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Best Coffee to Water Ratio for French Press

The french press is a convenient coffee maker almost every household has in their kitchen cabinet. Considering that brewing coffee using a french press is pretty straightforward in comparison to other brewing methods, such as Chemex or Aeropress, this is not surprising. But to unleash the full potential of a french press it is important to use the right coffee to water ratio.

french press coffee ratio

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For most people their morning routine using a french press looks like this: use a spoon to fill the french press with ground coffee, pour boiling water on the coffee grounds, wait a few minutes, press down the strainer, and pour. However, to get the best out of your beans all it takes is a few simple steps. In this article I will cover easy ways to improve the result in your cup and help you find the perfect coffee to water ratio to match your preferred strength.

French Press on Amazon

The French Press is inexpensive and ranks amongst the most user-friendly coffee makers. You can choose between a glass, stainless steel, or stoneware french press. Glass is generally the cheapest option but breaks rather easily. Look out for heat-resistant borosilicate glass options such as the crowd pleaser by Bodum .

Bodum French Press
Le Creuset French Press
Espro French Press
Poliviar French Press

How to Make Coffee Using a French Press

The process of brewing with a french press is described as immersion brewing. The coffee grounds are immersed in water, extracted for however long one lets it steep, and the coffee is then poured into a cup without going through a paper filter first. This implies that oils and fine components of ground coffee are making their way into the cup as well, resulting in a brew that is considered fuller-bodied or stronger than, say, what a Chemex produces. The contact duration of water and coffee being substantially longer also has an impact on the taste of the coffee. This makes using the right coffee to water ratio all the more important to avoid a bitter brew. But before we get into all that, let’s look at how to best brew with a French Press.

First of all, I can’t stress enough how important it is to freshly grind your beans. Here I’ve compared the best manual coffee grinders for you. I’ve asked Joe McTaggart, an expert on all things coffee grinding at Comandante, about the perfect grind size. He recommends a medium grind. You can tell whether your grind is too coarse or too fine if pressing the plunger is done too easily or only with a lot of resistance.

  1. Preheat your vessel by pouring hot water in and discard before starting the brew.
  2. Let freshly boiled water cool down for 30 seconds. According to your brew recipe, add coffee grounds to the french press. Pour the requirement amount of water onto the grounds.
  3. Give the french press a swirl to equally cover the coffee grounds with water.
  4. Put the plunger on top but don’t press just jet.
  5. Let the coffee sit for 4 minutes before you press the plunger down and serve immediately.
french press coffee ratio
french press coffee ratio
french press coffee ratio

Why the Coffee to Water Ratio Matters

The coffee to water ratio has a significant impact on the taste and strength of your coffee. Too much water and your coffee will be weak and watery; too little water and it can be overly strong and bitter. The perfect ratio will result in a well-balanced, full-bodied cup of coffee that suits your taste buds.

Factors Affecting the Coffee to Water Ratio

Coffee bean type and Roasting Style

Different types of coffee beans and roasting styles have different flavors and strengths, which can impact the ideal coffee to water ratio. Experiment to find the ratio that works best for your chosen beans.

Grind size

The grind size also affects the extraction process, with coarser grinds requiring more coffee to achieve the same strength as finer grinds. French press brewing typically uses a coarser grind, so adjust the coffee to water ratio accordingly.

Brewing time

The longer the brewing time, the stronger the coffee. If you prefer a stronger coffee, increase the brewing time while maintaining the same coffee to water ratio.

Personal taste

Ultimately, the best coffee to water ratio for you will depend on your personal taste preferences. Experiment with different ratios to find the one that suits your taste buds.

Coffee to Water Ratio for French Press Explained

A balanced coffee to water ratio, also known as brew ratio, is clearly a decisive element among the countless criteria that make a cup of coffee delicious, just drinkable, or even undrinkable. Look at it this way: water and coffee constitute the only two ingredients in your coffee recipe. A coffee to water ratio tells you how much coffee to use for a certain amount of water or vice versa.  

Although one could assume that with an immersion brewer, such as the french press, higher ratios work better than with percolation brewers, I’ve found the opposite to be true. When brewing with a filter, water passes through the coffee grounds extracting flavor and some of that water will remain in the coffee grounds even when the brew is finished. To the contrary there is barely any retention when brewing with a french press, therefore the dosage needs to be increased.

The Specialty Coffee Association suggests using 55 grams or 1.94 ounce of coffee per liter of water, plus or minus 10%. This is roughly the same as a 1:18 brew ratio, or 18 parts water to one part coffee. I’ve put this coffee ratio to a test with the french press but didn’t get great results brewing medium roasted coffees. They tasted undernourished and flat, particularly in the finish. Any presence of fruity nuances disappeared and gave way to a subtle bitterness. This supports the thesis, that  in most cases lower coffee to water ratios work better with the french press. 

For a strong brew, the french press coffee ratio 1:12 produces a powerful cup of coffee. For every 500 grams or 17.63 ounce of water use 42 grams or 1.48 ounce of coffee. Use a coffee scale to get the recipe right to the gram. While this is not the most cost-effective ratio, the very first sip kicks you awake and out of slumber mode in the morning. It makes for a creamy mouthfeel and lots of flavors rolling onto your taste buds.

A coffee to water ratio of 1:15 creates a more balanced brew perfect for tastebuds that appreciate subtle flavors. Add 15 grams or 0.52 ounce of water to every gram of coffee. For 500 grams or 17.63 ounce of water use 33 grams or 1.64 ounce of coffee. This recipe accentuates fruitiness and pleasant acidity in light to medium roasts.

Ultimately, it comes down to your preferences and the sort of intensity you are looking for in your cup. The best way to find your preferred coffee to water ratio is by experimenting with different brew recipes. My advice is to try out ratios between 1:12 and 1:16 for french press to determine what ratio works best for you.

How to Measure the Right Coffee to Water Ratio

For the most accurate measurements, use a digital coffee scale to weigh both the coffee grounds and water. Place the French press on the scale, tare it, add the coffee grounds, and then tare again before adding the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should French Press Coffee Steep?

The standard steep time for the french press is 4 minutes. This will result in a delicious and rich cup of coffee. That being said, the almighty James Hoffman suggests a two-step steeping technique for those of you who have a little bit more time on your hands. It involves five minutes of steeping, breaking the crust and stooping the foam, followed by another five minutes of steeping. The brewing guide for his french press recipe is on Youtube. While it might test your patience, letting your french press steep longer will create better tasting coffee.

Can I use pre-ground coffee for French press?

While you can use pre-ground coffee, freshly ground coffee will yield better flavor and aroma. If using pre-ground coffee, ensure it is a coarse grind suitable for French press brewing.

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