How to Make Coffee Using a French Press

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: July 3, 2019
How to Make Coffee Using a French Press

If you are anything like me, you have a tough time facing the day without first imbibing on a robust cup of hot coffee. Can you imagine being in a survival situation, faced with the stress of a disruptive event, and not having your morning fix of java?

Although I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, the reality is that drinking coffee is a simple comfort that can bring pleasure when things are not going well.  With that in mind, over the past few months, I have been on a mission to create an excellent cup of coffee while using minimal effort and as little fuel from a heat source as possible.

What I settled on was the Ecooe French Press.  Today I will show you how it works plus, in my usual style, offer one up for grabs in the first product giveaway of the year.

How to Make Coffee Using a French Press | Backdoor Survival

What is a French Press?

A French press is a manual coffee maker that uses a plunger-like device to force hot water through coarsely ground coffee. It is comprised of a cylindrical vessel made of glass, plastic, or stainless steel plus a tight fitting lid. The bottom of the plunger is typically made up of a fine stainless steel wire or mesh that leaves the grounds trapped below so they do not float up and into your coffee.

The basic essentials for brewing coffee in a French Press include:

  1. Pre-ground coffee or something to grind whole coffee beans. You want a medium to coarse gtind.
  2. Pot for boiling water
  3. Fuel source
  4. Vessel for making coffee
  5. Something to drink your coffee out of

The Ecooe Stainless French Press

Although all devices of this type work the same way, I have chosen this particular model because it contains no breakable parts (such as glass).  Plus, because it is stainless steel, it should have the ability to hold heat for an extended period. I was not disappointed.

Here are the directions (and more about that in a moment).

1.   Measure 1 rounded teaspoon of coarsely ground coffee for each cup of brewed coffee.  Place the coffee in the bottom of the pot.

2.   Heat water using a teapot or other pot.

Note:  Initially, my intent had been to use water boiled outdoors on my Solo Stove but it was cold and windy so I decided to use the propane gas burner on my kitchn stove instead. Note that during during a power outage, most gas burners can be manually started with a match.  I suggest you practice doing this in advance so you can confirm that it works.  Of course,  you can also use an outdoor grill or rocket stove to boil your water.

3.  Pour the desired amount of boiling water into the press. I filled the French press about 2/3s  which was roughly equibvalent to three cups.

4.  Put the lid on the press with vent closed so that heat does not escape.  The vent in this case is the part of the lid that opens to the spout.  Don’t press down on the plunger yet!

5.  Let the grounds and water steep for four or five minutes.

6.  When the time is  up, slowly push down on the plunger.  You do not want any hot liquid to escape from the top.  This process will trap the coffee grains at the bottom of the pot.

7.  Pour yourself a great cup of coffee!

When I say a great cup of coffee, I mean a great cup of coffee!

For my first test, I used a packet of cheap, no-name, pre-ground coffee that I had taken from my hotel room during a recent house hunting trip.  For my next test, I ground some French Roast beans in the manual grinder (this one) I had purchased a few years back, being mindful to keep the setting at a medium grind.  The French Roast was fantastic but the no-name coffee was excellent as well.

It is worth noting that brewing a coffee in this manner uses far less coffee than a drip-brewer or a percolator.  This is something to keep in mind for those times when coffee supplies are meager.  Finally, it is my understanding that a French Press can also be used to brew loose-leaved tea but I have not tried it.

The Ecooe French Press Giveaway

Here is the part you have been waiting for.  The value of this Ecooe French Press is based on current pricing but you can enter to win one for free!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Although comments are not necessary to win, you do get five “entries” for answering the giveaway question.  Just remember that you must selected the “I Commented” entry in the Rafflecopter to have your comment recorded in the random drawing.  This week’s question is:

“What is your favorite off-grid cooking tool and why?”

The deadline is 6:00 PM MST next Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winner must claim their prize within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

Note:  Due to Customs requirements, this giveaway is only open to those with a mailing address in the United States.

