5 Things You Should Never Do When Cleaning Your French Press

updated Jul 8, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Leela Cyd

Brewing coffee with a French press has to be one of the easiest methods around: Just add ground coffee and water, wait a few minutes, and press the plunger. Simple!

Cleaning your French press can be just as breezy … as long as you avoid a few common pitfalls. (Falls being a key word here — many French press brewers are super delicate!)

Here are five things you should never do when cleaning your favorite press pot.   

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Don’t settle for quick rinse.

Many coffee drinkers think that a quick hot-water rinse between brews will suffice, but it’s best to use a mild soap for daily cleaning along with a regular soak with a citric acid solution. While a French press might look clean after you’ve rinsed it, it will have a thin coating of coffee oils that will build up over time. Those oils accumulate even faster if you use a coffee that is naturally oilier on the surface of the beans, such as a dark roast.

As with other oils, water isn’t enough to slough it away. But a few drops of dish soap swished around in hot water should do the trick. Every so often (once a month or so), swap the soap out for a citric acid solution that will break down those oils once and for all, leaving you with a squeaky-clean brewer. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Don’t scrub too aggressively.

Whether your French press is glass, stainless steel, or enamel, you’ll want to go easy with the scrubbing. Scratches on the surface of the carafe can weaken it over time, causing it to crack or break easily. This can be especially dangerous if it breaks while pushing down on the plunger at the end of a brew. Instead, use a less-abrasive sponge or cloth to gently wipe the inside and outside of the brewing carafe after every use.

If you make this a regular practice, there should be no real need to scrub. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Don’t forget about the screen.

Taking the filter screen apart after use is the best way to ensure it doesn’t get clogged with fine coffee powder or oil buildup. Making sure to clean it thoroughly is your best protection against letting your French press stew with unpleasant flavors.

After taking it apart, carefully clean your filter screen with soapy water or a citric-acid solution once every four to five times you use your French press. Remember which order the parts are in. They typically are nestled to create a tight seal inside the carafe and prevent coffee grounds from floating into your cup.  

Credit: Leela Cyd

4. Don’t drop it! 

Even if your French press is made of stainless steel rather than glass, dropping it during cleaning (or any time!) can do damage. While fragile pots can crack, break, or get weakened by being dropped, metal ones can become dented and misshapen over time, which can affect the way the filter and plunger fit perfectly into the pot.

Be sure your French press’s carafe is sitting firmly on the bottom of your sink while wiping it, rather than holding it in slippery, soapy hands. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Don’t use vinegar as a cleaning agent.

White vinegar is convenient and inexpensive. This makes it a great cleaning agent for many tough jobs around the kitchen. Lots of people suggest it for cleaning coffee, but this coffee expert (that’s me!) does not.

Even with a good, long rinse after cleaning, vinegar’s strong smell can linger or build up over time. A little bit of that flavor can leave an unwanted aftertaste in your morning cup.

Instead, use a (similarly inexpensive and just as effective) citric acid powder to make a soaking solution. Citric acid is both odorless and tasteless, plus removes coffee oils like a dream. Save the vinegar for the sink, countertops, or, better yet, pickle-making!

How do you clean your French press? Tell us your secrets and we might just write about it.