Anyone who wants to upgrade their cup of instant coffee but doesn’t have the budget for a fancy coffee machine should consider getting a French press. It’s an easy, affordable, and convenient way to make coffee at home. But what sort of caffeine kick and flavor intensity can you expect? How strong is French press coffee?
French presses give coffee grounds direct contact with hot water for several minutes to effectively extract flavor compounds and caffeine for a full-bodied brew. French press coffee is stronger than pour-over and other coffees made using a paper filter but weaker than espresso and cold brew.
A French press can make a satisfyingly strong drink, whether you’re talking about coffee’s flavor or caffeine strength. The factors shaping French press coffee’s taste and caffeine content are in your control, so you can make tweaks for a stronger or weaker drink. I’ll reveal how strong French press coffee is compared with other popular coffee types and give tips for creating your perfect strength.
What Is French Press Coffee’s Strength?
Coffee made in a French press is bold – in flavor and caffeine content.
This brewing method steeps coffee grounds in hot water for about 4 minutes. There’s no filter involved, so the grounds mingle freely with the water the whole time, allowing them to release their caffeine and flavor compounds for a strong-tasting drink with a caffeine hit.
Caffeine-wise, research shows that a French press makes the 4thstrongest coffee among the top 5 brewing methods. The methods taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd spot are espresso, cold brew, and stovetop percolator (Moka). In 5th place is pour-over.
To give an idea of French press coffee’s kick compared with the other popular coffees, here’s a glance at the caffeine content in 34 fluid ounces of the drinks:
|Espresso||Cold Brew||Stovetop Percolator||French Press||Pour-Over|
|4 200 mg||2 240 mg||2 192 mg||742 mg||692 mg|
Like the French press method, the espresso, cold brew, and stovetop percolator methods give coffee grounds direct access to water for more punch. However, these 3 methods outperform the French press in strength for these reasons:
- Espresso machines force high-pressure boiling water through fine coffee grounds instead of leaving the grounds to steep into the water on their own, as the French press does.
- Cold brew methods use time to successfully extract caffeine from coffee grounds. The grounds soak in cold water for up to 24 hours compared with the French press’s few minutes.
- Like espresso machines, stovetop percolators use steam to shoot boiling water through coffee grounds to extract caffeine.
A good dose of caffeine isn’t the only thing that makes it into hot water when a filter doesn’t hold coffee grounds back. The grounds also release oil, giving drinks a richer taste and a thicker mouthfeel. The oil is largely to thank for filter-free French press coffee’s deep flavor and creamy-ish texture.
Espresso beats French press for flavor intensity because its coffee is more concentrated. But French press has a stronger taste than pour-over, which traps oils in its filter.
How To Change French Press Coffee’s Strength
A French press can make strong coffee, but you decide just how strong.
It’s easy to customize each preparation step to create a stronger or weaker brew. Here’s how:
Select Your Coffee Beans
Coffee beans start as fruit growing on coffee plants. The 2 main plants we get our coffee from are Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. The fruit is harvested, soaked, and roasted before it can be ground and transformed into a tasty drink.
Your choice of coffee plant and roasting depth have a big say in your finished brew’s flavor and caffeine content.
Coffea arabica gives us arabica coffee, and Coffea canephora produces robusta coffee.
Robusta has roughly double the caffeine of arabica and tastes smoky and bitter, whereas arabica has a sweeter, fruitier flavor. So, a robusta brew gives you a stronger dose of caffeine and heavier flavors than arabica.
Degree Of Roasting
Lightly roasted coffee beans have more caffeine, fruitier flavors, and a lighter body than beans roasted more deeply. In contrast, medium and dark roasts have less caffeine, richer, caramelized flavors, and more body.
Choose Your Grind
Coarser coffee grounds are better than fine because they release caffeine and flavor compounds into the water at a rate that complements the French press’s brewing time. You’re aiming for grounds the size of sea salt. This grind size helps create a flavorful brew that isn’t bitter.
Fine grounds are undesirable, as they taste bitter and slip easily into the finished drink as you press down the plunger, giving you a gritty sip.
Tip: Freshly grinding your coffee is the way to go for a flavor boost, as pre-ground coffee tastes increasingly less intense the longer it sits in its packet.
Choose Your Water
Water quality and temperature influence your coffee’s flavor depth and caffeine content.
Filtered water has been cleared of additives that could stop you from making a pleasantly strong-tasting coffee. Chlorine overtones likely aren’t what you have in mind when you crave a complex flavor profile!
Just-boiled water is too hot for the French press. Water this hot can make the grounds taste burnt. So give your water 30 seconds or so to cool after it boils before pouring it over your grounds.
But don’t wait too long. The water needs to be hot enough to extract the tastiness and caffeine from the grounds. Keep the cooling time under a minute to prevent weak, watery coffee.
Pick Your Coffee-To-Water Ratio
The simplest way to boost your coffee’s flavor and caffeine content is to throw in more grounds.
The usual ratio is 1 part coffee grounds to 16 parts water (1 ounce of grounds to 16 ounces of water). Still, you can tone down or intensify the flavor and caffeine hit by using less or more grounds.
Decide On Your Brewing Time
Coarse grounds need only 4 to 5 minutes of steeping in water just short of boiling to produce a robust brew.
Increasing the brewing time will create a drink with more caffeine but also more risk of bitterness.
Tip: Don’t let coffee sit in the carafe after you’ve pressed down the plunger. Although the grounds have been pushed to the bottom, they’re still in contact with the water and will continue to brew.
French press coffee is among the strongest. This brewing method gives ground coffee plenty of time to turn hot water into a drink with the flavor intensity and caffeine kick you crave.
If you’re not satisfied with the strength of your French press coffee, give it more oomph by scooping an extra tablespoon or 2 of grounds into your carafe next time you make it.