Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I recently picked up this Bodum "French Press" style coffee maker and so far, I'm really enjoying it for its simplicity. But I'm curious how I should be grinding my coffee.

When I bought it, I grabbed a bag of pre-ground coffee at the grocery store and this worked well. But recently, I bought a can of beans and put it thru the coffee grinder at the store and I may have chose too coarse a grind as I seem to be getting very weak cups of coffee now.

The manual said pick a "coarse" grind, so it turned the dial all the way to the left labeled "coarse". I'm thinking it should have been somewhere in the middle, like "Percolate".

Any advice on the optimal grind?

EDIT: Also, What ratio of Tbsp to oz of water? (or grams to ml, if you prefer metric.)

share|improve this question
2  
We've gotten weak coffee with a coarse grind in our French press also, so I don't understand why the manual insists on a coarse grind. I'm curious to see what others say. –  Rebekah Aug 12 '10 at 13:54
    
@Rebekah: How long are you steeping it? How coarse is the grind? –  kevins Aug 12 '10 at 14:03
1  
I know this isn't really relate to the question but, I used to dig the french press coffee makers, but since I got a [Moka](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_(coffee_pot%29) I've never looked back. They make much superior coffee in my opinion, and I'd never go back. plus they are much stronger and won't smash, which happened to a french press I had. –  Sam Holder Aug 12 '10 at 14:35
    
@Sam Holder: I have one of those and I have never been able to produce anything but extremely bitter coffee. Maybe I should start another question to ask this, but how do you make palatable coffee from one of those? I drink my coffee black, so adding milk to the final result isn't an option. I have modulated grind size, temperature of stove, etc. all to no avail. –  kevins Aug 12 '10 at 15:07
1  
@Kevin Selker: we've steeped it anywhere from 4-15 minutes (ok, probably longer--sometimes I forget). We've only gotten weak coffee with a pretty coarse grind; we ground it at the grocery store on their French press setting. Since then, we just gave up on coarse grind and grind it more finely. –  Rebekah Aug 12 '10 at 15:39

16 Answers 16

up vote 26 down vote accepted

You do want a coarse grind for french press coffee. The key is letting the coffee steep for long enough to make a strong brew. I have good results with a 5 minute steep time. Be sure to use a timer, and compare different times to find the optimal brew. As a general rule, if you are at altitude, then you need to add time because boiling water is cooler. (Note that I am at 5000ft, so 5 minutes may be too long for you.)

Below is a picture of the coffee chunks in a coarse grind on top of a US 10 cent coin (17.9 mm in diameter).

alt text

EDIT: The reason to use a coarse grind for a french press is that finer grinds will get stuck in the filter and/or push their way through. This has three potential problems: 1) it will be harder to press down the filter, possibly leading to spillage or breakage; 2) your coffee will have grinds in it; 3) the coffee may become bitter, as the finer grinds that passed through the filter remain in contact with the coffee for too long.

share|improve this answer
    
I'm inclined to pick your answer so far, but the thing is I have been doing what you describe. Also, my GF made the coffee this morning. She used 5 heaping Tbsp to 18oz of water. Should we just up it to 6 Tbsp? (3oz to 1 heaping Tbsp ratio) -- We chose 18oz because that seems to produce exactly 2 cups of coffee. –  Pretzel Aug 12 '10 at 14:10
1  
@Pretzel: You could try using more coffee, but that sounds sufficient to me. I would start looking for other factors that may be causing the problem (has it been a long time since the beans were roasted? Is the roast not dark enough?). Also, make sure that the "coarse" grind at the store is really giving you the proper size chunks--it's possible that the grinder is just bad, so try using other grinders. If you use a finer grind and still avoid problems 1-3 above, then it's coarse enough! –  kevins Aug 12 '10 at 14:59
    
+1 for the scaled pic –  Ben Collins Jan 9 at 18:38
    
Oop! You probably meant 25 cent coin, not 10! Other than that you nailed it! –  tsturzl Feb 28 at 1:33

I've used a French press for many years and use a coarse grind. My grind looks like Kevin Selker's pic above. One thing I do though is to stir the grinds just after adding the water to the French Press before inserting the screen.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1, Good suggestion. I'll give stirring a try. –  Pretzel Aug 12 '10 at 16:47
    
Stirring and a 5 minute steep is what I do with my little French press at the office. –  zacechola Jan 18 '11 at 17:24
    
I do the stir at the beginning and also swirl the grounds around at the halfway point in the brewing process, to redistribute the grounds that have floated to the top. –  Dan C Apr 15 at 20:44

I have a $10 French press that serves me well. on my grinder, I set the dial right smack down in the middle for medium.

