Brewing coffee in a french press coffee pot isn't hard. Granted, there are more steps involved than with an automatic drip coffee maker, but the results are worth it. By not having to pass through a paper filter normally associated with a drip machine, the coffee from a french press is much more flavorful and aromatic.
The instructions below will walk you through brewing coffee with your french press. Most french presses work the same - so it doesn't really matter whether you have a mug press or a tabletop press. Also, brewing tea with your french press works well by following the instructions below.
1. The Coffee Grind: Coarsely ground coffee works best in a french press. You will want your grinds slightly more coarse than what would be used in a drip coffee maker. A conical burr grinder is recommended because it gives a more consistent grind than blade grinders. If you use a grind that is too fine, you will end up clogging the holes in the plunger, making the depression of the plunger more difficult.
2. Making Good Water: We find that boiling the water just before you start grinding the beans works well. We use the term "boiling" loosely - you actually don't want your water boiling or it will scald the grounds, degrading the tasted of your coffee. Take the water off of the stove just prior to boil. The temperature of the water should be 195-205° F. If you do get your water boiling, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. This will get you pretty close to the desired temperature. To insure the best tasting results, use filtered water.
3. Pour Coffee Grounds Into The Press: Place the coffee grounds into the coffee press. We recommend using 1 to 2 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee per 8 oz of water. You may have to experiment with the amount of coffee in order to achieve your desired taste.
4. Pour Water Into Your Press: Gently pour your water into the coffee press and mix with the grounds. Make sure to leave at least 1 inch of room between the top of the water and the top of the french press to reduce spilling. Using a spoon, slowly stir the water and coffee. This will help grounds settle to the bottom of the press.
5. Place Lid on The Press: Replace the lid and plunger unit with the filter raised to the top (your stem should be sticking all the way up through the top of the lid. Allow the coffee to brew, or steep, for 4 to 5 minutes. For smaller presses (16 ounces and below), consider shortening the brewing time to 2 to 3 minutes. The longer the brewing time, the stronger the coffee.
6. Depress The Plunger: When your coffee is done steeping, slowly and gently press down on the plunger. IMPORTANT: Press down in an even, controlled manner with the plunger staying absolutely straight. If the plunger goes crooked, you will have some of your grounds escape into your brew.
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.
7. Pour: Slowly pour the coffee slowly into a coffee cup. Let it set for a minute to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom.
8. Don't let the coffee sit in the coffee press after it has completed brewing. The coffee will continue to brew, causing it to become bitter. If you are not serving all of it at once, pour the remaining coffee into a thermos.
For uber-detailed instructions with pictures, read Mark Prince's french press brewing article at CoffeeGeek.com