I love my French press and the coffee it produces but no one really enjoys cleaning it out afterwards.
It’s a chore that can easily get quite messy. Yuck!
When I first started using a French press at home I actually almost stopped using it simply because cleaning it out afterwards always resulted in a big mess.
The only way I could avoid the mess was to simply swish water in the spent press pot and dump it all out down the sink which isn’t really the smartest thing to do.
For some people this may be fine but I am always a bit conservative when it comes to my plumbing – I try to put the least amount of “stuff” down the drain as possible and I’ve heard many a horror story about coffee grinds clogging up one’s plumbing so I don’t advocate doing it.
So what is the best way to discard all that used coffee grind mucking up the bottom of your French press without making a huge mess?
It’s actually kind of simple and I’m almost surprised I didn’t do it right from the beginning using only my common sense to dream it up. I simply pour all the used coffee grind right into a paper towel lined strainer in my sink. The paper towel catches the grind like a coffee filter would and all the water passes through into the pipes below.
For me I then throw away the paper towel filled with old coffee grind but you could use put it right into a compost pile or save the grind itself for a nitrogen rich top-dressing in the garden.
As for the strainer or the plunger I then rinse that out in the sink and after every few days I run it through the dishwasher. Once every few weeks or so I then do a deep clean to remove mineral buildup and any coffee oils that have accumulated in crevices.
See this post for a full tutorial on cleaning a coffee maker like a French press.
For starters it’s well known that coffee grounds are great for gardening. They make an excellent addition to any compost pile and the same goes for paper towels. You probably don’t want a compost pile consisting of only paper towels but the occasional towel in there isn’t going to hurt it one bit.
Let’s look at my method in more detail that way you can adapt it to your routine a bit easier.
How I Clean Used Coffee Grind From My French Press
What I’ve started doing is this simple.
I pull out a small fine mesh strainer much like this one (you may find that larger strainers are easier for you to use) and place a single paper towel in the middle of it.
I make sure the paper towel is small too – if you use gigantic paper towel sheets then just rip it in half, you don’t need that amount of paper. All you need is enough to catch the grind before it goes down the sink.
Once I’m ready to wash the French press I just add water to the carafe and I swirl it around to get the coffee grounds off the walls. Then I pour it directly into the paper towel sitting in the strainer – slowly of course.
This one motion eliminates probably 90% or more of the grounds from the press pot. You can then do it again to remove the rest of the used coffee grind from the French press or you can simply choose to wash the rest of the grind down the drain.
At this point the paper towel can simply be lifted from the small strainer to be thrown directly into the compost bin or into the trash can if you’re not a gardener.
What I like about this method is that the small mesh strainer is extremely handy to have in the kitchen anyway. Many of you might already have one on hand – I did. We use it for straining pasta all the time.
The strainer also shapes the paper towel into a small cone so grounds don’t leak out around it on all sides. It’s clean and effortless.
And if you don’t have a mesh strainer on hand they are super cheap on Amazon and you’ll end up finding lots of different ways to use them in the kitchen.
I always hated taking my French press to the trash can and shaking it trying to get as much grind out as possible without flinging the grind all about the kitchen; this method is simply elegant and leaves no mess at all and I don’t have to worry about flushing the grind all the way through my plumbing either. It gives me peace of mind. I just drop the towel in the trash or into my compost jar. Simple.
If you ever use an Aeropress make sure to see my method for cleaning that as well!
Anyway, there are of course other ways to get the job done efficiently and with little mess but I’m pretty sure this is the way I’ll be sticking with for the next few decades. Give it a try if you haven’t already and see how simple and effective it is.
One Last Parting Note – This post is part of a series of articles I’m writing up on basic French press coffee.
You can see prior posts on making French press through the following links:
If you get really into making good coffee then you probably care about keeping things exceptionally clean and sanitary too. Make sure to see the following supporting articles on the site on the topic of keeping your coffee making equipment free of germs and mineral buildup.
Thanks for reading!