A BIG HOWEVER

  • I find that my grinder's medium is comparable to the grocery market's Light coarse or even coarse.
  • What i do sometimes if my grinds are too small is actually i put a coffee filter under the sieved area of the press
share|improve this answer
1  
+1, this is also a reasonable answer. I may try going back to a finer grind and see if I get grinds stuck in the filter. Your suggestion about using a coffee filter isn't bad, but I'd like to avoid buying coffee filters. That's one of the points of a french press, right? –  Pretzel Aug 12 '10 at 14:16

Consider buying a grinder and grinding the beans as you need them. As soon as they are ground (at the supermarket), their flavour diminishes fast due to the increased surface area. That's why it smells so good when you grind them! Wouldn't you rather that flavour be in the coffee you brew?

For french press, you can get away with using a cheap "whizzy" blade grinder like this one. For most other types of coffee, you should really use a conical burr grinder like this one, which makes for a more even grind and doesn't heat the coffee as it grinds.

If you really want to geek out on this, read How to Use a Press Pot on CoffeeGeek.

share|improve this answer
    
yeah, I know about the whole "don't grind your beans at the store or it will lose its flavor" phenomenon. Truthfully, I go thru coffee too quickly for it ever to go bad or lose its flavor. Perhaps if I didn't consume as much coffee as I do, I would grind my own, but I've found that doing that requires yet another gadget and practicing until I get the grinding perfect. Plus its noisy. –  Pretzel Aug 12 '10 at 20:28
    
+1, now that I think about it. This is still a good recommendation despite the caveats I just listed... –  Pretzel Aug 13 '10 at 13:57

I've become such a coffe snob since using my French press about a year ago. It truly makes the best coffee. I grind the beans as fine as dust and then I wrap a paper towel (as a filter) around the screen before plunging. I steep for 5min and I check my water temp to between 195-200 Farenheit before adding it. Any hotter and it tends to burn the coffee. I have a $10 press I bought at IKEA and it works just fine, it gets a lot of use to. I used to use a coarser grind but the flavor is just not the same.

share|improve this answer
    
I also grind the beans as finely as possible. No paper filter though.The result is very flavorful if a little sludgey, reminiscent of Serbian Turkish-Style Coffee. –  Wayfaring Stranger Apr 14 at 0:55

THE COFFEE HOUSE FRENCH PRESS BREW METHOD: The Hows and Whys

  • USE CLEAN, COLD WATER. Brewing with a French Press is simple and easy. You have to know how to do it and WHY you are doing it to extract the most flavor possible. Essentially, your water flavor must be good so you begin by using cold, filtered water. You fill your kettle with TWICE the water needed: half to pre-warm your Press and the other half for brewing.

  • USE THE RIGHT DOSE OF COFFEE BEANS. Dose coffee beans at 55-65g of coffee beans per liter of water, or 70 grams if you "break and clean" (rather than stirring the bloom, you break the bloom foam cake and spoon out the surface grounds to reduce the fines, in which case you sacrifice some brewing grounds, so you need to over-dose a bit). Use a kitchen scale to measure.

  • BEGIN GRINDING THE BEANS JUST BEFORE THE WATER BOILS. Once the bean husk is cracked open favor immediately escapes, so wait until the last minute to grind, just as the water begins to boil. I can recommend Baratza grinders, by the way.

  • BREW AT THE CORRECT TEMPERATURE. As the water almost boils, start your grinder, pre-warm your Press with half the off-boil water, empty the Press and fill with the grounds weighed on a scale. Then pour in the other half of the water, using a scale to measure, at about 205-208 degrees F so as the temperature drops during the brew you are NEVER brewing lower than 195 degrees F. NEVER begin at 195 degrees F or flavor really suffers as the temp at brew's end can even drop to 185 degrees F...not good!

  • BREW FOR THE CORRECT TIME. A four-minute brew cycle is highly recommended. Anything less gives you a raw, under-extracted cup, anything more gives you an over-cooked, over-extracted, bitter cup. At Brew's end, ALWAYS pour out coffee into cups to terminate the brewing. NEVER store coffee in any coffee brewer as it will continue to brew! Even with drip brewing coffee is stored in a carafe...do that same here. A coffee brewer of any kind is NOT a coffee storage carafe. That is a job for a thermally insulated carafe. The insulation in a French Press is there to keep the brew at the correct temperature DURING the brew cycle.

BREWING IT: An Up-close Look at Brewing French Press Coffee

  1. FILL KETTLE with at least TWICE the water needed to brew. Use only fresh, never-boiled, COLD, FILTERED water, not the nasty tasting, mildly rusty hot water sitting inside your hot water heater. Now begin heating your water at high heat.

  2. WEIGH YOUR BEANS. While the water heats, place your grinder's grounds-collecting bin on your scales, then tare to zero. After weighing, pour the beans into the grinder's hopper, then place the grounds bin in the grinder to catch the grounds when you grind.

