French Press for Beginners


Home Brewing Basics – French Press

I love being able to come down to my kitchen and brew myself the perfect…or at least a good cup of coffee. The smell and taste of coffee, not to mention the caffeine, just start the day off right. French press is a simple and rewarding way to brew that first cup. (Even easier than pour over brewing.)

As a homebrewer who is not interested in fancy gadgets the immersion method of extracting all that coffee goodness is a must. Immersion is the simplest of brewing techniques because all you do is put coffee grounds in water. Now there is a lot of variation and tweaking that can you can play with to craft your recipe to your taste, grind settings, brew times and bean roasts, but here is a simple way to get started.

Coffee Beans

You can use any kind of coffee but I recommend starting with something you are already familiar with. I prefer darker roasts so I use a full city or French roast from Chiang Rai‘s Red Cliff. Do not use pre-ground or the cheapest beans you can find at Makro, the resulting cup will be pretty terrible. If you don’t know which beans to get don’t stress, just pick up something like Doi Chang’s full city roast and try it out. Remember, if you don’t like it try another.

The Grind

Don’t get the pre-ground coffee because coffee begins to go stale after only fifteen minutes! For every cup you brew, be sure to grind your coffee properly. A French press requires a coarse grind that looks like coarse sea salt.  If you use an electric blade to chop up your coffee beans, you will probably get pieces too small, which will brew a very bitter cup and a mouth full of grit. Best is to use a burr grinder and test the setting before grinding all your beans (Choosing a Coffee Grinder). Just to get started I recommend the Hario Mini Mill.

The French Press

French presses can be anywhere from this 600ml generic to a nice one like this Double Insulation French Press Maker. The beauty of french press is that it is low tech so as your taste for a great cup of coffee becomes keener then you can move into better equipment.

Setup for Your Brew

  1. French press brewer
  2. Hot water – around 96 degrees Celsius just off the boil (use a thermometer). Note about water: water makes up 98.75% of your coffee, so use the best water you have available. Filtered or bottled water.
  3. Ground Coffee– coarse ground coffee as shown above.
  4. Timer – this one is important because even if you get all the above right leaving the grounds in the water too long or too short will not yield good results. Also, timing your brew will allow you to adjust your method to suit your personal taste.

How Much Coffee?

Start with the ratio of 1:16 – 1 gram of coffee for every 16 grams of water. For my small French press, I use 30g of ground coffee for 480g (ml) of water.

If you don’t have a scale you should get one (I use this one and so far it has been getting the job done and at 550฿ it is an easy buy). But if you don’t have a scale right now and you need that coffee you can estimate by using 2 tablespoons of coffee for every cup and a half of water (12oz).

Finally the Brewing Process

Clean the French Press Brewer

Make sure the french press is clean; no grounds in the mesh filter.

Preheat French Press

Preheat your french press with almost boiling water by letting the water sit in the brewer for 20 seconds. Throw the water out.

Bloom the Coffee

Dump your perfectly ground coffee into the French press. Then start a 6 minute timer and pour about 1/3 of your 96° Celcius water onto the grounds. Make sure all the grounds are wet and covered with water then wait 30-40 seconds. This process of wetting the grounds with that first burst of hot water is called “The Bloom”. After 30-40 seconds pour the rest of the water into the brewer and stir the grounds to make sure they are all submerged. Then put the top of the French press on and wait.

Plunge and Enjoy

Once the 6 minutes are up, gently and slowly press the plunger down until it hits the grounds at the bottom of your French press. Then pour into your favorite mug and enjoy. Make sure to not leave the coffee in the brewer for too long because it will continue to extract and brew and will over extract which will ruin all your hard work – so drink up!

You can adjust the following things to change the results of your cup of coffee.

Hope you found this useful and that you can now get started brewing your own amazing cups of coffee at home!