18 Tips for Better French Press Coffee
Author: Bliss Coffee Roasters Date Posted:1 September 2020
Fans of French Press coffee (like our roaster, Tim) love it because this brewing method saves all those rich flavours and tantalizing aromas.
What if we told you that you could have a great French Press coffee with much less struggle? To help you improve your skills, we’ve called on Tim to give us some helpful French Press tips.
1. Use Quality Coffee
Many major commercial brands (sold in supermarkets) take a lot of the flavour out in favour of extending shelf life. Buying directly from coffee roasters or cafes ensures you’ll have a good quality coffee. Quality coffee is produced in smaller batches and doesn’t sit on a shelf in the supermarket for months. Plus, you’ll get the added bonus of supporting small businesses – either at the café level, the roaster or both!
2. Grind Your Coffee on Demand
Always keep your coffee fresh. Whole bean coffee keeps its flavour longer. The reason for this is that once you grind coffee beans, the coffee oils begin to evaporate, making the coffee lose its flavour. When you keep the beans whole until you need them, you preserve those oils.
3. Preheat Your French Press
The only source of heat for your French Press is the hot water you pour into it. The heat from that hot water will get partially absorbed by the glass of the cold French Press. By preheating the French Press first, the hot water you brew with will retain more of its heat, and you’ll have a hot cup of coffee when you’ve finished brewing.
4. Preheat Your Mug
Like with the French Press itself, the mug you pour your coffee into will also absorb your coffees’ heat. Before pouring your coffee, run your cup through hot water to warm it. Then dump the water, pour your coffee, and enjoy your hot beverage.
5. Don’t Use Boiling Water
This one often gets people. Brewing with boiling water for your French Press (and other brewing methods too), you risk over-extracting the grinds’ oils. This results in the dreaded bitter taste that can be the downfall of French Press brewed coffee. Wait until the water stops boiling, give it a swirl around in the kettle and then you should be ready to pour.
6. Use A Coarse Grind
Different brewing methods use need different grind sizes. Brewing espresso requires a very fine grind, but the opposite is true with French Press. A coarser ground coffee means fewer grinds end up in your cup and, because French Pressed coffee brews by being immersed in the water, you won’t sacrifice taste.
7. Replace Filters When Needed
Filters work to reduce coffee grit. Depending on how coarse your coffee grounds are, and how much you use your French Press, you may need replace your filter to avoid coffee sediment and grit ending up in your cup.
8. Brew A Little Extra
Brewing a little extra coffee is another way to reduce the number of coffee grinds that end up in your cup. Simply make and extra half cup to what you plan to drink. This will mean you don’t ‘finish’ all of the coffee, but the grinds and sediment will remain in the extra brew, giving you a nice, clean drink.
9. Use A Timer
Don’t guess your brewing times. Use a timer to ensure your coffee doesn’t get bitter from over-extraction or not extract the desired flavour due to under-extraction. As a rule of thumb, start with four minutes, but try shorter or longer times until you get the taste you like. Using a consistent brew time helps keep the flavour consistent.
10. Decant Your Coffee ASAP
Put your coffee in a decanter or another jug immediately if you’re not planning on drinking it all at once. Transferring the coffee right away will stop it from continuing to steep and brew. If you leave your coffee in the French Press, it’ll get bitter and unpleasant from over-extracting.
11. Clean Your French Press Thoroughly
Clean your entire French Press with hot soapy water and rinse well, then let it dry. Every five to seven uses soak the press in hot water mixed with a half cup of distilled white vinegar. Let the entire press soak 15 minutes then rinse. You want to make sure you’ve washed off all of the previous coffee oils and aromas to not taint your next cup.
12. Use A Scale
Different types of coffee beans have different densities. Due to the varied densities, it can sometimes throw off the volume measurement for a coffee scoop. A scale will measure the weight of the coffee and make sure you’re using the same amount of coffee each time. This will help you ensure consistency. Altitude is just one of many factors that impact the density of the coffee beans.
13. Buy A Good Grinder
You know whole bean coffee is fresher and has better flavour than pre-ground coffee, it’s a good idea to get a grinder that will grind coffee in the amount and coarseness you want. A good grinder will give you consistency.
14. Use Quality Water
Tap water usually contains sediment and water treatment chemicals that can affect the taste of the coffee you brew. Using bottled water or distilled water will result in a purer coffee taste because the water is not adding its own flavour to the brew.
15. Use Enough Coffee
When you’re using a French Press, it’s crucial to make sure you’re using the correct coffee to water ratio. When you use too much water and not enough coffee, you get a watered-down taste. Check out our French Press Brewing Guide for a starting recipe.
16. Jump-Start The Brew With A Small Amount Of Water
Jump-start grinds by dampening them thoroughly and letting them sit for about 30 seconds. This technique allows trapped carbon dioxide to escape that would otherwise alter your coffee’s taste. This allows the coffee to bloom - it is a similar technique to what is used for pour-over coffee. After 30 seconds are over, pour the rest of the water in.
17. If You Use Finer Grinds, Use A Shorter Brew Time
The finer the grinds, the stronger the coffee will be when brewed. Whilst you should be using a coarser grind for a French Press, if you are going to use a finer grind or the grind you have is just a little too fine, shorten the extraction time accordingly to avoid over-extraction resulting in bitter-tasting coffee.
18. Break & Clean Before You Press
This tip was made famous by world barista champion, Tim Wendelboe. Instead of just pressing the coffee, you first break it, meaning you break the crust by pressing gently down with the back of a spoon causing a minimal amount of stirring. You then scoop off the grinds the best you can off the top before pressing the rest of the coffee and pouring as you usually would do.
The result is a gentle flavour boost from the break (not stir) whilst avoiding over extraction and bitterness that might result in pressing all of the coffee particles. By removing the bulk of the coffee particles, the brewing process has largely been stopped. The pressing serves to filter the remaining coffee and gives you a clean, flavourful cup.
Many coffee enthusiasts claim French Press coffee to be the best-tasting brewing method because it keeps more of the coffee’s natural flavours whilst being relatively simple for new brewers. Hopefully, using the French Press Tips above will take your French Press experience from good to Blissful.
Pair your rich, freshly brewed French Press coffee with decadent chocolate croissants or a healthy muesli and have a Parisian vibe right at home!
Ready to start brewing with a French Press? Check out our range of French Press Coffee Makers here