What is a French press, thumbnail

Here’s What a French Press is: Definition, How-to and Ratios

Coffee lovers can be found everywhere, literally. Across the globe, people have developed different versions of coffee and it’s now the second most traded commodity in the world. One method of brewing coffee is through the use of something known as the French press. But do you know the answer to what is a French press?

The French press is a simple, manual coffee maker that relies on plunging coarsely ground coffee against a strainer to deliver a cup of strong unfiltered coffee.

It consists of a glass and metal cup with a strainer and a plunger.

This simple machine is typically used manually and it’s used to make coffee that we call ‘French press coffee’.

It’s also known as a cafetière, cafetière à piston, caffettiera, stantuffo, press pot, coffee press, or a coffee plunger.

What Is a French Press Coffee?

The term French press coffee means coffee that’s brewed in a French press.

This method of brewing coffee involves ground coffee and excludes the use of a paper filter.

French press coffee is also known as unfiltered coffee.

The French press gets the most flavor out every single time by plunging and straining all the essential oils and flavors from the coffee.

The French press coffee is often treated as a specialty drink in bistros and coffeehouses.

However, once you master the French press technique, you don’t have to rely on baristas or ridiculously expensive coffee shops to get you rolling in the morning hours!

What Type of Coffee Do You Make Using a French Press?

The French press is traditionally used to prepare only one type of java – plain black coffee.

It uses just water and a ground coffee base, which means that the French press gives you a pretty strong cup of black coffee.

This is because all the oils extracted in the process directly blend with the water to create that distinctive, unfiltered coffee mixture.

By contrast, other methods use a paper filter that holds a substantial amount of coffee residue to lessen its intensity.

However, some people find a French press coffee too overpowering for their taste buds.

But the French press is really the best way for experiencing the authentic intensity of that rich, black liquid!


How to Brew Coffee Using a French Press (in 7 Steps!)

The French press coffee method is similar to cold brew coffee.

The only differences are in the water temperature and the immersion time.

So to get a cup of this warm brown-black liquid, here are the steps you need to follow:

Step 1: Heat the water

To get the most flavor out of your coffee grounds, you should keep the temperature around 195 °F.

Depending on your tolerance to the temperature, you can possibly go lower than 195 °F.

Just try not to alter the temperature too much since that may change your coffee’s flavor and texture.

Step 2: Grind the coffee beans

Regardless of the brand and type of coffee you go for (light, dark, or roasted), you have to achieve a medium-coarse grind.

This is a vital step to authentic French press java so try to get the grind right!

You can use an electric grinder or a manual grinder to achieve that uniform sandy texture with a few large coffee crystals.

This type of texture is ideal because using finely ground coffee can often get too bitter for even hardcore coffee fanatics.

An uneven base, on the other hand, gives a more balanced, enjoyable flavor and aroma.

Step 3: Pour the ground coffee inside the press and add water

This step is pretty self-explanatory.

Simply put the coffee grounds in the press and add some water.

Step 4: Let the grounds saturate for 4-5 minutes in the water

This will help to enrich the flavor and texture of your coffee.

But if you increase this timeframe, then your coffee may turn out muddy and thick.

Aim for lower than 4 minutes, and you’ll get a bitter, watery residue that is nowhere near good.

Step 5: Place the plunger on your French press mug and start plunging

You now have to begin plunging the mixture against the strainer.

The steel frame will not absorb any of the coffee extracts.

And all of it will be deposited at the bottom of your French press.

Step 6 (Alternative): Put the coffee on a stove

If you feel like it, you can brew the mixture on the stove for about a minute.

This will thicken the coffee and achieve a temperature that better suits your preference.

Step 7: Pour the coffee into a cup and enjoy!

Just don’t forget to transfer any leftover coffee from the French press into another mug, thermos or container.

The logic behind this is that the ground coffee left inside the press will continue brewing and your coffee will only get more bitter as time passes.

What is a French press, a French press coffee poured into a cup

What are Your Ideal Proportions?

Professional baristas and coffee aficionados usually recommend a 1:15 ratio (coffee to water).

