Taking the plunge: your complete guide to cafetiere coffee
Underrated, affordable and fuss-free, cafetiere coffee is by far the easiest type of coffee to brew at home. Requiring very little equipment, the device (which is also known as a French press), gives you more control over the strength of your coffee and creates a delicious, well-bodied and thick textured brew.
While the cafetiere is easy-to-use, when it comes to this brewing method, common misconceptions and mistakes often stand in the way of a tasty brew. We're yet to come across anyone who enjoys the gritty taste of sludge that results from a poorly made serve.
Our below guide will equip you with everything you need to know about how to make perfect cafetiere coffee at home, from step-by-step brewing instructions to how to get the optimum grind for your French press.
The java jargon decoder
Here are a few terms that may come in handy as we explore coffee for cafetiere.
- Extraction - The process of brewing (aka grounds dissolving into water).
- Overextracted - When you extract too many soluble particles in the coffee, leaving you with a bitter-tasting brew.
- Grind size - The size of particles once you've ground your coffee. The scale ranges from extra coarse to very fine. Unfortunately, there's no universal setting for grind size, so a quick Google image search will help you determine if you've got your grind size right.
- Ratio - The amount of ground coffee used vs the amount of water used.
- Blend - A combination of two or more different single-origin coffee beans that are mixed to create a new flavour.
A little history
Seeing as the cafetiere is also known as a French press, it comes as no surprise that the design originates from France. Patented in 1852 by French duo Mayer and Delforge, the 'infusion Coffee Maker' was the first of its kind, comprising of the essential components we know so well today - a pot with a metal filter attached to a rod.
This first machine was incredibly flawed and a good cup of coffee it certainly did not make. The mesh filter couldn't be manufactured with enough precision to fit into the pot, clinging to the sides and causing grounds to slip past the filter. However, with the fundamentals in place, the cafetiere's design has continuously been tweaked to improve its performance - from Attilio Calimani's added sealing in 1929, right up to the two-stage, microfilter of Espro Press's precision brewer in 2018.
Today, there are thousands of different cafetieres to choose from, with main categories including stainless steel, plastic, glass, ceramic and hybrid. Each device has its pros and cons but is a world away from the original 1852 prototype and give you all you need to make perfect cafetiere coffee with a single piece of equipment.
How is cafetiere coffee made?
A coffee cafetiere is an infusion brewer, that consists of three main components - a carafe/pot, plunger and lid. Unlike filter brewers or Moka pots (where water passes through the grounds), cafetiere coffee is created by allowing the coffee grounds and the water to steep together in the pot. The plunger then drives a mesh filter through the brewing water, pushing small insoluble particles to the bottom of the pot.
There are lots of benefits of opting for cafetiere brews. Steeping coffee helps produce a more uniform extraction, and the process allows a little oil and small particles to flow through, creating a vibrant body and texture. You have a higher level of control over how strong or weak you'd like your coffee and in terms of ease and affordability, there's also no need for additional equipment such as paper filters or cloths.
The biggest downside to cafetiere coffee is its infamous sludge - the gritty residue you can find at the bottom of your cup. Due to the large meshing of the plunger, some particles can still come through into your pour and when drunk, are bitter with an unpleasant and sandy texture.
What's important to remember is by following the correct grinding instructions, using the right brewing methods and taking care of your equipment, you can counteract many of these negative elements, in particular, learning how to make cafetiere coffee without the dreaded sludge ruining your drink.
The secret to great cafetiere coffee? Get the grind right
For this brew method, we always advise going for coarser grounds and generally advise on a medium-coarse grind. It's important to note, however, that darker roasts tend to be more brittle, so your grind size will need to be a little coarser. Conversely, coffee from higher altitudes can sometimes need to be ground to a finer texture.
If the world of grinding sounds daunting or complicated, don't worry. Having delivered coffee directly to doors for over 30 years, our team are experts on producing the optimum grind for each of our roasts. Plus, we have over 100 different types of cafetiere coffee for you to choose from. Simply select the 'Cafetiere' grind option when adding our coffees to your basket, and we'll do the work.
How to use a cafetiere: your step by step brewing guide
- Ratio: 1 x heaped tablespoon per cup, measuring out at 7g per 120-150ml of water.
