France has been an important contributor to coffee culture over the years, making terms like café au lait and café du jouras indispensable as thealmighty croissant. And it was in France that, during the 1850s, an early version of the French press (which is called a cafetière in French) was patented — although Italian designers Attilio Calimano and Giulio Moneta came up with their own version in the 1920s. The device is still commonly used in 2021, but it is important to understand how to use a French press correctly.
Get to Know Your French Press
The first step in learning how to use a French press is getting acquainted with its parts. In its modern-day form, a French press includes a plunger, a lid, a filter, a beaker, a base and a handle. The base and handle are attached to the beaker, which is where baristas place the coffee grounds and hot water — while the filter and plunger are attached to the lid.
Unlike standard electric coffee makers, a French press doesn’t require paper coffee filters because it doesn’t use a drip method. Rather, the grounds are soaked right in the hot water.
Which French Press Is for You?
Another important step in understanding how to use a French press is deciding which type to use, and French presses include small, large, metal and electric options. While the smaller varieties press around three or four cups of coffee, the larger ones offer somewhere between eight and 12 cups.
When learning how to use a French press, it should be noted that the cup sizes manufacturers have in mind are typically much smaller than the mugs that American coffee lovers are used to. So, if a manufacturer says that its French press accommodates three cups, that’s three 4-oz. cups — not three large mugs.
The advantage that metal French presses have over their glass counterparts is that they do a better job of retaining heat. And the advantage of an electric French press is convenience: they heat the water, brew the coffee and keep it warm.
Step 1: Preheating
After deciding on a French press and becoming familiar with it, the next part of learning how to use a French press is brewing the coffee. First, preheat the French press, which is done by adding some hot water and moving it around before removing the water. The preheating process will help the coffee stay hot longer.
Step 2: Measuring Your Grounds
How much coffee one uses when learning how to use a French press depends on the size of the press and the number of cups desired. Someone making eight or nine cups using a larger French press will naturally be measuring more coffee than someone who is only making two or three cups. A scale can help baristas make sure they measure the correct amount of coffee their cafetière calls for.
Step 3: Water Ratio and Temperature
When learning how to use a French press, it is vital to know how much water to use and how hot that water should be. The ratio should be 1:15 — that is, one part coffee for every 15 parts water. And baristas can make sure they get that ratio by weighing the water and coffee. Meanwhile, the temperature of the water, which can be heated on a stove, should be around 195-205°F/90-96°C — and baristas learning how to use a French press can use a thermometer to make sure the water is sufficiently hot.
Step 4: Adding Coffee Grounds and Water
After making sure they have the correct 1:15 ratio and have heated the water to the right temperature, it’s time to place the coffee grounds in the French press, followed by the hot water. Then, baristas should use a spoon to stir the coffee and make sure it is totally immersed in the water.
Step 5: Add Lid and Press
Adding the lid once the coffee grounds are immersed in the hot water is important because that lid provides insulation. Coffee lovers learning how to use a French press often ask how long the coffee should steep before the plunging starts, and four or five minutes is the average — although that isn’t written in stone.
After the coffee has steeped, it’s time to slowly press down the plunger. And in order to get great-tasting coffee, it is important to press the plunger all the way down.
Step 6: Enjoy!
After the coffee has been plunged, voila — the coffee has been made, and it’s time to sit back and enjoy it.
The better one understands how to use a French press, the more delicious the coffee will taste. And one needn’t live in Paris or Nice to enjoy the time-honored pleasures of la cafetière.