French Press Tips

Simple steps to making the most flavourful coffee with your French press.

(from Martha Stewart's New York Times syndicated column Jan. 14, 1999)

Dear Martha: What is the best way to make coffee using a french press? - N.Hong, San Francisco, Calif.

MARTHA STEWART: Many coffee lovers swear by the french press, an infusion-style coffee pot with a metal plunge filter.

French press

It has some distinct advantages over other brewing methods: The slow brewing process yields a rich, full-bodied coffee which is not left on a warming plate (as with automatic -drip machines) or boiled (as with percolators). This means that there is no risk of the burned bitter tastes that these methods sometimes produce.

And a press is inexpensive and easy to use, as long as some basic guidelines are followed...

Most important, the coffee beans should be very coarsely ground; too fine a grind can result in a muddy brew - or worse, a clogged plunger, which can cause the hot liquid to shoot out of the pot as you plunge.

If you buy ground coffee, specify that you will be using a press; if you buy whole beans, grind them for a few seconds fewer than you would for automatic drip. Everyone's tastes are different, so you will want to experiment with measurements and brewing times to find the strength you prefer.

But here are the basics:

  1. First remove the plunger unit from the glass pot.
  2. For each four-ounce cup of coffee, measure one tablespoon of ground coffee into the glass pot and four ounces of cold water into a saucepan or teakettle.
  3. Moisten the coffee with a tiny bit of cold water and stir. Bring the rest of the cold water to a boil, then remove from the heat for a few seconds, and pour the water over the grounds, stopping at least one inch from the top of the pot.
Coffee serving

You'll get the best flavour by stirring the brewing coffee continuously with a long handled spoon (preferably plastic, since metal can damage the glass), for about four minutes.

Then fit the plunger into the top of the pot, and slowly plunge to filter the coffee.

When the plunger is all the way at the bottom, pour and serve the coffee.

The one drawback of using a French press is that the coffee cools off quickly. You can keep it warm by transferring it to a thermal carafe, or by making a quilted "coffee cosy" to fit around the pot.

All photos photographer, Gudrun Kost. Location: Out To Lunch Catering.