Look Ma, No Directions

Nothing in this world is perfect and the Ecooe French Press is no exception.  The device came with no directions.  None.  I did not have a clue how to use it.  I did two things.  First, I went to the Ecooe website and sent a message to their support team.  They responded back in less than 24 hours with a copy of the user guide and apologies.  Alas, the print was so tiny I could not easily read it.  Still, I give a thumbs up to Ecooe customer support for their promt turnaround.  It is not their fault my old eyes are not good at reading small print.

The Final Word

Is there a place for a French Press in the off-grid kitchen?  If you are a coffeeholic like I am, the answer is yes.  Boiling a small pot of water takes minutes compared to the time it takes to percolate coffee, although I also have a fantastic percolator as well.

The truth of the matter is that I first purchased a French Press years ago, along with a manual coffee grinder. I knew that it would be useful for brewing coffee when the grid was down but just could not get past the glass container used for brewing.  With the Ecooe stainless version, I can set that worry aside.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article as well as other personal favorites.

Ecooe Double Wall French Press Coffee  Maker:  This stainless steel coffee press will brew 3 large cups of coffee using only enough fuel to boil water.  It is insulated so it keeps your coffee hot plus it comes with two extra stainless mesh filters.  Using a coffee press for brewing coffee during a power outage is definitely the way to go as long as you have access to a gas/propane burner or rocket stove.

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: Here is a link to my percolator.  It also makes great coffee

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill:  This is the manual coffee grinder I own.  It is a cinch to use and clean, plus it is very sturdy.  Note that whole beans store well when sealed in a Mason Jar (see How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning).

Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo: Ultralight Wood Burning Stove: For portability, this is my favorite rocket stove. What I like about this combo set is that the stove nests inside the pot. This combination is perfect for your bug-out kit and especially for heating water for use while brewing coffee or preparing freeze dried meal pouches.  It is lightweight and it burns biomass, no other fuel is needed.  Click to read my review of the Solo Stove.

Circulon Whistling Teakettle  I know Backdoor Survival readers well and I predict they will ask about the blue teapot.  Long story short, we dropped our pricey teapot and broke the spout.  I refused to pay a lot of money for a replacement and so I bought this one.  I like it better than my fancy-schmancy now-broken teapot.


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114 Responses to “How to Make Coffee Using a French Press”

  1. I love my good old propane cooking stove best for when the grid is down. Now if I could supply more than a few months of propane… e.

  2. Is that amount of ground coffee correct, Gaye? One TEASPOON per cup of coffee?? And how big is a “cup” of coffee? I guess I’m really asking you to confirm the ratio of ground coffee to boiling water that you used. This would be *much* more economical than making drip coffee!

    • Yes. In my tests I used one barely rounded teaspoon of ground coffee per cup. It was Shelly who pointed out the economy of using less coffee that a drip brewer.

    • Hi Pauline, we use a French press daily, and like our coffee pretty strong. I just measured the amounts we use: about one cup of beans (that is, before grinding, which we do as we use them) and about five cups of water.

      At home we use the glass Bodum brand or it’s knock offs. The glass liners do break from time to time, so we stock an inventory of complete presses which I pick up used at the swap meets when I find one for a couple dollars. (Replacement liners are about the same price as a complete Bodum knock off if one buys one retail…$20 or so.) The glass presses, of course, are not insulated, although one can wrap it in a towel.

      We have an all stainless press which we keep with our camping supplies, because as Gaye said, the glass liners of others break. We don’t use it at home in part because the spout dribbles a little. Not a lot, but no reason to put up with it routinely. I’m not sure of the brand, and as it is several years old (also from the swap meet), whichever company made it may have corrected the design flaw by now.

      Some of the makes have a filter cover in the plunger: while the coffee is brewing, and while pushing the plunger down, you have the vents over the filter screen open by twisting the filter cover counterclockwise. When the filter is pressed all the way down, you rotate the handle clockwise, and the vents are covered, which I guess is supposed to help keep grounds out of the coffee. It doesn’t seem to make a big difference, except that pushing down the plunger with the filter vents covered is work.

      Since ours didn’t come with instructions either, it took a while to figure out why pushing the plunger was so easy sometimes, and so hard at others….

      In any case, french press coffee makers really are nice. They are simple and easy to use, make excellent coffee, and the stainless ones seem pretty much indestructible.

