5 Common Beginner French Press Coffee Questions Answered

Written by: Garrett Oden

beginner french press

I know what it’s like to look at a french press coffee maker with confusion. As the first coffee brewer I ever bought, I was honestly intimidated by it. It seemed complicated and scary - though it wasn’t really.

But I was afraid to ask the local baristas questions. They weren’t exactly the friendliest folks, especially towards total beginners like me.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

So my goal is to answer your french press questions, no matter how silly or trivial, because I want you to be able to brew incredible coffee every single day.

Let’s start with some of the most common questions beginners ask about french press brewing.

Is It Worth It? Seems Like A Lot Of Work…

I’ll be honest with you: brewing coffee with a french press is not as easy as scooping grounds into a pot and letting it do all the work for you.

But it does make coffee that’s far more delicious and rewarding.

Read: How Manual Coffee Brewing Can Change Your Life

The french press is a manual brewing method, which means you’re not letting an electronic device do everything for you. You get to measure your ingredients, grind the coffee, pour in the water, time the brew yourself, and press the plunger.

Is it more hands-on than using a regular coffee pot? Yes.

Is it difficult, time-consuming, or hard to learn? Absolutely not!

Grinding coffee and boiling water takes about 2 minutes. Brewing takes roughly 4. It’s 6 minutes total of a relaxing, aromatic process. Not bad at all!

But here’s what you get:

  • Richly aromatic coffee. The french press metal filter lets through the coffee’s natural oils to your mug. These oils are vibrantly aromatic and add lots of flavor to your brew.
  • A Full-bodied brew. The metal filter also lets some microscopic coffee grounds into your mug. These boost the flavor and give your coffee a “fuller” feeling that leaves you satisfied.
  • The satisfaction of a cup well brewed. Okay, sounds cheesy - I know. But a super delicious mug isn’t just tasty. It’s personally rewarding to know that you made something with care that ended up being awesome in every way.

Yes, I’d say it’s worth it.

Read: Why You Should Ditch Your Drip Coffee Pot For A French Press

What Equipment Do I Need To Make French Press Coffee?

French press coffee is very simple to make and really only requires one other specific piece of coffee gear: a burr coffee grinder. There are two main reasons why having your own grinder is essential to brewing stellar coffee with your french press.

1. It enables you to brew with uber-fresh beans

Whole coffee beans are only at peak freshness for 2-3 weeks after being roasted. Once ground, the coffee only has 20-30 minutes.

That’s why it’s always best to grind your coffee just before you brew it.

This preserves the most exotic and nuanced flavors that make your daily mug an incredible experience.

best french press

2. You want to use coarse grounds

Pre-ground coffee is ground to a size that works well with drip coffee makers, but it’s not so great for french presses (and, of course, it’s almost always old and stale).

The small grounds get stuck in the fine mesh filter - and sometimes they just slip right through. This creates a lot of sludge in your cup and can make it difficult to press down the plunger.

A coarse grind size keeps grounds from clogging or passing right through your filter, while still delivering a stellar cup.

Should There Be Coffee Grounds In My Mug Of Coffee?

Short answer: don’t worry about it.

Realistically: you can’t avoid it 100%. In a perfect world, all of your coffee grounds would be the exact same size and just large enough to not go through your french press filter.

However, when coffee beans are ground, they inevitably shatter into extra-small pieces (sometimes microscopic) that are tiny enough to get through the filter. We call these “fines”. It even happens with the world’s most advanced coffee grinders.

Read: 5 Things Every French Press Coffee Lover Should Know

But here’s the thing…

A small amount of coffee grounds in your mug is perfectly fine and normal.

Even a large amount won’t hurt you. You can literally eat coffee beans by the handful and be fine (though your teeth may not enjoy the experience).

The issue isn’t one of safety, but one of mouthfeel. If you don’t like the thin layer of sludge at the bottom of your mug, you don’t have to drink it. Easy as that!

Should I Pour All Of The Coffee Out Of The French Press?

Absolutely and always.

Even when you press down the plunger, your coffee beans are still interacting with the water. And that means they’re still brewing, even if very slowly.

That’s bad.

Read: Why You Need To Be Drinking Coffee Black (And How To Start)

Brewing a-m-a-z-i-n-g coffee is all about controlling the variables to achieve a balanced extraction. When you let your coffee keep brewing after plunging, you risk overshooting that sweet spot of flavor bliss.

And that’s why you should always pour out all the coffee once the brewing is complete and the plunger is pressed down.

What Size French Press Should I Buy?

One thing that seems to confuse everyone (myself included) is why french press makers insist on using “cups” instead of ounces to tell you how much coffee they make.

For example, you’d think that a “3 cup french press” would make enough coffee to fill three cups. But you’d be wrong.

Those “cups” are usually based on smaller European sized cups that are around 4 ounces (100ml), but not based on our somewhat larger American mugs.

Read: 3 Reasons Buying Cheap Coffee Is Bad For The World

It’s confusing, so let me clear some of the fog for you.

  • 3 Cups = 12 Ounces = 354 Milliliters
  • 8 Cups = 34 Ounces = 1005 Milliliters
  • 12 Cups = 51 Ounces = 1508 Milliliters

Generally, a normal American mug is eight to ten ounces (235 to 295 ml). So take the number of mugs you need to make each day and multiply it by eight to ten. That’ll give you the total number of ounces.

french press coffee

For example, if you need to make three cups per day, you’re looking at about 24 to 30 ounces of coffee. An “8 cup” press will be more than enough to get you coffee.

A 12 cup press will probably be way more press than you really need, but a 3 cup press will limit you with the smaller capacity. That’s why the 8 cup press is the standard size that most people buy.

Read: How To: The Golden Ratios in Coffee Brewing


Have any other beginner french press questions? We’d love to hear them so that we can help you transform your daily brew into a terrific experience. Shoot us an email!

Of course, a french press is only as good as the coffee you put in it. If you want blow-your-mind coffee, you have to buy freshly roasted, specialty-grade coffee beans.

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