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Coffee: the Art of Using a French Press

French presses are a delightful way to become involved in the coffee brewing process

Coffee lovers have long enjoyed the benefits of brewing with a French press. It's a design that is decades old, but came into favor in the 1930s with the perfection of the interior screen. The process is simple - pressing hot water through coffee grounds, which gives these manual brewers another name, the "press pot."

They're easy to use and do get you involved in the fine art of coffee making. You can serve at tableside for flair. It's portable and no electricity is needed; just access to hot water. There are several tricks to successful French press results. First, you'll need coarsely ground coffee. A fine grind will leave too many floaters and dregs in the cup. Patience is also key as the slow pumping action will also keep dregs to a minimum.

It's also wise to brew only the needed amount. Too long in the container and you'll receive a bitter taste. Be sure to rinse all components well to remove acids from the beans, but always be sure the pot has completely cooled first.

You can use a heaping teaspoon for every four-ounce cup of coffee. Note that most cups are larger, so you will need to compensate. When pouring water into the pot, add in a circular motion to keep the grind from clumping in one spot. After adding the boiling liquid, replace the plunger and lid to retain heat. Also, when lowering the press, be sure that the French press spout is turned away from you in case any water shoots outward. If the press goes in at a slant, remove it and start again. It must be perfect level to attain the best suction and less sediment retention. Always be sure the pot is situated on a stable and secure surface.

The general rule of thumb for steeping time is four minutes. You'll need to experiment based on the actual grind and result you are after. While coarse grind is recommended, if you use a home grinder, the results may not be consistent.

When you're shopping for a French press, remember that they make terrific gifts for any occasion. They're reasonably priced and you'll find models in a variety of colors as well as in sets with cups and saucers. Any kitchen shop, larger department store, and many on-line specialty retailers carry French presses.


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