- Grind: Medium-coarse (your grounds should look like superfine sugar).
- Equipment: Cafetiere, kettle, coffee.
- Preheat your device with hot water or boiling water to encourage a more consistent steep temperature throughout your brewing process. Make sure to pour this hot water away before adding coffee or new water.
- Grind your beans to a medium-coarse consistency or get your pre-ground beans.
- Boil a kettle of either filtered water (if you live in a soft to moderately hard water area) or bottled mineral water (if you live in a hard water area).
- To get your ratios right, place your cafetiere on your scales and weigh out precisely the right amount of coffee per serve.
- Pour your boiling water into the cafetiere while it's still on the scales. Remember 1g equates to 1ml. Try to get all the grounds wet (gooseneck kettles are handy for this step).
- Give your brew a quick stir with a dessert spoon to agitate the particles, then steep for 4 minutes.
- After four minutes, you'll be able to see a crust-like foam form on the top layer. Use your spoon to stir the crust slowly. Most of the coffee should then fall to the bottom of the pot, but if there's any remaining foam, make sure to use the same spoon to skim it off.
- Wait another 4 minutes to allow as many particles as possible to settle at the bottom of your device.
- Place your lid on top and slowly press the plunger entirely down.
- And you're ready to pour! If you're serving more than one cup, we advise pouring a little into each cup and topping up until full.
The best coffee for cafetieres
UK coffee companies usually have up to 12 varieties suitable for cafetieres. We have over 100. You can browse our wide selection here and take a look at some of our customer favourites below.
Often described as 'delicious' with a 'magic aroma', our Monsoon Malabar is the perfect everyday coffee. Grown in Malabar (one of the wettest regions of southern India), once our beans are picked they're immediately transported to an open warehouse for four to five months. This process exposes the beans to the harsh, moist conditions of the monsoon prone area, filling them with moisture and reducing acidity. The result is a heavy-bodied coffee with a distinctive chocolatey, spicy and nutty aroma.
“Exquisite proper coffee. Monsoon Malabar blend has been our favourite for some years. We appreciate a good coffee with ample strength and chocolatey undertones, but absolutely no bitterness. This one is the perfect smooth choice for those who are very particular about their coffee.”
Nona B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Grown from seeds originating in Jamaica, this blend has all the natural sweetness of Blue Mountain Jamaica with the rich aromatic flavours and intensity of Kenyan coffee. Full-bodied, with good acidity drawn from Kenyan soils, your brew will give you notes of nut and citrus with a delicious caramel aftertaste.
“This was something my mum drank when we visited her. I just could never get my coffee to taste or smell like hers and then she bought us some beans. It was life-changing - now we drink nothing else. This really is about the best coffee on the market at a reasonable price and we love it.”
Chris P. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dark Decaffeinated Columbian is one of our best-selling decaf roasts. With beans that give you luxurious flavours such as sweet fruit and chocolate, you can enjoy a full-bodied, full-flavoured cup of coffee without a caffeine buzz that will keep you up at night.
“Excellent. I love my coffee dark and strong tasting but I have to have decaf. With this, I can have both! Best I've tasted.”
Maldwyn P. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
How much coffee to put in a cafetiere?
To start with, work out the capacity of your device. Place it on your scales and fill it with water until it reaches just below the spout. Remember, 1ml equals 1g, so you just divide the number of your scale reading by 20 to work out how many grams of coffee to add. The ratio we recommend is one heaped tablespoon per cup, measuring out at 7g per 120-150ml of water (this is more accurate than using measurements such as one scoop etc.).
How long should cafetiere coffee infuse for?
We recommend 4 minutes. Any longer than this and your coffee will be over-extracted and taste bitter. If you want a stronger coffee, it's better to add more of the ground coffee rather than steeping it for longer.
Can you use filter coffee in cafetieres?
Filter coffee requires finer grinds, which aren't ideal for the large holes in the appliance's meshing. Similarly, grounds for espresso machine brewing will be even finer and will not be suitable for this type of coffee making. Always opt for a coarser grind for this brewing method if you want to avoid a gritty and weak brew.