Brewing the perfect cup of French press coffee is certainly a skill that we’re no stranger to. Even with a variety of discerning pallets, we’re sure that you’re aware of how important ratios are when it comes to dialing in your perfect cup. Since there are endless brewing devices using the ‘Golden Ratio‘ isn’t always the best starting point. When it comes to making French Press coffee or even cold brew variations, we’ll help you understand why ratios matter so much and the ideal water to coffee ratio for French press brewing.
French Press is indeed a journey into brewing better-tasting coffee. Back in the good old days when it used to feel similar to exploring uncharted territories in search of a new flavor, French Press wasn’t a popular choice among home brewers. Currently, it’s become a wildly-popular trend for those looking to make the perfect cup of coffee.
And it all starts with measuring precise ratios of coffee beans with water.
You also need to understand that the flavors of each coffee bean variant all produce something radically different from each other. These will be affected by the level of roasting, the grind size, and the amount of time spent on steeping (AKA contact time). The greatest influence on your final cup’s flavor is increasing or decreasing coffee to water ratio. This is where we’ll help you to understand different extraction styles (e.g. immersion brewing or cold brewed coffee) as well as their respective steeping times. It can sound like too much work to get the results just right- but actually, it’s no different than following a recipe inside any average kitchen cookbook and then tweaking it each time until you make the dish your own- according to the textures and flavors you like most.
French Press Ratios
When it comes to brewing ratios, the most important factor to consider is how much water to ground coffee to brew together. For the desired flavor and texture that you’re looking for, it all hinges on measuring the correct amounts to bring out select levels of taste intensity. For example, if you want more strength, cut back on the water that’s used.
If you prefer a middle-of-the-road balance, use fewer grounds with an average amount of water. To truly appreciate this complex process that makes French Press coffee so different, you need to understand the immersion process. It’s not just coffee you’re making here, it’s coffee that’s brewed the same way that tea is brewed. There is the real science behind this phenomenon and changing the ratios involved will ultimately alter the aroma, sweetness, and overall bite.
All of these changes with limiting or adding to a brewing ratio will influence the taste profile for light, medium, and dark roasts alike. You might even go so far as to start mixing your roasted beans together in specific ratios to enhance flavors that you like that are easier to taste with lighter and darker roasts. Yet, for all these ratios that will be discussed further in detail, most folks do not know that French Roast coffee and cold brew coffee share something in common.
French Press coffee is using an immersion process that uses hot water to extract flavors quickly from coffee grounds. Cold brew coffee uses the immersion process with cold water and needs to steep (like tea) for at least 24 hours. The taste for either method can be increased or decreased by altering the ratio of coffee grounds to water. The final taste result is very different from typical drip brew coffee or espresso-like coffee because of the flavor notes that become so obvious.
The Gold Standard
Sure, you’ve heard it before. Scientists and mathematic experts already know about “The Golden Ratio”, which is also known as the Divine Proportion. It’s a mathematical ratio that’s been widely used in works of art and architecture ever since mankind’s earliest understanding of wisdom. No matter how you slice it, this ratio is generally defined as two sets of numbers that are added and then divided but are equal to the larger of these numbers.
It’s written mathematically as a/b= (a+b)/a. The Golden Ratio is used in many other fields including music, anthropology, biology, and of course coffee brewing.
When it comes to brewing French Press coffee, this same ratio is applied to create an optimal cup of coffee -each time. While the standard golden ratio has a value that is worth 1.61803398875 (and so on), the French Press brewing ratio is 1:15 in simplified ratio terms. This means that for each gram of coffee grounds added, an additional 15 grams of water is used. Hence the ‘1 to 15’ part ratio (1:15) is the Golden Ratio for essential coffee brewing.
This simple formula ensures that you’ll have a perfect balance between flavor and strength. Then again, it also has a lot to do with the level of roasting that can influence the taste that determines if this is not too light or too strong. Additionally, using this ratio allows you to achieve consistent flavor profiles each and every time. That is of course if you don’t over-extract during the steeping process.
Over-extraction in the French Press brewing method will lead to unpleasant bitter tastes, whereas under-extracted grounds will taste much weaker by comparison. This is why it’s important to use the correct ratios for French Press brewing, but not entirely just because of the 1:15 ratio itself. You cannot produce a great-tasting cup of coffee without exploring the subtle differences in intentional ratio variations.
How Different Ratios, Grind Size, and Contact Time Impact Flavor and Texture
We’ve covered the coffee brewing ratio so far, yet there is to understand the science behind how different ratios affect flavor and texture. To be honest, everyone has their own preference of what they like about coffee flavor, but it’s essential to maintain the quality of your coffee beans when grinding and pressing. There are basic guidelines that suggest the best grind size for French Press is medium-coarse.
This reasoning is related to the mesh filters that many French Press coffee maker brands all have in common. These mesh filters can filter out the larger coffee grinds easier than finer grinds such as espresso-level coffee grounds. However, the grind size in addition to brewing ratios will have just as much influence on overall flavor and texture. It’s safe to say that a medium course grind will require 4-5 minutes to release the flavors within the grinds.
