Coffee Snobs Swear That A French Press Makes The Best Coffee — Here's How

If you like full-bodied and flavorful coffee, a French press should be your go-to brewing method. A French press is a manual coffee maker with a cylindrical carafe, a plunger and a built-in filter that percolates the coffee. It uses just-boiled water to steep coarse grinds for about four minutes.

This approach is more gentle than drip coffee-making or stovetop brewing methods that heat the water very hot and sometimes scald the beans. With a French press, coffee also doesn’t sit on a warming plate after brewing so it doesn't continue to “cook” and turn bitter.

How does a French press coffee maker work?

A French press makes coffee by immersing ground coffee in hot water and then separating the grounds from the coffee by pressing down the filter. Water should be at about 200ºF to optimize flavor extraction. Any hotter (water boils at 212ºF), your coffee will taste burnt. Any cooler, your coffee will be under-extracted, tasting flavorless and watered-down.

Pros and cons of using a French press

A French press extracts more oils and sediment from the ground coffee than any other brewing method, which contributes to its robust flavor and creamy mouthfeel. Whether or not it becomes your preferred method of getting your coffee fix, consider these factors


  • Easy to use and clean
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Has a small footprint
  • Can be used to brew loose-leaf tea or cold brew
  • Cons

  • Requires additional equipment (coffee grinder, kettle, scale, thermometer)
  • Have to monitor water temperature, coffee grind size, and brewing time
  • Needs to be served immediately to prevent over-extraction
  • Potential health concerns
  • Note: The oily substances in coffee beans, called diterpenes, contain cafestol and kahweol. Since French press filters allow more oils to pass through, higher amounts of cafestol and kaweol get into your coffee compared to other brewing methods that use paper filtration, which is why some people wonder if French press coffee is bad for your health. According to Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CDN, Registered Dietitian at the Good Housekeeping Institute, “The good news is that the research suggests that it takes five cups per day to show an increase in serum cholesterol and triglycerides.” Sassos’ advice? “Save French press coffee for special occasions and consume in moderation.”

    What you need to make French press coffee

    Most owner’s manual brewing instructions are simple: Add ground coffee to the carafe, combine with hot water, wait four minutes, plunge, and voila! You have the best coffee – maybe if you’re lucky, but we know the devil is in the details. Here's what you'll need:

  • Filtered water: As a rule of thumb, use water you would drink to brew your coffee. Filtered water is cleaned of any major impurities and odors that affects the taste of your coffee.
  • Coffee beans: The "best" coffee is a matter of preference, but generally speaking, high-quality and freshly-roasted coffee beans will give you a great cup. Most French press experts tend to prefer medium and dark roast coffee, which lends to the slower extraction of oils, flavor, and character of brewing. When selecting coffee beans, keywords to look out for are French roast, smooth, full-bodied, smoky, chocolate, cocoa, woody, nutty, earthy, spicy or caramel.
  • Coffee grinder: For the freshest-tasting coffee, we recommend grinding your own beans at home. Pre-ground coffee may be oxidized, having lost its flavor over time. Also, if not stored properly, it may have absorbed smells from your kitchen. Our favorite coffee grinder is a burr grinder which allows you to set the grind size and produces evenly-sized grinds that result in a fuller, more balanced coffee.
  • Kettle: You can use a stove-top or electric kettle to boil water ahead of time, which will make pouring hot water into the French press effortless and safer. If you're not using an electric kettle that gives you an exact temperature-read, an instant-read thermometer can gauge temperature of the hot water before it gets poured onto the ground coffee.
  • Scale or coffee scoop: Using a scale to measure your ground coffee may sound complicated, but it is a foolproof way to get consistently great tasting coffee. It takes the guesswork out of exactly how much ground coffee to use each time. A coffee scoop or measuring spoon can also be used. Level the ground coffee on the scoop each time to ensure consistency.
  • How to brew coffee using a French press

    When making coffee with a French press, we recommend a 1:16 coffee-to-water ratio, which translates to one ounce (about six tablespoons) of coarsely ground coffee for 16 ounces (two cups) of water. We also recommend grind your own beans on a coarse setting, which benefits from slow extraction. Finely ground coffee will taste over-extracted (likely harsh and bitter), and you'll wind up with a clogged filter and an extra gritty, downright unpleasant cup of coffee.

  • Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool to about 200ºF (about 30 seconds after the water comes to a full boil).
  • Add the ground coffee to the carafe and then the hot water. After one minute, you’ll notice the coffee grounds float up to the top and create what is called a “crust.” Use a wooden spoon to gently break through the crust and stir. The grounds will sink to the bottom.
  • Place the lid on the carafe with the plunger pulled all the way up and steep for three more minutes.
  • Gently push the plunger all the way down after three minutes and serve immediately; the coffee will continue to brew and become bitter as it sits!
  • Clean your French press after each use. Coffee grounds and oil residue on the carafe and filter will impart bitterness into your coffee. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and make sure to disassemble the nested filter to scrub off any deposits and residual oils.