French press coffee and a mug with a view

French Press Benefits: Why You Should Make the Switch

The French press, also known as a press pot or coffee plunger, is a simple but effective manual coffee brewing method that has remained popular for decades. 

With its glass carafe, stainless steel filter plunger, and ultra-fine mesh screen, the French press delivers a robust, flavorful cup of coffee that’s hard to replicate with other brew methods.

Compared to drip machines, pod brewers, and espresso makers, the French press stands out for many reasons, including:

  • Superior coffee flavor and body
  • Simple, versatile operation
  • Lower acidity for less bitterness
  • Cold brew capabilities
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Eco-friendly design

Read on to learn all about the benefits of a French press, how it works, and some best practices you can use to ensure a perfect cup of French press coffee. 

A Brief History of the French Press

As its name implies, the French press coffee maker has its origins in France. 

In 1852, a Paris merchant and a metalsmith named Jacques-Victor Delforge and Henri-Otto Mayer patented a French press forerunner that didn’t create a seal around the filter. 

An official patent was later filed by Marcel-Pierre Paquet dit Jolbert and published in 1924.

The French press was popularized across Europe by a couple of companies in the 1920s and 30s. The design was refined over the decades, arriving at the classic glass beaker and stainless steel screen we know today.

The method is sometimes called a cafetière or coffee press, but it’s most commonly known as the French press. It didn’t gain widespread popularity in the United States until the 1960s and 70s. Since then, it has retained a loyal following among coffee connoisseurs.

How the French Press Brewing Process Works

The French press is one of the simplest manual coffee makers out there. Here is a quick rundown of the brewing process:

Someone poring coffee out of a french press
  1. Place coarse ground coffee in the beaker. A good starting ratio is 2 tablespoons (10 grams) per 6 oz of water.
  2. Pour heated water just off the boil into the beaker. Leave a few inches at the top.
  3. Let the grounds steep for 4 minutes. This immersion time extracts the full flavor.
  4. Slowly press the filter plunger down. This separates the grounds from the brewed coffee below.
  5. Pour the coffee into your cup and enjoy!

The immersion and filtration produce a very thick, sediment-filled cup. The coffee will continue brewing a bit as you drink; so, consider decanting into another server.

RELATED: James Hoffman’s French Press Recipe

The Many Benefits of French Press Brewing

Let’s examine the many benefits of making coffee with a French Press.

Superior Flavor and Body

The French press is designed to fully immerse coffee grounds in hot water, allowing the grounds to steep and infuse the water thoroughly with coffee oils and essences that deliver a rich, robust flavor.

  • Full immersion brewing brings out the natural coffee flavors and oils that paper filters tend to absorb in other methods.
  • The ultra-fine stainless steel mesh screen allows the coffee grounds to steep freely while keeping them from ending up in your cup.
  • The flavorful oils and compounds give French press coffee a signature body and mouthfeel.

Brewing with a French press yields a cup of coffee with depth, nuanced flavor notes, and a thick, oil-rich texture. The French press showcases the inherent qualities of high-quality coffee beans.

Simple and Versatile

The French press brewing method is wonderfully simple. The essential parts—a glass carafe, a plunger with a filter screen, and a lid—are all easy to use and easy to clean.

  • It’s compact and portable for brewing both at home or while traveling.
  • It can accommodate different roast styles and grind sizes, from fine espresso grounds to coarse chunks.
  • You control the brew time, so you can customize the coffee strength.
  • It can brew both full pots for multiple servings or single cups using the right coffee-to-water ratio.

From dark French roasts to floral light roasts, extra bold to mellow, the French press handles it all with ease and consistency. 

Lower Acidity for Less Bitterness

The extended brew time of the French press results in coffee that is lower in acidic oils. This makes for a brew that’s less bitter and acidic compared to drip and pour over.

  • The longer the grounds steep, the more the acidic compounds are moderated, improving the flavor.
  • Less acidity makes French press coffee gentler on sensitive stomachs.
  • With less bitterness, the subtle notes like fruitiness or chocolate become easier to detect.

If you find other brew methods too harsh or acidic tasting, the mellower French press is a great option. You can also use a low-acid coffee like Lifeboost.

Cold Brew Capabilities

In addition to hot coffee, the French press is the perfect tool for brewing smooth cold brew concentrate.

  • To make a cold brew, you simply steep coarse coffee grounds at room temperature or cold water for 12-24 hours.
  • The extended steep time with cold water results in a very low-acidity concentrate perfect for serving over ice.
  • Make a batch of cold brew concentrate and keep it in the fridge for quick iced coffees during the week.

The French press is convenient and mess-free for making small batches of cold brew as needed. The results are refreshing and delicious.

Cost Effective

Due to its simple and durable design, the French press is one of the most affordable ways to make great-tasting coffee at home.

  • No electricity, pods, or disposable filters are required.
  • Use any type of ground coffee, so there’s no need to buy expensive coffee capsules.
  • Quality stainless steel and glass French presses can last for many years with proper maintenance.

For a small, one-time investment, you can enjoy delicious coffee for pennies per cup at any time. The French press delivers gourmet results without the expense.

Environmentally Friendly

In many ways, the French press is one of the most eco-friendly brewing options.