Finer grounds take less time 3-4 minutes (on average) and make extraction and steeping time easier to manage. With finer grounds, you also risk over-extraction which can lead to bitter-tasting results. There are certain cases where coarsely ground coffee can be steeped for as long as 6-8 minutes when the water temperature is not over 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Then again, there are flavor and aroma issues directly related to French Press brewing and water temperature.
If you use less coffee than the 1:15 ratio recommended with water that’s not hot enough, you won’t get the aroma that results right after the blooming is supposed to occur. This slight change in water temperature can also cause coffee that is too bright and acidic tasting. Experts all have different opinions on the exact water temperature aside from that it needs to range from 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is another reason why getting a balance of water temperature versus grind size is essential for great flavor. Timing is further going to play a big part in the brewing and steeping process since this relates more to the grind size and coffee extraction time limits. Course ground coffee works better with cooler (195°F) while finer ground coffee excels with slightly hotter water (200-202°F), as a rule of thumb.
Now- if we’re talking about cold brew, you want to use twice as much water typically used for French Press brewing. The reasoning is (in relation), to the amount of coffee given the ratio will become 1:8 rather than 1:15. Serious cold brew fans who like stronger coffee flavor will take this one step further to make it 1:4 (water to coffee) ratio. Since cold brew coffee is such a slower extraction process, it gradually allows extra flavorful notes in coffee.
No matter which grinds size you choose for cold brew, there is no over-extraction since the water is cold and isn’t releasing bitter flavors as a result.
Ratio Types – Coffee Grounds to Water
|1:15 or 1:12 to 1:15||1:7 to 1:10||1:8 or 1:9 to 1:12||1:4 to 1:6|
French Press Brewing further offers a full range of water-to-coffee ground ratios that are adjusted to suit intensity, flavor, and strength. For light coffee that features mild flavors, you could use a ratio of 1:12-1:15 (one part coffee grounds to 12-15 parts water). This will produce a subtle flavor with minimal bitterness and fruity notes. For medium-strong brews, try a ratio of 1:10-1:12 ratio (one part coffee grounds to 10-12 parts water).
This will yield more intense flavors that still maintain sweeter notes and aromas. Finally, for an espresso-like strong brew, opt for a ratio of 1:7-1:10 (one part coffee grounds to 7-10 parts water). This gives you the boldest flavor with higher acidity and a fuller body. Each ratio change will further produce different results in terms of taste and texture based on grind size and steeping times. You’ll need to experiment when finding the right one that’s best suited to you.
Ratios for Making Cold Brew Coffee w/ a French Press
As a home-based coffee connoisseur, you already know the morning ritual of making coffee is not just throwing coffee into a standard dripper coffee pot. But if you looking to make cold brew using a French Press coffee maker, there’s not much to it. For this ratio, you’ll need to stick with a standard 1:8 that allows one gram of coffee for 8 grams of water. Adjust this ratio as you need. Cold brew is more concentrated than your standard French press brew to account for ice, milk, and/or creamer which is often added to a cold brew coffee.
Depending on the roast type, you’ll play with this ratio just like you are making hot French Press coffee. In this case, you need to adjust for 1:9 to 1:12 for lighter roasted beans and 1:4 to 1:6 for all dark roasts. After adding your coffee grounds, simply add cold water and allow this mixture to sit for the next 18 to 24 hours to get the best results.
Timing is everything for French Press coffee but some tips are worth your time when it comes to brewing. All French Press carafes are made from glass or something similar. Pre-warm your glass carafe with hot water to keep the water temperature from suddenly dropping. If you pour hot water into a room-temperature carafe, the temperature difference will change your blooming and brewing time greatly.
When it comes to steeping French Press coffee, the start of this process begins after your coffee grounds stop blooming and you add the remainder of the water into the carafe. This is when you start your trusty stopwatch to allow the coffee and water mixture to steep and extract flavors. If you have slightly cooler water you can steep longer, while hotter water requires less time. Use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature for accurate readings.
Forest Gump said it all when he uttered “Life is like a box of chocolates”, except that most people don’t taste all the different levels of coffee bean roasts. Those who do will find they are interested in the flavors that each roast is offering. This is especially important when mentioning where your coffee beans come from and if they are mixed or not. Certain blends using Arabica and Robusta beans add character and flavor, but not when it comes to French Press.
You might have a coffee blend that is best suited for espresso or drip coffee machines and isn’t so great for French Press brewing. So, how do you know which coffee bean is best for you? It’s a quest that will take patience and more than a few visits to a whole-bean coffee dealer. Try purchasing small handfuls as samples that you can brew individual cups from rather than buying large bags of beans.
In the end, you can decide which flavor appeals to you the best and start mixing various roasts and select (country of origin) beans together to create vibrant flavor combinations. In this case, coffee beans aren’t like a box of chocolates, they’re more like Jelly Belly jelly beans… And everyone knows these can be mixed the same way to create flavor profiles that suit your taste with endless combinations.