French Press Your Way: Nailing the Coffee to Water Ratio

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Last updated on September 6, 2023


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The French press (also known as a plunger or cafetière) is one of the most popular ways of brewing coffee. And with good reason. It’s quick, simple, and relatively inexpensive compared to an espresso machine or cloth brewer. 

The unique charm of the French press lies in the control it offers over your brew—a feature not always present in other brewing methods. 

The real secret to unlocking the full potential of your French press, though, lies in mastering the coffee-to-water ratio. After all, no matter the grind size or roast, without the right ratio, your brew will fall short of its full potential. 

While many variables play into the art of coffee making, we're zooming in on the coffee-to-water ratio today, aiming to uncover the formula that truly satisfies.

In this guide, you'll discover...

  • The favorite coffee-to-water ratios of our 5 French press tasters
  • The best place to start with your coffee-to-water ratio 
  • The key results of our main taster, testing the 3 foundational coffee-to-water ratios (1:12, 1:15, and 1:18)
  • The influence of factors such as grind size, roast, and even water type on the taste and intensity of your coffee
  • Methods to further fine-tune your French press coffee to align with your personal taste
  • An FAQ segment dedicated to resolving some of the most frequently encountered French press conundrums

Our Favorite Coffee to Water Ratios

Favorite Ratio1:151:131:151:5

French Press Coffee to Water Ratio (Quickly!)

Ah, the golden ratio… it sounds very mathematical and a bit alluring. Especially when it comes to coffee. But is there a perfect ratio for your cup of French press coffee?

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommends a ratio of 1 part coffee to 18 parts water. However, a quick search on the internet reveals that there’s no clear consensus on what constitutes the perfect ratio. The SCAA's recommendation is the most widely accepted, but many recommended stronger ratios of up to 1:12.

Where to Start

After testing countless coffee-to-water ratios, we’ve found there to be two ways that will offer you a great starting point for producing a cup of coffee that is personalized to you. 

1) If You’re The “Happy Medium” Type

For all the “Goldilocks” out there: if you too tend to go for the happy medium, we recommend you start with the 1:15 coffee-to-water ratio.

It seems to be the healthy average of what all our tasters enjoyed, and we think you’ll find it, well… not too strong, not too weak, but “just right.”    

The great thing about this ratio is that even if you find it a bit too weak, 1:15 strength will still taste good (granted you have some solid coffee beans). In other words, even if you prefer a stronger cup, a 1:15 ratio will still satisfy.

If you find a 1:15 ratio to be too strong, you can easily dilute it with hot water (or creamer) and try a lower ratio next time (up to 1:18 or so). 

Take a look at our graphic below for the proper coffee and water quantities to brew a 1:15 coffee-to-water ratio.


2) If You’re Confident You Like Strong Coffee

We suggest starting things off with a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio. 

Chances are this will either be right on the money or a tad bit strong. 

Once again you can easily adjust to your taste by adding a touch of water or a splash of milk.

Just make sure you leave some room in your mug to dilute the coffee if need be. 

If the coffee turns out to be too strong, next time try 1:13, and then 1:14. It’s all about experimenting to find what’s best for you. 

How to Measure Coffee Easily (without using tablespoons)

At first, measuring out the ratio of coffee to water can feel a bit tedious (or maybe a bit like overkill).

But take it from us, doing this step properly will ensure that you get a consistent brew THAT YOU LIKE every morning. 

And to keep things as simple and precise as possible, we highly recommend investing in a scale. You can find cheap ones online, and they make the measuring process significantly easier (and faster). 

Many of us tried the tablespoon method but found inconsistent results (and ultimately days where our coffee was really good, and days where our coffee didn’t hit the mark). 

Here’s why…


Both Coffee type and grind will affect the weight per volume (density). 

Above, we took the same coffee beans and ground them into coarse, medium, and espresso grinds. As you can see, one heaping tablespoon of each ended up with a completely different weight. 

Moral of the story…Measuring coffee by volume is unreliable.

So, our recommendation is to buy a scale. You can get one for $10 on Amazon, and I can guarantee you’ll find it a worthy investment. 

With that said, if you’re stuck with using volume for the moment—most French press users prefer dark roast with a medium to coarse grind. 

