A French press, also known as a cafetière, is one of the most used and most popular coffee brewing methods around. It’s a pretty simple setup, produces a great-tasting coffee with a rich and bold flavour, and doesn’t take up space on your kitchen counter.
This coffee immersion brewing method dates back to the mid-19th century. It is believed to have been invented by accident after a Frenchman forgot to add coffee to his coffee pot and decided to add it to the water when it was hot. He then used a piece of metal screen and a stick to plunge it and voilà, the French press was born!
Obviously, nowadays, things are a little more precise when it comes to making coffee in a French press. But, just how precise do you need to be?
In this article, we’ll talk you through how to make the perfect coffee in a French press – and it’s all to do with the coffee-to-water ratio.
The coffee-to-water ratio for a French press
Though there are different combinations depending on how strong you like your coffee, the best ratio (in my opinion) is 1:15. For a stronger cup, you could use a ratio of 1:12 and for a weaker brew, 1:17. Anything outside of these ratios probably won’t be pleasant!
These coffee-to-water ratios are based on the weight of the coffee to water and before you begin, you need to know the volume of your French press.
Generally speaking, these coffee makers come in 3 cups (350ml), 4 cups (500ml), 8 cups (1L), and 12 cups (1.5L) sizes.
Below shows the amounts of coffee and water needed for different strengths 0f your beverage.
|Coffee brew amount||Ground coffee needed|
|Mild brew (1:17)||Medium brew (1:15)||Strong brew (1:12)|
|Three cups||21 g||24 g||30 g|
|Four cups||28 g||32 g||39 g|
|Eight cups||56 g||63 g||79 g|
|Twelve cups||84 g||95 g||118 g|
Measuring coffee and water
It is strongly recommended to use a scale for measuring coffee and water when using a French press. This will be much more accurate than using a scoop or tablespoon.
Because a French press brews by immersion, it will take longer for the coffee to be extracted. For this reason, you’ll find you need a higher ratio than you do for pour-over coffee makers. For other coffee brewing techniques, you might hear 1:18 being recommended but for a French press, anything higher than 1:17 won’t be a good brew at all.
It’s no good having the perfect measurements of coffee and water if you don’t use the French press properly though! Here are the steps you need to follow for your perfect coffee-to-water ratio brew.
Making the perfect coffee in a French press
So, you’ve got the measurements sorted and you know how much coffee and water you need. Let’s make sure that the brewing method will make the most out of the ground coffee.
Step 1 – heat your water
Heat your water to 93 °C. Using water hotter than this will produce a bitter-tasting coffee as it will cause over-extraction. You don’t want to go cooler than this really because you need to let your coffee brew for a while.
Step 2 – grind your beans
While heating the water, use your burr grinder to grind your beans. For a French press, you need coarse coffee. It should look and feel like sea salt. When you use a coarse grind, you get a full-bodied, delicious coffee.
Step 3 – put it all together
If you want the perfect brew, it’s not as simple as putting the coffee in and pouring on water – you need to bloom the coffee first.
Add your coffee to your French press then pour over the water until all of the coffee is submerged. Use a spoon to give the mix a little stir, just enough to ensure that all of the coffee is saturated. This is the only time you should stir the brew – don’t go back later for another stir.
Also, it’s advisable to use a wooden or silicon spoon rather than a metal one. This is because the French press is made of glass and combined with the heat of the water, will be fragile.
Wait thirty seconds for the coffee to bloom in the hot water. During this phase, the coffee grounds will release carbon dioxide, which means you get a better extraction.
Step 4 – add the rest of the hot water
After the 30 seconds of bloom, add the remainder of the water. You can now wait for the brew. For the best coffee, wait four minutes. If your water is a little cooler than 93 °C, you can leave it for five minutes.
Step 5 – plunge
When the brewing time is up (use a timer for the perfect cup), you’re now ready to plunge the French press. This should be done slowly. If you’re too quick with the plunger, you’ll end up with coffee grounds in your cup, which will make your coffee taste bitter.
Also, don’t go all of the way to the bottom of the French press with the plunger to avoid agitating the grounds and getting them above the plunger (and into your drink!).
With a gentle, slow plunge and pour, you’ll have a really delicious tasting cup of coffee.
Final thoughts on getting the right coffee ratio for a French press
It’s so easy to chuck in a couple of scoops of ground coffee, fill up the French press with boiled water straight from the kettle, and wait a few minutes before plunging. If this is your usual way of using a French press, it’s time to be more scientific and precise about it.
Getting the coffee-to-water ratio, the water temperature, and the brewing process spot on and you’re in for a tasty treat! You’ll never go back to your haphazard ways again.