Brewing Coffee in a French Press

While roasting coffee may seem daunting for some people, brewing coffee should be simple and quick.  Our second post in the Recession Special will look at brewing your own coffee at home in a cheap, quick, and delicious manner.

Most readers of this blog have probably brewed hundreds if not thousands of cups of coffee in their life, so I will not presume to tell anyone they are doing it wrong.  If you love the way you make coffee, by all means skip this article, but I wanted to give you an idea of how I have fine tuned my process with my French Press.

Contrary to the belief of many, brewing coffee is mostly science, with a small touch of art.  Grind size, coffee amount per water volume, and brew time all determine the eventual sweetness, bitterness, and strength of the coffee.  Furthermore, different coffees will require different brew times to highlight the best flavors.  A brewer must use the science behind these factors to get into the range where “art” comes into play.

You may recall my post of February 8, 2009 talking about the Brazilian Ipanema “Naturally Processed” green coffee and what I think I did wrong in the roasting and brewing.  If you have not read it, go back and find it here.  A coffee like that highlights the need for appropriate brewing, lest the brewer lose all the subtleties of the flavor.

So if you are looking to try something new, give this a shot and then play around with it and find the perfect brew for you.  I will give you volumes based on my press pot, but you can use the same ratios to get coffee that tastes the same in your home.  (Coffee purists will tell you to always use a kitchen scale, so you can use a proper coffee-weight to water-volume ratio.  This will indeed get you the best brew possible, but in a recession I am not going to tell you to go purchase a kitchen scale when I think that money is MUCH better spent on any half decent grinder).

I recommend starting with whole coffee beans, preferably ones you roasted yourself according to my February 12 article.  You can experiment with grind size, but for my favorite Papua New Guinea I use grind 13.5 out of 15 (very coarse) on my grinder.  See my article about grinders from February 11.  A decent grinder will cost you ~$60 (though you can obviously spend more).  So once you have ground your coffee…

Equipment you need:

  • Press pot
    • I have a great Danish aluminum one, but you can get cheap ones at kitchen stores and even Ikea. The theory behind all of them is essentially the same.
  • Kettle or pot
  • 10T Coarse ground coffee
    • I find it takes about 8T of unground to get 10T of course ground
  • Water
    • My pot is ~24 ounces. Yours will probably be the same or a little larger.


  1. Boil the water
  2. Once water has boiled, let it sit for about 1 minute
    1. Ideally you will be brewing coffee at ~198F – 200F.  Since water boils at 212F allowing it to sit will let the water come down to the ideal temperature
  3. Pour your 10T of ground coffee into the press pot
  4. Barely cover the coffee with your hot water
    1. If your coffee is fresh and freshly ground it will bubble as CO2 is released.  That is a great sign!
  5. Stir vigorously
  6. Fill the rest of the pot with water and stir vigorously.  As you stir the water level will drop so you can top it off as you stir.
    1. If the coffee is fresh, there will be a nice foam on the top similar looking to espresso crema.
  7. Cover and let sit for ~4 minutes
    1. 4 minutes is about the minimum time I would brew for, but the brew will start to become very bitter if you go over about 5 minutes.  The exact time will be to taste.
  8. Press the plunger down and serve or store in a thermos immediately.

A well roasted / well brewed cup of coffee may even be so sweet that you will not want to add any sugar.  Enjoy!

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