  • It’s a reusable system with no plastic waste or single-use pods.
  • No filters are required, so you don’t generate paper waste.
  • The compact size takes up less space than many bulky machines.
  • The durable, quality materials last for years, reducing environmental impact.

For the sustainability-minded coffee drinker, the French press checks all the boxes. Minimal electricity usage, less waste, and reusable materials are a winning green combination.

RELATED: The Best Plastic-Free French Presses

Experimenting With Different Coarseness Levels

One of the enjoyable challenges with a French press is dialing in the optimal grind coarseness. The right particle size allows just enough resistance for good extraction without too much silt leaking through the filter.

Brewing Coffee with French Press

It takes some trial and error to find the sweet spot based on your coffee beans and personal taste. If it seems like too much sediment is getting into your cup, try a slightly coarser grind. Conversely, if the brew seems weak, go just a bit finer on the grind size.

Having a quality burr grinder is key for good French press results. Remember that a uniform grind is more important than the exact size. Let your taste buds guide you to that perfect balance of rich flavor and clean cup.

The Virtues of Immersion Brewing

You may not have heard of “immersion brewing” before, but it’s what sets the French press apart. This is when the coffee grounds are fully submerged and soaked in the heated water during extraction.

Immersion saturates all the grounds evenly, resulting in a uniformly robust brew. It contrasts with drip methods where water briefly comes into contact with the coffee bed but doesn’t immerse it.

With a French press, the grounds are soaking rather than just being washed over. The extended brewing time also extracts more soluble compounds for a cup with a higher concentration.

This process essentially over-extracts the grounds compared to faster methods. While that can cause bitterness, the coarse grind mitigates excessive extraction.

The end product is a brew brimming with a rich flavor that leaves an oil-like feeling on the tongue. Once you get used to this mouthfeel, it’s hard to go back to thinner coffee.

French Press Best Practices

While French press brewing is relatively straightforward, there are some best practices to follow:

  • Use a coarse grind between 0.079-0.118 inches. This prevents too much sediment from passing through. Looking for a great coarse ground coffee? Try one of these.
  • Heat water to 195-205 F degrees. Boiling water can scorch the grounds.
  • For optimal extraction, steep for 4 minutes before pressing.
  • Press the plunger slowly and steadily to separate the brewed coffee. Don’t force it.
  • Don’t overfill the beaker. Leave space for foam and the plunger to move down.
  • Scoop out any floating grounds after pouring. This avoids over-extraction.

With these tips, you’ll pull the perfect balance of oils, compounds, and solubles from the grounds. After some practice, you’ll be able to brew by instinct.

Tips for an Even Better Cup

To take your French press coffee to the next level, incorporate these suggestions:

  • Buy freshly roasted beans within 14 days of use. This preserves aromatic volatile compounds.
  • Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water tastes off. Good water means better coffee.
  • Before brewing, rinse the beaker and filter to remove any residue. This prevents contamination of flavor.
  • Store beans in an airtight container away from light, air, and moisture. Only grind right before brewing.
  • Disassemble and wash the French press after each use. Coffee residue can make future cups taste stale. Most French presses can go in the dishwasher.
  • Consider buying a higher quality filter. This further reduces sediment getting into your cup.
French press filter coffee and a cold cup of water

With quality beans and equipment – and a little attention to detail – your daily French press ritual will be sublime.

Making the Switch From Drip or Pour-Over

Transitioning from a paper-filtered brew method to the French press is eye-opening. Here are some pointers for new adopters:

  • Get a portable French press mug for travel. This keeps your routine consistent.
  • Be ready for a punch of flavor, oils, and added body versus standard drip coffee.
  • Start with a medium-coarse grind and adjust from there based on taste.
  • Buy a quality French press instead of a cheap plastic one for better insulation and filtration.
  • Experiment with brew times from 4-8 minutes to find your preference for strength.
  • Clean the press thoroughly between uses since the oils can go rancid quickly.

The key is being open to this new style of full immersion brewing. Keep an open mind as your taste buds adapt, and you’ll grow to savor the rich decadence of French press.

The Satisfaction of Being Your Own Barista

One of the joys of the French press is that it puts you fully in charge of the brewing process. With a typical drip machine, you have little control beyond basic settings. 

The French press lets you:

  • Select your preferred coffee beans and roast date
  • Grind each batch to the ideal coarseness
  • Choose the exact water temperature
  • Control brew strength through steep time
  • Adjust coffee-to-water ratios

Becoming proficient at French press brewing takes practice but is deeply satisfying. Each cup is the outcome of your individual technique and preferences. It connects you intimately to your morning ritual.

Take the time to dial in parameters like grind size and enjoy learning what works best for your palate. The feedback will help you make subtle improvements over time as you master the process.

The Final Scoop

With its easy, hands-on process and magnificent delivery, the French press offers an immersive, rewarding coffee experience. The ability to directly control each variable lets you brew artisanal coffee worthy of any hipster café.

If you value a rich body, aromatic oils, and a full-bodied finish, it’s time to make the switch. Treat yourself to the ritual of French press brewing and you may never go back. The bold, nuanced flavor will be worth the effort.

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