We found that a level tablespoon of coarse ground, dark roast coffee is ~3.5 grams.

If You Don’t Have a Scale 

We began writing this section and then realized how overly complicated it was going to sound.

Instead of listening to us badger on, take a look at Honest Coffee Guide’s coffee-to-water calculator.  

It’s simple, and it takes most of the guesswork out of the equation. 

Just remember that the grounds of the coffee will eat about 20% of your water, so you’ll want to account for this. 

For example, if you want one 8oz cup of resulting coffee, you’ll want to use about 10 oz of brewing water to get there. 

10 oz brewing water with 20% loss = 8 oz filtered coffee

A Note on Cup Measurements

There might be some confusion about cup measurements. In this article, we’re referring to “cups” as the standard 8oz cup (which is just about a mug-full of coffee). However, the SCAA defines a “cup” of brewed coffee as 6 ounces. As most of us are drinking from a standard-sized mug, we’ve chosen it as our standard. So, whether we mention a “cup of coffee” or a “mug of coffee”, we’re talkin’ 8 ounces.

3 Coffee-to-Water Ratios Tested

Among the many ratio recommendations gleaned from our research, we decided to test three, spanning from weakest to strongest: 1:12, 1:15, and 1:18.

Water temperature was the same for all tests. We used the recommended temperature for French presses, which is 200°F (93°C).

We used a dark roast (Italian Blend), which means the beans were oilier with a rich flavor.

We used the coarsest setting on our Krups grinder; however, a medium grind size is also acceptable (you usually get a faster extraction but at the cost of more sediment in your cup). 

The steeping time was 4 minutes for all tests (some like their coffee to steep more, but it seems the general consensus is that 4 minutes hits the sweet spot!).

The results…

1:12 ratio: strong (think jet fuel), approach with caution!

1:15 ratio: strong and bold, with good flavor

1:18 ratio: good flavor, easy drinking (good for beginners)

I went into the experiment thinking I’d be 100% on board with the 1:12 ratio. I love strong coffee, and I can easily handle a third shot of espresso in my cappuccino. 

But surprisingly, I leaned more towards the 1:15 ratio. 

It had the strength I was looking for, without any overpowering bitterness. While the 1:12 was strong indeed, I almost felt as if it was slightly bitter (disclaimer: I usually like bitter). 

That said, I did use a dark roast, and I think it would probably be a good idea to try these same ratios with other roast levels. Also, in comparison to other grinders (according to several online sources), the Krups grinder makes the coffee beans slightly finer, even on its coarsest setting. This may have contributed to a slightly bitter taste when using the 1:12 ratio.

Does the Roast Type Affect the Ideal Coffee-to-Water Ratio?


Finding the sweet spot for your coffee-to-water ratio can be a bit like a coffee-themed treasure hunt, and it's one that shifts with the type of roast and even with different varieties within the same roast. 

But let's not overcomplicate things.

When it comes to darker roasts, you can take a breather. Once you've found your perfect ratio with a particular dark roast, it's likely to stay pretty consistent, even if you swap it out for another variety of dark roast.

Now, light to medium roasts in a French press are where things get a bit perplexing. It's easy to assume that lighter roasts would need a higher coffee concentration to match the boldness of their darker counterparts. Interestingly though, our experiments have painted a different picture.

We've noticed that while a more concentrated brew indeed increases the caffeine hit, it can also mute the nuanced flavors that lighter roasts are cherished for. So, if you're venturing into the territory of lighter roasts, we suggest you start off with a slightly more diluted brew. Give a 1:18 coffee-to-water ratio a go, and let your taste buds guide you from there.

Other Critical Variables That Affect Coffee Flavor/Strength

Why Grind Size Matters

The ideal size of your coffee grounds depends on which brewing method you use. For espresso machines, a fine grind is best, as the contact with hot water is quick, and extraction needs to happen very fast.

But if you’re using a French press—an immersion method—you'll want a coarser grind. 

Since the water is in contact with the coffee grounds for much longer (usually 4-5 minutes), a coarser grind will prevent over-extraction. 

