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One cup or two? Whether you have a single cup of coffee in the morning (we won’t tell if it’s on BIG cup!), or you need at least three to really get going, it’s important to make sure that your French press can handle the amount of coffee that you want to brew.
French presses vary in capacity, with the largest models featuring a 51 ounce capacity. 51 ounces is about 12 cups, or 5.3 servings that are 9 ounces each.
If you’re making coffee for an entire household, whether it’s you and your coffee-loving significant other or an apartment full of coffee-loving roommates, then having the right sized French press is important.
The key is that you can always make less coffee in a large press, but you can’t make more coffee in a small French press without brewing an additional pot. With that in mind, try to choose a size that meets you in the middle. It should be enough to brew what you need for the size of your household, with perhaps an additional cup or two for guests.
French Press Capacity Guide
What’s in a cup? Honestly, there’s no such thing as a standard “cup” of coffee these days. Travel mugs range in size from 12 to 20 ounces and most people drink coffee in mugs that hold at least 10 ounces, so a “standard” 6 ounce cup really isn’t applicable anymore. (That’s why you might hear someone in an old movie saying he had eight cups of coffee. In today’s parlance, that’s like having two travel mugs, or two large coffees from a coffee bar)
For the sake of this article we’ll measure a cup as 9 ounces. With that in mind, here’s how the various French press capacities break down:
- 12 ounce French press: 1 9-ounce cup of coffee
- 17 ounce French press: 1.6 9-ounce cups of coffee
- 34 ounce French press: 3.4 9-ounce cups of coffee
- 51 ounce French press: 5.3 9-ounce cups of coffee
So what does this all mean? Well, if your travel mug is 20 ounces, then you’d need to make a full pot of coffee with a 12-ounce French press to almost fill your travel mug in the morning. That means that anyone else in your household who wants coffee would have to brew another pot.
Generally speaking, to brew a 12 ounce pot with a French press you will need to add two level tablespoons of coffee to the press. A 51 ounce press requires 10 level tablespoons. Here again, coffee enthusiasts have their own tips and tricks when it comes to the amount of coffee added to the pot, but this can be used as a reference for how much you need in general to achieve a standard strength brew.
What Size French Press Should You Buy?
Thinking back to the beginning of this article, the best way to determine the size of French press that you need for your household is to think of how much coffee you tend to brew at a time.
If you like to drink several cups of coffee but don’t want to brew more than one pot, then consider buying a larger French press with a double wall design and a vacuum seal. That way you can make a big pot and it will stay hot long after brewing.
Keep in mind that buying a smaller press and brewing multiple pots isn’t a bad thing when the other people in your household prefer different kinds of coffee. You might want a Kona blend while someone else prefers Colombian coffee. A smaller French press allows you each to brew exactly what you want. (The only tension comes in deciding who brews first!) If you have the water boiling already, especially with an electric kettle or faucet that provides boiling water on demand, then the time between pots will be minimal.
You might consider having two smaller French presses in your household. One for him and one for her, perhaps. That way all you have to do is to boil a bigger pot of water and then you can both press at the same time!
Tips and Tricks When Using a French Press
Though French presses are not designed for use with fine grinds, some people prefer using the finest grinds possible to achieve the optimal cup of coffee. Think of the consistency of espresso grinds. The benefit to using fine grinds is that it allows all of the oil to seep out into the coffee as the coffee passes through the press.
Optimal brewing temperature in a French press is 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you boil water and let it sit for about thirty seconds, it will be about 200 degrees and ready to use. This is a much easier way to achieve the ideal temperature without using a thermometer. When it comes to choosing the size of a French press for your household, the best thing to do is to buy one size larger than you would normally use rather than exactly what you need. That way you will always be covered when you have company.