3 Common Mistakes People Make When Brewing French Press Coffee

Smart Coffee for Regular Joes

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While not everyone is a lover of the French press, it's one of the most classic methods of brewing coffee, and if you do it right, it can produce a great cup.

Want to perfect your morning French press? Avoid these three common mistakes and you'll be sure to get the best brew every time.

The beauty of a French press is in its simplicity. Grind your coffee, add water and go. But even with a simple tool things can go wrong, and despite its simplicity, brewing in a French press isn't always easy. I'm going to assume that at one point or another you drank a French press coffee that was bitter and gritty. And no one likes that.

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1. Not grinding the beans properly.

Grind is very important when it comes to making good coffee — the most important thing some would say. For French press you want your beans to have a coarse, even ground, as seen in the photo above. And as always, you want freshly-ground beans, so if you haven't gotten around to getting that grinder yet, now's the time.

→ Smart Tip: One way to know whether the grounds are too fine or too coarse is when you press the filter down. If the grounds are too fine, you'll have a hard time pressing it down. If you can push the filter down with absolutely no resistance, then the grounds were too coarse.

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2. Using the wrong quantity of coffee.

The art of the French press is in the coffee to water ratio, and because you're extracting, the time is important as well. A general rule of thumb for French press coffee is in the range of 1:10 coffee to water ratio, that is to say 1 gram of coffee for 10 grams of water. This ratio can vary, some say a little more, some say a little less, but I find that 1:10 works great, and is also a very simple ration to remember and calculate.

Now granted, not everyone wants to measure out their coffee every time they brew a batch. That's fine, but it is worth your time to figure out approximately how much coffee and water you need. For example, when I'm traveling I don't carry a scale with me (some people do), but I know that my travel grinder grinds about 40 grams of coffee, and I know about where I need to fill the French press to in order to get around 400 grams of water. It's not the most precise or consistent method, but it works when you're sans scale.

3. Leaving the coffee in the French press after pressing.

If you leave your coffee in the French press after it has finished brewing, you're probably going to drink over-extracted, bitter coffee. That's because even though you've pushed down the plunger, it will keep brewing.

You want to drink your coffee right away, so your best solution is to make the exact amount of coffee that you're going to drink — i.e. one cup for yourself or two cups worth if you're with company.

If you know you're going to want more than one cup, and you don't have the time to brew a new batch for your second round, brew a big one and after plunging immediately pour the leftover coffee into a thermos or carafe so that it stays warm for your refill once you've gotten through cup number one.

Want complete French press brewing guides? Here are three good references:

(Image credits: Gideon Tsang; Oleg.; Don Lavange)