If there is one thing we learned on our quest to build the best manual coffee grinder, it’s that the collective wisdom of a group can teach us a lot.

When building Handground, we learned that people preferred a side-mounted handle, numbers on the grind adjustment ring instead of dots, and measurement marks on the side of the hopper. But this approach to learning isn’t reserved for product design. Learning from the collective wisdom of the coffee community can help you make better French Press coffee as well.

To understand how collective wisdom works, think about this scenario:

It’s New Year’s Eve and you are making New Year’s Resolutions with your friends. You decide your resolution is to learn Spanish, and you make a bet with your friend who thinks you can’t do it.

Which strategy do you think would be most effective for learning Spanish and winning your bet?

  1. Buy a Spanish language book and read it cover-to-cover
  2. Hire a private tutor who comes to your home 3 days a week for lessons
  3. Travel to Costa Rica and live with a host family for 3 months

If you chose C, you are correct. It’s not just our opinion; this language-learning tactic has been researched for years. Surrounding yourself with native Spanish speakers will help you learn the dialect, slang, and nuances of the language faster than any book or tutor.

Now let’s take the same approach to learning how to make French Press coffee. Would it be best to read a book about the French Press, hire a barista to teach you their way of brewing French Press, or surround yourself with coffee enthusiasts who share their advice and methods with you?

This article aims to provide you with the last option and immerse you in the process of making French Press coffee. We asked the coffee community to share their methods and tips for making French Press so you can learn from not just one, but dozens of baristas and coffee enthusiasts.

We first asked the community for their French Press recipe in order to develop a base-standard, average recipe to start. Why would I want an average recipe? you ask. Don’t worry, average here doesn’t mean “mediocre”. In fact, averaging the 60 recipes we received resulted in a surprisingly delicious cup. More on this in a minute.

Then we asked baristas for their best tips for making French Press. This is the language-learning equivalent to sitting around the dinner table with your host family every night and receiving feedback from multiple perspectives on what you learned that day. Everyone has a unique approach to coffee brewing and you can pick up on the nuances in their responses.

The tips are split into “Basic” and “Advanced”. If you’re brand new to French Press, start with the Basic tips because they will help you make the biggest strides immediately. Once you have a good foundation, check out the Advanced tips to refine your coffee brewing method. Cheers!

Get Your Own French Press

The Recipe

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 15:1 (For example, 600 grams of water and 40 grams of coffee)
Water temperature: 202F
Brew time: 4:27
Grind setting: 6-6.5 on Handground

French Press Coffee Grind Setting on Handground
Your grind should be the consistency of sea salt

The thought process behind this average recipe is simple: collective knowledge is better and more accurate than any one person’s knowledge. This idea was first entertained by an English statistician who asked visitors of a county fair to guess the weight of an ox. While individual answers ranged by several hundred pounds, the average guess was within one percent of the actual weight. This phenomenon is thoroughly researched in the book, Wisdom of Crowds.

The book is quick to point out that not all crowds are intelligent; there are certain requirements to capture the true collective wisdom and avoid group think. Essentially, individuals in a group must come to their answers independently, and they must come from a diverse set of backgrounds.

We followed by these rules by sending out a survey to baristas and coffee enthusiasts in the Handground community. Each person took the survey online without consulting other survey takers, and since the community ranges from novice home brewers to expert baristas, we had diversity of opinions as well.

Just like the average guesses of the cow’s weight, we think this average recipe has captured the collective wisdom of the coffee community. While no recipe is going to be perfect for every coffee, this is an great starting point for experimenting with the tips and methods listed later on.

Drawing of an Ox, representing the Wisdom of Crowds
Like the average guess of the cow's weight, the average French Press recipe represents the collective wisdom of the Handground coffee community

Basic Tips

Beginning with the recipe listed above, apply these basic techniques to get the most out of your French Press. Remember to be precise and consistent when following the recipe. This will build an understanding of the fundamentals of coffee brewing so you can experiment with different techniques down the road. Which leads us to the first tip:

1. Use a scale to measure coffee and water

“Buy a scale! Consistency is key.”

-Alex Evans, M5 Espresso, Cincinnati, OH

"Don't eyeball it. Use a scale, and dial in a recipe to your own taste preference."

