To coffee drinkers who are starting out on a journey for brewing at home, the French press can seem intimidating. Unlike a conventional coffee maker, the french press is a bit more hands on and visually-oriented. However, for those looking for a dense, elegant, rich, and pure cup of coffee to start off their day, the french press is a tool which avid coffee drinkers should find a home for within their kitchens.
As with any brewing method, there is generally a sweet spot for maximum flavor and caffeination with minimum bitterness, and the french press is no exception. With that in mind, the golden ratio for the perfect cup of french press coffee is a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio. This means that you’ll want to use 30 grams of coffee and 360 grams of water, or about 1 and a half cups. The amount of coffee and water used will depend on the size of the french press itself, but this 30 grams of coffee and 360 grams of water works perfectly with a standard, 17 ounce press.
But there is a little more to the perfect cup of french press coffee than just the 1:12 ratio — it all comes down to the details from start to finish.
To start, first bring the 360 grams of water to a boil. Waiting for the water to come to a boil is a good time to grind your chosen coffee beans. French press coffee can be made with any type of bean, but it works best when the beans are ground to a course, even grind.
Once the coffee is ground and the water is at a boil, it's time for the real magic to begin. You’ll want to start off by putting your ground coffee at the bottom of the french press, and pour some of the water on top of the beans at a ratio of 1:2. For our example, that means you’ll be pouring 60 grams of water, roughly a quarter cup, over your 30 grams of coffee.
You’ll want to gently stir the coffee and water with a chopstick, then allow the mixture to bloom for 30 to 45 seconds. When coffee blooms, it is reacting with the water and releasing gases from the coffee grounds, yielding a bubbly, frothy-foam on top. This process allows for an enhanced, richer flavor in the final cup.
After you’ve allowed the coffee to bloom, you’ll pour the remainder of the water into the french press and allow it to sit for anywhere from four to eight minutes. The longer the coffee steeps, the stronger the flavor will be. Likewise, while the coffee steeps, the bloom will create a “crust” at the top of the pot. For a lighter flavor, you can remove the crust with a spoon, or for a bolder, enhanced flavor, you can let it be.
Once you have steeped your coffee for your desired amount of time, you’ll plunge the press all the way down to the base of the beaker. This is where the grind of the coffee bean comes into play: too coarse of a grind will require minimal plunging effort, while too fine of a grind will yield some resistance. The goal with the plunge is for it to feel natural while pushing down, not too resistant and not too watery.
After you have plunged the press, your coffee is ready for drinking! It's recommended to serve immediately, as this is when the coffee’s flavor is at its boldest and most complex. Waiting any longer will continue the brewing process for too long, and make the coffee taste more bitter.
The French press may seem intimidating at first. But by following the golden 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio, using a course, even grind, and allowing the roast to bloom, anyone can make the perfect cup of french press coffee time and time again.