Mastering the French Press: Your Guide to Perfect Coffee Every Time

Ever tried making coffee with a French press and ended up with a bitter or watery mess? It doesn’t have to be that way. With the right principles, you can perfect your French press technique and brew delicious coffee every time.

First things first, you need a decent French press. It’s a simple device—just a glass pot, a plunger, and a filter—but quality matters. A cheap one with thin walls and poor filtration won’t do your coffee any favors. Take it from someone who once used a $2 bright pink French press from a supermarket in China. It lacked proper insulation, causing the coffee to under-extract. While it was a fun, budget option for travel, it’s not something you’d want to use every day.

When choosing a French press, consider three things: capacity, filtration, and style. If you’re a solo coffee drinker, a medium-sized French press (2-4 cups) should suffice. For those who love their coffee or like brewing for two, go for a larger size (8-12 cups). A larger one gives you more options but can be bulky for travel.

Filtration styles vary. The traditional method uses a mesh filter, which can let fine particles through, leaving some ‘sludge’ in your cup. If you want a cleaner cup, consider a basket-style filtration system, like those in Espropress models. They’re pricier but do a fantastic job in separating the grounds from the coffee.

As for the build, decide between single and double-walled beakers. A double-walled French press retains heat better, which results in more efficient extraction. While single-walled models like the Bodum Chambord are classics and still brew great coffee, you might find the insulation lacking over longer brew times.

Now, onto the brewing process. The French press is an immersion method, meaning all the coffee grounds and water mix together for the entire brew time, typically around four minutes. The key to a great brew is controlling the extraction rate through grind size and brew time. Fine grind? Shorter brew time. Coarser grind? Longer brew time.

So, here’s what you’ll need: a French press (preferably double-walled), a burr grinder for even grind size, 40 grams of coffee (adjust based on your preference), fresh water at around 95°C, a scale, a timer, and a stirrer.

Start by boiling 800ml of water. Pour about 200ml into the French press to preheat it. This keeps the brewing water hot. Weigh 40 grams of coffee and grind it medium-fine, similar to white sugar. Discard the preheating water, add the coffee grounds, and pour 600ml of hot water over them. Stir to make sure all the grounds are wet, then let it brew for four minutes.

After four minutes, give the coffee another stir, including the bottom. Place the plunger on top but wait a minute before pressing down, letting the finer grounds settle. Finally, gently press the plunger down and pour yourself a delicious cup of French press coffee.

For those who wonder about ratios, a 1:15 coffee-to-water ratio is a good starting point. Adjust to your taste. Remember, the French press method is one of the most honest ways to brew coffee, letting the true flavors shine through without any frills.

Using a French press doesn’t have to be complicated. Get the right equipment, pay attention to your coffee grind and brew time, and you’ll be making exceptional coffee in no time. Ditch the bitterness and enjoy the rich, full flavors that this classic brewing method has to offer.