-Director of Coffee, Higher Grounds Trading Co., Traverse City, MI

2. Buy a good grinder

“Get a good grinder so you can lessen the chance of having too many ‘fines’ that will sneak past the filter and cause the coffee to be over extracted.”

-Jill Killen, Royal Drummer Cafe, Seattle, WA

“[Develop a] clear understanding of grind size and how it affects the extraction. Invest in a burr grinder that will allow you to achieve a consistent grind size.”

-Will Benitez, Katz Coffee, Houston, TX

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3. Use a medium-course to course grind

"My advice is to not grind the coffee too fine.  This is a common mistake when making a French Press.  The wrong grind size is going to create a significantly more "muddy" cup as fines are able to pass through and clog your screened filter easier."

-AJ Willett, Ferris Coffee, Grand Rapids, MI

4. Use quality water

“Know the keys to brewing coffee: water quality, and water-to-coffee ratio”

-Hubbard & Cravens Coffee and Tea, Indianapolis, IN

“We recommend the Soma carafes and pitchers. They’re small enough to fit in a fridge, friendly on the wallet, and kinder to the planet than other filtration options. Plus, they’ll get you in the right ballpark for brewing coffee, even if your tap water is pretty out of whack."

- Alex Evans, m5 Espresso Labs, Cincinnati, OH

5. Use enough coffee

“People often have a disproportionate amount of coffee and it results in poorly made coffee. Make sure to have enough coffee, so when you put the press down it stops at the coffee.”


6. Warm up the pot before brewing

"Make sure to warm up your French Press pot and your coffee cups with boiled water prior to making and serving the coffee."

-Six Coffee, Palm Springs, CA

7. Use hot water, but not boiling

“Water temperature is key to making a good cup, regardless of brew technique. Don't pour boiling water over the grounds. Use a thermometer to hit that 195-205F range.” 

-Suzanne Shriner, Lions Gate Kona Coffee, Hawaii

8. Pour a small amount of water over the grounds in the beginning to “bloom”

“With our process, we pre-wet (or bloom) the coffee with a small amount of water to jump start the brew.”

-Will Benitez, Katz Coffee, Houston, TX

“Let the coffee bloom, don't just fill up the press the whole way at the beginning. Let it bloom for at least 30 seconds.”

-Jono Moehlig, Atlanta, GA

“I use about 20% of the water for the bloom, then swirl and steep. After about 3 minutes, I add the rest of the water and press right away.”

-Greg Hill, Cafe Luna, New Orleans, LA

9. Don’t stir, just let the coffee sit

Don't stir before [time] is up! When you stir, the grinds fall out of suspension and the extraction slows down considerably. We did a bunch of tastings and refractometer readings on brews that we stirred at the beginning, in the middle, and at left alone until the end. We found that the unstirred brews that kept the grinds in suspension extracted much better and had more flavor. Pour all the water in (not half) and don't touch it! Leave it alone to do its thing.

-Grady Buhler, JJ Bean Coffee Roasters, Vancouver, Canada

10. Keep all coffee grounds below the filter when plunging

“Be careful not to get the coffee grind on the other side of the filter, achieve this by making sure it is all thoroughly washed before using and when pouring the coffee in make sure not to get it up the sides of the french press.”

-Jes Proffitt

11. Pour all coffee out of carafe after plunging

“Always pour the coffee out of the press pot immediately after pressing so the coffee does not continue to extract.” 

-Stephen T Robertson, Richmond, Virginia USA

12. Clean your French Press each time

“Invest in some coffee specific cleaning detergent and soak the metal filter and press weekly, if not after every use. I can't stress cleanliness enough and it seems to be overlooked in many brewing tutorials.”

-Cole Cuchna, Temple Coffee Roasters, Sacramento, CA

“Be gentle with the equipment and clean it properly!

-Kelsey S-D, Portland, OR

13. Dial in your Recipe

"Standardize your ratio, grind, and brew time. Brew once and taste. Too sour? Fine up a notch or stir for ten seconds at the beginning and end of the brew cycle. Too bitter? Coarsen up a notch or don't stir at all!"

