Cafetière and mug of coffee on a table

How to use a cafetière

Learn how to achieve a jug of perfectly brewed coffee using a cafetière. This ‘French press’ acts to separate the coffee grounds from the liquid whilst extracting their rich flavour.

What is a cafetière?

A cafetière is a heatproof jug, typically made of glass, with a strainer attached to the lid. Once the coffee has brewed, you plunge the strainer to the bottom to separate the spent coffee grounds from the coffee, leaving your perfectly brewed coffee to pour from the spout and the grounds remain secured in the base. They’re also known as a ‘French press’. Find our favourites in a review of the best cafetières for making French press coffee.

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How to use a cafetière

  • Clean the cafetière before use – you need to clean it before or after every time you use it. Reusing a cafetière without cleaning will make your coffee taste a little old or muddy.
  • Boil the kettle and leave it to rest for 1 minute while you weigh the coffee. You need the water to cool down slightly, as you don’t want to ‘burn’ the coffee grounds when you pour the water over. 
  • Add the coffee to the base of the heatproof jug – 1 tbsp per cup you want to make. This is about 7g, so for an 8 cup cafetière you need 50-60g (depending on how strong you like it). You can weigh this out on digital scales or using a measuring spoon. If you’re not filling the whole cafetière (making 8 cups), use 125ml water per 1 tbsp coffee ground for every cup you want to make. 
  • Half fill the cafetière with the hot water, pouring it over the grounds, and stir with a spoon, so all the grounds are wet, and submerged in the water. Top up with the rest of the water.
  • Add the lid, but don’t plunge. Set a timer for 4 minutes. 
  • Plunge slowly and steadily, holding the handle with one hand, and the plunger with the other. Don’t plunge too fast or some of the grounds can escape the strainer, or the coffee can spurt out of the spout. 
  • Pour into mugs and enjoy! 

Coffee amount guide
8 cup/1 litre cafetière = 50-60g or 8 tbsp ground coffee 
4 cup/500ml cafetière = 25-30g or 4 tbsp ground coffee 
3 cup/350ml cafetière = 20-23g or 3 tbsp ground coffee

Pouring coffee from a cafetiere into a cup

Do you need to preheat the cafetière to stop it cracking?

Cafetières are made with toughened glass, so you don’t need to heat before use. 

Is there a general rule about servings?

The general rule is that you need one scoop (1 tbsp or 7g) of ground coffee per mug, or per 125ml hot water. Try weighing it out for accurate results, then see if you prefer your coffee weaker or stronger and adjust to your liking. 

Do I need a special type of ground coffee? 

If you buy ground coffee: the packet should say how finely ground it is. You need medium grounds for a cafetière – it will say if it’s suitable on the pack. Too fine, and they’ll slip through the strainer, and too coarse, it’s hard to plunge. 

If you’re grinding your own: Grind until you no longer see any shiny outer shells of the coffee beans, and there are no large pieces. You want the grounds to look consistent in size, matte and earthy. Don’t blend too fine, so it becomes dusty or you can’t see the individual grounds. 

Cafetiere of coffee and two mugs on a tray

Should the water be boiling when you add it?

Your water should be just off boiling, so boil the kettle, then wait 1 minute to let it cool down slightly. If you use the hot water straight away, the coffee can taste slightly burnt or bitter. 

Should you stir the coffee before pressing?

Half fill the cafetière with water, then stir the coffee to submerge the grounds.. This prevents boiling water spilling out by stirring when it’s full, but you still ensure all the grounds are wet. Don’t remove the lid to stir once the plunger touches the top of the coffee. 

How long should you leave it to brew? 

4 minutes – set a timer! This is one of the most important things of using a cafetière – if you don’t plunge within 4 minutes the coffee may be over-brewed and bitter, and before 4 minutes, you won’t get all the complex flavours the coffee has to offer. 

What do I do with the coffee grounds?

You can add the coffee to your compost, or green bin. 

Cafetiere, cup of coffee and bag of coffee beans

What are the pros of using a cafetière?

  • It can make 6-8 cups at once, great if you’re serving a few people. 
  • It’s easy to use, and cheap to buy. 
  • It doesn’t take up too much space, in fact, it takes up no space on your worktop, you can simply store it in the cupboard until needed, unlike larger electronic coffee machines.
  • The whole cafetière is reusable, there’s no paper filters or coffee pods to discard.

And the cons? 

  • It doesn’t keep warm for very long, as the glass isn’t insulated. 
  • The glass can break, but replacements are widely available. The plastic or metal handle and plunger are reusable. 
  • There can be some sediment in the base of the cup, as some of the fine grounds can escape the filter, these are often picked up with pour over/funnel coffees with filters or filter papers. 

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Do you normally use a cafetière to make coffee? Leave a comment below…