What is a French Press?

Welcome to your beginner’s guide to French presses and how to use one. French presses are also known as cafetieres, press pots, or coffee plungers.

French Press brewers have been around in some form since the 1800’s. The design we know as the modern French press was not patented until 1924. The French press is also sometimes called a Cafetiere or a Coffee Plunger. A  press is often people’s first at-home brewer.
 
Many people start off their specialty coffee journey with their French press. This is due to the simplicity of brewing coffee and the bold flavour. A press is an immersion-style brewer. In an immersion brewer the coffee grounds sit in the water for the whole brewing time. They also don’t have a paper filter, so all the flavours come through in their full intensity.
 
Presses are a very affordable way to enjoy specialty coffee. They’re a great way to start out on your coffee journey. If you have never tried coffee from a French press before, you’re about to up your coffee game. For the best coffee, fill your press with locally roasted fresh coffee.
 
Most coffee people have tried pressed coffee before. (If you haven’t, that’s ok too.) Because of this there are billions of articles online about how to use a press. In this article we’re going to review some of our favourite tips for the French Press.

What is a French Press?

As stated above, French presses are an immersion-style brewer. All presses have a cylindrical brewing chamber. The chamber is often made of glass or stainless steel. In the chamber the loose coffee grounds steep in the hot water. The lid of a press includes a plunger that connects to a fine metal screen at the bottom. Fun Fact: some early variations of French presses used cheesecloth on the plunger.

How does a French Press work?

A French Press works by allowing your coffee grounds to steep for a few minutes in hot water without a filter or bag. Usually the coffee steeps for 4 to 5 minutes for the best flavour. Once the coffee has reached your desired strength, press the plunger down with care. This separates the water from the coffee grounds, which are now at the bottom of the chamber. (You don’t want to push too hard or fast to avoid getting grounds in your coffee.) Pour your coffee and enjoy the full-bodied flavour.

How to use a French Press

As with any coffee brewer, the #1 most important thing is that you like the coffee you’ve made! With this in mind, much of the technique to brewing French press coffee is up to the person drinking it. We have outlined a few different brewing methods with a press. In the end, decide for yourself how to best brew your pressed coffee to make a brew you enjoy to the fullest.
 
The proportions used in the following recipes is from our Guide to Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee. We recommend this recipe as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to make adjustments to suit your taste.

The Standard French Press Method

Making delicious coffee in a French press using the standard method is very simple. For this, we recommend grinding your coffee very coarse. For more info on coffee grind size, check out our Definitive Guide to Coffee Grinder.
 
  • First, fill the brewing chamber with your ground coffee. We recommend starting with 1 tbsp. per 4 oz. serving. Adjust this amount to your own taste.
  • Then fill the chamber with hot water and let it steep for 4-5 minutes. Set the lid on the press as it steeps, but don’t push down the plunger yet.
  • After steeping, press down on the plunger, and pour. Enjoy sipping your fresh cup of hot coffee!

The No-Plunge French Press Method

A common complaint among press users, new and old, is the silt you get at the bottom of your coffee cup. For a cleaner, silt-free cup of coffee, we like the no plunge method. James Hoffman popularized this method in his video The Ultimate French Press Technique.
 
For the no-plunge method, follow these steps:
  • Grind your coffee finer than normal for a press. We like to grind it to the size of regular sand.
  • Add your coffee and hot water to the press as usual.
  • Let coffee steep for 4 minutes.
  • With a spoon, stir in the coffee grounds that have floated to the top. Scoop off any coffee grounds and foam that remain at the surface.
  • Let your coffee sit in the press for five more minutes. This will allow your coffee grounds to settle to the bottom of your press.
  • When you are ready to drink the coffee, leave the lid on but keep the the plunger at the coffee level. Do not press the plunger to the bottom. Pour your coffee and let the plunger to strain out any remaining grounds.

Pressed Cold Brew

One of the easiest ways to make cold brew coffee is in a French Press. For more information on cold brew check out our post on What Is Cold Brew?
 
For perfect cold brew every time, follow these steps:
  • Measure out your coffee and put it in your press.
  • Fill your press up with cold water and/or ice.
  • Cover the press with an Abeego Wrap and place in your fridge for 12-24 hours.
  • Replace the Abeego Wrap with the press’s top and press the plunger down.
  • Enjoy drinking your cold brew coffee. Add ice and cold milk for an iced latte!

