Should You Use a Paper Filter in a French Press?
French press coffee is known for its full bodied texture, bold taste and accessibility. So, why have coffee enthusiasts started using paper filters in their French press?
The idea of adding an extra layer of fine filtration to a French press should deliver a cleaner, smoother mouthfeel, and more clarity of flavour.
But, is adding a paper filter to your French press really necessary? Well, let’s find out.
What is a French Press?
A french press is a coffee brewing device that uses a mesh strainer and plunger to separate ground coffee from your cup.
Coarsely ground coffee beans and boiling water are added to the glass container, and the mesh plunger slides down into the glass, acting as a strainer so no ground coffee ends up in the serving cup.
A french press is a very simple device to operate, thanks to its lack of parts! All you need is ground coffee, boiled water and the french press itself. No filter papers or fancy gooseneck kettles required!
French press coffee is delicious and easy to make in larger batches.
What Are the Benefits of Paper Coffee Filters?
The humble French press uses immersion brewing to extract coffee oils from coarsely ground beans, and this is often characterised by a full bodied viscous brew.
Like it or not, this is a well known characteristic of French press coffee, and deciding whether to alter that comes down to your personal taste and texture preferences.
The addition of a paper filter to your French press can definitely add the following benefits to your cup of coffee:
- A cleaner, smoother taste
- Less grit or sediment ending up in your cup
- Lower chance of your French press filter screen becoming clogged
- More versatility when using lighter roasts
- Greater ability to identify delicate tasting notes.
- Potentially less bitterness in the brew.
Filtered French press coffee will also be more similar in taste and texture to pour over coffee. This will also allow you to grind a bit finer than usual, as the paper filter will catch more of those fines that would otherwise likely end up in your cup.
Should You Use a Paper Filter in a French Press?
A word of warning when adjusting the grind size of your coffee before adding it to your French press. Whilst it is possible to grind finer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Grind size has a disproportionately large impact on cofee tastes, even when all other variables remain the same.
Grinding your coffee beans to a medium size as opposed to a more traditional coarse size will have you run the risk of over extraction, added bitterness, astringency and a ‘burnt’ taste.
So, you can definitely experiment with using paper filters in your French press, but I would hesitate before changing your grind size to compensate. brew. Since the mesh filter of a French press plunger is not as fine as a paper filter you might use on a V60, Chemex or Aeropress, it is quite common to end up with more sediment in your cup. However, using a paper filter designed for your French press offers the possibility of a cleaner taste, allowing you to more clearly identify the coffee’s distinct flavour notes.
Other benefits of using a paper filter in your French press include:
- Less silt/sludge in the bottom of your cup
- A crisper, brighter taste
- The ability to grind finer and increase extraction.
If you are going to use a paper filter in your French press, I would recommend buying a dedicated circular filter that is designed for the job. There are a wide range of options on Amazon here, so have a look at your French press to determine which size is best for you.
If you can’t find a size that fits your French press specifically, then you can always make your own filter.
Simply grab any V60 or Chemex filter you have to hand (Chemex will tend to work better as it is already a circular shape), and cut it down to size to fit your French press.
Then, fold it in half and cut a small semi-circle in the middle so you can slide it onto your French press’s plunger.
Next, dismantle your plunger and place your new paper filter on the bottom of the rod, before screwing in the spiral plate, cross plate and mesh filter screen.
Finally, use your French press as normal and enjoy a cleaner, brighter tasting brew!
If you want to take your French press game to new heights, check out these articles:
- The Perfect French Press Brew Time Revealed
- The Best Grind Size For French Press Revealed!
- 9 Tips Maintain and Clean a French Press
- How to Use a French Press Properly (Step By Step Guide)
- The Good and Bad of James Hoffmann’s French Press Technique…
Overall, French press coffee gets its popularity from being distinctly strong, full bodied and accessible.
Adding a paper filter to your French press can take it to new heights, thanks to the added clarity, smoothness and lack of sediment in the cup.
Whilst paper filters might not be to everyone’s taste, it is definitely worth giving them a try next time you break out the French press. I would always encourage experimenting with traditional coffee brewing techniques to see what works best for you!
Is it Healthier to Drink Filtered Coffee?
Some studies have shown that drinking high quantities of unfiltered coffee can lead to health complications later in life. However, this should be verified by medical professionals.
Is Espresso or Filter Coffee Better for French Press?
‘Espresso’ coffee beans are generally roasted darker and offer a more full bodied, bitter taste than those designed for filter brewing. Espresso beans will give you a more traditional French press flavour, whereas using filter coffee beans with more delicate notes will likely offer a more floral or fruity experience.
If you are using filter coffee beans in your French press, I would recommend using a paper filter and not plunging all the way down, to retain more of those delicate flavours.
Does Coffee Taste Better With or Without a Paper Filter?
This is a matter of personal preference. Filtered coffee tends to taste cleaner, have better flavour clarity and offer a ‘thinner’ mouthfeel. On the other hand, unfiltered coffee like French press, espresso, Turkish or cowboy coffee, are much more full bodied, viscous and tend to be more bitter.