Cleaning Your French Press the Easy Way: A Step by Step Guide
You know how cast iron gets seasoned with use, developing a lovely non-stick patina and becoming more and more amazing? Well, your French press coffee maker doesn’t work that way. Any leftover grounds or a film of old oil is a great way to handicap yourself in the pursuit of excellent coffee. Thankfully, learning to clean your French press is cheap insurance against ruining an otherwise perfectly good cup of coffee!
What You Need
- A French Press coffee maker
- Running water
- Dish soap
- A sponge or brush
- A mesh sieve or colander lined with a paper towel
- Baking soda (optional)
- A dishwasher (optional)
- A drying rack (optional)
How to Clean A French Press, Step by Step
1. Emptying the grounds
A good French press makes a lovely cup of coffee but unlike drip coffee makers, the grounds aren’t neatly enclosed in a paper filter that you can just throw away when you’re done.
The easiest way to dispose of the grounds is to
rinse them down your sink…but wait! This practice is strongly discouraged by nearly every plumber as it can result in clogged pipes!
Nothing causes more blockages and clogged drains than coffee grounds and grease.
Slightly less easy, but infinitely less likely to clog your pipes, is filling the French press with a little water and pouring the water and grounds into a mesh sieve. Rinse the plunger off over the sieve if you want to ensure the least amount of grounds make it into your pipes.
If knocking out the sieve feels like too much work you can line the sieve with a paper towel, although personally, I feel that is superfluous. As an added bonus, by not flushing the grounds down the sink you can save them for other uses! Coffee grounds are compostable, are beneficial in gardens, and can even be used as an exfoliant (1).
2. Take apart your press
For proper cleaning, you are going to want to break down your press all the way. Most French presses can be broken down into 5 components:
- Cross plate (the plastic or stainless steel bottom piece of the plunger)
- Mesh filter (the middle piece of the plunger)
- Spiral plate (the stainless steel top piece of the plunger)
- The plunger rod/lid assembly
In order to disassemble most French presses, you’ll need to unscrew the plunger base from the rod. The base will easily lift apart once the rod has been removed.
3. Scrub and rinse your press
Once you’ve broken down the press into its component pieces, it is time to get cleaning. Unless your press came with instructions to the contrary, the best way to clean a press is in the dishwasher.
The cleaning instructions of every current model of Bodum French press say, “All parts are dishwasher safe.”
If you’re in a hurry to get your press clean so you can get to brewing your next pot ASAP, then you’ll want to use dish soap, a sponge or brush, and hot water. While you might worry about scratching the pitcher, unless you are using hardened steel (2), the borosilicate glass (3) most presses are made of will easily stand up to whatever scrubber you select!
The mesh filter is the only component you’ll want to handle carefully. Occasionally the edges can be flipped up and either begin fraying or even give you an unexpected cut.
Some sources on the internet strangely suggest that you should not use soap on plastic as it will pick up the flavors of the soap… Uh…what? Unless the manufacturer specifically says otherwise, soap is entirely safe to use on your French press! A thorough rinse with hot water should clear your press of any residual soap.
If you’ve got particularly stubborn stains, use a paste made of baking soda and dish soap. Let the paste sit for a few minutes and then scrub. The moderately abrasive texture of baking soda helps to buff off deposits while the dish soap breaks down residual oils. Rinse with hot water and you’ll find that most stains are easily removed.
You’re almost there! Just put the parts back together and your press will be ready to use! The parts should be almost impossible to put back together incorrectly… but in case you need a reminder:
The cross plate is the bottom of the plunger assembly. Put the mesh screen and then the spiral screen on top of the cross plate. Gently thread the plunger rod onto the assembled plunger base. Voilà! You’ve done it!
5. Make more coffee, or allow to dry
If you’re making coffee immediately, then a bit of residual dampness will not be a problem. Prepare your coffee as usual and enjoy.
PRO TIP – Cleaning your French press soon after use will make for an easier job. Plus, you’ll be well-caffeinated!
If you are just cleaning your press and don’t intend on using it immediately, you’ll be best off allowing it to dry completely before putting the plunger back in the pitcher. Otherwise, you risk mold or minor discoloration from the stainless steel oxidizing.
French presses make a delicious cup of coffee, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use one just because they are a bit more involved to clean than drip coffee makers. Just disassemble your press, put it in your dishwasher, and let technology do the work. If you’re in a hurry, the process requires a bit of time, but isn’t particularly onerous. The pleasure of a delicious cup of coffee certainly makes the effort worthwhile!
Frequently Asked Questions
You should wash your French press after every usage. Coffee oils quickly go rancid and rancid oils can ruin the flavor of your coffee! A clean French press is essential for making a good cup of coffee.
If you would like to use vinegar to clean your French press, empty the grounds from the press and then fill with equal parts vinegar and boiling water. Allow the vinegar to soak for several minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Be aware that if you use vinegar with baking soda you will be making a DIY volcano – the combination will foam and possibly overflow somewhat violently.
To clean mold out of a French press, disassemble as normal and then ideally place the press in the dishwasher. You may wish to use gloves if you have a sensitivity to mold. If you do not have access to a dishwasher, regular soap and water is adequate to remove mold. If you are struggling to remove mold from the French press filter, soak the screen in soapy water or a solution of vinegar and hot water for several minutes before scrubbing.
- McDonell, K. (n.d.). 16 Creative Uses for Used Coffee Grounds. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/uses-for-coffee-grounds.
- The Mohs Scale of Hardness for Metals: Why It Is Important. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.jewelrynotes.com/the-mohs-scale-of-hardness-for-metals-why-it-is-important/
- Westlab. (2017, July 31). What is the Difference between Soda-lime Glass and Borosilicate Glass? Retrieved from https://westlabblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/what-is-the-difference-between-soda-lime-glass-and-borosilicate-glass/