What is a French Press Coffee Maker?

If you have a coffee enthusiast in your circle of friends, you’ve probably heard a lot about French Press coffee and how amazing it is. You may have found yourself wondering if French Press is actually better than drip coffee. Ultimately, of course, this is a matter of personal preference, but in my opinion, it’s actually far superior.

If you’re considering trying a french press yourself or getting one as a gift for a coffee-loving friend but don’t know where to start, read on!

What is French Press?

A French Press is a contraption used to brew coffee. It consists of a glass cylindrical pot, with a metal or plastic handle on the side and a press with a filter that forms a sort of lid with a long metal rod that’s topped with a knob. Coffee that’s brewed using a French Press is actually water that’s soaked in the ground beans, rather than just water that has been run through a pile of grounds, as is the case with drip coffee.

Coffee brewed using a French Press is also called French Press coffee, or just ‘French Press’ for short. Sometimes a cup of coffee that’s brewed using the French Press is also just referred to as ‘French Press’, which is what people want when they order ‘a French Press’ at a coffee shop. It’s a bit confusing; I know – basically, it’s the contraption you use to brew it, and also everything that comes out of it.

Why it’s objectively better

First of all, French Press coffee just tastes better. The grounds soak in the water that becomes the coffee, and that brings out so much more flavor. You can taste subtle notes that you’d never notice with drip coffee, and it adds a robust-yet-smooth quality to the overall flavor. If you use flavored beans, it also makes the flavor much stronger than it is would be with other brewing methods. It even helps the flavor cheap coffee.

The second reason French Press is better is that is much easier to make than drip coffee is. You don’t need electricity or a complicated machine to make it, and it’s small, which makes it at least somewhat portable and perfect for family camping trips or vacations, if you need more than one cup at a time and don’t want to make a thousand trips to the nearest cafe.

You can also use a French Press (the machine) to make awesome loose-leaf tea that can serve more than one person at a time.

The cons

I would like acknowledge, before you go out buy a french press, that there are a couple of downsides to using one. The first downside is one that I’ve already mentioned: although they come in different sizes and typically can make around a liter at a time, they don’t make as much as a drip coffee machine does, so they’re not ideal for serving more than 1-2 people at a time.

Secondly, if you tend to drink your coffee very slowly and have a whole press to yourself, the coffee might cool down more than you’d like while you’re making your way through the pot. Since it’s not on a heated pad and glass isn’t exactly known for it’s heat-retaining qualities, it does cool down more quickly than is ideal. If you drink coffee quickly – like I do – or usually share it with another person, you don’t have to worry about it. If you don’t though, I’d recommend going with a pour-over instead, which is kind of a cross between a French Press and drip coffee, but only makes one cup at a time.

The last downside is the cleaning process, which makes re-fills take a little longer. In order to make more coffee in your press, you have to clean it out completely first, and since the grounds are in the bottom of the pot and not in a nice, removable filter, cleaning it out is a little extra work. As coffee grounds and plumbing don’t mix well, you’ll have to throw out (or recycle) the grounds first, and might have to dig them out. Afterwards, wash the carafe, the press, and the lid completely with soap and water before letting dry and reusing.

What you need to make it

Making French Press coffee is incredibly easy. All you need to do the job are a few simple things:

    • Coffee grounds – I recommend freshly-ground beans. Flavored roasts are also great!
    • Hot water – You can use an electric kettle, a traditional teapot, or even a microwave if you need to.
    • A French Press – meaning, the contraption used to do the actual brewing.
    • A muddler or mixing implement (Optional)

How to brew it

    1. First, get your materials ready. Heat up your water. Grind the beans if you need too; otherwise, pick the ground coffee you’re going to use. If you are grinding them, make sure to use a coarse setting on your grinder.
    2. Next, pour or scoop the grounds into the bottom of the press (the glass carafe /pot). You should experiment with the boldness you prefer, but make sure you put in at least enough grounds to cover a complete layer of grounds on the bottom of the carafe. I usually prefer the layer of grounds to be about a half-inch thick, but you definitely don’t need that much if you don’t like really strong coffee.
    3. You can either use water that is almost boiling, or let it reach a boil and then cool down very slightly. Pour the water over the beans. You can fill the carafe almost completely (as I always do), or just to the level that matches the quantity of coffee you want. Just make sure that you leave enough room at the top so that it doesn’t overflow when you put the top on. If you aren’t sure, a good place to stop is typically at the metal ring that goes around most presses at the top of the handle.
    4. If you have a muddler or stirring implement of some kind that’s handy, stir/muddle the water and the coffee grounds. I will admit that I’m guilty of skipping this step most of the time – I just let it steep a bit longer instead. This isn’t a super essential step in my opinion, but it will improve the coffee consistency and flavor if you do it.
    5. Put the lid on and let it sit for several minutes. Do NOT push the press down yet.
    6. After you’ve let the coffee steep for about 3-5 minutes, slowly push the press down.
    7. Pour into your cup and enjoy!