In other words, one gram of ground coffee for fifteen grams of water.

But the French press is all about experimenting as there are no fixed rules.

You have to determine your personal preference on-the-go while brewing.

To make your first cup of French press coffee, you can follow these measurements:

  • For a single cup: ⅛th of a cup of coffee beans
  • For two servings: ¼th of a cup of coffee beans
  • For three servings: Half a cup of coffee beans

This is a generic estimate to help you stir up your first cup from the French press.

However, depending on the water temperature, the coffee texture, the brand, and the intensity of your coffee beans, you’re likely to get a burst of different flavors with each attempt.

What is a French press, spilled coffee beans next to a French press coffee maker

What are the Factors that Affect My French Press Coffee?

There are 3 key factors that can have an impact on how good (or bad) your French press java will be:

1. The Type of Coffee Used

A French press on its own account is meant to deliver a strong cup of coffee.

Unlike the milder versions of coffee, you have to be really careful with the type of coffee you go for.

If you aren’t familiar with black, milkless coffee, it’s best to start with a light-medium coffee base.

However, if you deliberately want your French press cup to be as strong as possible, you can go for dark roast coffee beans.

Another point to consider is the texture of your coffee.

Grinding your own beans is much healthier and disaster-proof when compared to pre-ground, packaged coffee.

The latter might turn out too bitter, especially if you don’t have your proportions sorted out.

Therefore, it’s best to get started with your own version of ground coffee.

2. Water Temperature

With each cup of French press coffee, you must get the temperature high enough.

Like we’ve mentioned earlier, 195 °F usually works best for beginners.

A brewing temperature below 190 °F is too low, while anything above 215 °F may be too hot.

If you overheat your water, it’ll scald the coffee grounds and they’ll become a sticky, burnt mess inside your brewer.

But if the water isn’t hot enough, you may not be able to extract the full richness from your coffee beans.

3. Saturation Time

The saturation time refers to how long you immerse your coffee grounds in water.

4 to 5 minutes is the safest limit in order to get sufficient strength and flavor from your unfiltered coffee.

If you drop below four minutes, your mixture will be flavorless, bitter, and watery.

While letting the brew sit for more than five minutes may make the coffee too muddy and gooey.

What is a French press, a man drinking a cup of French press coffee

Tips When Using the French Press

And below we’ve hand-picked 3 super useful and helpful tips when using your French press brewer:

1. Focus on the water temperature

Once you get the water boiling, take it off the heat and let it sit for about a minute.

Prepare the coffee ground and then pour in water to get a balanced temperature, flavor, and texture.

2. Consider the water-to-coffee proportions

To acquire a taste for stronger, richer coffee, try to work out a different proportion with different types of coffee grounds.

Ideally, lessening the proportion of water and retaining that of the coffee gives you a much richer, enhanced flavor.

3. Use the French press in a limited manner

Since there’s no paper filter to hold back coffee oils, a French press coffee contains much more cholesterol.

This can potentially be unhealthy for you, depending on your genetic predisposition and overall health status.

Experts recommend drinking a maximum of 4 cups of unfiltered coffee per day!

That’s why it’s generally advised to consume unfiltered coffee in moderation.


French press is a simple to use coffee maker that relies on plunging coffee grounds against a strainer.

And French press coffee is the result of this brewing method i.e. unfiltered coffee.

This process delivers strong cups and it’s best paired with coarsely ground coffee beans for best results.

Even better, this brewing method is perfect if you’re one of those coffee lovers who love experimenting with their brew.

Now, have you ever used a French press brewer before and if yes – what proportions or ratios did you go for?

Also, do you prefer unfiltered coffee to other types of java and why?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!

CEO at CoffeeLifious | simon@coffeelifious.com | Website | + posts

Simon is a coffee enthusiast who has spent years exploring the world of coffee. He has a deep passion for the art of brewing and enjoys experimenting with different brewing methods to create the perfect cup of coffee. His love for coffee has led him to become an expert in the field, and he is known for his meticulous attention to detail when it comes to selecting and brewing the perfect cup. Simon is also an avid traveler who loves incorporating new flavors and techniques into his brewing.

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