The Perfect Cup

How to Use a French Press

By • November 13, 2013 • 7 Comments

Here at Food52, we're serious about our coffee. So we got our friends over at Stumptown Coffee to teach us everything there is to know about it -- and to make our morning (and afternoon) routines a little bit brighter.

Today: The best way to brew coffee in a French press.

french press from food25

The French press is likely the most popular of all the manual home brewing equipment at Stumptown. It's how we've made house coffee in our Portland cafes since the beginning, and it's a pretty foolproof method to make at home. However! There are a few things you must do to keep a rich, full-bodied brew from becoming a sludgy drag at the breakfast table. 

First, make sure you start with a clean French press. Old coffee grounds stuck in the wire plunger will not serve you well. Before you begin brewing, preheat the glass and plunger by pouring hot water inside the pitcher and plunge once to warm everything up. Discard the rinse water.

Grind your coffee and scoop into your French press. For the 8-cup French press, we use 56 grams (or about 8 tablespoons) but in a pinch, you can eyeball it by pouring enough ground coffee in until you have a finger's width of space from the top of the coffee bed to the bottom of the handle. The ground coffee should be about as coarse as breadcrumbs. 

Next, pour hot water 30 seconds off the boil (around 200°F) into the French press, saturating all of your grounds, and pouring to the halfway mark. Start your timer for 4 minutes. After 1 minute, stir the "bloom" (or top layer) and pour the rest of the water evenly to the top and affix the press pot lid. After the 4 minute timer goes off, plunge away. 

One more thing! Make sure you pour your coffee into serving cups or a carafe right away because if you leave the coffee sitting on top of the grounds, it will keep extracting and get stronger and sludgier by the time you are ready for your second cup. Et voila! You're pressed and ready to go. 

Tags: coffee, how-to & DIY, stumptown coffee, french press

Comments (7)

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Stringio

8 months ago Zachary Conrad

Do you reduce the coffee:water ratio as the amount you're making goes up? Here, http://stumptowncoffee..., you say 1tbsp/7g per 4oz coffee, and here seems like you recommend 1tbsp per 8 oz coffee, unless I'm reading it all wrong. Which, maybe I am. I am--Bodum's 8 cup French press holds 34 oz--4oz 'cups'.

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8 months ago tilemaker

If I grind the coffee ahead at a coffee place (I know, how uncool), what setting do I use, percolator? I always forget. I want to get back to using my thermal press for company. Thanks!

Stringio

8 months ago Josh Swain

It's not that pregrinding your coffee is uncool, the problem is the flavor starts depreciating once coffee is ground, so you want to reduce the amount of time from grinding to brew as much as possible. But to answer your question, if you tell the shop you intend to use the beans with press pot they should know which grind to use.

Chris_in_oslo

8 months ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Thanks, I wasn't really thinking long-term storage, just very short--and the makers of the stainless do pretty much all say that their double walls keep coffee warmer. But, I guess I'll stick with glass unless someone convinces me otherwise.

Chris_in_oslo

8 months ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Question for you: I was going to pick up one more French press for when people are here for the holidays. I was attracted to the stainless versions, like you have in your photo, as it seemed they'd keep the coffee warmer, nice for a bustling crowd. But I've seen reviews that stainless models don't work as well as the glass. They're never as perfectly round, and the plunger doesn't work perfectly. What's your experience?

Stringio

8 months ago Niko McCauley

Stainless presses won't keep your coffee warm for an appreciable amount of time, nor will the more common glass presses (metal, being a better conductor than glass, would actually lead to a quicker cooling process). Even then, as Katie says above, you wouldn't want to store coffee in the press as it would lead to over-extraction.

Difficulty in brewing for a crowd is really the only downside to using a press. The only work-around that I've thought of is pouring off each batch into a large thermos or insulated carafe before you start the next, which is easy enough.

Kb_stumptowncup

8 months ago Katie Bernstein

We've always used the glass press pots in our cafes. We brew and then pour immediately into carafes. The downside is that they are breakable, but the design is pretty perfect and the glass is replaceable if it does break. Niko is right: You shouldn't store the coffee in the press after you make it, as it will keep extracting from the grounds on the bottom. A thermal carafe should do the trick to keep it warm.