  3. GRIND YOUR BEANS. Set your grinder to a mid coarse setting, as coarse as coarsely ground pepper, and experiment to get the dosage just right for your taste...I like the finer side of coarse. When your water almost boils, at about 210-211 degrees F, turn off the heat and start your grinder and let the water temp drop a bit in the meantime.

  4. WEIGH WATER AS YOU POUR, THEN STEEP. While the grinder is grinding, pour hot water into your Press to warm it. When the grinding is completed, pour the warming water from the Press into your cup(s) to pre-warm them, discard remaining water from the Press.

Then pour your coffee grounds to the Press and place your Press on your scales, tare the Press to zero. To monitor heat place a thermometer in your Press. Now pour in the kettle's remaining 205-208 degree F water into the Press as shown on your scale (I use 870-900g in my 1 liter Press). Place the lid on the Press with plunger extended upward to begin the brewing cycle. Set your timer to 4 minutes.

  1. STIR, SINK, OR SCOOP OFF THE BLOOM. After after one minute, either gently stir, or sink the bloom with a spoon, or remove (break) the cake "crust" with a soup spoon (or two) to gently scoop to remove (clean) the bloom off the top to reduce the amount of fines in the brew. Be sure no grounds remain above the plunger or in the spout as those grounds will end up in your cup.

  2. REPLACE THE LID AND FINISH BREWING. With the lid on, continue to brew until the timer beeps, then press the plunger down VERY SLOWLY to the bottom (to reduce agitation of any fines present). Pour out the warming water from your cup(s), THEN pour in the hot coffee from the Press to replace it. Serve and enjoy. This is the ambrosia people are talking about...properly made French Press.

Also see my blog on How to buy a French Press, and The Frieling French Press: thegoodstuffreviews.blogspot.com

share|improve this answer

Our press is a smaller version of yours, and we use 1 TB of whole beans for every 4 ounces of water. Our pot makes a maximum of 12 ounces.

We have our own coffee grinder, a Black & Decker SmartGrind. There are no settings for the grind; it's a matter of holding down the button. I pulse the button about a dozen times, and that works well.

When the coffee has turned out too weak, the problem has always been that I did not grind the coffee enough. I have not had a problem with too many fine grounds missing the filter. Just don't drink that last sip of coffee, and you'll be fine.

share|improve this answer

I've been using a french press for a few months now, Bodum brand... the 'Brazil' model I think. Since I had read to use a coarse grind, that's what I've been doing, and it's worked well ('coarse' being what the coffee grinder at the store designates as 'coarse').

Recently though, I was given as a gift a bag of coffee ground in filer-brew or coffee pot style - i.e. finer than 'coarse.' But I decided to try it in the french press anyway, and it turned out well. No clogged filter, not too much leakage (as in coffee grinds getting through the filter), and it made quite a stronger brew as well. A little bitter - if you 'steep' coarse grind for about 5 minutes (I do, to good effect usually), then maybe this only needs to brew for about 3 minutes at most. Or maybe I just used too much ;P

share|improve this answer

My Bodum Bistro grinder has a French Press setting which is all the way coarse. I've just brewed my best press pot yet (I'm a press pot newbie) with a grind two steps finer than that, a brew time of 4 minutes, using one rounded tablespoon of coffee per cup. This pot was very rich and satisfying. I saw your argument for not having a grinder and have to ask you to reconsider. Most people I know would agree that once you start grinding your own you can never go back to (even one day old) pre-ground.

It is important to get a conical burr grinder. Yes, they're the '3rd' tier in terms of price, but through the years I've had blade and regular burr grinders and I can definitely say that the one I have now makes quite noticeably better coffee. The difference is in the consistency of the grind. Different brewing methods require different grind sizes and when the grains are all different sizes you don't get the benefits of the particular type of brew. For instance cappuccino requires that no large grains be present because they'll form channels in the 'puck' which allow steam to pass through too quickly. Similarly a drip process requires that no super-pulverized 'coffee dust' be present as this leads to bitterness.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for explaining that conical burrs gives a consistency in size that others simply cant. –  J.A.I.L. Dec 5 '12 at 10:53

I too have had poor success with coarse grinds. I've settled on telling the coffee-slave to grind it for a basket filter. Conical is too fine. Perc could also be successful.

