Love it or hate it, the french press is arguably the most well-known home-brew method out there. The unique velvety mouth feel and brain-dead consistency of a french press make it among my favourite brew methods. If you don’t already have one in your kitchen there is a good chance you know someone who does, and if you want one it is as easy as going to the nearest department store and buying one. They are everywhere. And because they are everywhere most people aren’t intimidated by it like they might be with a chemex or an aeropress. Which is exactly why I selected it for the first home-brew-method-break-down. That, and because it is very easy to get a consistent cup since it doesn’t require a snooty kettle or a razor-sharp pouring technique.
I’ve been messing around with french press recipes for about 5 years and this one is my favourites so far. What you’ll need is:
- A French Press. Mine is a Bodum makes up to 2 cups at a time but you can use any size/brand you want.
- 26.5g of Beans.
- Burr Grinder
- 371ml of clean water. Mineral is good, so is spring bottled.
- A digital scale. Not absolutely necessary but it will help brew better coffee.
- Your favourite coffee mug
- A timer. I use an iPhone, but I suppose Android will work as well
If you are unsure of any these items check out my other post here for a breakdown on what and why these things are ideal. Don’t worry if you don’t have a scale, I’ll do the conversions for you.
I use a 14:1 ratio for french press instead the usual 16:1 because the coarseness of the grind can leave it a little weak tasting.
Here we go.
Grind the beans. 26.5 grams or approx. 4.5 tablespoons for light roasted coffee (darker roasts weigh less so you could probably do 6 tablespoons for dark roast). Fairly coarse, not the coarsest your grinder will do but somewhere between coarsest and 3/4 coarsest. It should be quite grainy to avoid sludge in your cup.
Place the clean and dry french press on the scale and zero the display. Add the grounds into beaker and verify that they measure 26.5 grams.
Boil 371 millilitres of water. Once the water has come to a boil turn off the kettle or remove it from the stove. Wait 30 seconds. Pouring water that is too hot onto the beans will burn them. The ideal water temperature is 205f and 30 seconds off boil will give you just that.
Zero the scale again and get your timer ready. Slowly and gently pour just enough water to make the grounds wet (about 60 grams/millilitres), start the timer once the water touches the beans. The beans should start reacting which will create a beautiful light brown bubbly foam on top. This is called bloom, it’s the CO2 gas rapidly escaping the ground beans and it causes a powerful aroma, this is your first chance to get to know your beans intimately. Leave the timer running but take a second to enjoy the sights and smells. It’s my favourite part of any brew method. Most people don’t bloom with a french press, but I do, so let’s do it my way.
Let it bloom for 30 seconds, then, with the timer still going, gently add the remaining water, bringing the total to 371 grams/millilitres. Place the lid onto the press to keep the heat trapped inside but don’t press the plunger down yet. Sit back and relax for a couple minutes.
As the timer reaches 2 min remove the lid and use a spoon or something similar to gently stir the concoction with 5 strokes. This agitates the grounds and allows a deeper extraction. Now you will get a beautiful creme on top. Again, not everyone does this, but trust me this is going to taste amazing. After stirring place the lid back on top and keep the timer running.
At the 4 min mark it is time to plunge the plunger. Gently of course. Slide your favourite mug close to the press and pour out the coffee. Be careful to not pour every last drop because a french press creates a lot of sludge and you wont want that in your cup as it contains grounds that can continue extracting in the cup and become bitter.
Wait until its cool and then enjoy! If this is your first time using a press it may have felt a little clumsy trying to add water and start the timer and smelling bloom all at the same time but after a few runs you’ll be doing it blindfolded.
Didn’t like what you tasted? It’s perfectly reasonable that it will take a few tries to dial in the recipe that you like best, don’t be scared to modify any part of my directions to suit your taste buds. If things really didn’t turn out right, here is a quick troubleshooting guide:
Bitter taste- Coffee is over extracted, try a coarser grind or shorten the brew time to 3:45 instead of 4 min. Don’t adjust both time and grind on the same attempt though.
Flat or watery- Too much water or not enough beans, or your beans are stale.
Sour taste- Coffee is under extracted, opposite of over extracted. Grind a little finer or brew a little longer.
No bloom, or lackluster bloom- Sorry, but your beans are stale. Check the roast date on your next purchase, beans will only be fresh for about a month after roasting.
Lots of sludge in the bottom of the cup- Yup, that’s the french press. Some people hate it. I prefer to just not drink the last few drops in my cup, or try pouring less out of the press.
Like way too much sludge- Try a coarser grind. The downside of a french press is the wire mesh filter isnt as fine as the paper filters on a pour over or an aeropress. The metal filter creates an amazingly smooth mouth feel but too much sediment can be a turn off.
Do you love your french press? Did this further your love or do you think I’m way out to lunch with my method? Comment here or message me directly for any questions or further guidance with the press or anything else you may want to know.
All words and pictures by Tim Friesen.