Common French Press Mistakes

Common French Press Mistakes (15 to Avoid)

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Some of the most common French press mistakes can be avoided if you know where you’re going wrong. Brewing French press coffee may seem like a simple affair but at times mistakes happen. Once you know what can go wrong you can master using your French press.

Here are the 15 most common mistakes French press users make and how to avoid making the same mistake next time.

What You Should Know About French Press Mistakes

Using a French press at home is one of the easiest ways to making your favorite coffee brew. All you have to do is scoop in the coffee, top up with hot water, wait a few minutes, and then plunge. After testing many French Press, we recommend the Simpli Press French Press – it makes brewing coffee even easier. You can get it by clicking this link.

So, what could possibly go wrong?

Surprisingly, quite a lot. Coffee making is an art. And to master it, you need to know all the tricks of the trade.


Common French Press Mistakes


1. Is Your Favorite Coffee The Right One?

Coffee lovers are faced with a world full of coffee. You get to choose from whole beans to pre-ground coffee. And, whatever your fancy you can pick light, medium, or dark roast.

Baristas, however, will tell you the medium or dark roast is preferable.

The only mistake you could make here is not experimenting with different coffee brands. Don’t limit yourself to your one and only trusted coffee type – add more to your list of favorite coffee brews.

2. Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground: Which One?

One of the reasons many people choose to go with a French press is because it’s not time-consuming. It requires minimum effort to make a brew using this brewer.

But one of the mistakes you could be making is missing out on the vital step of grinding your own coffee. Now, I know we’re talking about saving time but isn’t a good coffee brew vital?

So, go with pre-grounds if you absolutely have to and I’m talking about those days when time simply isn’t available.

But when you’re wanting to step up the mark and improve your French press brew it’s time to bring out the burr grinder. Grinding whole bean coffee means you’ll have a fresher, better-tasting cup of coffee.

3. It’s All in the Grind

If you want to know what is really one of the MOST common mistakes you can make when using the French press, it’s the type of coffee grind.

Coffee producers of pre-ground coffee will often state on their packaging if the grind is good for French Press. Don’t be tempted to go with a fine ground coffee.

If coffee is too finely ground your French press coffee is not only going to look muddy but it’s going to taste muddy. This is because too many grounds escaped into your cup.

French press filters are designed to prevent coffee grounds from going into your cup but they’re only good enough for the coarser ground.

Different grinders have different settings for French press coffee. You’re aiming to get a coarse grind similar size to your coarse salts.

Some examples of settings on different grinders are:

  • Baratza Encore: 31 – 36
  • Handground: 7 -8
  • JavaPresse: 14 – 16

Here is some quick info if you wish to try one of these coffee grinders.

Last update on 2023-08-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


4. Burr Grinder vs Blade Grinder

This is a mistake all coffee lovers should avoid no matter what coffee maker they’re using.

A blade grinder can be used in cases of absolute emergencies (like when your burr grinders die on you). You’ll end up slashing your beans and ruining any of their innate flavors.

The burr grinder has been designed to ground coffee beans at a consistent speed without building up heat.

Invest in a good quality one and you’ll notice how much nicer your French press coffee brew tastes.


Common French Press Mistakes


5. Are You Preheating the French Press?

Okay, I know you’re trying to save time. But missing out on preheating your French press could be the one mistake you’re making that results in not such a great cup of coffee.

Why do you need to preheat your French press? For simple reasons really. To keep your coffee at a consistent temperature while it’s brewing.

All you have to do is boil enough water to pour into the French press before making your brew. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then toss the water out.

While we’re on the topic of preheating go one step further and preheat your cup or mug. It’ll keep your coffee hotter for longer.

6. Boiling Water is NOT Such a Good Idea

It’s fine to use boiling water to preheat your French press. But it’s an absolute no-no when it comes to making French press coffee. After all, a French Press is not a Stovetop coffee maker.

When coffee is exposed to high temperatures you could risk burning and ruining the coffee taste. Your cup of coffee will end up being bitter.

You want to avoid water higher than 205F. The ideal temperature is between 195F and 202F.

If you don’t have a fancy kettle that figures out the right temperature for you, then simply wait a minute after boiling. The water should then be at the right temperature. We recommend the Bonavita Kettle which allows to preset the temperature and also to keep for a certain amount of time.

Last update on 2023-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

7. Water Quality Does Matter

This is open for discussion but using tap water may not be the best water for making coffee. Both soft and hard water causes coffee grounds to react differently.

Soft water or distilled water could lead to a bitter cup of coffee. This is because it has less to no minerals in it and no extraction power.

Hard water, on the other hand, creates a strong brew with higher levels of caffeine. This is attributed to the higher levels of ions such as magnesium and calcium.

So, what’s your option here? Consider using only filtered water to brew in your French press.

8. What’s Your Coffee/Water Ratio?

Are you taking into consideration how much coffee you’re using in proportion to the amount of water it’s brewing in? If not, you’re making a huge mistake!

