The French press comes out, the kettle boils, the water goes in, and then you wonder…
Should I stir?
You need to stir your French Press after the water goes in to ensure that all the grounds are completely soaked. If you don’t stir you could get clumps of dry grounds that don’t get the full extraction and leave you with weak coffee.
But it’s not always as straightforward as that, do you need to stir twice? Should you stir again at the end or partway through?
I’ll tell you…
Should You Stir A French Press Before Plunging?
Stirring a French Press thoroughly at the end is a bad idea. It will lead to all the settled coffee at the bottom getting mixed in and more of it coming through your filter resulting in more sediment in your cup.
But what you can do is gently break the crust.
At the end of the brew time, the grounds have formed together to make an island on top of the water. Breaking the crust is where you put the back of your spoon through this and it more or less stops the extraction.
Because the grounds are still in contact with the water there will still be some extraction taking place but combined with the temperature drop from when you started it will be far slower.
So do you need to break the crust? The jury is out… Because it’s at the end of the brew it’s not going to make a huge difference one way or another. Breaking it will possibly result in fewer coffee fines getting through the filter and into your cup but it’s hard to say.
What I will say is that I love to break the crust, you get the release of smell from the coffee and get to watch all the coffee grounds floating to the bottom. It might not be necessary but it is enjoyable.
Should You Stir A French Press After The Bloom?
I researched a while back on whether or not it’s worth it to do a bloom in a French press, and many people swear by it, but the verdict was that you can do it if you like but you can easily get away with not doing it.
But if you are doing it, how does that affect where we stir?
No matter what you do at the start of making a french press, you must stir once water is added. Add your small amount of water for the bloom, and stir to soak the grounds.
Then whether you do a second stir after you pour the rest of the water that is up to you, if a lot of grounds are floating on top then sure, stir it.
But because this is such a short time frame and an immersion method then I wouldn’t worry too much about it, I don’t think you’re going to get a huge difference at the end. At least unless you’re a coffee taster
How To Get Away With Not Stirring
In all the videos I watched explaining how to make French Press there were a couple who didn’t stir their french press after the water went in and urged you not to so as not to over-extract.
But they all used gooseneck kettles and gently poured water over all the grounds ensuring that an even coverage soaked every last piece of coffee.
This would be a way to not need to stir your French Press because it’s doing the same job of getting all the grounds wet. But if you don’t have a gooseneck kettle that pours nice and slowly it’s going to be much harder to do this.
When I pour with my normal kettle into my French Press I try and (carefully) move it around to get a good soaking across all the grounds or pour a bit quicker so they get pulled into the turbulence and mix that way. But then I stir, every single time.
When You Shouldn’t Stir A French Press
What you don’t want to do is stir every minute, or stir constantly throughout the whole brew.
I can see the logic that it’s a full immersion brewing method so you want the grounds to be fully immersed at all times. And if you want all the grounds immersed then you don’t want to have any floating on top exposed above the water line right?
You have to trust what’s happening inside without your interference, the grounds are getting swirled around by the heat currents, the goodness of the coffee is getting extracted out into the water.
And of all the coffee you put inside, only a fraction of it is going to get left above the waterline, and if you stirred at the start then those grounds are going to be soaked and can still let their coffee essence out into the coffee below.
Meanwhile stirring too often will not allow the grounds to settle at the bottom and because the metal filter lets more fines through any way that’s just going to leave you with a bitty cup full of coffee which is the last thing we want.
Metal vs Wooden Spoon For Stirring A French Press
I saw a very strange video that talked about not using a metal spoon to stir a french press, this recommendation is also common on Bodum french press boxes. The video went on to talk about how a metal spoon can react with the water and leave it tasting worse…
An eyebrow was raised.
The reason you get advised not to use a metal spoon in a French Press is that it is much more likely to break the glass.
That’s it. No strange chemical reactions, once again no need to use gold because it’s “inert”, it’s just a safety precaution. Because a small scratch in the glass that’s getting repeatedly heated up could end up in a fracture and then the glass smashing while it’s full of boiling water.
So use a wooden spoon, a chopstick, or you can be like me and just carefully use a metal spoon. I’m not whisking the damn thing after all I’m just gently stirring the coffee grounds.
There is one last place you’ll need your spoon if you’re going to make French Press Coffee…
Getting the coffee grounds out! You can shake it, bump it off the trash can, but until you get the spoon in there to scrape up all the grounds it’s just not going to cut it. And as I spoke about before you don’t want to put too many coffee grounds down your sink or garbage disposal.