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Top 5 mistakes to avoid with a French press

When a friend or a customer tells me they are finally ready to ditch their aluminum capsules, I give them a high five and immediately recommend they use a French Press for brewing their coffee at home.

Why? Because French press are fairly inexpensive, rather forgiving of any misuse regarding grind type and also work well with many roast profiles. But most of all, they will deliver a deliciously rich and full bodied coffee.

French press are great for beginners, but they are also my preferred way of brewing coffee at home. No frill, no complicated pouring method: no wonder it is one of the most widely used brewing equipment all over the world!

However, if you are new to this method, you must avoid the top 5 mistakes people make when using a French press. And with those tips, you will get a perfect and bold coffee every time!

Mistake number 1: using an espresso grind

Most people will buy pre-ground coffee that they can use in a dripper or for an espresso machine. The result is that the coffee with taste too sour or acidic because the grind is too fine when considering the brew time of the French press. Because the coffee will be in contact with water for a longer period of time than with an Ibrik or an espresso machine, you will want to grind your coffee beans in a coarser way (think flower of salt consistency), so that the water slowly brews your coffee instead of over extracting its acidity.

Mistake number 2: not weighing your coffee and water

You might like your coffee on a lighter or on a coarser side, and that is okay. But you should always stick to a good water to coffee ratio. For a French press, I recommend a 1:16 ratio. That means 1g of coffee for 16 grams of water. A good way to remember this is 1l of water - 60g of coffee. Which means 30g of coffee if you want to brew only 500ml of coffee or 15g of coffee for 250ml of water. If the taste is too strong, use a lower grammage, or if too light, add 5g more of coffee.

Mistake number 3: using too hot or not hot enough water

To brew coffee, you will need to have the water at the right temperature: not boiling, so you don t scorch your coffee, and also not too cold otherwise you won t brew it correctly. I will not bore you with how many centigrade Celsius your water should be, as many of us do not have a thermometer at home to put in the water. So just bring your water to a boil in a kettle or a pan (100 Celsius) and let it rest for 30 sec - which will allow the water to get to the perfect brew temperature. Then pour it on your coffee grounds in a circle manner, all in one go, ensuring all the grind is wet.

Mistake number 4: plunge the press right after pouring the water

So, once you have poured water on your coffee, mix everything so all the ground coffee is perfectly wet. You can skim the top layer of foam that has just formed when you mixed everything and discard it into your sink (this will ensure there is less bitterness in your cup). But avoid mistake number 4: do not plunge the lever immediately down! On the contrary, just put the lid back on your coffee so the water stays hot, and let it rest for 4 minutes. If you press the lid all the way down, your ground coffee will have less contact with water and will not brew properly.

Once your 4 minutes are over, you can push the plunger down. If there is too much resistance when you push, that means your grind was too fine. If there is not enough resistance, it was too coarse. You can remember that and adjust for your next time :-)

Mistake number 5: not decanting coffee

Once you have pushed your plunger all the way down, you are finally ready to enjoy your cup. It took all in all less than 8 minutes (3 minutes grinding the beans, 4 minutes of brew time and 1 minute of getting your scale out and weighing the beans and water).

But remember, even if your plunger is down, your coffee is still brewing. If you are drinking everything immediately, that is not a problem. But you should consider decanting the coffee into a separate carafe if you think of sipping through the morning, otherwise you could end up with an over-bitter coffee.

So, all in all, below is a summary of how to brew with a French press and enjoy a delicious bold coffee that has kept its oils (contrary to a filter coffee which will give you a more refined and cleaner cup).

  1. Use a 1-16 ratio coffee to water ratio

  2. Grind your fresh beans for a French press (coarse)

  3. Boil your water, let it rest 30 seconds

  4. Pour the water on your coffee in one go then mix

  5. Put the lid on the coffee and let it brew for 4 minutes

  6. Press the plunger down when ready and decant if needed

  7. Savor your brew and your morning!

If you are interested in our French press line-up, check out our online shop!

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