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5 ways to reduce sediment in French Press coffee

This guest post is brought to you by Kieran MacRae from Above Average Coffee, an at home coffee lover who gave up on seeking the perfect brew and decided to find out how to quickly make his coffee above average.

The humble French Press is a hugely popular way to brew coffee. It’s simple and fuss-free and makes a really rich and delicious cup of joe. The only issue with the French Press is when you go to take a smooth sip of coffee and end up choking on a mouthful of sand. 

If this sounds familiar and you’ve experienced this drama whilst making coffee then you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to reduce the grit yet still keep all that delicious coffee flavor. 

The good news is, you can! 

Here are five super simple strategies to suppress sediment-y sludge and keep your coffee clean and smooth, just the way you like it. 

Before we dive right in, let’s first get to know our sediment a bit better and consider whether or not it actually serves a purpose floating around in your mug.

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Do You Even Want To Remove Sediment

First things first, do you even want to remove the sediment from your morning java? 

The fine sediment that you find in French Press coffee has two surprising benefits that may make you think twice about removing it. 

The first is that the tiny particles actually contribute to the texture of the coffee giving it a rich mouthfeel. Removing this texture from the brew can take away some of the rich, full-bodied satisfaction that comes with the classic French Press.

The second reason is that the fine particles can actually help reduce the acidity in the coffee by balancing the flavors. This can result in a sweeter tasting brew with less sour notes. 

The French Press brew method is known for the way it produces complex, dark, and rich flavors, and a lot of this comes back to some inclusion of micro-sediment. 

That being said, too much sediment is not pleasant at all to drink so here are five sure-fire ways to cut this down to a minimum. 

Five Ways To Reduce Sediment in French Press coffee

1. Adjust Grind Size 

The first and most obvious thing to check is the particle size of the coffee grounds you are using. A French Press uses a mesh filter to strain out the coffee grounds so if the coffee grounds are smaller than the mesh then this filter method isn’t going to work. 

If you’re using pre-ground coffee make sure you choose one that is coarsely ground and definitely not finely ground. The coarser the better. Some brands will indicate that they are suitable for French Press use on the packaging. 

If you like to buy whole beans and grind them at home then make sure your grinder is set the coarsest setting. 

2. Get The Right Type of Coffee Grinder

The kind of coffee grinder you own may be the culprit of an excessively chewy cup of joe. Typically coffee grinders fall into two distinct categories. These are burr grinders and blade grinders

bladed coffee grinder and coffee beans

Blade Grinder

Blade grinders work similarly to a food processor where a motor drives a sharp blade to spin very fast and chop up anything that gets in its way. As the coffee beans bounce and rattle around in the grinder they will randomly contact the blade and end up sliced into lots of different sized grounds. 

You’ll end up with a mix of very fine, powdery coffee and some bigger chunks that are more suited to the French Press. When you add this coffee to your press the finer particles will slip right through the net and end up in your cup of java giving it rather more texture than most of us would like. 

Burr Grinder

A burr grinder works differently from the blade ones as it uses conical-shaped burrs that crush and shatter the coffee beans into evenly sized fragments. The burrs can be easily set to various distances apart, giving you complete control over the grind size. On the very coarsest setting, a burr grinder will produce an even grind of coffee that isn’t able to evade the French Press filter. 

It’s important to look after your burr grinder and make sure you clean it out once a month to avoid it clogging. It’s important to make sure the grinder stays still and standing vertical when grinding to give an even result. 

Burr grinders are more expensive than blade ones but completely worth it if you’re looking to extract the very best from your beans. 

3. Don’t Agitate Before Plunging

The more particles of coffee that are suspended in the water, the more chance there is that the finer ones will make it past the mesh filter and into your coffee cup. The best method to avoid this is to leave the French Press to sit for 4 minutes after you’ve poured the hot water into it. 

Immediately after pouring the water, you can give the mixture a stir to make sure the coffee is fully submerged but after this initial stir, start a timer and don’t touch the coffee again. 

Once 4 minutes have passed you can now depress the plunger and the majority of the coffee sediment will have settled to the bottom so it won’t end up re-suspended in the liquid. 

4. Press The Plunger The Right Way

The mesh plunger itself can end up causing plumes of coffee sediment to be sucked up into the liquid portion if it’s not handled correctly. If you press the filter down too quickly then this causes a negative pressure in the coffee that disturbs the bottom layer. 

Another common issue is moving the plunger up and down or stopping and starting plunging rather than just pressing down. This will suck the grounds back up through the mesh and can also let in larger coffee grounds through the sides of the filter. 

The best way to depress the plunger is slowly and evenly. Push just hard enough that you feel some resistance and let this amount of force smoothly glide the filter through the liquid. 

Don’t stop and start, once you get going with the press make sure you’ve got it in you to finish the job!

man in kitchen plunging French Press coffee

5. Let It Settle

Now you’re ready to pour the coffee, one of the final ways to help reduce sediment as you drink is to let the coffee settle in the cup for 30 seconds to a minute. This allows any remaining sediment to settle to the bottom of the cup so you don’t get a mouthful of grit when you first sip it. 

If you notice any particles floating on the top of your coffee you can always skim these away using a teaspoon.  

Head over to Above Average Coffee’s blog for some great articles. Show them some love on Twitter @coffeeabove and Pinterest.

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