How to – Brew French Press Coffee

The second segment of the “How to” range covers the humble french press.

This is a beginners guide to making great french press coffee, if you have never made coffee using a french press before, this is for you.

The French Press has been around for 90 Years. In France it’s called a “cafetière”, in Italy a caffettiera a stantuffo, in Germany a Stempelkanne (Stamp pot), and back home along with our Australian and New Zealand friends quite simply a “Coffee Plunger”. This simple design with many a name can make outstanding coffee with a little knowledge.

It is always better to grind coffee fresh. If you don’t have a grinder, make sure the coffee has been freshly roasted and ground correctly to match your brew needs by your local coffee roaster. Grind size does matter. If the coffee is too fine, the coffee will over extract, releasing unpleasant bitter notes, whilst if the grounds are too coarse it will under extract giving a watery tasteless brew. Always use Filter Ground coffee for a filter machine. French press coffee, for example, is ground slightly more coarsely.

How to choose a French Press

So you can’t make up your mind: your favourite boutique coffee store is selling a name branded french press in comparison to the entry level supermarket option. Quite simply they all do the same thing, they just look different. The choice between having a stainless steel frame protecting the glass or a moulded plastic frame is up to you. Buy what is aesthetically pleasing but also price conscious. A note on the mechanism:I personally wouldn’t buy one that has the piston made from plastic (the 2 discs that hold the filter)for the reason that not all of them can be taken apart to be cleaned.

The equipment needed

So we know many of you don’t have those fancy digital coffee scales and tempreture controlled kettles. Start off with the basics: A French press that suits your pocket, a kettle, a bakers measuring spoon, and good coffee.

Step 1: I like to rinse my french press before using it with hot water from the kettle, fill it about one quarter way full and insert the piston (plunger) and swirl the water inside the french press around a few times,then remove the piston, and discard the water.

Step 2: Grind your coffee and add to the french press. I recommend you start with a 1:15 ratio first. For a 1 Cup plunger I use 16 grams of coffee for 250ml of water.(it is always recommended to grind your own coffee for the french press, if you don’t have access to a grinder get your local coffee roaster to grind it as fresh as possible for you)

Step 3: The ideal brew tempreture is 90 – 95 degrees Celsius, if you don’tt have a tempreture controlled kettle, allow the kettle to stand off the boil for about 1 minute. Never add boiling water to your coffee grinds, the heat will burn the coffee grounds and distort the flavour. Pour the water over the grounds slowly in a circular motion, wetting the grounds until it resembles a mud like substance and allow to stand for 30 seconds. We call this process the bloom, where coffee reacts with water and releases its oils and gases.

Step 4: After 30 Seconds add the rest of the water to the french press and stir the coffee.

Step 5: Place the lid back on the French press without pressing the piston, we want maximum contact between the grounds and the water. Let it brew for 4 minutes (For timing I use my cellphone’s timer function)

Step 6: Press the piston down, pour the brewed coffee and enjoy.


I recommend regular cleaning of the mesh as coffee grounds and residue like to get caught between the plates, and this will affect the flavour of the coffee.

If you don’t have a digital scale

I can’t recommend how many spoons of coffee you should use because spoon size varies. I have however, tested measuring spoons used in baking, which many of us have and are not that expensive. A level tablespoon measure (15 ml) holds roughly 6 grams and a level teaspoon measure(5 ml) holds about 2 grams of coffee. Measuring the grounds allows you to have a record so you can adjust your brew ratio until you are happy with the flavour in the cup.

The Ratio Calculation

It is quite simple mathematics, for a 1:15 ratio we take the amount of water used and divide it by the ratio factor then we get the amount of coffee we need

E.g. 250 ml of water divided by Ratio factor “15” = 16,6 Grams

E.g. 1000 ml of water divided by Ratio factor “15” = 66,6 Grams

If we were to change the Ratio to 1:17

E.g. 250 ml of water divided by Ratio factor “17” = 14,7 Grams

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