Perfect this simple pleasure.

By Southern Living Editors
Updated September 03, 2020
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Credit: Mariya Gordeeva / Getty Images

There are seemingly endless ways to make a cup of coffee. From drip brew to cold brew, lattes to espressos, you can count on your local coffee shop to be brimming with options. But when it comes to brewing at home, you don’t have to have an elaborate machine to create a bold, elegant cup of your own.

One of the simplest ways to fill your mug may sound fancy, but it’s certainly not just for the coffee elite. French press coffee is easy, inexpensive, and offers the brewer complete control over their cup. There’s a reason it has somewhat of a cult following. Before you add a French press to your kitchen collection, here are a few essentials to know.

What is French Press Coffee

French press coffee is a manual brewing method, but don’t let that scare you. It may be more hands-on than using a basic coffee pot, but it’s just as simple. A French press makes coffee by steeping grounds in hot water before pressing them to the bottom of the container to separate the grounds from the liquid.

The process is quick and results in a full-bodied brew that allows you to control every variable for balance. You can make as much or as little as you’d like, giving you the option to serve several people at once like your typical a drip brew. In just four minutes, you can make multiple cups.

The Keys to Great French Press Coffee

If you’re new to the French press, you may end up with a slightly bitter or oily batch if you don’t do your homework. Typically, you can find what went wrong by examining to two commonly overlooked factors: water temperature and poorly ground coffee.

Lukewarm water or boiling hot water may fail to extract all the flavor or scorch your grounds. Luckily this fix is a cinch – just let your boiling water sit for a minute before brewing.

When it comes to your grounds, it’s critical to grind your own. Typical store-bought coffee grounds are made for a conventional drip coffee machine. French press coffee requires even, coarsely ground beans that are relatively large. Anything too small will slip through the filter and land straight in your cup. Consider a burr grinder to avoid sediment at the bottom of your cup or ask your local coffee shop to grind your beans.

What You’ll Need

French Press: They may look intimidating, but don’t let them fool you. A French press is anything but expensive, and of course it’s essential to making French Press coffee.

French Press Coffee Maker
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Whole Coffee Beans: You need quality beans for a quality cup. If you’re new to the French press scene, don’t accidentally grab your normal bag of grounds from the grocery store. You need whole coffee beans to grind your own uniform grounds for pressing.

Burr Coffee Grinder: From manual to electric, you can get a burr coffee grinder with all the bells and whistles or simply a sturdy handle. Either way, a burr grinder is your best bet for fresh, uniform grounds.

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill
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OXO BREW Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
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A Means of Measuring Coffee to Water Ratios: Whether you go with a digital scale or a simple measuring cup, you need a tool to help you get your ratios right. Here’s our general guide to the proper proportions for your French press by serving size:

  • 1 Serving: 1 cup water (8 fluid ounces) — 2 tablespoons coffee beans (14 grams)
  • 2 Servings: 2 cups water (16 fluid ounces) — ¼ cup coffee beans (28 grams)
  • 4 Servings: 4 cups of water (32 fluid ounces) — 1/2 cup coffee beans (56 grams)
  • 8 Servings: 8 cups of water (64 fluid ounces) — 1 cup coffee beans (112 grams)
Digital Kitchen Scale
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Boiling Water: Boiling waterwarms the press before brewing and is essential to brewing the coffee. Don’t forget to let your boiling water sit for a minute before pouring it over your grounds to avoid scorching.

How to Make French Press Coffee Step-by-Step

  1. Warm the Press: Prepare your press by rinsing it with very hot water. This helps maintain the correct temperature while brewing.
  2. Measure and Grind: Measure the correct amount of coffee beans based on your serving size. Grind your coffee to a coarse size, like breadcrumbs, in a burr grinder.
  3. Heat the Water: Heat the correct amount of water based on your serving size on a stove top or electric kettle until boiling. Take it off of heat for one minute before adding to your press to avoid scorching.
  4. Fill Your Press and Stir: Discard the warming water from your press once warm. Add your coffee grounds into the empty press. Pour your hot water into the press, and immediately set your timer for 4 minutes. At 1 minute, use a wooden spoon to break the top layer and stir well.
  5. Steep the Coffee: Let the mixture steep for a total of 4 minutes for a full-bodied brew.
  6. Press: After 4 minutes have passed, firmly push down on the press completely. Be sure to press the plunger all the way to the bottom.
  7. Serve and Save: Serve immediately after pressing. If you do not use all of the coffee, save some for later by transferring the extra liquid to a carafe. Do not keep the leftovers in your French press where it will continue to sit in the grounds.