How to Automate a French Press So That It’s Ready When You Wake Up

Nothing beats French press coffee, but sometimes it’s just too involved to make in the morning. Now you can start your day by waking up to a fresh French press pot.

French press coffee is tough to beat. It’s rich, thick and tastes better than a $4 cup from a coffeeshop. It’s relatively cheap to get set up with a french press, throw in a coffee grinder so you have fresh beans, and you’re set.

The only problem is it requires attention. It isn’t difficult by any means, and only takes 5 or 6 minutes. But as we all know, a minute is never more precious than in the morning.  French press coffee is extremely popular with Primer’s readers. In a recent poll on Twitter and Facebook readers overwhelmingly said they favored the classic press pot as their preferred brew method.

But, several of you responded with a caveat: French press on the weekends, drip on the weekdays. Drip coffeemakers, especially those with programmable timers, are the most convenient because they run in the background while you’re showering and getting ready for work. When you’re ready to drink coffee either with your RSS feeds or while you’re running out the door, it’s there waiting for you.

So why  not just drink the drip coffee? Well, you can. If you like drip coffee, do it. It’s easy and convenient. French press coffee does have some benefits however. Since a drip maker uses a paper filter, all of the oils are lost from the coffee beans. These oils are part of what gives French press coffee its unique, rich texture. French press coffee is considerably less bitter, allowing the use of a darker roast to get a fuller flavor.

The issue is just the amount of hands-on work a French press requires. Wait for the water to boil, grind the beans, fill the pot with the beans and water, let sit for 4 minutes, stir, press, drink. You’ve got to stick around the kitchen to get the job done.

Unless you’re willing to MacGuyver up a solution.

I recently purchased a programmable Black & Decker drip machine at Wal-Mart for around $16 on sale. This is how I wake up to delicious French press coffee, with the added incentive of ruining it if I wake up too late. Here’s how I do it.

Step 1: Fill the drip machine with water

The night before, fill the machine with water, just like making a normal pot of coffee. I have a 6 cup French press so I fill the water up to “6″ on the drip machine’s caraffe.

Step 2: Grind your beans and put them in the drip maker’s caraffe

This is really the only hiccup in my process. Many folks who drink French press coffee like it because the beans are ground right before brewing. With this method, we’re grinding them the night before, so they’ll be sitting all night. Honestly, I haven’t found there to be much difference, and it still beats regular drip coffee.

In this step, we’re setting up the coffee to brew right in the hot water, just like when brewing a press pot. This yields a more consistent brew, lessens the burnt flavor, and retains the oils.

Step 3: Set the timer

I like to set the timer about 4 minutes before I want to get out of bed. That way, I can walk right into the kitchen with a perfectly brewed pot.

Step 4: Brewing

When the timer goes off, the machine will start dripping hot water right though the empty basket and into the caraffe with our ground beans. When the machine stops, the beans will have had enough time to completely extract all of the flavor. But, if you hit snooze a time or two, your coffee will be way over-brewed. It’s a good incentive for getting out of bed the first time.

Step 5: Pour the brewing beans and water into the French press

Pour everything into the French press, beans and all. Place the plunger on the press and strain immediately. The coffee will have had enough brew time while the water dripped.

Step 6: Enjoy!

Have any tricks for improving the process? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

  • Alex

    That animated gif with the pouring coffee made me long for tomorrow morning :-)

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Haha, how do you know it’s a Primer article? There’s an animated gif of something pouring.

  • Mike

    Not exactly an improvement but an alternative. I use a moka pot for making my wake-up coffee (http://tinyurl.com/5soaak). All you have to do in the morning is to turn on the hot plate and wait 5 min.
    Pros: not much work to do, excellent coffee, easy to cleanCons: little amount of strong coffee (if you’d like to consider that a con)

  • visiting! :)

    Just drink expresso! If you need a quick caffeine fix in the morning, an expresso will do the trick. 

    But that´s just cultural, I guess. :) 
    (Portugal)

  • Edwardcgray

    An alternative if you like iced coffee: at night make a French press with tap water and put it in the fridge for the 8 hours you sleep, press in the am.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Cold press! Nice…I’ve been meaning to try that.

  • Sundragon

    how about, just pour the coffee into your press the night before. Fill your electric ketel with water and when you wake up hit the power (Unless your ketel is fancy and has a timer) and pour when it’s ready. It’s really quick (my Oster boils in less than 5 minutes) and as close to immediate as you can get without making the process complicated.

  • wha

    This is a perfectly great way to absolutely ruin french press coffee and everything it represents.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Could be, but I’ve tried it and liked it, and you haven’t.

      • Ben

        I really like your site, but every time I see a snippy reply like this from you my opinion of you goes down a notch.  Comment sections don’t have to resort to the same rules as 3rd grade recess – nothing about that encourages participation here.  Even honest and accurate statements end up coming across as snappy and defensive when phrased like this. 

    • Ali

      How does this ruin French Press coffee?

      • steve

        Coffee is best when it’s ground right before brewing.  Grind the night before and some of the volatile flavor-bearing compounds will evaporate.  Second, the water coming out of a typical drip coffee machine is not hot enough for a proper extraction.  Finally, to really get a full, even extraction in a french press you have to wet all the grinds at the same time and stir them for a little while.  Water slowly dripping into the pot is not going to accomplish this.  This method basically gives you all the worst aspects of drip brewing , plus you get the grit of a french press cup.

  • Pingback: The Title is Optional (10/16/2012) « Taking Coffee Time

  • Cweld

    If the press pot fits inside where the carafe would normally go it would save a little bit of washing up.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      That was my first thought! Might work with a smaller pot (or larger coffeemaker) but my French press doesn’t fit.

  • Encore000

    That’s a very good idea. I use a similar trick.
    What I’ve done was buying and electric water boiler
    (the ones that look like a carafe or pitcher). It boils water in less than 3 minutes.
    When I wake up I plug it. 3 minutes later, I have hot water I pour it into the french press, which already had the grind coffee in there. Et voila! Tout est fini et prêt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749036704 Luke Filthymcnasty O Ceallaigh

    Plug the kettle into a timer switch as well?

  • http://twitter.com/ensposito Steve Ens

    Espresso….;-) Oh, yes, I do espresso in the morning.

  • Thatageguy

    Bodum has a travel french press mug. I love it. Usually I will set the kettle to boil and as it does I grind my coffee beans. Im out the door and in the car I can plung the press and enjoy my coffee right from the french press mug. Heres the link.
    http://www.bodum.com/ca/en-us/shop/detail/11100-01BUS/?navid=264