How to Brew the Perfect French Press Coffee

If you’re anything like us, your day needs to start with one (or a few) cups of coffee. Good coffee. Strong coffee. Because life is short — why settle for anything less, right? Our initial cups of coffee have the potential to make or break our mood, setting the tone for the rest of our day. Basically, we need caffeine and we need it good. Enter the French press.

Although it takes a few minutes longer than your Keurig K-Cups (or even worse — instant coffee), the deliciously intense goodness of French press coffee is definitely worth the wait. The French press was invented, ironically, by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929. The device also goes by the names cafetière, coffee press, or even coffee plunger, though we like to reserve that word for other rooms in our house. Figuring out exact proportions for the French press can be tricky, but that’s why we’re here. Here are some of our best tips for making that perfect cup of French press coffee.

Clean the Press

You wouldn’t reuse a dirty coffee filter, right? We didn’t think so. Making coffee in an unwashed French press can make for some seriously bitter and unpleasant-tasting coffee. Clean your press after each use so that it’s ready to go the next time you need your caffeine fix.

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Use the Right Coffee!

The most important part of this whole equation is obviously the coffee. We recommend grinding the beans right before you make the coffee, as it keeps the aromas and flavors intact. Whether grinding your own beans or purchasing already ground coffee, make sure to use a coarse roast. The grounds should ideally have the same texture as coarse salt; these grinds are actually steeping with the water, and too-fine grounds can result in a bitter cup of joe.

Find Your Perfect Ratio

This is the tricky part, as everyone’s tastes are different. We’ve seen various recommendations, though they all hover around two to three tablespoons of coffee for every five ounces of water. We’d recommend starting high, because hey, we’d rather our coffee be too strong than too weak. If it’s too strong, you can always add hot water, or slowly work your way down and find your perfect brew strength.

Stir it Up

The actual process of making French press coffee is pretty simple: pour your coffee grounds and one-third of the total amount of hot water into the press. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds, then add the rest of the water. The coffee masters at Stumptown recommend stirring your French press coffee with a wooden spoon to prevent breaking your press. While this tip may seem extreme, during those early morning hours you might actually be more aggressive than you think!

Wait it Out

In a time when instant gratification is everything, waiting seems like an impossible feat. But the best things in life are worth the wait. We’ve found the ideal steeping time for your cup of French press is about four minutes, though anything from three to six is acceptable, with six minutes of brewing creating a stronger final product. But the surefire way to ruin your French press coffee is to steep it for too long; allowing it sit for more than five minutes will result in some seriously bitter brew.

Plunge, Pour, and Enjoy

The most fun part of it all is definitely the plunging of the press! Be sure to press the plunger all the way down to the bottom of the French press. Then pour the coffee into your favorite mug and enjoy. Beware, though: Unlike usual coffee pots that keep coffee warm for hours, allowing French press coffee to sit in the press will turn it extremely bitter. We recommend emptying the excess coffee into a different travel mug or thermos (lid is key here!) for reheating later on.