The French press brews excellent coffee with bold and rich flavor. It’s a simple process, but requires the right French press coffee ratio, grind size, and brew time for the best taste.
I’ve been brewing French press coffee for over a decade and have gone through dozens (more like hundreds) of batches to get rich flavor with few grounds in the cup. To get French press coffee right, you’ll need to measure the right amount of coffee, use a grinder, and a timer.
Let’s start with the most important part: measuring the right amount of coffee for a French press.
The French Press Coffee-to-Water Ratio
I recommend using a French Press coffee-to-water ratio of 1:15. The French Press coffee ratio can range from 1:12 for a strong cup of coffee to a 1:17 ratio for a weaker cup. These ratios are based on weight and are measured in grams. In standard kitchen measurements, a large mug of coffee (16 oz of water) requires 6 Tbsp of ground coffee for a 1:15 ratio, 8 Tbsp for a strong 1:12 ratio, and 5 Tbsp for a weak 1:17 ratio. Most French presses are 32 oz, which means 12 Tbsp of ground coffee at regular strength. Here is a table showing the coffee needed for different sizes and strengths.
I strongly recommend using a scale to measure water and coffee for a French press. A scale will measure coffee far more accurately than tablespoons, cups, and (worst of all) scoops.
Lean towards using more coffee than expected in a French press. The French press is an immersion device where water is constantly saturated with coffee, which means it takes longer to fully extract coffee from the bean (this article geeks out on the science). The French press uses a higher coffee ratio than pour over devices and more coffee than the “golden ratio” of 1:18 coffee-to-water. This means less water in our ratio, so use a 1:15 or 1:12 ratio of coffee-to-water for a French press. Anything above 1:17 will taste like water.
Brewing a French Press Coffee
Step 1: heat water
Heat water to 200 degrees. Do not use boiling water, which will over-extract coffee and make the flavor bitter. Let boiling water cool off for one minute to reach 200 degrees. A range of 195 to 205 degrees is perfectly fine.
Step 2: grind coffee
Use a burr grinder to grind the coffee as the water heats up. The grind size should be coarse for a French press. The coffee should have the look and texture of sea salt.
Step 3: bloom coffee
Add coffee to the French press and pour in enough water to submerge the grounds. It will be about ⅕ of the total water. Stir the coffee a little and let it sit for 30 seconds. This stage is the coffee bloom. Coffee releases carbon dioxide during the bloom, which leads to better coffee extraction.
Stir with a wooden spoon to avoid cracking the French press. Remember, it is made of glass and filled with hot water, so it’s sensitive to any taps from a metal spoon. That said, I’ve stirred a French press with a metal spoon many times without issue (but I’ve cracked a French press in other ways!).
Step 4: add remaining coffee and wait
A French press takes four minutes to brew. Use a timer (i.e. phone) to be precise. The brew time can extend to five minutes depending on the temperature of your water, where cooler water will take longer.
Step 5: plunge and pour
Place the lid on the French press and slowly push the plunger down to strain the grounds. The keyword here is slowly. Don’t rush because the plunger agitates the coffee grounds, which will end up in your cup. The grounds make French press coffee bitter, especially at the end of the cup. The sludge of grounds at the bottom of the cup is the bane of a French press. Stop plunging before reaching the grounds and don’t go all the way down. A slow plunge and gentle pour will reduce grounds and improve flavor.
Brewing French Press with the James Hoffman Method
James Hoffman is a coffee extraordinaire and his French press coffee method is widely revered. It brews a cleaner cup of coffee for those with extra time in the morning. The JH method is worth learning if you don’t like the grounds that come in French press coffee.
This method follows the same process above until Step 4. Stir the coffee slightly once it has brewed for four minutes. This breaks the crust of grounds on top, and most coffee will fall to the bottom. Remove any remaining grounds floating on top with two spoons.
Put the lid on and wait for 5-7 minutes. The extra stir and wait is the main difference in the James Hoffman French press method. During the wait, the small coffee grounds settle at the bottom of the press.
After 5-7 minutes, place the lid on the press and pour out the coffee. Do not push the plunger down. The coffee grounds have already settled, so the plunger will only agitate them from the bottom. Leave the plunger at the top of the coffee to strain any floating grounds. There will be far fewer grounds in the cup because of the extra time to settle.
The James Hoffman French press method brews coffee with a clean taste, even at the end of the cup, while a typical French press coffee will have grounds. It’s good for those who don’t like the heavy, bitter mouthfeel (yet still like a rich and robust like French press coffee) and have an extra 5-7 minutes in the morning!
Want more ways to brew coffee?
If you want to find new ways to bring out the flavor of coffee, check out our coffee brewing guides.