      Like any coffee maker, they need to be kept clean to avoid bitterness from the build up. I use dish soap and hot water, and rinse well. Other people freak at the idea of using soap and insist on using vinegar followed with a good rinse. My palate can’t tell the difference, so I go with the dish soap.

  3. My favorite is my Kelly Kettle. I can make breakfast at the same time I’m heating the water for coffee. This French Press would be the perfect complement. Thanks for the opportunity to win it. Good luck everyone.

  4. I use my stainless steel French press to make herbal drinks that need to sit 8 hours. It keeps drinks hot for a long time.
    My favorite cooking is my HERC

  5. Not sure if this is where the “blog post” entries go… would have to vote for good old campfire as favorite cooking method.

  6. My favorite off grid cooking tool is my cast iron dutch oven. With just a few pieces of charcoal I can cook or bake just about anything.

    • It works great with tea. We use ours for both. Just need to watch the water temp and time (usually cooler water and shorter time for tea).

  7. My favorite off-grid cooking tool is my Kelly Kettle. I’ve boiled water in minutes using bits of glowing charcoal left over from Dutch oven cooking, twigs, pine cones, compressed sawdust discs, etc. Everyone should have one of these!

  8. My favorite off-grid cooking tool would have to be my cast iron deep skillet. I’m saving for the cast iron dutch oven. I’m excited about trying a French press. Good article!

  9. I love cooking anything outside on a grill or over a campfire. It ups the flavor to a level you can’t get indoors. Cast iron is the best way to do this.

  10. Favorite off grid cooking tool would be my cast tron pan and/or dutch oven in the fireplace(wood fire) or on the charcoal grill

  11. My biggest concern about coffee prepping is finding a way to store GOOD coffee long term. For me the pre-ground canned coffee is hardly worth the effort and fresh ground beans only last so long. The French press is the way to go with off grid brewing – you get much better coffee than with an old fashioned percolator and you don’t have to stock up on #2 or #4 cone drip filters, which work but the coffee cools off significantly by the time the dripping is finished. Some fine grit does get through the mesh filter on the French press regardless of how fine or coarse you grind the coffee, so if you can’t put up with that a French press might not be the best option for you. I have been using much more coffee in the French press than Gayle, I’ll have to try cutting back and see how well it works for me.

    My favorite off grid cooking item is definitely a medium to large cooking pot with a heavy bottom. Cast iron is the best, but the regular stainless steel ones with a thick aluminum or other disk attached to the bottom work too. The thick bottom allows better control and less likelihood of food sticking when cooking on a variety of heat sources – propane stove in the kitchen I can start with a match – woodstove in the living room that has a cook plate inset in the top – rocket stove and or solo stove outside – charcoal grill – or campfire. The woodstove with the cook plate inset in the top is also wonderful. Any time you’re using the woodstove to heat the house you can also use it to heat up the tea kettle or cook a pot of stew.

    • I’m constantly experimenting with long-term coffee storage as well. So far my favorite is vacuum sealing combined with freezing. I decided I didn’t need a fancy Foodsaver machine, so I bought one of the handheld units. You have to have the special Freshsaver bags to use with it. I use the quart bags and about two cups of beans per bag. I lay the bag/beans flat then use the vacuum unit to expel the air. The bags/bean hold their flat shape once the air is removed. I take about four quart bags of beans and put them into a gallon Ziplock freezer bag and store them in the freezer. I only need to take out one quart bag at a time. The quart bags can be resealed after each use, if you wish.

      I also bought the vacuum canning sealer attachment, which works with the Foodsaver handheld unit. You can put the beans into a canning jar, then vacuum seal the beans inside the jar. I don’t like this method as much because I have to use smaller jars and it’s a pain to reseal the jars. Personal preference, I guess.

  12. Had been considering a French press, now I think I need one! Thank you for sharing your expertise on so many topics!

  13. My favorite off grid cooking tool is my recently acquired iron skillet. I have searched thrift stores for years and finally scored. I got four for less than 20 bucks.

  14. In the infantry when there was time, some veteran soldiers used the coffee press to make the best tasting coffee in the field.

  15. My favorite off ride cooking tool a good old cast iron frying pan. Your only restricted by your imagination when it comes to cooking with a cast iron frying pan over a fire.

