How To Clean Coffee Grounds From A French Press Coffee Maker

How To Clean Coffee Grounds From A French Press Coffee MakerI 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.

Related – Check out the following posts to see my favorite insulated French presses and the largest French presses I’ve experimented with.

How I Clean Used Coffee Grind From My French Press

fine mesh strainer oxo

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.

How To Clean A Coffee Maker Without Vinegar
Can You Use Baking Soda To Clean Coffee Equipment

How To Clean A French Press

how to clean a french pressFor those who use a French press to brew their coffee, cleaning can be quite the task!

Generally speaking, it’s not a great idea to simply put the pieces into your dishwasher. You may be able to find some models that can handle it, but overall it’s best to wash the tool by hand.

With all the grounds that can get stuck in the beaker, it can sometimes get frustrating trying to figure out how to do an efficient job.

Don’t fear!

We’re going to help you out by giving you a step by step process that you can follow to get your French press perfectly clean.

Then, we’ll even provide some tips to make the take more efficient and easy.

What Is A French Press?

french press plunger
A French press is a tool that is used for making coffee in a specific way.

It’s a highly-praised method of brewing for those who seek rich, bold flavors in their coffee, and can draw in many who have grown sick of drip-style coffee.

While there are a few different designs to choose from, most French presses are made up of a beaker, a plunger and a lid.

As expected, the beaker holds the water and coffee grounds as it’s being made. The plunger is used to hold the grounds against the bottom of the beaker so that they don’t end up in your coffee.

If you don’t have a French press yet and are interested in getting one, it’s important to remember that the plunger is an imperfect method of filtration. You can also take a look at some of the French press coffee makers we offer!

Therefore, you may end up with some grounds in your cup.

However, the pay off here is that the coffee will be stronger and more flavorful.

There are also travel versions that you can buy and use on the go, which gives you bold coffee without the need for a large beaker.

If you want that larger option, then you’ll also have to decide what materials you prefer it to be made from.

No matter which you choose, it will still need a good cleaning from time to time.

How Do I Clean My French Press?

Getting The Grounds Out

The grounds can easily be the most annoying part of getting a French press clean. There are a number of places they can get stuck, and it can be a huge headache trying to get them out!

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to avoid this issue.

Start by just tapping out any of the loose grounds into your trash or compost. This should get most of the pieces free, leaving only those that have decided to make their home in the device.

Grounds can lend themselves easily to the compost pile, so if you’re interested in learning how to re-use coffee beans then learning how to compost is a great way to go.

If you want to, you may also try to get more of the grounds out by using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. This can just help to get the majority of the grounds out without too much of a struggle.

Then, run some water into the beaker and swirl it around, helping to dislodge more of the trapped bits.

After you’ve done that, you can pour the grounds into a mesh sieve or other filtering container so that the grounds don’t go down the drain.

At that point, there should only be a small amount of grounds that are really stuck in corners or on the bottom of the container.

Clean the French Press Plunger

clean your french press plungerAfter you’ve gotten most of the easier grounds out, run some warm water and fill the beaker with warm water and soap.

Be careful not to overfill the beaker, otherwise you may end up with splashes during the next part.

If you can, you may also want to set the beaker in your sink or at least on a towel on your counter.

Insert the plunger into the beaker and move it up and down for as long as you feel is necessary. This can help you to get some of the lodged grounds out of their hiding places.

You may also find that it helps with getting a head start on cleaning the sides of the beaker as well. It’s not going to be as good as scrubbing, but it can help!

Soaking and Scrubbing

Prepare to scrub down the French press by taking out the plunger and removing any necessary pieces.

That way, you can do a thorough job by scrubbing everything you need to separately.

Make sure to scrub down the pieces and plunger first. While you’re doing this, you may want to let the beaker sit with the soap and water for a few minutes to make it easier to clean out.

When you get to cleaning the beaker, make sure to use something soft to clean it out with.

This could just be the softer side of a sponge, a cloth or a gentle scrub brush. You’ll want to avoid rough sponges or metal scrubbers because they can scratch your French press.

Take your time to make sure that every part is washed thoroughly, that way you only have to go through this cleaning process once.

Once you’ve scrubbed everything down sufficiently, you can either carefully hand-dry the pieces of the French press or allow them to air dry.

After the French press has dried fully, you can put the pieces back together and put it away for the next time you need to use it.

Tips To Keep In Mind

One of the most important things to remember is to refrain from using anything too rough on your French press.

While it can be tempting, things like metal spoons and steel wool scrubbers can scratch it up, leaving your French press looking old and worn when it may still be relatively new.

Instead, it’s better to try to soak the French press or clean it multiple times if needed using a more gentle method of scrubbing.

Luckily, because it’s usually just coffee grounds and residue that need to be cleaned out, it shouldn’t take too much heavy-duty scrubbing to get it all out.

If you want to help make the overall cleaning process easier, then simply rinsing the beaker out after each use can help to cut down on the work significantly.

As far as deeper cleans go, you can get away with doing it once every couple of weeks but creating a habit of cleaning it once per week is a great way to ensure that the coffee you make with the French press is always at its best.

As long as you make it a regular habit, cleaning out your French press doesn’t have to be a complicated task.

Just make sure to be careful with it as you clean. Handle it gently and ensure that all of the grounds are removed. Washing all the parts separately is a great way to make sure every part gets clean.

With a clean French press, you’ll be able to make coffee with the knowledge that you won’t get any leftovers from previous brewing sessions in the mix. This is highly important for making sure the coffee you make has the best possible flavor.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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