Which Press is Right For Me?

Now that you’ve know some different ways to press, the next question is which is one is right for you. At Cupper’s Coffee & Tea we have a huge range of presses to suit your needs no matter what how you use it!
 
The following is a list of our 5 favourite French presses. Note: In the coffee world “1 cup” refers to 1 European serving size – which is only 4 oz. So if you are looking at an 8 cup press it’s likely to only hold enough coffee for 2 large coffee mugs.

1. The Bodum Columbia 12 Cup French Press

The Bodum Columbia 12 Cup French Press is the true Cadillac of all presses. First, it’s HUGE. Like – so big. You will be able to fill your whole crew with coffee with this beauty. Second, it has a double walled stainless steel carafe, so it will keep your coffee hot for a long time. The steel carafe holds up to fall damage a lot better than a glass press. As well, it doesn’t have any seams or seals where coffee collects or stains. The entire press is completely dishwasher safe. Last, it’s gorgeous. It polishes up like new with only a couple of rubs so is always set for company coming!

2. Bru-Trek Base Camp French Press

The BruTrek BaseCamp French Press is a Planetary Design product. (These are the same folks who brought us Airscapes for storing coffee and tea.) Planetary Design presses are travel-ready, outdoor-proof, and made to go with you everywhere. These double-walled insulated, and vacuum-sealed 48 oz. BruTrek presses use their Bru-Stop technology. Bru-Stop stops your coffee from continued brewing after you’ve pressed your coffee. This gives a rich tasting cup of joe, but stops over-extraction or grounds left in your cup. BruTrek is ultra-durable and ready for any adventure. It’s designed to brew anywhere and take everywhere!

3. Bodum Brazil 8 Cup French Press

This is a beautiful and simple press. We like it for it’s simple design and affordability. The Bodum Brazil 8 Cup French Press is a testament to the idea that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have great coffee. It’s easy to clean, and if you break the glass, we have replacement glass carafes. This press also comes in a smaller 3 cup option. So even if you need only a little cup of coffee, we’ve got you covered.

4. Double Shot Bru-Stop French Press Travel Mug

The Double Shot Bru-Stop French Press Travel Mug is the perfect French Press for anyone on the go. Finally, you can brew your press coffee wherever you are. The plunger on this press has a small metal plate which traps the grounds at the bottom of your cup. But wait – There’s a bonus! Hidden in the bottom of this cup is a secret compartment for storing a second cup’s worth of coffee grounds. Brew on the go from any gas station with hot water, you bring the coffee. Oreos also fit perfectly in this compartment, just saying! 

5. Grosche Melbourne 8 Cup French Press

We love the Grosche presses. They are as functional as they are  beautiful. This one, the Grosche Melbourne 8 Cup French Press, has a wood top and plunger knob. It also includes a beautiful cork base to catch any drips and help keep it warm a bit longer. The carafe is dishwasher safe, but to preserve the wood top, please hand wash it. Simple and elegant, with this press your coffee will look as good as it tastes.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do I press a French press?

This is a matter of taste preference. Start with pushing the plunger down after 4-5 minutes, and then adjust to what tastes best for you.

How should I grind my coffee for a press?

Grind your press coffee so coarse that it resembles sea salt. Usually this is close to the coarsest grind an electric burr grinder will go.

Is French Press coffee better than drip coffee?

This is a matter of opinion and personal taste. Press coffee tends to have a bolder taste to it due to it’s immersion-style brewing. The lack of a paper filter means all the oils are still present, so the flavour is full-bodied.

Can you make espresso in a press?

You can’t make espresso in a French Press. For espresso you need a intense water pressure, and you can’t get this in a regular press. Having said that, you can brew any espresso coffee any way you like, including in a press. Our San Francisco Espresso is amazing as a pressed coffee. For more information about espressos, read up on The Zen Of Espresso.

Can you make cold brew in a French Press?

You can, and it’s actually an excellent good way to make fresh cold brew. Use cold water instead of hot and then let it steep in the fridge for 12-24 hours before pressing the plunger.

Can you make tea in a French Press?

Surprise – you can! Instead of starting with ground coffee, add your loose tea to the carafe, then add hot water. Let it steep for recommended time and press your plunger down. You may get more resistance as the leaves press against the filter. For more information on brewing tea check out our Beginner’s Guide To Luxury Teas.