  16. By far, the cast iron cookware. The best to use over a campfire. It dont scratch, break, and no soap needed to clean.

  17. My favorite off grid tools are a coffee hand grinder and a pour over permanent filter.
    Excellent coffee without electricity!!
    Soooo much better than a cup of instant coffee.
    You’d be better off brewing some dirt. 🙂

  18. I like the rocket stove because it doesn’t require a lot of fuel and fuel is easy to find in most areas. The French Press looks like an easy way to make coffee. Thanks for the chance to win one.

  19. I’ve used a french press for years and love it. I’ve always used 3 rounded tablespoons of coffee so will try to decrease the coffee amount.
    On another coffee note, this summer I switched to cold brew as my preferred (albeit warm weather) choice. I just add my 6 T of coarse ground coffee to a 1/2 gallon mason jar of water. Let it sit for 24 hours, and …. coffee for several days.. (I do store it in the refrigerator.) You can heat it – or not.

  20. My favorite is my stock pot and my grill over the campfire. Since I “mainline” coffee (LOL) it would be grand to win the press. Might make my coffee faster than the perk one I have now.

  21. My favorite is my cast iron dutch oven with a low-profile skillet I use for a lid. This setup can handle pretty much everything I need to cook and cleans up with usually just a good rinse and light scrape.

  22. I am relearning the fine art of cooking with cast iron. Recently salvaged and restored 3 cast iron skillets and should have a dutch oven going soon. Now that I have bought the house we live in, will be replacing the electric glass top stove with gas and then will enjoy cooking again. Never used a french press before, looking forward to trying it. Used to use a vacuum coffee maker that was handed down from my folks. Want to get one of those again, it was great.

  23. My favorite off-grid cooking tools are my several pieces of cast iron frying pans, omelet pan, griddle, and Dutch oven , as well as a cast iron Lodge brand hibachi-style grill. Some of the tools belonged to my mother and grandmother; others I have bought new; still others I have found at yard or estate sales.

  24. Btw, Thermos makes an excellent French press that is stainless and un-breakable. I use it while doing long range yacht deliveries and it has flown across the galley, rolled around in the cockpit and have survived TSA! I use 4 tablespoons of coffee and heat water in a teapot. Keeps the coffee hot to the last swallow.

  25. My charcoal grill and cast iron skillet are my best off-grid cooking tools. I have a really heavy cast-aluminum Dutch oven inherited from my mother, but have never tried it for off-grid cooking.

  26. I would love to have this. Have wanted a French Press for long time. However the budget screamed not now. Hubby and I are both coffee drinkers and this would insure our daily ritual of coffee on the porch summer, winter, fall and spring. We have our propane heaters on the porch for winter. Sit out there and enjoy the farm even at 8 degrees. Thanks for all the amazing info.

  27. My favorite off grid utensil is a set of stainless steel skillets my father made from airplane scraps during WW2. They are super tough and sturdy and easy enough to clean. The bottoms are not perfectly level but with a good fire it doesn’t make a difference.

  28. Read a lot of the comments looking for interesting off grid tools. I think a lot of these people don’t read the question. That aside…
    I love my cast iron , but my favorite ‘newer’ toy is my Oxo Good Grips rotary mixer. Almost like the old one my grandma had but lots easier to clean. I use it for whipping cream, making cakes, etc. Anything that isn’t too thick. Won’t do bread. Link

  29. I am thankful for our butane-fed burners. So easy to use. And…. I **love** French press coffee….and having a stainless steel one would be fabulous! Nice giveaway (as always).

  30. The smell of good coffee early in the morning – ah, now that is a pleasure and perhaps sometimes, a vice. But with a French press, surely that cuppa will be a pleasure!!! Thanks.

  31. Wow! I have never tried a french press. I tried Espresso That I did not care for.
    Gayle you find the best stuff!!! Thanks Joy

  32. My favorite off grid cooking utensil is easily a Coleman two burner propane stove, followed by a Stansport single burner stove- the kind where the burner screws onto the propane can, and the base of the can fits into a plastic base with swing out feet for stability. The later SHOULD be (and are) around 20 bucks on Amazon, tho I just looked and some optimists are pricing them MANY times higher.