I only use coarse when I'm camping, and brewing it up cowboy style. (Coffee in pot with water. Boil, Strain through moustache.)

share|improve this answer

If the coffee is being ground for you at a coffee shop or supermarket, my understanding is to ask for a No. 13 grind. Alternately, if you are grinding it yourself at the supermarket, set the grind for No. 13.

share|improve this answer
3  
On what scale, for what equipment? Is this standardized in some way? –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 9 '13 at 18:45

No one has menitoned that it is important to remember that for good french coffee, in my opinion, you need to use French Roast coffee for optimum results. This results in a very strong, balanced and flavorful brew. Also, don't boil the water. I have a nice electronic kettle that heats the water to 200 degrees. I also use the hot water tap from the dispenser at work normally used for tea and soup. This works very well. Another hint: I can't agree more that you should grind your own beans--I do so at work with a little hand mill--a conical burr grinder. People thought it was strange at first, but now I have people begging me some because it smells so good. I recommend as do others a conical burr grinder because the others, really, aren't that great. I've had the electric ones with the blades and they are quick and easy, but loud and nonuniform. Generally, the more expensive the hand grinder, the better. Avoid the cheapies--but the Japanese ceramic ones look pretty good and are available for a good price. My favorite is a Zassenhaus "knee" grinder that I got recently because it's easy to adjust the grind and the feed mechanism works great with fresh, oily beans. My previous favorite was a Peugeot, but once I started getting really fresh beans that had oil on them, they would get stuck in the feed and I'd have to keep pushing them down by hand--annoying. Plus the Zassenhaus, by far, has the easiest grind adjustment mechanism--you just turn an adjustment wheel. The others have to be partially disassembled, which is a pain. The best part is the Zassenhaus was also the cheapest! But prices have been climbing of late.

I have made medium roast coffee in my french press, and, well, maybe I'm just not a great fan of medium roast coffee, so I won't say that it can't be done, but to be honest, I almost always use French or Espresso roast beans for any coffee in any coffee maker. The larger grind, as I have observed, simply makes the french press easier to clean. The little grinds really get stuck at the bottom of the glass and it takes three or four rinses to get them all. With the larger grind, I get just as many grounds making it through the screen, but I can clean the press with just one rinse. I also like moka style coffee makers--Ikea made an excellent affordable one, which I think was made by Bialetti comparing it to others I own, but I also like drip, and even gasp percolator coffee--which I do think works better for medium grinds. I had an old stove top Corning percolator, the famous white and blue one that everyone's mom had in the 1960s and 1970s and it made, swear to God, the BEST coffee with the most nuanced, nutty, cinnamon, sweet, caramel, roasted, earthy flavor--of course, it only did it once or twice, no matter how many times I tried to replicate it--but no coffee maker I've ever had before or since, and I've had them all, put out results like that. I stick with my french press because it gets pretty close reliably.

share|improve this answer
1  
I cannot agree that the roast roast must be as specified. While the size of the grind matters for how the brew goes in a French press, you can get a quality brew for various roasts and beans, depending on your preferences. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 27 at 16:28

I work at a fairway coffee department. You would like to use number 13, which is French press, percolator basically. Type thick coffee, the less you go, the finer it is.

share|improve this answer

You could try a grind for percolator. It is a little less coarse.

share|improve this answer
    
But that grinding size is still too small, isn't it? Wouldn't it give an overextracted coffee? –  J.A.I.L. Dec 5 '12 at 10:55

Ground coffee begins to go stale within 30 seconds. My advice, purchase whole beans, get a grinder with a coarse setting, usually can find one for about $20, use about two tablespoons of beans for 8 ounces of coffee, as soon as the coffee finishes grinding pour it into the French press and give it a stir. Let it steep for about 4 minutes and youll see why French press is the way to go =).

share|improve this answer
    
"with a coarse setting" doesn't sound especially helpful. The OP is interested in knowing exactly what size grind is needed, and I doubt that all grinder with a "coarse" label produce the same size. –  rumtscho Feb 23 at 14:59

I must add to this thread.

Problems with other posts...letting your coffee sit for a long time is NOT a good option if you like hot coffee. Trying to get more flavor by sitting longer is a fail unless you like your coffee only warm.

Fine grinds getting through the filter is not so much a problem nor is the pushing pressure. Get used to grinding your coffee just they way that allows for a firm pressure to squeeze the water through the grinds. I know that with my grinder, it is a 10 count to get the grind just right every day using the typical handheld spinning blade grinder.

If you are worried about getting bitter flavors and like a robust flavor, do what I do... -Water from kettle just before boil begins (the loud bubbling becomes quite, but not a full boil) -Immediately pour the water into the press with the grounds in it already -If you use enough beans (I like it strong and perhaps use more beans than most), you can press immediately. Think about it. Typical coffee makers just pass water straight through the grinds without soaking for a long time. -Press the grinds and then immediately pour coffee into mug and carafe to keep hot. Afraid of grinds that may have passed through the filter...well then, use a paper filter to pour your coffee through to catch anything so small.

Done. Strong, good tasting coffee, ground simply and fairly fine. Not bitter. Not Cold.

share|improve this answer
    
Trying to turn a presspot into a bad version of a drip pot gives it all of the disadvantages of both. You will find, if you search, many documents on optimal extraction time, and it certainly isn't "instant". It is on the order of several minutes. –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 21 '13 at 17:32

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.