So you’ve fallen in love with your French press. That’s no surprise, considering the great coffee it brews. Sure, it might have taken a little effort to learn how to assemble all the pieces of your French press. And you may have had to experiment a bit with the brewing process to get your coffee just how you like it. But now that you’ve mastered those skills, it’s time to learn a few French press tips and tricks to make your brewing experience and the coffee you make even better.
1. Preheat Your French Press
When you’re looking forward to a fresh, hot cup of coffee, the last thing you want is a lukewarm brew. Especially after you’ve devoted time, attention, and your coffee grounds to creating a perfect French press experience. But getting truly hot coffee from a French press can be a challenge, and the reason is two-fold:
First, a French press generates no heat of its own. Unlike a drip coffee maker, a French press neither heats water nor has a hot plate to keep the brewed coffee warm. The only heat created in the French press brewing process comes from the hot water you pour into the beaker.
Second, the French press components themselves actually draw heat out of your brewing water when it’s added to the beaker. Even at room temperature, the French press parts are much cooler than the hot water you add to your coffee grounds. Which means that even before your coffee starts brewing, your French press is already stealing away heat and sending you down the path toward a lukewarm beverage.
Luckily, the trick to solving this two-part problem couldn’t be easier: preheat your French press.
A few minutes before you want to brew your coffee, simply fill your French press beaker with hot tap water. Put the lid on the beaker and press the plunger all the way down. This will warm all the parts of the French press that are involved in the brewing process. (If you want to be sure all the parts of your French press have been put together properly, check out our helpful article How to Assemble a French Press).
Once your brewing water comes to a boil, remove the lid and plunger from your French press, pour the hot tap water out of the beaker, add your coffee grounds, and brew as you normally would. (If you’d like a refresher, see the post How to Brew Coffee Using a French Press).
One additional tip to ensure a hot cup of coffee: Use hot tap water to warm your mug, too, while your French press coffee brews, then pour out the tap water just before serving.
Pre-warmed French press + Pre-warmed mug = One wonderfully hot cup of coffee!
2. Let the Boil Subside
There’s an added bonus to the pre-warming process described above for French presses with glass beakers. If the French press is warmed in advance, it reduces the risk of the glass beaker breaking when boiling water is suddenly added. So you can add very hot water for your brewing without concern for the press itself.
That said, you still do not want to add water to your French press while it’s still in an active, rolling boil. Doing so puts you at risk of being scalded by splattering water, churns up your coffee grounds, and over-extracts the coffee’s oils, leading to a bitter-tasting cup.
The key to a smooth French press brew is to use hot water slightly cooler than boiling, and to add it slowly so that it seeps gently into the ground coffee. The coffee need to be fully submerged beneath the hot water in order to brew properly, so you don’t want the grounds splashed all over the inside of the beaker.
The tip: Once your brewing water comes to a full, rolling boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 30 – 60 seconds before adding it to your French press beaker. Simple enough!
3. Prepare with a Coarser Grind
Brewing with a French press means that your coffee grounds are submerged in the hot water that becomes the beverage in your cup. Sediment is a normal by-product of this process. The trick is to keep as much of this sediment out of your mug as possible. Using a coarser grind of coffee helps.
Brewing processes that move water through ground coffee, such as drip coffee machines or pour-over cups, require a finer grind of coffee. This is because the flavor must be dispersed quickly in the brief time the water mixes with the grounds. This isn’t the case with a French press.
Because French pressed coffee is steeped for many minutes directly in the hot water, there is ample time for the flavor to be extracted from larger, coarser particles of coffee. And a coarser grind means there’s less “coffee powder” residue to become sediment in your cup.
If you truly enjoy the French press coffee experience, you will definitely want to consider grinding your own coffee so you can control this aspect of the process.
4. Use Enough Filters
Another tip for reducing sediment in your French press brewed coffee is to be sure you use enough filters. Most French press sets come with two to four filters. If your coffee beans are ground coarsely enough, you may find that two of the mesh filters are adequate. If your ground coffee has a finer particle, or if there is just too much sediment getting into your mug, you will want to use three or even all four of the filters provided. The more filters, the cleaner your pour will be.
5. Brew a Little Extra Coffee
Another simple trick for avoiding sediment in your cup is to brew a little more coffee than you plan to drink. An extra half cup or so of coffee in your French press means you won’t have to pour every last drop into your mug. Any sediment lingering from the brewing process will be left behind in the beaker.
6. Add a Bit More Water
Besides helping minimize the sediment that makes its way into your cup, a little extra water in your French press will ensure you get the full volume of coffee you desire. This is because the coffee grounds themselves soak up some of the water you add to the beaker. So if you use your drinking mug to measure the water you use for brewing, be sure to add an additional quarter cup or so to counter the absorption factor. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a little less coffee to enjoy than you’re planning on.
7. Use a Timer
With French press brewing, the difference of a minute or two can make a huge difference in the quality of coffee that ends up in your cup. The generally-accepted brew time for French press coffee is four minutes. That’s how long the coffee grounds rest in the hot water before you plunge and pour.
The challenge with French press coffee is not to over-brew. If the grounds steep for too long, over-extraction occurs, which means your coffee is going to taste bitter. Using a timer will help ensure this never happens to you.
As you become accustomed to your French pressed coffee, you may, of course, discover you prefer a slightly shorter or longer brewing time. Some people swear by three and a half minutes, others five. The key, once you discover the length of time you need to produce your perfect cup, is to remain consistent with it. So keep your timer handy and use it every time you brew with your French press.
8. Transfer Extra Coffee Immediately
As discussed above, the key to excellent French press coffee is timing. Leaving the coffee grounds brewing for too long creates an overly-strong, overly-bitter cup of coffee. So it stands to reason that you don’t want to leave your French press coffee standing! If you’re brewing more coffee than you will immediately be serving, transfer the extra coffee into a thermal carafe. This will not only keep your coffee hot, but will also stop the brewing process so your second cup won’t be a bitter disappointment.
9. Deep Clean Your French Press
A French press should be disassembled after every use, washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed thoroughly, and dried completely before being put back together. This process, though, won’t remove the gradual build-up of coffee oils that can linger in the fine mesh and coil-rimmed parts of the filter. Since this residue can taint the flavor of your coffee, you’ll want to give your French press a deeper cleaning every five to seven brewing cycles.
To deep clean your French press, assemble it as you would to brew your coffee, but do not tighten the filter components too securely. Add half a cup of white distilled vinegar to the French press beaker, then add hot tap water to fill the container. Place the lid on the beaker and slowly depress the plunger as far as it will go. Let the press sit for 15 minutes or so, then pour out the vinegar mixture. Disassemble your French press and wash, rinse and dry as usual.
Time for You to Brew
Now that you’re armed with these French press tips and tricks, you’ll be able to make your best French press coffee yet. We hope you’ll find these ideas useful and easy to implement. Let us know how it goes in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!