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A few weeks ago, Amy and I were eating pizza and discussing how exactly to best brew coffee from a French press. I've been using a French press for a few years now (initially cause I don't have counter space for my drip machine), but have never been tutored on how to properly make coffee this way- it's been a series of trials and errors until I seemed to get it right.

But after our conversation, I decided to consult Vien, guru of the cacao bean, who I have brought on as UM's resident barista. Remember that Blue Bottle Music Video from a few months back? That's him on those $20,000 brewing babies.

As a general intro to the French press, here is what Wiki says:
Because the coffee grounds remain in direct contact with the brewing water and the grounds are filtered from the water via a mesh instead of a paper filter, coffee brewed with the French press captures more of the coffee's flavor and essential oils, which would become trapped in a traditional drip brew machine's paper filters. French pressed coffee is usually stronger and thicker and has more sediment than drip-brewed coffee. Because the used grounds remain in the drink after brewing, French pressed coffee should be served immediately so as to not become bitter from over-extraction. A typical 8-cup French press is considered expired after 20 minutes.

To demonstrate here, I'll be using my Bodum 4 cup press and fresh Gimme beans I just got yesterday- the Leftist roast (Deep Disco is my fave, but they were out). The beans are so bright and beautiful, aren't they?

Ok, so here we go- Vien's easy program to get the best results from a French press, in his own words.

Written by Vien

The general rule of thumb is that you use a ratio of 3 to 4 tablespoons of coffee for every 8oz of water, grind to approximately the size of coarse sea salt, and steep for 3 minutes.

The only hard rules I would suggest you follow is to grind fresh, use water you would drink, keep everything preheated, and use water that is not at a hard boil (that is, boil your water, let it come down a few degrees, then use it).

I would err on the side of more coffee first, then cut back. you usually start with this standard and adjust based on various factors like your own personal taste, how old the coffee is, the coffee varietal, how accurate your grinder is, your water quality and temperature, etc.

The best thing to do if you find the need to make adjustments is, like any other science experiment, to change only one variable at a time.


*Let me say that my coffee has improved dramatically since taking up Vien's advice. Before I was only using about 2 spoonfuls of coffee beans when really I should have been adding in 4-5 since I like my coffee mucho strong. Thanks Vien for sharing your wisdom- it might sound silly, but this has seriously changed my life (as I always say, it's the little things).

If anyone has a question for Vien, please email

**UPDATE: I was just informed by Vien that using an espresso roast in a French press is a MAJOR NO-NO. Oops! More later!


  • Great pictures! I think the most important thing to remember when using a coffee press is to make sure your beans are coarsely ground so your don’t end up with a ton of fine grounds in your drink.

    Coffee Fan on

  • Ah, nice.
    I’m not a coffee drinker, but Tmonkey is, and he recently purchased this fascinating coffee maker, which I’ve been referring to as the penis pump. It requires no electricity (except to grind the beans) and uses syringe mechanism to push the coffee through a filter. SO FUN! I’ll get him to blog about it.

    ayagwa on

  • Penis pump coffee maker Tmonkey pumps his coffee in. What a dream come true….
    Can I NOT add milk when drinking french pressed coffee? I feel it’s too strong without it, but I don’t like milk in my “hot” coffee..

    Yamahomo on

  • PENIS PUMP! awesome. can’t wait to see this thing in person.

    Coffee Fan- great site yourself! what’s your favorite bean? i see your blog mentions the major Italian brands. i like Lavazza myself, but discovered Danesi when I was in Italy last year at this awesome cappuccino spot.

    kayoko on

  • I’m not a coffee drinker, but love to have it some times and so recently purchased this fascinating coffee maker, which I’ve been referring to as the penis pump. It requires no electricity (except to grind the beans) and uses syringe mechanism to push the coffee through a filter.

    frank, Robin on

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