Drinks

How to Use a French Press

November 13, 2013

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. 

14 Comments

Cynthia July 19, 2016
Don't forget the crema! Assuming you have a good roast, a glass press can give you a great crema, like an espresso maker, but you have to pour it off immediately or it dissipates. I plunge very slightly, slowly just after adding the hot water. Delicious.
 
Yirgach May 9, 2016
The article is a bit vague about precise measurements. <br />The grind should be coarse enough to just let a slight bit of grounds through the screen.<br />Use 7 gm of bean for each 4 oz of water.<br />The water can be 190-200F, use a thermometer to get it right.<br />Of course, you should use only your own fresh roasted coffee...
 
Elena S. November 1, 2015
Regarding cleaning a French press, is it okay to clean it with dishwashing liquid and water? Just water? I've heard soap might leave a residue but on the other hand, coffee's residual oils can oxidize and also change the flavor... Thank you!
 
Yirgach November 8, 2015
You definitely want to use dishwashing detergent to clean and break up the coffee oils. Regular soap will not work. Just rinse well with warm water.<br />Purists will want to look for crystalcleanglass.com .
 
Eko B. July 9, 2015
Is it the same with the french press here ( http://coffeana.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-complete-guide-to-brew-coffee-using.html). Because it's different shape )Thank you
 
jenni September 30, 2014
What's the most common reason why the French Press glass carafes break?
 
Yirgach November 8, 2015
Over the years (30 and counting), we've found that carafes tend to break while cleaning. Always grip the top/inside while washing with a cloth and soapy water. Rinse and be aware of whats beside the object as you swirl it around. Order a few replacements to have on hand before you learn how to do it correctly and stop running on fear and autopilot...<br /><br />
 
Zachary C. November 20, 2013
Do you reduce the coffee:water ratio as the amount you're making goes up? Here, http://stumptowncoffee.com/brew-guides/press-pot/, 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'.
 
tilemaker November 13, 2013
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!
 
Josh S. November 14, 2013
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.
 
Greenstuff November 13, 2013
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.
 
Greenstuff November 13, 2013
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?
 
Niko M. November 13, 2013
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. <br /><br />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.
 
Author Comment
Katie B. November 13, 2013
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.