#1 Dosing The Coffee
By weight or by volume? Weighing will give you more repeatable results than using volume, as there can be more variance measuring when using tablespoons than a gram scale. However, the French Press is pretty forgiving so either method is fine. We will cover both methods.
Measure By Weight
There is no consensus on the ideal brewing ratio for the French Press. Before putting this tutorial together, I visited the recommendations of many roasters and discovered ratios between 10:1 and 18:1. When I threw out the outliers and averaged the rest, the ratio came out to 15.5:1. That means 15.5 grams of water for every 1 gram of coffee.
The fact the ranges were so different speaks to the fact that French Press coffee can taste great using different measurements and precision is less important than other brewing methods.
Measure By Volume
Going by volume, a good starting point is to use 1 tablespoon of coffee for every 4 fluid ounces of water. Some of the stronger recipes say 1 tablespoon of coffee for every 3 ounces. You may increase the amount of coffee to your desired taste. Below is a general range to get you started.
Bodum 3 cup (12 oz) = 3-4 tablespoons
Bodum 4 cup (17 oz) = 4-5 tablespoons
Bodum 8 cup (34 oz) = 9-10 tablespoons
Bodum 12 cup (51 oz) = 13-15 tablespoons
#2 Grind Coffee and Heat Water
Before you start grinding the coffee, heat up some water.
The French Press uses a coarse grind. See the photo below.
#3 Add Coffee and Water to French Press
Add the ground coffee into the French Press. Once the water reaches boil, wait about 30 seconds before pouring onto the coffee. This will lower the temperature from boiling to around 200° F, which is ideal for brewing.
Start a timer and pour water onto the coffee grounds.
When you pour the water into the French Press there may be a bloom at the top where the coffee is either clumped or not making contact with the water. You can minimize that by pouring slowly in a controlled manner.
#4 Stir (or not)
Even if you pour slowly, there might be coffee grounds clumped at the top that aren’t in contact with water. A gentle stir will solve that problem.
I used to stir the entire French Press. That is not necessary. Just stir the top inch. Use a chopstick or spoon. Some advise using a wooden spoon as there have been cases where a metal spoon has cracked the glass of the French Press. But if you are gentle, that shouldn’t be a concern. The goal here is to get all the coffee making contact with water.
After this, place the plunger on top of the coffee pot in the up position. This will minimize heat loss. Don’t press down yet.
#5 After 3-4 Minutes Press Down Slowly
The recommended brew time for the French Press ranges from 2.5 – 6 minutes, with the most commonly cited time being 4 minutes.
I have brewed thousands of French Press pots and prefer 3.5 minutes. Full extraction and rich without being too heavy. Fellow INeedCoffee contributor Chris Arnold likes 2.5 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, Seattle Coffee Works advises a 6 minute steep for Indonesian coffees (4 minutes for other beans). This will come down to personal preference.
Beyond all the debates about optimal brewing times, is the reality that in the kitchen we can easily become distracted waiting for our coffee to finish brewing. The longer the brew time, the more opportunities for distraction. Aiming for a 3 to 3.5 minute brew time has worked much better for me than the 4 to 6 minute range.
When it does come time to press the plunger down, be gentle. Slow and even. It should have some resistance, but not too much. If there is no resistance, you might need to grind a little finer. If it is too hard to press down, use a coarser grind.
#6 Serve Coffee
Pour and enjoy. French Press coffee will have some sediment. To minimize getting that grit, I usually leave 1/2-1 inch of coffee in the press pot. I also don’t drink the last mouthful of each mug. The sediment doesn’t really bother me, but I’d like to end each mug of coffee where the first sip tastes as good as the last sip, so I avoid the last few drops.