-Michael Harwood, Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Washington, DC

Ceremony Coffee Roasters
Ceremony Coffee Roasters. Photo courtesy of DailyCoffeeNews.com

Advanced Techniques

Once you have a good understanding of the basic recipe and tips, experiment with a few of these advanced techniques. Don’t use them all at once though; try one technique at a time to measure their impact on the final cup.

14. Use a coarser grind with a longer brew time

“An extra coarse grind with a longer brew time can lead to really clean cups with a surprising crispness to the acidity.”

-Andreas Willhoff, The Wormhole Coffee, Chicago, IL

15. Use a finer grind and shorter brew time

“Not every french press should take 4:00. I tend to like my french presses much more when I use a slightly finer grind and shoot for a 2:00 brew time.”

-Alex Evans, M5 Espresso, Cincinnati, OH

16. Strengthen the brew ratio for full immersion brewing devices

"Due to the decreased energy in the passive immersion system, I tend to increase my strength via a stronger recipe and will even stir for a light roast. No matter the roast level, every coffee brewed via immersion does better updosed compared to its pour over ratio counterpart. I also incrementally strengthen my brew ratio as the roast ages (since it is losing flavor and becoming easier to extract)."

-Michael Harwood, Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Washington, DC

17. Sift out large and small coffee grounds before brewing

“I love to sift my grinds with a strainer (may be any strainer). This is because it will get rid of very coarse grinds. This may seem counterproductive for a French press since it requires coarse grinds-- but it’s not. It lowers the difference in range between fines and boulders. It helps [create] a more even extraction. Likewise, if you have access to a very fine strainer, it would be even more beneficial to strain out fines.”

-Lawrence Cheung, San Francisco CA

18. Stir the grounds immediately after pouring

I always stir the grounds into the water before setting the top on. This helps with overall extraction, and also makes for an easier plunge.

-Brittany, BlissfulBritt.com

19. Stir at different times throughout the brewing process

“Try to implement some stirs: vigorously in the beginning of the brew to help saturate, de-gas, and extract the good stuff quicker. Then add a second, gentler stir in the middle to help saturate those floating large particles. Then a very quick light stir before you plunge helps get those particle sizes redistributed. This will make for less fine particles passing through your filter into your cup.”

-Ian Picco, Topeca Coffee Roasters, Tulsa, OK

20. Skim the top before plunging

“Break the crust you see on top and skim any grounds that are floating on top about 10-20 seconds before you press. It helps keep the sediment down”

-Cody, Swoyersville, Pa

“Skim the grounds off the top of the brew before plunging. This replicates cupping and gets a lot of the pesky grounds out of the way before plunging (the ones that tend to sneak past the plunger and end up in your cup).”

-Jill Killen, Royal Drummer Cafe, Seattle, WA

21. Break the crust twice

“Break the crust twice. First within the first 30 second of a half filled pot. Second after the pot is filled and sits for another 30.”

-Jay Weatherly, High Five Coffee, Asheville, NC

22. Don’t plunge, let all grounds sink to bottom

“Try the James Hoffman method where he let's everything sink down to the bottom ala a cupping before pouring. He does not plunge at all, which I think is smart.”

-Anonymous (Not James Hoffman)

23. Use a specialized paper filter

“I've used some paper filters specifically made for French press to eliminate fine particles.” 

-David Sikes, AL USA

24. Make decaf coffee with your French Press

“As we all know, it is really hard to get a good decaf specialty coffee. The decaf process removes oils and flavors as well as the caffeine, leaving a blah cup behind. It's a little known trick that you can "decaf" your coffee using a french press. Pour just enough hot water to cover the grounds. Let sit briefly. Press the grounds and pour off the water. As caffeine is highly soluble in water, this first extraction should pull off most of it. Then add more water to the pot, and extract as usual. Voila! A ‘decaffeinated’ coffee.”

-Suzanne Shriner, Lions Gate Kona Coffee, Hawaii

25. Pour coffee through a paper filter after plunging

“Filter it! We've experimented with brewing a French Press in our normal way and then passing it through a paper filter to clean up the solubles that end up in the cup. Definitely had some killer results this way.” 

