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What Is a French Coffee Press?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 27, 2024
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A French coffee press, also referred to as a press pot, or simply a French press, is a kitchen tool used for making coffee. It is completely manual and does not need to be plugged in, and is a great tool to use to make simple, delicious, strong coffee, which retains more of its natural oils and flavor than drip coffee. A French coffee press is shaped similarly to a small pitcher, and features a glass or plastic carafe with a plunger in the lid; attached to the plunger is a steel or nylon mesh filter to be used over and over again.

To make coffee in a French coffee press, begin with coffee beans or ground coffee. It is generally best to grind the beans at home in a grinder, because this type of coffee maker requires a coarser grind than a traditional drip coffeemaker. Coffee that is too finely ground will pass right through the filter, defeating the purpose of the coffee press.

Add the desired amount of coffee to the bottom of the glass urn. A general rule of thumb is one tablespoon of ground coffee per 4 ounces of water, but this may be adjusted according to personal preference for stronger or weaker coffee. Next, boil the water in a separate pot; after it boils, take it off for a few seconds to allow the temperature to decrease to about 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 to 96 degrees Celsius). This is the perfect temperature for making coffee in a coffee press.

Pour the water slowly over the grounds until the urn is full, then gently stir it until all the grounds are under the water. Place the lid on, but do not press the plunger down. Allow the coffee press to sit for a few minutes, generally for around three to four minutes, in order to brew. Press the plunger down slowly, which will separate the coffee from the grounds, pressing all the grounds to the bottom. The coffee is now ready to pour and enjoy.

Because the rest of the coffee left in the carafe will continue to brew, a French coffee press is not a good method to store the coffee before it can be consumed. The coffee will quickly become far too strong and bitter, and is generally considered "bad" after about 20 minutes. For this reason, it is a good idea to only brew as much as is wanted at that time, or try to use the whole pot at once, such as at a dinner party. A French coffee press is an excellent and economical way to make great-tasting, flavorful, and simply brewed coffee.

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Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Jan 29, 2014

A French press is nice to have if you can't afford a Keurig, but still just want one or two cups of coffee. You don't need a filter or anything -- just the press itself, some water and some coffee.

Be careful about the brew time. This coffee will turn *strong* on you before you realize what's happening. I rarely leave my coffee to brew in a French press for longer than a couple of minutes. Otherwise, it's so strong I can hardly drink it. This goes triple for dark roast coffees. You have to watch the brew very carefully.

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