14 Common Mistakes to Avoid Before Using French Press

Yesterday morning, I was in such a rush. However, I had to make a cup of coffee for Jack.

So, I took a short-cut with our French press coffee maker. 

After a while, I noticed the coffee tasted a little off!

Actually, I didn’t warm the water up to the temperature I normally do. 
And that is a common French Press mistake.

Later, that small thing made me think of how the entire process of French press coffee affects the taste.

So, at first allow me to show you some common tips and tricks about French press.
(These will also help even if you make cold brew coffee in french press.)

French Press Mistakes with 
The Coffee Beans

Time and ease is, a lot of times, put above quality and happiness. 

With coffee, a lot of people buy what is convenient for them instead of what they want the most.

People often make simple mistakes when choosing coffee beans that they don’t even think of.

Several things, like pre-ground beans, weird labels, and buying in bulk, can lower the quality of your cup of Joe.

As long as you take a close look at the beans your buying, you should be able to pick out a high-quality choice.

Are You Buying Quality Coffee?

The process of making coffee may affect the flavor, but the coffee beans are where that flavor comes from. 

Without that good source of taste, the way you make the coffee won’t make it magically taste great.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to look for, so I did a little research for myself and you guys!

Coffee Containers

I’m not gonna lie, when I think of buying quality coffee, the container it comes in isn’t one of the first things I use to make my choice.

Turns out, it can really affect the taste of your coffee!

Things like oxygen and sunlight have a bad effect on the taste and shelf-life of coffee beans.

Avoiding clear, open containers and choosing solid, air-tight bags can help keep the coffee tasting delicious.

Arabica vs. Robusta Beans

It’s important to know what you like when shopping for coffee beans, as there’s more than one type. 

The two biggest types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta beans.

Arabica beans are known to have very inviting notes, and to be a lot sweeter than the other.

This would be a good option if you’re looking for a nice, soothing cup of coffee.

Robusta beans, however, are more bitter and have a lot more caffeine.

This would be a better option if you’re willing to sacrifice taste for that extra morning buzz!

Bean Origin

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always know where the coffee I buy comes from. 

The environment where coffee is grown helps create the flavors that specific coffee has.

It would be very difficult to remember all of the best coffee origins.

So, what I do, is look for roasters who put the origin on the bag, because that means they are probably proud of it!

Where Should I Buy Coffee?

Depending on what you’re looking for, there are multiple options for places to buy coffee.

At the supermarket, you’ll find mostly pre-ground coffee which is good for our busy-bees.

If you’re like me and want whole-bean Arabica coffee, I would recommend going to your local coffee shop.

Maybe you’re still learning what you like, and that’s okay!

When I wasn’t sure what I wanted, I browsed and bought online so I could really see all of my options.

Is Your Coffee Fresh Enough?

To determine how to keep your coffee fresh, you have to look at what you’re purchasing.

Depending on whether you buy your coffee green, as roasted beans, or pre-ground, you have a different time-frame to keep your coffee fresh.

If you buy green coffee, you can freshly store it for several weeks before roasting.

If you don’t, a good rule-of-thumb is to use the coffee between 2 and 4 weeks after roasting.

This information is all good until you find out your coffee is stale, right?

Well, I have some ways to help with that.

What If Your Coffee Beans Are Too Old?

Luckily, there are few things you can try to salvage that old coffee.

  • Make sure it is stored correctly to avoid further worsening.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract to the grounds per cup of coffee (6 oz).
  • Add ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon to the grounds per cup.
  • Add ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg to the grounds per cup.
  • Add ⅛ teaspoon table salt to the grounds for 6 oz of coffee (less bitter).
  • Cold brew your coffee.
  • Grind the beans to be coarse.
  • Use a lower water temperature (175°F).
  • Use a higher coffee-to-water ratio to increase the flavor.  

Are You Buying Whole Coffee Beans?

The coffee you buy should depend on your lifestyle. 

My family’s lifestyle fits a coffee that has a taste worth spending the extra time to prepare the cup.

This is why we tend to buy whole-bean coffee.

Some families, however, are very busy.

This means that they don’t have the time to spend a chunk of it making coffee.

Pre-ground coffee would fit their lifestyle much more in this case.

Are Your Grinding The Beans Properly?

There are a few things to make sure of while grinding coffee beans if you want to get the most flavor out of them. 

There are two major mistakes made when grinding.

Grind what you need, when you need it.

Grind it to the right size, based on what you’re making.

  • Espresso/cone-shaped drip machine - fine grind
  • Flat drip machine - medium grind
  • French press/percolators - coarse grind

It is also a good idea to look at the grinder you’re using.

The blades on a Burr grinder create a consistent grind.

Blade grinders, however, can be very inconsistent.

Are You Using Right Quantity Of Coffee?

The amount of coffee you use should be loosely based on how strong you like your coffee.

The general range for a cup of coffee is 1-2 tablespoons of grounds.

If you prefer a lighter coffee, you would want to lean toward the lower end of the scale.

Though, if you’re like me and enjoy a nice strong coffee, you may want to use closer to 2 tablespoons.

How Much Coffee Grounds For French Press?

French press is a very bold drink, but that doesn’t mean you use a lot more coffee

Just as you would for a strong cup, you use around 2 tablespoons to make a cup with the French press.