Coarser grind = less coffee surface area making contact with the water =
slower extraction

Ensuring less coffee-to-water exposure will also ensure less silt in your resulting cup (as coarser grounds will have a tougher time making it through the mesh filter).

The type of grinder you use will also make a difference. 

Coffee grinders don’t all produce the same results when set on the same setting, and you might end up with a grind much finer than you intended. I used the Krups Coffee Bean Grinder, which has 17 degrees of coarseness to choose from. If you’re brewing on a budget but still want good results, I’d recommend a burr grinder from Krups or Oxo! 

For the French press, start with a very coarse grind (the coarsest setting on your grinder). 

Keep in mind there is a point of diminishing returns, and if you find that your brew is just too weak, you may actually need to adjust to a finer setting next time, in order to extract a bit more.

Water Quality and Its Impacts on French Press Flavor

Considering that your cup of coffee consists of almost 99% water, it’s a good idea to use high-quality water—especially if you live in an area where the municipal water tastes less than great. But if you’re happy with your tap water, should you still change to filtered water? 

Maybe, maybe not. 

Tap water usually contains minerals and other particles that could potentially interfere with the flavor of the coffee. Chlorine, for example, which is added to municipal water to make it safe to drink, can bind with phenolic compounds in the coffee to produce chlorophenol. If this sounds overly scientific, just know that chlorophenol tastes/smells like bandaids and plastic. Not very complimentary to your morning brew.

If you want to get more into the ideal water minerality for your coffee, James Hoffman made a video that breaks it down into layman's terms.

Since you can’t control the hardness, pH, or total dissolved solids in water—all of which influence coffee flavor—we recommend going with store-bought filtered water or using a gravity-based carbon filter.

These filters aren’t perfect, but a dependable choice for those looking to get the most out of their coffee. 

Making the French Press Your Way

Customization is all about getting comfortable with your French press.

First, decide how many cups of coffee you want to make, as this will determine how much coffee you need to grind. 

For this experiment, 1 coffee cup = 8 oz (or a standard mug full)

If you’re just starting out and genuinely not sure how strong you like your coffee, we recommend starting with a 1:15 coffee-to-water ratio.

You can always dilute it with a bit of milk or water if you find it too strong. And if you find it too weak, we found that a 1:15 still satisfies the strong coffee drinker. So you can still enjoy your coffee no matter what and adjust next time if needed. 

The method below is suitable to make about two to three 8oz cups each (or 2-3 standard mugs full), at medium strength (1:15 ratio).


What You'll Need

French press (1L)

Coffee beans (preferably dark roast)

800 ml / 3.4 cups boiling water (plus a little extra to warm your mug)

Stirring tool (anything will do. Just make sure it doesn’t melt in boiling water)

Kitchen timer (or use the stopwatch function on your phone)

Scale (not mandatory but it makes life easier)

A tablespoon if you’re not using a scale

Equipment Used

Bodum French Press, 1L

Vivaant manual burr grinder

Digital kitchen scale

Quick Side Note:

In order for this experiment to work, you’ll need a 1-liter French press at minimum. Anything under this volume, and you’ll overfill the carafe. One liter is the standard French press volume, so most of you should be fine.

If you have a smaller French press, check out this coffee-to-water ratio calculator. Find the amount of coffee grounds and water you need. Then come back to this page and follow the steps as outlined below. 

Grind Coffee Beans

Set your grinder to the coarsest setting, and grind 53 grams (or about 7.8 heaping tablespoons) of coffee beans. 


Step 2: Add Water

Boil at least one liter of water.

Preheat your carafe by pouring in a nice 2-inch layer of boiling water. Swirl it around (carefully) and then pour it out. 

The ideal temperature for a French press is usually somewhere between 200 - 205°F (93 - 96°C). 

We found that the best way to do this is to bring the water to a boil, then leave it for about 30-45 seconds (usually the amount of time it takes to preheat the carafe) before adding it to the coffee grounds. 

Let the coffee sit and bloom for 30 seconds to allow trapped CO2 to release.


Step 3: Stir

After blooming, stir it with a chopstick or metal straw (or any instrument that won’t impart flavor to the coffee) and start a 4-minute timer. 