Enjoy!

I hope that all of this has convinced you to try using a French Press, or that it’s helped you determine whether or not it’d make the perfect gift for the coffee-lover in your life. I’d love to hear about your experience and your opinions on French Press Coffee. If you’d like to share, or have any remaining questions, please, leave a comment below!

10 Replies to “What is a French Press Coffee Maker?”

  1. Hello, I am really happy to come to your site!

    As a coffee lover I have to appreciate this great post about French Press – Lately I have seen one in the market and wondering what it is for and decided to buy one.

    The great thing about French Press is also that you can prepare a tea there and it is very practical for it as well.

    All over is this product very elegant and I love to prepare my coffee in it.

    And for my friends when they come to my flat it is very noble way how to prepare a coffee for them. Great thing, really!

    Thank you for this post and wish you all the best!

    Renata

    1. Hi Renata,

      Thanks for the comment! I agree that the fact that you can make loose leaf tea so easily in it too is awesome! I love loose leaf tea, but it’s a pain to make more than one cup without a french press.

      Thanks again!
      ~Jade

  2. Hi, French Press Coffee would be more of a treat for me and my family. And an anticipated one at that. Just like our waffle maker, we could have special occasions and have a French Press Coffee as well.
    I agree that the cleaning process would be a con, but if you are not using it on a daily basis, no big deal.

    1. Hi Rob,

      I agree that drinking French press is a treat! I would use it on a daily basis, but when I’m not working from home, I don’t really have time to sit and drink a whole press in one sitting. However, since the pandemic started and I’ve been working from home, I’ve had way more french press than I’m used to, it’s been great!

      The clean-up process isn’t too bad if you only make one pot a day, but it gets to be a bit much when you have more than one pot a day… which, I definitely have been doing.

      Thanks for the comment!
      ~Jade

  3. Jade,

    I agree that French Press coffee tastes better, but they can take some getting used to. When I first started using a French Press, I had to play with the amount of coffee I put in because I was using too much. I also played with adding a few spices to the mix to enhance the flavor further.

    I found a Pumpkin Spice blend that I love to use on occasion here: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/homemade-pumpkin-pie-spice/

    The Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix from Simply Organic is good too.

    Also, you have to get a decent French Press. I’ve had a few poorly made ones over the years. Usually, the poor quality ones have filters that aren’t tight enough or filters that are harder to put in due to an odd construction.

    I’m afraid to say that I use a Keurig (with compostable coffee pods from SF Bay, but when there’s time, I like the whole French Press ritual.

    Thanks for the article,
    Sean

    1. Hi Sean,

      Thanks for the feedback! I agree that it’s important to have a good french press- which I actually have another article about – because too cheap of ones don’t function properly.

      It also does take a bit to get used to the process of making coffee with the press – as you said, you have to do a bit of experimenting with how much coffee you like in your french press, because it’s really easy to make it too strong or too weak. You definitely want to cover the whole bottom of the press with coffee, and I usually like a layer of coffee about 3/4 of an inch along the bottom for a full press. But, again, that really does depend on the person and is something that takes experimenting to figure out.

      Thanks again for the comment!
      ~Jade

  4. Hi Jade,

    The Cons you brought here are honest and a good reference for people who don’t think thoroughly(me included), so it’s good to read this before purchasing a french press coffee maker.

    To taste the better coffee flavor, I would try to get one to experiment, whether it beats the drip coffee. Thanks for sharing today.

    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the feedback! I definitely think it’s worth experimenting and giving it a try! In my opinion, it definitely beats drip coffee by a landslide.

      Thanks for commenting!
      ~Jade

  5. I always wondered what this contraption was! I’m so glad you explained the pros and cons of it. I’m a drip coffee kind of gal myself. I’m also a slow drinker, and love to drink at least 3-4 cups per day, so a french press wouldn’t work for me. Question: Since I’m a slow drinker, can I re-heat in my microwave what’s been leftover in my french press? Would it ruin the flavor?

    I like the idea that because the grounds are soaking in the water, you taste the nuances in the grounds. I am an absolute lover of coffee and can appreciate these nuances. Great post.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      Thanks for the comment, and the question! It sounds like a regular french press might not be the best for you, then, since it would get cold before you got through the pot. I have had the issue myself on days when I’m really into my work and not paying as much attention to my coffee as I normally do, and I have poured the rest into my cup and microwaved it before. It does affect the flavor a little bit, but not so much that it personally bothers me – and I still think the microwaved leftovers taste better than regular drip coffee. (Of course, this is microwaving it shortly after the coffee got a little too cold – it’s definitely not going to taste good like the next day, even after microwaving it.)

      There are actually french presses designed specifically to combat the cooling-too-fast issue. They’re more expensive, but they have thermal carafes, so they keep the coffee warmer much longer than regular presses. It might be a good option for you, especially if microwaving your leftovers bothers you.

      I hope this answered your question! Thanks again for the comment!
      ~Jade

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