  33. Your timing is impeccable as usual, Gaye. I’ve been reading review after review on Amazon, along with Googling French Press this past week, and added 2 on hold to my wish list. Off those go, and will save Your recommendation.

    My go-to for off grid is my cast iron pots & skillets.

  34. My favorite off-grid cooking tool is my Swing-A-Way manual can opener. Mine is over 30 years old (maybe older!) and practically indestructible. My husband can’t get the hang of it, but perhaps that’s just another reason he needs to keep me around. Pop top cans are great, but they can break, and then where are you with an electric can open and no power?

  35. My favorite tool for camping is my carbon steel frying pans. They cook like cast iron, are indestructible like cast iron, but weigh a lot less. The best part, they are cheap.

  36. I like using dehydrated foods, especially if I’m away from home and have access to hot water. I rehydrate or cook them right in a thermos and have two nice Stanley brand thermos favorites. The shorter, wide-mouthed one is just perfect for meals and my beloved oats and the taller, much older one is better for beverages, but both doing a great job keeping things hot. I never knew they called it thermos cooking until I looked it up!

  37. My favorite off-grid cooking tool is my little butane burner. No matches required, and it boils one heck of alot of water on one canister……

  38. Goods article – I have a regular glass french press and some camping ones that are built into a large plastic travel mug that I use all the time

  39. While building our homestead, we have no kitchen in the little bunkhouse we stay in on weekends. My favorite item is our little Lodge cast iron grill. Large enough to make a double amount and indestructible. It cost around $100, but we certainly have gotten our money’s worth.

  40. My favorite is outdoor grill or over a campfire because for some reason food cooked outdoors tastes better than food cooked indoors.

  41. I’m big on stocking canned goods so I agree with Nichole on the Swing-A-Way. Thanx for all your, advice and I love the forum. Lots of good stuff.

  42. I’m big on canned goods so I agree with Nichole on the Swing-A-Way. Thanx for all your advice and I Love the forum. Great stuff here.

  43. My favorite off grid cooking item is my oat groat flaker. I store lot of oat groats and use my flaker often for making oatmeal and granola, whether or not the power is on! Even my grandson enjoys turning the handle and seeing the flakes come out into the bowl! P.S. Sure would love to win that French Press.

  44. I would say campfire and dutch oven cooking. You can do a lot in a dutch oven and over a simple campfire. I don’t have a sun oven but it is something that I am saving for. That might become my next favorite off grid cooking medium.

  45. My cast iron Dutch oven, I use it almost on every camping trip. I know it is heavy but it does so much we don’t care about the extra weight. We are old timers so we have a tow behind trailer.

  46. Gaye, thank you for another wonderful article and once again refining my prep strategy. I bought a campfire coffee maker, not really knowing of alternatives, but this would use up way too much fuel source. You have covered all the important bases, once again, such as getting stainless for the heat retention and breakage reasons.

    I SO appreciate you and your knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing, you provide vital information in a clean, streamlined format that is hard to find on other sites. May God bless you abundantly in every way! He certainly blesses us through you! 🙂

  47. I have a variety of off grid cooking options. My favorite would depend upon what I was preparing and the weather. If it’s Jan and 2′ of snow blowing around at 5 degrees, my alcohol stove that can safely be used indoors. If it’s July and sunny, maybe my sun oven. I have to say though that I’m a big charcoal fan. As far as I am concerned cooking on a gas grill is not “really” grilling. It has to have a charcoal flavor to be “real” grilling. LOL

  48. (My apologies if this is a repeat) I haven’t done much off-grid cooking, but I love my charcoal grill. Yes, it takes time, but it is worth it!

  49. I have two: a cast iron skillet and a cast iron dutch oven. Still learning how to use the dutch oven but so far very happy with the results.

  50. My favorite way to make coffee in cold weather: take a 1 quart enameled coffee pot (the old timey kind with just the pot and lid). Using the lid as a measuring cup put coffee grounds (coarse grind works best) in pot and fill with water before you go to bed. In the morning put the pot on the wood stove and let it heat, but don’t let it boil. When it’s hot splash a little cold water on the coffee to settle any grounds that didn’t sink. You’ll be surprised at how smooth the coffee is.