How much coffee you use depends on the strength of brew you like. But it’s good to follow a ratio to get the best extraction of flavors.

We recommend a ratio of 15:1 – so if you’re using 600ml of water you need to add 40 grams of coffee.

The same baristas will recommend you get a nifty scale for your kitchen. Weighing the right amount of coffee means you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup of coffee rather than a mediocre one.

You can fiddle with this ratio slightly depending on how weak or how strong you like your coffee. But stay within the 12 – 15:1 ratio benchmark to avoid making a mistake.

9. Brewing Time Matters a Whole Lot

If you’re sloppy about the timing your French press brew sits for you may be heading into another mistake.

Leaving French press coffee to brew too long will end up in a bitter brew. So, the brewing time does matter if you want the ultimate cup of coffee.

French press coffee should not brew for longer than four to five minutes. If you want to get precise, the time of the brewing should be 4.30 minutes.

10. Are You Blooming  Your Coffee?

Now, this is a technique not many coffee drinkers may be aware of. Not doing is not necessarily a mistake but if you’re looking to enhance your French press coffee it’s worth taking note of.

The fresher the coffee bean the more blooming you’ll see happening. You’ll recognize it in the foamy layer that forms at the top of the hot water when it’s added to the coffee grounds.

If done correctly, blooming will give you a richer, full-bodied coffee.

There are various ways to bloom your coffee. Add 20% of your water to the coffee grounds and let it sit for 30 seconds before adding the rest of the water.

Or, bloom the coffee grounds in a small amount of water, let it sit for 3 minutes, and then add the rest of the water. Plunge immediately and serve.

11. To Stir or Not to Stir: A Mistake or Not?

Some say stirring the coffee your coffee before the brew time is up is a serious mistake. Others will tell you to stir before you place the plunger on top.

Depending on which side of the court you’re standing, stirring your French Press coffee before plunging could be a mistake or not.

So, here are the options we recommend:

  • Whatever you do, don’t stir your coffee before the time is up. Let it sit and do its thing.
  • Stir your coffee grounds vigorously as soon as you’ve poured the water in. Then place the plunger on top.
  • Give a gentle stir during the middle of the brewing time.
  • A quick, light stir at the end of the brewing time before plunging distributes the coffee particles.

The only way to tell if stirring is a mistake or not is to try out the different options. Make your own call when you find the perfect brew.


Common French Press Mistakes


12. After Plunging Use up the Brew

How many times have you left coffee in your carafe after plunging? You’ve poured one cup but there’s still more to enjoy so you keep it in the French press.

This is a common mistake most French Press drinkers make and one that should be avoided. Otherwise, your second cup of coffee is going to taste very bitter.

Leaving the coffee in the carafe after plunging means it’ll continue to extract. And the longer you leave coffee in water the more bitter it gets.

Rather pour the remainder out into another cup and warm up later when you drink it. This way you’ll still get the same flavors as your first cup of coffee.

13. Are You Skimming Before Plunging?

Another trick to avoid making a mistake with French Press coffee is to skim the top before plunging. This involves scraping off any grounds floating on top of the water.

Skimming the coffee means you’ll have less sediment in your cup of coffee. So, if you’re not a fan of muddy and gritty coffee get skimming.

You can do this by using a spoon to scoop up the top layer of grounds floating on the water. You’ll need to do this about 30 seconds before plunging.

Avoid spending too much time skimming. Remember: the longer coffee sits in hot water the more bitter it becomes.

Keep skimming time down to a minimum and remove as much of the top foam as possible.

14, Squeeze Baby Squeeze!

Okay, squeezing oranges and lemons is acceptable. But squeezing your coffee grounds when plunging is really not a good idea.

French press pourers may think squeezing coffee grounds with the plunging will help to extract further flavors. Or maybe they think they’ll get more than one cup of coffee out of their brew.

Whatever the reason, don’t think squeezing coffee grounds is a good idea. Whatever flavors you need will come during the four minutes of brewing time.

If you’re tempted to squeeze your coffee grounds expect to end up releasing bitter, acrid flavors.

15. Clean Your French Press Every Time

Are you cleaning your French press after every use? If not, you’re making a mistake and your next cup of coffee may not taste so good.

While it’s tempting to leave your French press dirty because you’re going to make another brew in the next couple of hours, it’s going to impact your coffee taste.

Give the French press a good rinse and a good clean with hot, soapy water at the end of the day. Remove all traces of coffee grounds. Here is how you can dispose the used grounds after the brew.

Make sure you give the filter a good clean too. This is where most of the coffee grounds end up sticking so a good swish under running tap water should do the job.

Soaking the carafe and filter once a week in a detergent specifically for coffee makers is also another good way of keeping your French press in good nick.

Final Thoughts

Some of the most common French press mistakes can be avoided easily if care is taken. French press coffee can be delicious if you simply avoid the mistakes made when using this brewer.

With minimal changes, you’ll notice your cup of coffee will taste purer, more flavorful, and not so bitter.