How to Use a French Press

The French Press is one of the easiest methods to make great tasting coffee at home, and one of the least expensive in terms of equipment needed. You can brew a little or a lot at a time, and the process itself is very forgiving. For these reasons, we are big fans of the French Press at Charleston Coffee Roasters.

French Press

Having changed little since its invention in 1929 by an Italian designer (ironically!), the basic principle of the French Press is that the coffee is pressed in a pot. Simply put, hot water and coffee grounds are mixed together in the carafe (often glass), and then a plunger with a mesh screen pushes the grounds to the bottom of the carafe so that you can pour the coffee into a mug for drinking (if you want a more technical explanation, read Serious Eats more scientific explanation).

While it is a fairly easy process, there are a few steps that we recommend you follow in order to avoid the most common mistakes when brewing with a French Press.


Since the water and coffee will be sitting together in the carafe, it is important that the beans be ground fairly coarsely for maximum extraction of coffee flavor. It will also make plunging easier if the grinds are coarser, and you will have less grit (aka, “fines”) in your cup. Use a burr grinder to freshly grind the beans if you can, so that the grinds are fairly even in size. You are looking for a grind that looks something like coarse salt.


Another key factor in making French Press coffee is to know the proper ratio of coffee to water. This will ensure that you get a nice flavor that is not too strong or too weak. So memorize this formula, and use it every time: 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of fresh water.

One of the great things about a French Press is that you can easily brew coffee for a crowd, even up to 12 cups with a large press. Just multiply the ratio above for the number of cups you would like to make. Or if you don’t have a large press, you can easily and quickly make batches of coffee that you can transfer to a thermal pot to keep warm.


The last key step in this process is to make sure that you use fresh cold water, preferably filtered. You don’t want to use distilled or soft water here. Bring your water to a boil, remove from heat, and let the water sit for about 30 seconds to one minute. You want the water to be just off the boil in order to unlock all of the great flavors inside or your beans, and to avoid scorching the beans.


Now that we have the press, grounds, and water ready, here is the step-by-step method for making great French Press coffee:

  1. Rinse the carafe of your French Press with hot water to help retain the proper temperature while brewing.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons (per cup) of coarsely ground Charleston Coffee Roasters coffee into the bottom of a French Press carafe.
  3. Bring 6 ounces of cold filtered water (per cup) to a boil. Remove from heat, and let sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Gently pour the water over the grounds, making sure that you wet all of the grounds.
  5. After about 30 seconds, give the grounds a gentle stir with a wooden spoon.
  6. Wait for 4 minutes, or up to 6 minutes if you prefer a stronger cup of coffee.
  7. Carefully and slowly push the plunger down to press the grounds to the bottom of the carafe.
  8. Pour yourself a cup and enjoy!

*Note that if you aren’t going to drink your cup right away, or brewing for a crowd, transfer the coffee to a thermal or insulated pot instead of keeping it in the French Press. The coffee will continue to brew inside, and will become bitter.