  51. Love my cast iron “pots”.

    A great idea as usual. Have to have my coffee. Sounds like the coffee beans will go a long way.


  52. Husband has used a french press for years and loves it. I use one for my herbal teas and it does fine. Our favorite off-grid cooking item would be our Sun-Oven, followed by our rocket stove.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  53. My grandparents used an old stainless steel one in the house. I’m pretty sure grandma still uses it – she never bothered with electrics. Coffee’s not really my favorite drink and I don’t drink it that often, but I do like good hot tea with honey.
    As for off grid cooking, I’d have to have my cast iron dutch oven. It’s large and versatile enough to handle breakfast, dinner, dessert, and boiling water for cleanup.

  54. When I went camping recently, I used my French Press to make my coffee, even though the group had propane stoves and large coffee pots. It made really good coffee, but the most fun was answering questions about the process. No one there had ever seen one before. And, I really need my coffee in the morning. Thanks

  55. cast iron skillets, tiny 1 burner propane travel burner..little stove top percolator like yours…all my favorites…hard to choose just ‘1’….recently heard of french press and wondered how they work and how well…good info and great for the opp to actually win one! Really enjoy your emails with the variety of topics..Thanks

  56. I haven’t had the privilege of off grid cooking yet. My hubby isn’t on board with my prepping and he won’t camp. But. I love my cast-iron skillets and use them all the time. I have a glass French Press and love it. I think the SS would be great.

    Thank you for all you do!

  57. My favorite off grid cooking tool is my cast iron dutch oven. Versitile both in what you can prepare in it, and where you can use it.

  58. “What is your favorite off-grid cooking tool and why?”

    A cast iron skillet, of course. You don’t have to worry about parts melting. You can cook just about every meal in them and if properly seasoned, clean up quickly. I’ve seen my dad use sand from the river to clean his before. That seems pretty easy if you need it cleaned in a pinch.

    Thanks for the great articles. I’m learning much about how to survive.

  59. A must have is a long spoon. I like the long spoon in titanium by Vargo. So many uses. Needed for the coffee in this weeks article but invaluable for bags of on the go meals and just plain ole stirring stuff.

  60. My favorite off grid cooking method is to build a fire in the pit and grill over coals or cook using the coals. It may not be the best way, but for me it is the most fun. We always cook something when we build a fire. We have other tools for off grid cooking as well.

    I recommend using the French Press a little differently. Use one tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee per 4 ounces of water. This method makes a stronger cup then you describe. The flavors of the coffee will come out better. The aroma will be better and you will enjoy the coffee much more.

    The Hario grinder you have is high quality. So is the French Press. I may sound a little like a coffee snob but you may as well make the coffee the way it should be made and enjoy a quality cup of coffee. When you have to go off grid then you can cut back and budget your coffee.

    A quality coffee shop that roasts their beans and does not sell flavored coffee can give you some good advice too. Thanks for the contest and I hope you enjoy some great coffee.

  61. Hmmm……this is a good reminder that I need to purchase something or other. I live near the woods……so, I think maybe a wood fire and aluminum foil or a stick is what I have now.

  62. My cast iron dutch oven… it is so versatile… can be used to cook about anything and can cook with hot charcoals or directly in a fire.

  63. My favorite? Definitely the SunOven. No fuel needed to cook with? Priceless in an extended grid down event.
    Of course I have plenty of other choices for cloudy days, but the SunOven is my go-to for a nice hot meal when the power is out.

  64. My number one Prep equipment is one or more of my solar cookers. A twig cooker, that you can put together and take apart in minutes is also very important. I cannot imagine a true prepper not having several of these. Don’t forget, any solar cooker that isn’t cooking food should be purifying your water. We do this all the time in rural Africa.

    A day without coffee–well, that is a difficult thing to think about. I take comfort in being within walking distance of a coffee farm! Thanks for bring up coffee!

  65. I bought a backup French press for when the power goes out. It was very difficult during Sandy when I was without coffee, I don’t count instant as coffee, for 2 weeks.

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