What Is A French Press Coffee Maker?

The French press is the little black dress of coffee brewing: It never goes out of fashion.

Contrary to what you’d expect, the French press is, actually, an Italian invention, patented in 1929 by Italian designer Attilio Calimani. (Though, there is some common wisdom that French inventors first developed a version of the press using cheesecloth or metal as a filter.)

The brewing method caught on in the latter half of the 20th century throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, and parts of Eastern Europe. Eventually, it found a place in coffee shops and homes everywhere as a staple of any coffee brewer’s collection of equipment, whether or not it’s the preferred method of brewing.

French Press Coffee Maker

The French press is typically of a cylindrical shape. It’s made of a combination of glass and metal, plastic, or wood, and features a metal plunge filter with a mesh netting that is reusable. The lack of a paper filter, and not the motion of plunging, is what sets this brew method apart from others: the metal makes for an intentionally less clean and more oily brew that’s more full-bodied and balanced. This is also, in part, because this is an immersion brew, meaning the coffee is constantly in contact with water and evenly distributed as the grounds are soaked. French press brewers can vary in size but take about the same amount of time to brew as hand-pour methods–but with much less fuss.

How to Use a French Press Coffee Maker

How to make French press coffee is gloriously simple and can produce an exceptional cup with just some simple touches to the brew process.

  • Gather your materials. For a French press brew, you’ll want a French press, coffee grinder, a scale (optional for precise measurement of grounds and water), a spoon, measuring cup, and a mug.
  • Grind the coffee. Unlike pour-over brewing, the coffee should be ground coarse for a French press. Grinding the coffee too fine puts the grounds at risk of over-extraction.
  • Heat the water. The water temperature should be approximately 205 degrees; this temperature accounts for a slight loss of temperature during brewing. Measurements will vary by the size of the French press and desired quantity of cups. Try about 120 grams of water for every 10 grams of coffee. Do remember that, because there is no paper filter, less water will actually be lost in the brewing process.
  • Heat the press. While not essential, it’s helpful to heat the French press by swishing with water beforehand, to ensure there’s no immediate loss of water temperature. It’s not unlike serving a drink in a frosted glass.
  • Pour the water. Add water to the coffee–about twice as much water as there is coffee–and let it saturate the grounds for approximately 30 seconds. As a crust forms on the top, break it with a spoon, add the remaining water, and cover the top with the plunger and lid.
  • Plunge. After four minutes have passed, slowly press down to filter the coffee. By this point, most of the grounds should have already made their way to the bottom of the glass; the grounds sink to the bottom once they’ve finished being extracted. (In fact, it’s entirely possible to skip the plunge altogether after enough time has passed, as the sediment will eventually sink to the bottom on its own.)
  • Pour your coffee. Transfer your desired amount of coffee to the mug, and stir the top to mix any surface acid into the whole cup rather than letting them rest on top. Pour any remaining coffee into a separate carafe. Letting the coffee remain with the grounds may risk over-extraction.

Congratulations: This is how to make French press coffee. Drink and enjoy!

How Much Coffee in a French Press?

A French press can often yield as much coffee as you desire, but usually come in sizes of 24 ounces, 32 ounces, 64 ounces, or 96 ounces. The ratio of coffee to water depends entirely on how much coffee is desired, but again, a ratio of 120 grams of water for every 10 grams of coffee is a solid start before learning to adjust a recipe that’s all your own.

How Long Should a French Press Steep?

How long for French press coffee to be immersed is consistent: The grounds should be in contact with water for about four minutes and 30 seconds in total. Four minutes of that is the full steep; the coffee is completely immersed in water, meaning any remaining coffee after you’ve poured into a mug should be transferred to a carafe to ensure it is not over-extracted in storage.

How Does a French Press Work?

With a mesh metal filter and glass beaker-like carafe, this brew process is able to retain natural coffee oils that lure out unique flavors from coffee and, all the while, give it a rich body thanks to the metal filtration, rather than paper. The immersion method of brewing, or steeping of all the grounds in hot water for the duration of brewing, means that there’s a consistent and well-balanced coffee waiting at the end of every brew cycle.

How do I Clean a French Press Coffee Maker?

For starters, dump your grounds immediately after use, before they harden and clump. For daily cleaning, use a drop of dish soap, fill the container, and plunge with the lid on top to clean the filter. Scrub with a sponge as necessary. It’s important to clean the machine as oils will accumulate over time that affect the taste of your coffee. For a more thorough clean, use a 1:1 ratio of baking soda and water to create a paste that you can scrub the filter with. Then clean the glass with a mixture of water and vinegar to eliminate hard water buildup. Rinse and let dry.

There are also several custom solutions available for purchase that are intended for cleaning coffee devices.

A French press is dishwasher safe, but keep all parts on the top shelf and remember to thoroughly scrape all grounds out of the container before washing. The grounds can clog plumbing.

The French press is hailed as a reliable brew method that produces a brew that’s both consistent and altogether unique, thanks to its oils and fuller body. It’s a go-to when you want a new spin on the same bag of coffee or just an easy brew for two.