How Long Do You Let a French Press Steep?

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French press coffee has a milder, less bitter flavor than typical drip brewed coffee. Depending on the size of your French press, you can easily make between one and four cups of coffee at a time. The ability to control portion size makes a French press ideal for afternoon or evening coffee, when you may not want to brew an entire pot of coffee just to enjoy one cup.

Using a French Press

A French press pot consists of a glass carafe and a plunger with a mesh strainer at one end. Place the ground coffee beans in the carafe, top with nearly boiling water, and cover loosely with the plunger to steep. When the coffee is ready, press the plunger through the water slowly and gently to filter out the coffee grounds. Pour the coffee into warmed cups and enjoy.

Type of Grind

While you could make French press coffee with pre-ground coffee, it is not recommended. Pre-ground coffee is intended for drip coffee makers, and is not as fresh as whole bean coffee. If possible, buy whole bean coffee and grind it just before you make your coffee. When you grind the beans, leave them fairly coarse, about the texture of rough sand. A finer grind will get through the mesh strainer and leave you with a gritty feeling cup of coffee. A coarser grind will not release enough of the coffee's essential oils to flavor the water.

Water Temperature

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the perfect cup of French press coffee, you want water that is just below the boil. 195 to 200 F is ideal. This temperature is hot enough to extract the maximum flavor from the coffee beans, without cooking them.

Steep Time

To determine the perfect steep time for your French press coffee, you should take into consideration the level of coarseness of the coffee grind, the water temperature and personal taste. Coffee that has been ground more finely has more surface area for the water to contact, and will brew faster than coffee that is ground to a coarser level. Hotter water will extract flavor faster than cooler water. Finally, the longer you let your French press steep, the stronger your coffee will be, both in terms of flavor and caffeine content. The ideal cup of French press coffee generally steeps for between three and five minutes.