The French press allows those who appreciate the finer elements of quality coffee to experience it in whole new ways. This piece will walk you through everything you need to know about how to use a French press to make coffee. We take you from the history of the actual press to how you can find excellent French presses in 2021.

There are a few different sorts of people when it comes to a good cup of coffee: those who buy a cup on the way to work each day; those who brew their own in the morning using pre-ground beans and lastly, are the true coffee connoisseurs of a good cup of coffee – they grind their own beans and, more importantly, use a French press to make their coffee.

What is a French press

A French press is a novel way to make coffee without the standard drip method. Hot water is poured over freshly coarse ground coffee beans. A plunger then mixes the coffee grounds and water to produce a cup of coffee with a unique taste and bouquet.

What is a French Press
What is a French Press

History of the French press

Born out of an accident and necessity, the French press was created in the 1850’s by a Frenchman preparing coffee on an open flame. He forgot to add the beans initially, so purchasing a wire filter from an Italian walking by, he pressed the beans into the boiling water. The result, despite his thoughts, the taste would be less than desirable, was a delicious cup of coffee and, more importantly, a new way to prepare it. The design was officially patented by the Italians in 1928, but the name French press has stuck through the years.

How to use a French press

The French press is extremely simple to use: put the grounds into the bottom of the carafe, add the water and push the plunger to the bottom. The plunger will force the flavonoids and oils from the grinds into the water. These are the basics, but to make a really, really good cup of French press, you need to take a few more steps.

  • The water

– Use filtered water for your absolute finest coffee experience. Tap water is okay for cleaning and tempering the carafe, but filtered water is absolute for the experience.

  • Water temperature

– The best water temperature is between 190 and 205 F (88 to 96 C). Heat the water on the stove or electric kettle. While the water is heating, run some hot tap water and fill the carafe. This will temper the inside of the carafe and keep it from temperature shock.

  • The steep

–Add your grinds to the bottom of your carafe. Pour enough hot water to cover the grinds, and give the slurry a good stir with a spoon before adding the remaining water.

The steep time depends on how you like your coffee. A longer steep will result in a more robust cup, so start with four minutes time. A timer is a good idea for this step.

  • The plunge

– The timer goes off. It is time to plunge. Place the plunger on the top of the carafe. Use two fingers, and slowly press the plunger down through the water until it touches the grounds in the bottom. Pour into a favorite mug or cup, and enjoy.

French Press Plunger
French Press Plunger
  • The sublime grind

A proper cup of French press coffee starts with a whole bean. You can elect to buy beans and grind them in the store, but grinding your own coffee beans protects the subtle flavors of the bean. Different beans will produce different notes of flavor in your coffee, so experimenting with a variety of beans may prove useful to you and your personal choices.

The reason to grind your own beans is simple – French press coffee uses a coarse ground grain bean. It is a strong recommendation not to buy commercially ground coffee – the beans are often too fine a grain to use in a French Press. The result is muck and sediment in the bottom of the cup, neither of which is ideal in a good cup of coffee.

Since you are going to grind your own beans, a burr grinder is preferred. A burr grinder is best because unlike a blade grinder, a burr grinder has two surfaces, the burrs, that grind the beans into a uniform size. The burrs are adjustable to size preference – the smaller the grind, the more robust the coffee flavor. You will need to experiment to find the appropriate balance of size and time spent grinding the beans to meet your specific taste preferences.

French press cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee is possible in a French press. It does take time to do so. Here are the steps to take:

  • Begin with your standard coarse freshly ground coffee;
  • Place the grounds into the carafe;
  • Add cold water, filtered is best, and put the plunger on the top;
  • Put the entire French press into the refrigerator for 12 to 15 hours;
  • Take out of the refrigerator, and use the same two finger technique mentioned above;
  • Pour your cold brew over ice, and serve.
French Press Cold Brew
French Press Cold Brew

The Golden ratio – coffee to water

The best French press ratio is not an exact measurement. There are many factors that play into the decision, but the main one to consider is how strong do you like your coffee – the TDS – total dissolved solids –  to the amount of water.

