The coffee-to-water ratio used when brewing coffee is an integral aspect of all brewing processes, for how much coffee and water are used directly affect extraction. There are guidelines on what ratios generally work well, but to get the best extraction the exact ratio should be based on the particular brew method being used. For, every brew method has other variables that impact extraction, and the coffee-to-water ratio used ought to take these other factors into account. Here’s how to adapt the coffee-to-water ratio used when you’re making coffee with a French press.
Ratios from 1:16 to 1:18 Are Generally Suitable
Generally speaking, coffee-to-water ratios between 1:16 and 1:18 work well across most brew methods. These ratios mean there are between 16 and 18 grams (or milliliters) of water used for every gram of coffee used.
In the imperial measuring system, this roughly works out to 0.5 ounces of coffee per cup (8 fluid ounces) of water. In the metric system, this is 14.17 grams of coffee and 250 grams of water, which is a ratio of 1:17.6.
The ratios we use at Driftaway Coffee are based on weight rather than volume. This is because coffee beans vary in density, and weight maintains a consistent ratio across all densities. Volume isn’t able to account for density variances and, therefore, leads to inconsistent ratios. (You can read more about these differences and see what scales we recommend in our post on coffee scales.)
French Presses Follow These Ratios
When brewing with a French press, you can actually remain anywhere within this 1:16 to 1:18 ratio. While some brew methods call for a more precise ratio because their other parameters can’t be adjusted as much, the French press’ other variables can be adjusted to compensate for the coffee-to-water ratio used (within limits). Therefore, French presses make it possible to play around with the ratio a little.
As an example, consider the Chemex (a popular manual pour-over), espresso and the French press:
- The Chemex calls for a highly specific coffee-to-water ratio of 1:16.66 because it has a thicker filter that affects the brew time. Because the filter must be used, there’s no way to shorten the brew time.
- Espresso requires a highly specific grind size because the coffee grounds, rather than a filter, restrict the flow of water. If the grind is off, the shot will pull too quickly or too slowly (or, in some cases, not at all).
- The French press, in contrast, relies on an immersion brewing technique, uses a metal screen to filter grounds out and doesn’t need pressure. Therefore, you can adjust the brewing time and grind size to compensate for the coffee-to-water ratio.
There are limits to how much you can adjust each variable, but the French press affords more flexibility than these other brewing techniques do.
Experiment When Brewing with a French Press
To find what coffee-to-water ratio you prefer, experiment with different ratios between 1:16 and 1:18. If you prefer a stronger brew, try a ratio closer to 1:16, which uses less water and will extract a little more. If you want to offset the French press’ natural body with a lower extraction rate, try a ratio closer to 1:18.
For the most insight, try brewing a couple of French presses with different ratios and then tasting them side-by-side. Keep the other variables the same, and see what ratio is your favorite. You’ll learn more about how ratio affects extraction, and you’ll fine-tune your French press brewing skills.
Brew with Great Coffee
To truly notice the differences between a 1:16 and 1:18 ratio, you’ll need freshly roasted coffee beans that have nuanced flavors. If you don’t have any, sign up with us and we’ll gladly send some fresh coffee right to your door.