The amount of grounds in combination with the brewing method creates a strong, bold coffee experience.

Are You Using Right Size Grounds
(For French Press)?

Grind size is much like the bears’ beds that Goldilocks tried out. 

It can’t be too small or too large, it needs to be just right.

If you grind the beans too finely, the grounds can make their way through the filter.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very appetizing to me.

Fine and medium grounds can also make it difficult to actually press the coffee, so coarse is way to go.

Grounds that are too coarse, however, can cause the coffee to be pressed too quickly.

This doesn’t give enough time for brewing.

French Press Mistakes with Water

It’s obvious that many different factors of the coffee beans you use affect the cup of coffee you’re gonna get. 

What a lot of people overlook, is the effect that the water you use has on your coffee.

Things like the temperature as well as amount of water, and even what’s in the water, can change how your coffee tastes.

Luckily, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to regulate the water you use than the coffee beans.

Is The Water In Proper Temperature?

The range for the water temperature to brew is around 195°F-205°F. 

The closer to 205°F, the more extraction that is going to occur.

Hitting the high end of the range is a slippery slope.

If you get it too hot, it can burn the coffee and ruin the taste.

Boiling water should never be used, as the coffee will be burnt.

Are You Using Bad Water?

A common myth in the coffee community is that the less foreign substances in the water you use, the purer the coffee will taste. 

This is far from correct.

Using soft or distilled water gives the coffee little-to-no minerals or organic substances to react with, which helps enhance the flavor.

Hard water that is filled with minerals, however, can make the coffee taste bitter.

If you’re looking for a cup of coffee that has a nice flavor but isn’t too bitter, try using regular bottled spring water, and avoid hard or soft water.

Are You Putting The Right Amount
Of Water?

The amount of water you use can determine the strength of a cup of coffee.

A good rule I have always followed is to use the amount of water that you plan to drink coffee-wise.

You will end up with about the same amount of coffee as you used water.

I then decide how many coffee grounds I’m going to use, based on how much water I used.

This is an easy way to control the flavor and amount of your brewed coffee.

French Press Mistakes 
while Brewing

Two major factors affect the outcome of your coffee while brewing: time and temperature.

These two go hand-in-hand.

The higher the temperature of water you’re using, the less time it takes for extraction to occur.

This means you have to base the two off each other.

Leaving coffee to brew in very hot water for too long causes the acids in the coffee to be more noticeable.

Not brewing coffee at a cooler temperature for long enough can make coffee that tastes like dirty water.

That is why I’m helping you to learn how to get that perfect time-to-temperature ratio.

Are You Following
Proper Brewing Methods?

Typically people prefer either light, normal, or strong coffee. 

Let me break down how exactly to brew each of these types.

For a light cup of coffee, use 1 tablespoon of grounds and brew them in 195°F water for 30 seconds.

If you want a normal cup, use 1.5 tablespoons of grounds brewed at 200°F for 25 seconds.

Some people prefers strong cup. For that, brew your grounds at 205°F for 20-25 seconds. Then take 2 tablespoons.

Are You Using Over-brewed Coffee?

Timing can be very crucial when you’re brewing your morning coffee.

In general, different methods of brewing need a certain time-frame for the grounds to be in contact with the water.

I made a list that breaks down the contact time for different methods.

  • Drip-brewing coffee: 5 minutes.
  • French press brewing: 2-4 minutes.
  • Espresso brewing: 20-30 seconds.
  • Cold brewing: 12 hours and/or overnight.

Straying from these time-frames can cause an undesirable taste from your coffee.

Other Common Mistakes with
French Press Coffee

With all of the things that can affect your coffee, it’s easy to forget about simple stuff that can be just as bad. 

Dirty equipment can lead to bean oils turning bad inside of the machine.

This causes a bitter, acidic flavor to contaminate the coffee you’re brewing at the time.

One of the biggest mistakes people make doesn’t even have to do with making the coffee.

Often times, people try to load down their cup with extra sweetness like creamer and sugar.

This can cause the coffee flavor to be masked and doesn’t deliver as much caffeine, either.

Can You Leave Some Coffee
In Your French Press (After Pressing)?

A lot of people like to make more coffee than they’re going to drink right away.

Then, they leave it in the French press until they want to drink it.

What they may not know, is the entire time that coffee is sitting in there, it’s still brewing.

So while you’re happily sipping on that first cup, the second is being over-extracted.

To avoid that second cup ruining the taste of your first, pour all of the coffee out as soon as it is finished.

Can You Leave
Your French Press Dirty (After Use)?

Just like coffee machines, a dirty French press can make your coffee taste acidic.

It is very important to remember to clean your press so your coffee tastes fresh.

Wiping the rancid oils and old grounds out of the press regularly is worth it if you want a consistent coffee.

Over to you

What you and I have learned from this, is it’s pretty easy to mess up your coffee! 

The good news is once you know your way around the process, you can have a very satisfying beginning to every day.

I know Jack has noticed the difference in our morning coffee since I’ve learned all of this.

It’s what turned our family into coffee lovers!

Sarah Price

Creator & editor here at House Of Arabica. I'm a proud mother of one baby girl. Passionate about coffees and their variations. Love to review coffee accessories! Please feel free to put your comment below.

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