source, and of course the French press. Your coffee grounds should be fairly coarse, somewhere between an automatic drip grind and a percolator grind. This is so that the grounds can be effectively trapped by the wire mesh plunger, and not escape and make their way into your coffee.

Step 1 Adding the Coffee

 Start with the freshest coffee grounds you can, preferably straight out of your home grinder. Remember to make sure they are coarse! Make sur your French press is clean and dry before beginning as well. Take the plunger and lid out of the carafe and set them aside for the moment, and then add the coffee grounds into the carafe. You should use about two tablespoons for each eight ounces of water (one coffee cup is about eight ounces). So if I have a carafe that holds 32 ounces of water I'll want about six heaping tablespoons of ground coffee in the carafe.

Step 2- The Water

The next step, adding the water, is the one that requires the most precision. Most Frech press brewers agree, if the water is boiling it is too hot!If you want to learn how to brew coffee with a French press, don't boil the water! Heat the water to about 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or just before boiling. Then slowly add the water into the carafe, pouring straight over the coffee grounds. The reason you don't want water that is boiling is because boiling water creates a very acidic and bitter brew. After adding the water you can give the mixture a small sitr, which will cause some of the grounds to sink.

Step 3- The Brew

 Now it's time to let your coffee steep and mingle. If your French press has a lid that captures steam, put it on that setting, but keep the plunger up. For coarser coffee grounds let the brew steep for about five minutes, for finer grinds let steep for about three minutes. After about a mintue you can remove the lid, give the mixture a stir, and replace the lid for further brewing.

Step 4- Taking the Plunge!

 Now comes the fun part! Your coffee has brewed for several minutes, and now you are ready to take the plunge! Making sure that the wire mesh is not tilted, slowly begin to push the plunger down. This is not a rapid fire sequence, in fact it should take you about twenty seconds to push the plunger fully down, and it will become harder as you go. If the wire mesh tilts while you're plunging simply remove it and rinse, and plunge again. Once all of the coffee grounds have been pushed to the bottom serve straight away. You don't want to leave your brew in the carafe because it continues to take on the flavor of the coffee grounds, making it unbearably strong.


 Now that you know how to brew coffee with a French press you'll be able to wow your friends and family at the breakfast table! Keep your water the right temperature, your grind coarse, and your brewing time concise, and you'll be on the road to coffee heaven.


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    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

      My favourite way to brew coffee.