There are two things you can remember when it comes to making a standard cup of coffee:

Approximately ¼ cup of whole beans to each cup (8 oz.) of water.

Like we have already said about the perfect coffee – this is going to require some experimenting on your part. What is important to remember are the key elements for a proper French press coffee: filtered water, appropriate temperature, steep, plunge slowly and serve immediately.

Cleaning a French press

Now that you have enjoyed your coffee, it is time to clean everything. Be sure before you get started that the grounds have cooled. Here is how you clean your French press:

Take the plunger out, and take apart by removing the center rod. Separate the steel mesh, spring and plate to wash individually.

how to clean a french press
how to clean a french press

There will be grounds left in the bottom of your carafe at this point. Very important note following:

Do not pour grounds into the sink!

After grease, coffee grounds are the main reason sinks back up. Take your grounds out of the carafe with a spatula or silicon spoon, and dispose of the grounds in a compost pile. Worms, who help convert the compost to fertilizer, love coffee grounds. Otherwise, simply throw into the trash.

Most French presses are dishwasher safe, or you can hand wash them. Whichever way you choose, allow the parts to dry completely before reassembly and storage.

Other coffees with a French press


– You can make espresso in a French press much the same way you make regular coffee. This is one of the only times a commercial grind is recommended over self-ground coffee. Cafe Bustelo works exceptionally well to make espresso. Just remember to follow the same steps.


– You can make a latte with a French press as well. Make your espresso like normal, and add your frothed milk to the top before service. A separate milk frother is necessary for this since the milk must be steamed.

What is the optimal coffee bean for a French press – The palate knows

This is an impossible question to answer. The best coffee is what your personal taste happens to be. There are so many different varieties of beans and roasts that making a recommendation on a single bean is unfeasible. Instead, consider three different things about the best coffee:

Whole bean

– Buy them yourself to grind at home before making coffee


– The organic coffees often have much more distinct flavor notes

Fair trade

– coffee that is made according to strict standards, transparency and respect between all involved from the growers to the shippers

French press vs. standard drip – elegance vs. convenience

The French press does require more time to set up and make coffee over the standard automatic drip coffee maker. The French press creates a better, if not superior, cup of coffee to the drip method.

French press coffee tastes better than automatic drip coffee. The French press has all of the flavonoids and oils from the beans because the coffee does not pass through a paper filter. The combination of these two effects create coffee that is much more of an experience rather than a simple cup of coffee.

The best French press

The basics of a French press are all the same. The differences come down to the materials used to make the carafe and plunger assemblies.

Most people think French press and imagine the Bonjour model – a glass carafe with metal pieces connecting to the handle and the plunger assembly on the top.  What appears to be the glass in a French press is actually borosilicate – a specially made glass designed to withstand thermal shock.

French presses come in two basic types – stainless steel and borosilicate. The only thing to consider when looking for a French press is the plunger assembly. The better ones will have metal mesh and coil not rubber.

The Bodum company makes what is arguably the most popular French press. Made of high quality stainless steel and tempered glass, the Bodum French press is one of the easiest to use, clean and assemble. Best of all, Bodum French presses are found at a variety of retailers.

French press for Yerba mate and tea

It is possible to brew Yerba mate in a French press. Those who prefer tea can also use a French press. If you fancy Cuban coffee, the ultra sweet espresso served in small cups, it is easy to make in a French press.

The quantities will need adjustment to meet specific tastes, but the steps and processes are exactly the same as if making coffee.

Final thoughts

We at Sourcing Nova hope you have learned some great information about how to make French press coffee for your specific needs.

Before you continue reading, we would love to hear from you, and what you think.

Our next post – How to Find the Best French Press Coffee Maker for your Needs – New Options for 2021.