I’m starting a series here on Top Off My Coffee where I discuss all the various aspects of making good french press coffee. I’ll be handling a lot of the common questions and discussing a number of the points of discussion coffee snobs typically have and then in the near future I’ll be publishing a larger overview of making good french press coffee. Look for that in the weeks to come.
In the mean time I wanted to answer one of the most basic questions regarding french press coffee – how hot should the water be?
If you are new to making french press coffee then this is one of the most basic fundamentals to get down right after how much coffee grind should be used in a french press.
The answer is simple and easy to remember.
Take your water to a boil on a stove and then pour directly into the press pot.
Let me explain this point a little bit though. There are a few things to understand.
How Hot to Make Water for French Press Coffee
When making french press coffee one of the most common ways of prepping the water is to put it in a kettle or stove top pan and bring it to a boil. Don’t use a hot water reservoir on your coffee maker because it doesn’t get all the way up to boiling.
When you take boiling water off the burner and place it directly into your (room temperature) french press the water temp is usually just a shade over 200 degrees. The temperature of the walls of the french press will almost instantly bring the temp down to the 190s which is actually an optimal zone for brewing good coffee.
The reason this question comes up so much is that some people want to take short cuts and use scalding hot tap water or use water that comes from a reservoir water heater. I have a coffee pot with a hot water reservoir and it constantly keeps water hot at about 185 degrees. Some people have dedicated scalding hot hot water faucets on their sink but even these may not get up into the 190s.
For coffee to brew properly in a coffee maker or in a french press the temp really should be above 190 and close to 200 if possible. If you measure your method for drawing hot water and it’s not this hot then you really should reconsider bringing a pot of water to boil on the stove – it’s a sure thing every time.
What Happens if you Make French Press Coffee With Water That Isn’t Hot Enough?
Now having said all that I should make one more point.
If your water is not hot enough nothing bad will happen. Your coffee grind will brew just fine – it just won’t taste as good as it should.
The flavors that extract from ground coffee beans come out best in the 190-195 degree zone. When the water temperature is lower than this then the bitters extract from the beans in greater proportion and the positive flavors extract in less significant quantities. You will still get your caffeinated jolt but the taste won’t be up to par.
Please take a little time to check out this post on the benefits of using insulated french press pots. The insulated pots maintain higher temperatures during the brewing process and also help to improve flavor of the coffee.