Intro to Specialty Coffee: How to Brew (french press)

Today we’re going to talk about brewing coffee with a french press, which is the method that allows for the most control over the process, and as such, is widely considered the best method. This is also the method we use most at home. There are definitely lots of rules out there for making coffee, but most of them are very exact (25mg of coarsely ground coffee per 6oz of 200 degree water for 4 minutes), and I don’t have the brain power to do that in the morning, so I estimate.

So here goes:

1. Gather your equipment: french press (in this case, a “4-cup” glass Bodum model, makes 2 mugs of coffee), water boiler, grinder, timer, tablespoon measure, whole bean coffee.

2. Fill water boiler with clean, cool water and start it up. If it boils before you’re done, that’s fine. You want it to cool a little bit before actually using it. Our boiler has an automatic shut off. If yours doesn’t, just turn it off when it boils.

3. Estimate the amount of coffee you’ll need and grind it coarsely. This means, for our grinder/french press combo, that I fill the grinder to just over the hub screw and grind it to a consistency of fine kitty litter. It works well that way. The first few times you do it, measure it out, but experimentation to taste is the best way to go.

4. Pour the ground coffee beans into the french press and twirl the press around to even out the grounds.

5. After the water has boiled, let it rest for a few minutes. If you happen to have a thermometer around, wait until it cools to 200 degrees. If not, wait for it to be steaming, but not bubbling. It’s pretty close at that point. Then pour the water about a third of the way up the press. Swirl the water around to form the crema, and pour it the rest of the way, up to the metal band holding the french press together. It’s not recommended to go any higher. WATCH OUT! The water is very hot. It stings when it touches your skin. I know this from experience.

6. Put the top on the pot and push the plunger so it rests on the top of the water. Set your timer for 4 minutes. Wait.

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7. When 4 minutes have passed, press the plunger in, and then pour yourself a cup. It’ll be hot. Because the filter is coarser than a cone filter (like from a drip machine), there will be some grounds in your coffee. If you don’t like it, don’t drink the last sip, but I like to think of it as a last jolt of caffeine (it isn’t, though).


There are many ways to brew coffee: autodrip, french press, vacuum, percolation, concentrate (toddy), and Turkish (among others, I am sure), and they all differ in a range of ways. But there is one thing they all have in common: they are all methods of cooking. Brewing coffee is simply applying heat to something (coffee beans) in order to produce an consumable (and hopefully tasty) substance.

Because of this, it takes practice and experimentation. If the coffee tastes too strong, use less coffee next time, or brew it for less time. If it is too weak, do the opposite. It all depends on your personal tastes. Most of all, enjoy your coffee. Don’t make it a certain way because you heard it’s the best way, or because you think it should be a certain way, make it because it tastes good, and makes you feel good.

Next: choosing a coffee shop.


~ by neoney on October 29, 2007.

2 Responses to “Intro to Specialty Coffee: How to Brew (french press)”

  1. That’s a funny rule that combines milligrams and ounces.

  2. Yes, well, we wanted to be all-inclusive.

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