Complete Guide to using a French Press

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What is a French Press and how do you use it? A French Press is a fancy coffee plunger. Thats literally what it looks like but it makes a great cup of coffee. In this complete guide to using a French Press, I will show you exactly why.

The French Press was invented in the 1800’s by two French men named Mayer and Delforge. It has changed over the years, but the idea still remains the same.

It is basically a narrow cylindrical glass beaker (or stainless) with a lid that has a mesh filter attached to it.

How to use a French Press

Heat the water

To use it, it’s quite simple. First, you need boiling water. I use a stainless steel kettle on the stovetop or over an open flame (if I want to have coffee while we are camping). The best temperature I have found for French Press coffee is 195°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, boiling is ok.

Tip learned from experience: If you use it over an open flame, be careful or you will melt the plastic top like I did.

Grind your beans

While the water is on the stove, I go ahead and grind my coffee beans with a grinder, unless they are already ground. You don’t have to grind them up until they are fine, medium to course is actually better for this method. (about to the consistency of Himalayan salt).

Tip: You can preheat your French Press prior to using, but I don’t notice a difference if I do. You might, so you can experiment with this if you want to.

You can go ahead and add the coffee grounds to the beaker and when the water is ready, pour it into the beaker as well. Then, you take the lid with the mesh filter attached and put it on the top but don’t press it down just yet.

french press brewer

Let it steep

I let mine steep for about 5-6 minutes (some recommend that 4 minutes is enough time) and then I slowly push the mesh filter down to trap all the grounds at the bottom. The longer you allow the coffee to stay in with the grounds, the stronger (bitter and astringent) the flavor of the coffee will be.

Why not grind the beans to fine?

The main reason why you don’t really want to use a finely ground coffee in a French Press is because they grounds could make their way into your coffee through the mesh filter. It is ok to use coffee that is already ground up but you run the risk of this happening.

Another reason why you want larger grounds for this method is that the larger grounds absorb more water than the fine bits so it will give you more flavor. For some reason, the finer bits tend to result in a bitter coffee.

french press next to coffee cup

French Press Ratio

To find the right ratio of coffee to water, you will need to experiment and find what you like the best.

Mild strength (single cup)

The ratio I use for a mild cup of coffee is 2 tbsp of grounds to 8 ounces of water.

Medium strength (single cup)

The ratio I use for a medium cup of coffee is 3 tbsp of grounds to 8 ounces of water.

Strong strength (single cup)

The ratio I use for a strong cup of coffee is 4 tbsp of grounds to 8 ounces of water.

French Press Steep Time

Once again, this is a personal preference but I steep my coffee for 5-6 minutes. For me, it is plenty of time. Letting it steep longer will leave you with bitter coffee.

In total, the time it takes me from start to finish is about 8 minutes. It’s longer than walking into a pre-made drip coffee pot but I think freshly ground coffee beans that have time to steep in a French Press are delicious.

French Press Tea

tea in cup with leaves

Did you know that a French Press is not just for coffee? You can make tea the same way you make coffee. All you need to do is substitute the grounds for loose tea. It’s recommended to use this method for lighter teas.

If you use your French Press for tea and have previously used it for coffee, be sure to clean it thoroughly so that the coffee taste doesn’t transfer over to your tea.

For tea, you can use a ratio of 2.5 grams of loose tea to 8 ounces of water. You need to weigh the tea because not all teas are the same. A scoop of one tea will not weight the same as a scoop of another.

French Press Iced Coffee

iced coffee and coffee beans in a cup

You can use the French Press for brewing iced coffee as well as hot coffee. To make iced coffee, you will want to start the process the night before since you use cold water. This allows the coffee time to properly steep.

Iced coffee instructions

You will grind and combine just as you do in the regular French Press method but this time you are going to use cold water. Stir it until it is well blended and put the lid on your press with the mesh filter at the top.

Leaving the filter up, place your maker in the refrigerator to steep overnight.

When you wake up, plunge the mesh filter to separate the coffee from the grounds and then fill your glass with ice cubes then pour the coffee over for a perfect iced coffee.

Types of French Press

Stainless Steel

A double wall insulated stainless steel French Press will keep your coffee hot while being a heavier duty press that is meant to last.


The classic French Press that has been used for years.

Travel Press

Best Coffee for a Great Taste

My favorite French Press coffee used to be a medium roast. It gives me the perfect, not too acidic, cup of coffee without taking longer than 6 minutes to make.

Here recently, I have tried a dark roast and it is so much better. The dark roast is cheaper than the light to medium roast so you might want to give it a try.

Just note, that if you use cheap or low-quality beans, you can expect a low-quality cup of joe. There is nothing worse than ruining that morning mood with a crappy cup of coffee.

Check out Coffee Makers 101 to find other brewers you might like.

Also, read the Health Benefits of Coffee. I bet it will surprise you how good it is for you.

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