At eleven years old, I fell in love hard. That was the year I started drinking coffee regularly. (And no, Grandpa, it did not stunt my growth like you said it would.) Since that time, I’ve dallied with just about every brewing method I’m aware of — espresso, stovetop espresso, siphon, pressure, automatic drip, slow drip and pourover. But the first method I ever tried is still my favorite.
The French press doesn’t seem to be as popular as it once was, so I’m here to defend it. Yes, steeping coffee is not a very sexy process. Yes, you’ll wind up with an oily, full-bodied cup. Yes, there’s going to be a layer of sediment at the bottom of it. But these facets are all part of the charm of the French-pressed pot of coffee. Maybe it’s because you never get over your first love (they say), but when I think of what coffee is supposed to taste like, I think of those things.
Siphon-brewed coffee is incredible — other-worldly in its natural sweetness and complexity. While I enjoy it, it reminds me of coffee-flavored tea. Stovetop espresso works wonders when you’ve been up all night and need to feel like you haven’t. Plus, it’s a trip to hear that little aluminum pot gurgle away. But stovetop espresso tastes like coffee that’s had a hard night itself, all haggard and dehydrated.
Then there’s pourover, coffee’s current It Kid. Sure, it’s tasty and elegant — like a more coffee-flavored version of siphon-brewed coffee. But who has the patience for that process? Though I respect those who do!
That leaves us with the classic, always cool and laid-back French press. You boil some water, grind some coffee, wait a few minutes, push your palm down a few inches and that’s it! Your rich, aromatic, full-bodied coffee is ready. Bonus: you don’t need much in the way of gear. You’re good to go if you have:
If you’re feeling ambitious, and you’re interested in improving your coffee dramatically with very little extra effort, you might invest in:
What makes for a good cup of coffee is entirely subjective — and don’t let anyone ever tell you different. But here are the steps I follow when I’m making a French press pot. (Don’t worry — my method has evolved since I was eleven. For example, I no longer use Maxwell House.) These steps will get you started, and then you can adjust or discard them once you’ve pressed a few pots.
How to Make French Press Coffee
Boil water in a teakettle or saucepan, then let it rest off the heat for a few seconds. If you have an instant-read thermometer and are feeling precise today, get the water to 205°F.
Pour coarsely ground coffee into the bottom of the beaker. I like to use about 25 grams for an 8-oz. cup. Start there, see how you like it, and adjust accordingly the next time.
Slowly pour the water into the beaker. After a brief, ill-fated tryst with pourover a few years back, I now find myself pouring the water in a circular motion, which is probably silly.
Once you’ve filled the beaker to the desired level, stir gently with that chopstick to make sure the grounds are completely saturated. The handle of a cook’s spoon works here, too, if it’s skinny enough.
Place the filter stem on top of the beaker. Press the stem down so the filter rests just above the liquid.
Set a timer for four minutes. After the timer has chimed, slowly plunge the filter through the coffee. If you feel resistance when plunging, slow down—don’t force the plunger. It can help to pull the plunger up a little bit and then start again.
Pour and enjoy your coffee.
Note: this is where many people commit a cardinal sin of French pressing: letting the coffee sit in the press for hours. Don’t do that. The coffee will continue to extract as it sits there with the grounds underneath, and the flavor will become bitter. If you’ve made more than one cup’s worth of coffee, pour it out into an insulated carafe to serve later.
So that’s it! Do you have any French pressing tips? Or are you over French press and love a different brewing method?