(Stirring the coffee helps to wet the grounds, improving extraction, but just be careful with the glass carafe if you use a metal straw.)


Step 4: Brew

We set the brewing time to the 4-minute standard. But feel free to experiment with longer brewing times—aim for no longer than 6-8 minutes to avoid over-extraction (an overly bitter cup of coffee), but don’t fret too much; it’s pretty hard to over-extract with a French press.

Feel free to preheat your mug with the boiling water while you’re waiting.


A Note on Skimming and Stirring

Some sources recommend that you skim the foam and floating particles off the top before plunging, while others say you should stir it first (it’s said to improve body and complexity). There’s no definitive answer, and the best is to see what works for you.

Step 5: Press

After the brewing, it's time to plunge. Avoid the temptation to press down hard and fast. The harder you push, the more sediment that tends to result in your cup. You want to press the plunger down gently until you just begin to feel the grounds at the bottom.


Step 6: Sit Back and Enjoy!

Yes, you finally made it to this point. Get a quiet spot, sit back, and enjoy your brewed cup.



As much as we like the idea of finding the golden ratio for coffee, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Why? Well, because it depends on the water temperature, and both the grind size and roast level of the coffee, not to mention the type of coffee you like! 

We really thought we would like the 1:12 ratio, as we prefer our coffee bold and strong. But we ended up liking the 1:15 ratio better. Your friends might prefer the 1:18 ratio. The point is, people differ in what they like. And that’s what makes it fun. With the French press, it’s easy to experiment and find the ratio you like.

Remember, if you’re unsure where to start, begin with the happy medium, a 1:15 ratio, and go from there. Unless of course, you like a good zing, in which case don’t be afraid to try a 1:12, which comes with a built-in lifeline: you can dilute it with more hot water or milk.

Yes, making coffee is a science. But you shouldn’t overthink it. The ideal cup of coffee should be a pleasure to drink, with all the right aromas, flavors, and just the right level of acidity—for you.



Can You Reuse Coffee in a French Press?

You can reuse the grounds in your French press for a second time, just remember that the coffee won’t be nearly as full and flavorful as your first round.

Why Is My French Press Hard to Press?

If you find it hard to press the plunger down, it could be that your grind is too fine. Try using a coarser setting next time you brew.

How Long to Let the French Press Sit?

The brewing standard is 4 to 5 minutes. But some let the coffee brew for up to 8 minutes. We don’t recommend letting the coffee sit for too much longer than that, as you’ll run the risk of over-extraction.

Over-extraction essentially brings out the harsher characteristics of the bean. 

Will Coffee Left in the French Press Become Bitter?

Brewed coffee should be served or poured relatively quickly into another container for later use. If you let it sit, the coffee will continue to brew and over-extract, leaving you with bitter coffee.

Why Should I Clean My French Press?

Cleaning your French press is essential for brewing delicious coffee. Not only do coffee grounds get stuck in the filter, but there will also be an oily residue. If not cleaned properly, the coffee oils can become rancid over time, leaving a bad taste in your coffee.

How to Clean My French Press

Allow the French press to cool before cleaning, then scoop out the coffee grounds into the garbage or compost. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid (like Dawn), and use a soft sponge to gently scrub around the carafe (use a small brush to clean the filter if necessary). Then it’s time to rinse, rinse, rinse! You want to make sure that no soap is left behind. Allow the French press to dry before assembling. 

It’s also a good idea to use a professional cleaning powder like Cafiza to get rid of coffee residue and oils. Doing this about every two weeks will keep your French press clean and your coffee tasting great!

Can You Use a French Press for Tea?

The French press is quite versatile and can be used to brew tea. Just make sure to clean your equipment properly. This will get rid of any coffee that may interfere with the flavor of your tea and vice versa.

About the author, Rochelle Keet

Rochelle is a food copywriter and recipe developer, working with clients from all over the world. She completed her MS degree in Food Science in 2019 and her research (on the antibiotic treatment of Listeria monocytogenes) was recently published in a scientific journal. She loves the dynamic nature of food science, whether it’s working in the lab with high-tech equipment or brewing craft beer from old surplus bread as a means of reducing food wastage—it’s a fascinating field! Rochelle is passionate about food and loves to write about it.