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The Best Grind Size For French Press Revealed! 

The French Press is one of the most popular, simple and forgiving coffee brewing devices out there. 

However, so many people just can’t quite get the grind size right when using a humble French press, and this leads to disappointing results. 

The fact that a French press is a simple brewing method places more emphasis on the quality of the ingredients. 

Grind size plays a major role in how the coffee from your French Press coffee will taste, as well as its strength, the level of extraction and how quickly it brews. 

So, let’s dive into the best grind size for French Press so you get the best results every single time. 

The Best Grind Size for French Press

The best grind size for a French Press is a medium to coarse grind. A relatively coarse grind is needed to extract coffee oils and flavor compounds over the 5-10 minute brew time, without causing a bitter taste. This should be a similar consistency to sand, slightly finer than a cold brew grind, but not as fine as a pour over grind. 

Using the wrong grind size for your French Press can actually impact the taste and strength of your coffee quite a bit. Without getting too bogged down in the science, let’s take a brief look at what happens if you grind your coffee too coarsely or too finely for your French Press. 

Grind size should be driven by the method of brewing you choose to use. This is because variables like flow rate, contact time and extraction rate all play into how much actual coffee you’ll produce, and how strong it will be. 

The inner workings of grind size can be dealt with in another article, but effectively the more pressure and heat used in a coffee brewing method, the finer the grind size should be. 

This is why we use a particularly fine grind for espresso, but even within this there can be wild variations on flavor, extraction and flow rate based on grind size. 

Too Coarse Leads to Under Extraction

As far as the French Press is concerned, aiming for a medium to coarse grind is the best way to go for people new to this brewing method. 

It is definitely better to opt for a grind you think may be too coarse when starting out, than one that’s too fine. 

This will give you weaker coffee, but more consistent results. From there it is easy to dial the grind size down to find your desired strength.

However, if you grind your coffee too coarsely, you’ll end up with under extracted coffee. This means that the hot water has not come into contact with enough of the coffee’s surface area, and not enough of the flavor compounds and oils have been extracted from the coffee. 

This is quite hard to do with a French press as it is a pretty forgiving coffee brewing method, but nonetheless, if your coffee tastes weak and watery, your grind size is likely too coarse. 

This results in highly acidic, weak and sometimes sour coffee that is quite unpleasant to drink. 

Too Fine Leads to Over Extraction

On the other end of the spectrum, using a fine grind more suited to espresso in your French Press will lead to over extraction. This is the most common mistake French press brewers make, and it leads to pretty nasty tasting results. 

Over extraction is actually more common than you might think across many different coffee brewing methods, and causes the coffee oils to be extracted too quickly. 

This leads to bitter, burnt tasting coffee that can have a silty aftertaste and is also pretty nasty to drink. 

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!

Where Did the French Press Come From? 

Let’s take a closer look at the origins of the French press. The name suggests that the device originated in France, but given the rich history of Italian coffee culture, it may not surprise you to hear the original French press design was patented by an Italian!

According to Perfect Grind Daily’s article from May 2015 “French Press – The History & Brewing Guide” the French press patents were tossed between French and Italian designers for a century! 

The first rudimentary design was created by two Frenchmen, (Delforge and Mayer) in the mid 1800s. This device used a cheesecloth to strain out coffee grounds and produce the delicious brewed coffee we know today. However, in the 1920s, two Italians (Calimani and Montea) came up with a more advanced design and patented it. 

However, it was the 1950s version of the French press that really stuck. The Swiss designer Bondanini produced a French press that resembles what we all use today. This gained popularity in France and was called a ‘Chambord’, and was then marketed to wider markets as ‘La Cafetiere’. It was this popularity in France that gave the French Press its name, despite its design cues being developed by Italinas and Swiss! 

How Does a French Press Work? 

In simple terms, a French press operates using a circular carafe and a mesh plunger that separates the coffee grounds from your cup. 

To use a French press, simply add ground coffee to the bottom of the carafe, top it up with hot water and let the ground steep for a few minutes. 

Then, when the grounds have settled in the container, simply place the lid and plunger on top, push down slightly and pour the coffee into your cup. 

It really is that straightforward! 

If you want to take your French press game to the next level however, check out this comprehensive article I put together, detailing how to use a French press properly, step by step. 

Why Grind Size Matters

Grind size plays a more important role than you might think in how your coffee tastes. Every coffee brewing method requires a different grind size and in truth, there is no one size fits for each of these either. 

The perfect grind size for a particular coffee brewing method may differ from one person to another, depending on how they like their coffee, the equipment they have available and their level of experience. 

As a very rough rule of thumb, here is a list of coffee brewing methods with their corresponding grind sizes, from most fine to most coarse: 

  • Very Fine: Turkish Coffee Pot, Espresso
  • Fine: Espresso, Aeropress
  • Fine to Medium: Chemex
  • Medium: Pour Over, Drip Machine
  • Medium to Coarse: French Press
  • Coarse: French Press, Percolator
  • Very Coarse: Cold Brew. 

Other Variables to Consider When Using a French Press

Grind size is a very important factor when brewing coffee in a French Press, but here are a few other things to consider. 

Type of Coffee Used

The coffee used in your French press makes a huge difference to the way the end product will taste. Since the French press uses full immersion to extract coffee oils from the grounds, you can expect a pretty full bodied, punchy brew. 

Therefore, I would personally recommend using a medium to dark roast to complement the texture of French press coffee. Also, going for coffees with flavor notes of chocolate, caramel and nuts tend to work best from my experience. 

Opting for coffee origins like Sumatra, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica is a good starting point too. 

For more information about which coffees pair well with the French press, here are my top 15 coffee bean picks

I would avoid light roasted, highly acidic coffees that have flavor notes of wine or sour fruits, as the subtlety of flavor will likely be lost in the French press. 

French Press Preparation

Another important factor in ensuring you make great coffee in your humble French Press is in how you actually prepare the brewing device in the first place. 

A few top tips are to: 

  • Warm up your French press with hot water before using it.
  • Once you’ve added your ground coffee, add a splash of cold water before you pour over your boiling water, so you don’t burn the coffee. 
  • Break up the crust at the top of your French press’s carafe to begin with, then let it sit for 10 minutes undisturbed. 
  • Resist the urge to plunge your French press all the way down. This will disturb the bed of already extracted coffee at the bottom of the carafe and leave additional silt at the bottom of your cup. 

If you want to brew great French press coffee time after time, here are  13 other French press mistakes and how to avoid them

Cleaning Your French Press

Cleaning your French press right after brewing your coffee will ensure you have a fresh start to your next coffee making session. 

Some people think that leaving coffee oils on your French press will add more flavor to your next brew. But this isn’t a barbeque! 

Coffee oils and leftover grounds go rancid pretty quickly, so make sure to clean your French press with hot, soapy water as soon as you are done brewing, and then let it air dry. 

Here are 9 additional tips to help you maintain and clean your French press the right way. 

Summary

Overall, the best grind size for French press is a medium to coarse grind, that will ensure you get the maximum extraction out of your coffee, without over extracting and ending up with a bitter tasting cup. 

French press coffee tends to be bold, full bodied and works best with medium to dark roasted beans that have sumptuous  chocolate and nutty flavors. 

I hope this article has helped you nail down the perfect grind size for your French press! 

Related Questions 

Is Espresso Grind Too Small for a French Press?

Yes, using the finely ground coffee for espresso in a French Press is not a good idea. Not only will you end up with bitter, over extracted and sediment filled coffee, but you can also clog up your French Press’s filter basket and cause a coffee explosion! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Answer 1

Answer 2

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