french press coffee

French Press Coffee Brewed Simple

French Press Makes a Custom Coffee Easy

French pressing is one of my favorite methods to brew coffee. It’s not only an affordable eco-friendly way to brew but also easy to customize the strength of your brew. Because French Pressing only requires a way to boil water, it’s a great option when looking for a caffeine fix while camping without access to electricity. So long as a fire or a stove with a propane line, a French press will brew a fantastic cup of coffee. While there are few parts of a French press, they can seem confusing the first time brewing a cup of coffee. Luckily the key to a perfect brew is about the ratio of water to coffee. I’ll cover every step of the way, from choosing the best coffee to water to proportion to the time of the brew. The first step is to select a press size. 

How to Choose a Press Size

If you don’t already own a French press, the sizes available on the market can make it hard to choose just one. There are four standard sizes to choose from:

  • 3 cup (11.8 ounces) 
  • 4 cup (17 ounces) 
  • 8 cup (33.8 ounces) 
  • 12 cup (50.7 ounces)

Depending on the brand you find, the ounces listed on your French press may vary. Some presses are glass with wooden or plastic parts, and some will be made from ceramic. The material doesn’t make a massive difference in the brew, so that I would shop around based on my budget first and foremost.

It’s also important to note that the cup size is smaller than you would think. It doesn’t mean full cups of coffee. For myself, using a three-cup French Press is what I usually brew for one larger cup of coffee. A four-cup press works well for brewing two medium-sized coffees. If having brunch for a small group, I typically recommend at least an eight-cup press, if not a twelve-cup. When shopping for a French press, I recommend thinking about how many ounces your favorite coffee cup is and using that as a guide. 

Use Coarse Ground Coffee With a French Press

When brewing coffee in a French press, I prefer to grind my coffee. Not only will this create the best flavor of a brew, but it also allows a custom coarseness for the method that you are brewing. If you don’t have a coffee grinder or your favorite coffee is only available pre-ground, that’s okay! Choose coarsely ground, and avoid finely ground coffee when possible. The reason is that coarse ground coffee will not clog the filter screen inside the press, allowing water to pass through freely. 

What Is the Ideal Coffee to Water Ratio?

The amount of water and coffee grinds added to your press will vary based on how many cups you are brewing, and the desired strength. The chart below is a guide to help you choose the best amounts as a starting point. 

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If you find that the suggested amounts above are too strong of a brew, add fewer grinds to your press. If you would prefer a more potent brew, try adding more grinds. Brewing for longer can help, but brewing any longer than 6 minutes can begin to produce an acidic taste. A larger quantity of coffee, not adding more time, will create a more potent brew. 

How to Use a French Press

The secret of French Press coffee is in the water-to-coffee ratio and the timing of the brew. So the first thing I do when making a cup of French press coffee is to measure out the amount of coffee I will need and freshly grind it.  Once coarsely ground, I remove and set aside the press plunger and add the grinds to the beaker. 

The ideal temperature for a French press brew is 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or 93 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer or a kettle with temperature control, there’s another trick you can use. Once the water is at a rolling boil, remove the kettle from heat and allow the water to sit for 30 seconds. Then, measure out the amount of water that you will need. 

Bloom Your Coffee for the Best Flavor

Blooming coffee grinds can sound bizarre the first time you hear that term. All that it is is adding two times the volume of hot water to coffee, waiting 30 seconds, and then lightly stirring before adding the remainder of your water. For example: if brewing a cup of coffee with three tablespoons of coffee, add six tablespoons of boiling water to bloom. Coffee blooming releases the carbon dioxide created during the coffee roasting process. While you wouldn’t have a great tasting brew without carbon dioxide, it can create a sour flavor if too much remains in your brewed cup. By starting the chemical reaction of adding hot water in a small amount, the gas can escape. When adding all the water at once, the carbon dioxide absorbs into the water. Blooming is a simple step but makes a massive difference in the taste of your brew. 

coffee blooming
The escaping carbon dioxide will begin to form bubbles on the surface of the coffee grinds

Add the Remaining Water

After pouring the coffee grinds into your beaker and blooming for 30 seconds, add the remainder of your boiled water. Replace the lid, and press down slightly to create a seal without lowering the plunger. Begin a timer for at least four and up to six minutes. If you prefer a lighter coffee, brew your coffee for four minutes. Once brewed, slowly press the plunger down until the grinds compact to the bottom of the beaker. Pour the brewed coffee directly into your mug or into a carafe. I don’t advise using the French press as a carafe after brewing, as the coffee will continue to brew and become bitter. 

Finding Your Preferred Strength Is What Takes the Most Time​

I know the steps may seem intensive if you haven’t used a French press before. However, when I discovered my preferred coffee to water ratio, French pressing became an easy process. The coffee and water lines start to become muscle memory over time. If you use the same press over time, you will begin to know where the fill lines of each step should be. In summary, those steps are:

  1. Grind the amount of coffee needed, and add it to the beaker
  2.  Boil water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (98 Celcius) 
  3. Bloom your coffee grinds with a 2 to 1 water to coffee ratio for 30 seconds.
  4. Stir the wet grinds, and add the remaining amount of water needed
  5. Brew for 4 to 6 minutes
  6. Pour immediately, and enjoy!
If you use a French press, what is your preferred ratio of coffee to water? Also, if you have a favorite coffee brewer, I would love to hear in the comments!

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