-Cole Cuchna, Temple Coffee Roasters, Sacramento, CA

“Strain the French Press through a Hario V60 cone. There's a lot to be said for the full-immersion method, but there's a lot to be said for the filtered method as well. An analogy I've heard is that the French Press is like a foggy window, and the filtered drip is like a clean window. I think that by fully immersing the coffee in the press, then filtering it out, you're allowing yourself an alternative experience that neither one can offer on their own. That is what our industry is all about.”

-Tyler Ray Duncan, Topeca Instruments Division, Tulsa, OK

26. Try the JetBoil French Press attachment

“When camping I love the JetBoil french press.”

-Peter Froehle, EVP Coffee, Madison, WI

Topeca Instruments Division
The SCAA Certified Lab at Topeca Coffee Roasters

Time to Experiment

Broom Wagon Coffee of Charleston, South Carolina captures the essence of the coffee brewing process with their tip for making French Press:

“Experiment with the different brewing parameters. Try adjusting one variable at a time and see what the results are.”

Many people in the community echoed this advice; do not be afraid to try out new recipes. It’s only coffee- if you make a bad cup, just make another! Each coffee is different, so experiment with adjusting the brewing variables (water-to-coffee ratio, temperature, brew time, grind size) to find the best recipe for each coffee.

The only thing more wonderful than coffee itself is the community of coffee lovers dedicated to the craft. Immerse yourself in the experience, learn from as many people as possible, and enjoy the journey from the first press to the last drop.

Get Your Own French Press

Thank you to these contributing baristas, coffee shops, and Team Handground members:

Karl Fisher, Williamsport, PA USA; 

Gabriel Restrepo, Colombia; 

Shawn Anderson, Tustin, CA USA; 

Rob Hoos, Director of Coffee at Nossa Familia Coffee, Portland, OR; 

Ryan Schmidt, General Manager Bird Cafe

Peter Schultz;

Fonte Coffee Roaster

David, Chicago; Ken H, CA; 

Paul Kurtz, Hemisphere Coffee Roasters

Vikash Patel, SF Bay Area, CA USA; 

Ben N., Austin, TX; 

Zack Burnett, Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Jacksonville, FL, USA; 

John Johnson, Cleveland, OH USA; 

Cafe Creme

Mitchell Smith, Stuart, VA; 

Kat Stauffer, Caravan Coffee, Newberg, OR; 

Roark Basham, Cafe Moka, Virginia Beach, VA; 

David Inden, Seattle, WA, USA; 

Rostov's Coffee & Tea

Ryan Frantzis, Syracuse NY; 

Ashley S. Chicago, IL; 

Dani Kahn, Higher Grounds (HG) Roastery and Cafe, Gilbert, AZ; 

Melissa, Fluid Espresso Bar & Barrio, Sacramento, CA; 

Ted Stachura, Equator Coffees & Teas, San Rafael, CA; 

Alex Bistritz, Panther Coffee, Miami, FL; 

Donovan Bailey, Brewed, Fort Worth, TX; 

Aaron Johnson, Rise Coffee STL

Cara Erickson, Java Cat Coffee, Madison WI; 

Andrea Mencarini, Rhode Island; 

Yvonne Andresen, Owner, The Blend, Washington, IL USA; 

Julie, Storm Mountain Coffee Roasters

Robert Bahr, Grass Valley, CA; 

Lily, Product Manager, Sweet Maria's Coffee, Oakland, CA; 

Josh Aldy, Hattiesburg, MS; 

CW in Oriental; 

Julian Alicea; 

Greg Moore, Washougal, WA; 

Micah Jasper, Anywhere, USA; 

Luke Rock, Saratoga Springs, NY USA; 

Nathan's Coffee Roasting, Ohio; 

Evo K, Darwin, NT, Australia; 

Jason Richter, Path Coffee Roasters

Julie T, Columbus, OH USA; 

Dan Barton, Florida; 

Jeremy Miller, Atlanta, GA; 

Justin Carpenter, Foolish Things Coffee Company, Tulsa, OK, USA; 

Carabello Coffee, Newport KY; 

Mitchell, Singapore; 

Aldous H., Lander Wyoming; 

Jon Dolin, Barefoot Coffee

Brent Patton, Camino Real Coffee

WB, Shaw's Coffee Ltd, St. Louis, MO; 

Lexington Coffee Roasters, Lexington, VA; 

Sean @ Cougar Grounds