What’s the Best French Press Grind Size?

The french press is one of the most diverse coffee devices in my brewing arsenal. Obviously, I use it to brew a great, full-bodied cup of coffee, but I also use it to froth hot milk to make lattes.
French Press Grind Size

Everyone will tell you to use a coarse grind setting to get the most out of this fantastic yet easy-to-use device. That is the simple answer, but I’m here to help explain why a coarse grind has been tried and true for so long. Bonus, I’ll explain some variations to the traditional french press grind size.

How Does a French Press Work?

The press pot uses immersion brewing, which is a fancy way of saying the coffee grounds float around in the water while it brews. The coffee is extracted to create a more full-bodied taste compared to devices that use paper filters. Without the thick paper to filter out oils, it’s also considered a less healthy coffee brewing method.

Let’s quickly break down the parts used to create french press coffee. The beaker is the main section where you add in your fresh coffee grounds and filtered water. Sitting on top is the lid which is attached to the plunger and metal filter. Higher quality models may have multiple microfilters to help keep the sludge out of your mug. The bottom usually has feet or a covering to insulate and separate the beaker from the countertop. Finally, a good handle not only assists with pouring but also ensures you won’t burn yourself.

French Press Design Overview

The whole system is easy to assemble and disassemble. This simple construction makes it easy to clean and maintain. The best part about the push pot is that there is no need for paper filters. Metal filters may become damaged over time, but they are easy to replace. Many french presses will come with spare filters. If you don’t have a spare filter on hand, you can still brew coffee. Just take extra care when pouring to avoid coffee grounds making their way into your cup of coffee.

How Does Coffee Grind Size Effect Extraction?

How much should you care about grind size? Well, a lot, actually. Grind size and brew time are the two main factors that determine whether you create an aromatic sensation or an environmental hazard.

Grinding too fine will cause over-extraction and result in a bitter brew. If the grind is too coarse, then the brew will be under-extracted and create a sour flavor in your coffee.

Here are a few tips to help you adjust your brewing:

Sour Coffee?

  • Increase Brew Time
  • Decrease Water Temp
  • Finer Grind

Bitter Coffee?

  • Decrease Brew Time
  • Hotter Water Temp
  • Coarser Grind

Blade vs Burr Coffee Grinder

 “A man is only as good as his tools.” – Emmert Wolf

Imagine you’re a samurai (cool, I know, but stay with me), and you are instructed to dice a watermelon. Unfortunately, both your arms are in casts, and you have to spin in a circle to slice the fruit into chunks for the party. The pieces are going to all be different sizes, some tiny and others large. That’s basically how a blade grinder works.

Blade grinders work by spinning sharp blades very fast. Along with creating inconsistent ground size, it also produces heat and friction. The heat created affects the taste by overcooking the beans.

Burr grinders work by crushing coffee beans between two rings with serrations. The rings face each other on the serrated side and turn in opposite directions to uniformly grind coffee beans. As the beans are pulverized to the correct size, they will fall into a catch basket. The space between the rings acts as a sieve and will not let large sections fall through until they are the proper size. Also, since there is a static separation area, a burr grinder will not crush the chunks any smaller than necessary. Burr grinders create a consistent grind size for your coffee and lead to an even extraction.

Grind Setting for Common Grinders

Unfortunately, there is no standard grind settings between different brands. Some grinders are labeled. Others may come with a manual that indicates suggested setting for different brews. If you lost your paperwork (or refuse to read it like map directions) worry not. Below are a few settings for common grinders.

GrinderGrind Setting
Baratza Encore#30
Baratza Virtuoso#30
Capresso InfinityCoarse #1
Cuisinart Supreme Grind#16
Bodum BistroFrench Press Icon (far right)
Mr Coffee Burr Grinder#18

Some Controversy

James Hoffman, the author of The World Atlas of Coffee, says to grind your coffee finer (towards medium) in conjunction with lower water temperature and a longer brew time. This finer grind can extract flavors that may not be extracted with your current french press brewing method.

While this flies in the face of the traditional French press brew methods, it is not without merit. Coffee taste is up to interpretation. Experimenting with brewing methods is par for the course when it comes to using specialty brewing equipment.

Hoffman suggests that you step down, going finer and finer with your grind setting until you get to the point where flavors become sour and over-extracted. After you cross that threshold, step back your grind a bit, and you have achieved your new finer grind size. I have tried this with other brewing methods and had positive experiences.

Final Thoughts

The traditional French press coarse grind size is a great starting point for any new roast you bring home. Feel free to explore and grind a little finer to extract extra flavors and get the most out of your coffee beans. No two coffee roasts are alike, so it’s worth making adjustments each time. If you need help finding good beans or the best way to brew, check out a few more of our articles!

About the Author Kris Silvey

About the Author Kris Silvey

As a semi-professional at-home barista and full-time software engineer, my love for coffee borders on obsession. By combining my passion for coffee with an engineering mindset, I strive to perfect my brewing process and share that knowledge with each of you.

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