How To Clean Your French Press – 4 Simple Steps (Plus Extra Tips)

Your French press is your best friend, right ? Well, keeping your French press clean is a good way to make sure your friendship will continue over the coming years.

After all, the whole concept of the French press makes it so the thing is break-proof. There’s no way it will malfunction, except when you break it.

So, let’s see how you can clean your French press as best as possible.

french press clean

How to clean your French press

Cleaning your press is not going to take terribly long, but it will require your to be careful with some parts, and to remember that soapy water makes things slippery, so try to hold the carafe as firmly as possible.

Also, for your own well being please wait for the carafe to be cool, or at least not hot anymore, before you start cleaning it.

1. Empty out the French press

The first and simplest step is to empty the French press. Remove the top part, plunger and all, and scoop out all the ground coffee.

You can either  do this with a spatula, or plastic spoon, but try not to use something hard like metal since you may crack the glass.

I suggest you refrain from throwing the ground coffee in the sink, since it can clog up in time. One option is to throw it in the bin, and another to use it as fertilizer for your flowers.

Whichever option you use, make sure you scoop out as much as you can. Some grounds will remain, and that’s okay, you can’t possibly pick up all of them.

2. Give a cursory rinse, then disassemble

Fill the press with plain, hot water almost all the way, put the lid back on and use the plunger to really rinse everything. Even bits that were stick in the filter should come loose.

If they don’t just yet, no worries, we’ll take care of them in a bit.

Once you’ve thoroughly rinsed it, throw the water out, and disassemble the press. It should come with instructions in the manual, otherwise you might need to use a pair of small pliers or screwdriver to properly unscrew the items.

Some French presses are very simple to disassemble, just clicking into place. Others require you to use tools for the job. Even so, the job is simple enough and does not take more than a couple of minutes.

Remember the original order in which the mesh and filters were layered on the plunger. For reference it’s best to take a photo or short video of the filter before you start doing this, so you have a reference when you put it back together.

3. Use a baking soda and vinegar mix to scrub clean

Most households have baking soda stashed somewhere in a cupboard, and nearly everyone has a cup of vinegar to spare.

So, bring your items to the sink. In a small bowl, add in equal parts baking soda and vinegar. Please use rubber gloves for this !

The mixture will foam, that’s normal. It will settle down after a couple of minutes, but you don’t have to wait that long.

Get a kitchen sponge, and possibly a brush with plastic bristles, of the softer kind.

Start by taking parts of the mixture onto the sponge, and rub it all over each item, including the carafe. Let sit like so for 5 minutes.

The baking soda is a champion at reducing grime and really dissolving anything nasty built up on the press’ elements. Conversely, the vinegar will help neutralize odors and further reduce grime.

This is a tried and true pairing, and it’s going to save you in many household situations.

Back to the items, after the 5 minutes are up, inspect them. If they weren’t especially grimy to begin with, they can be just scrubbed with the sponge and rinsed, and should be alright.

If they were very dirty, like after prolonged use or neglect, start scrubbing with the brush. What’s most important in this is the mesh filter. It’s a very fragile item, and it’s full of tiny nooks and crannies, which will build up coffee deposits and coffee oils, if left unchecked.

Hence the severe baking soda treatment. Still, brush even the mesh (gently) if you want to be very sure it’s clean.

After you’re done brushing and scrubbing, rinse everything in hot water.

In the end, there should be no weird smells (not even vinegar) and both the metal and glass elements should be squeaky clean. Literally, if you run a clean, wet finger it should lag and squeak.

If you feel any sort of small deposit or grease/oil patch, inspect closely and rub again with the vinegar/baking soda mixture.

In all of this, do not forget the outside of the carafe, and especially under the beak where you’re always going to get a bit of coffee dried. Some carafes can’t be removed from their holders (plastic or not), and if yours is like so make sure to thoroughly clean the holder as well.

4. Allow to dry, then reassemble

Once everything is cleaned, dry each item with a paper towel and leave to further, completely dry for a few hours.

Any moisture that you may allow to sit in a closed French press will eat away at the metal, over the years, and also develop mold if you didn’t properly clean it.

So when each item is dry – completely dry – reassemble the French press. Refer to your previous photo or recording of how the filters were originally arranged, so you know exactly how to do this.

What not to do when cleaning the French press

When you’re cleaning a French press for the first time, you might forget about this or that. That’s normal, it takes a few tries to get anything right.

So here’s what you should look out for when cleaning your French press:

1. Don’t forget about coffee oils

Coffee is coffee, and I had no idea it really had any sort of oils until I looked at a cup of coffee from the right angle. It’s almost like a thin, multicolored sheen on the surface of the coffee itself.

When you drink the brew, a small amount of the oils will remain on the coffee cup/mug, and might not be immediately noticeable unless you’ve got a dark colored mug. The rainbow sheen is very apparent on a dark background.

This is why I suggested you use the baking soda and vinegar mix, since these deal with grease without leaving that dish soap smell. If that’s not a problem for your, you can use regular dish soap.

But be sure to thoroughly scrub each item to make sure no hidden corner or angle shelters some built up coffee and coffee oil.

2. Don’t use metal or wire brushes or scourers on the glass

Very important both for your carafe’s aesthetics and safety, don’t use anything metal on it. In time it will scratch and eventually get easier to break, so do your best to avoid them when cleaning the glass carafe.

3. Don’t forget to completely dry out each element

Drying out each item, like the filter components, the plunger itself, the lid, and so on will ensure you get no rust on your French press, and this in turn will help keep it in working condition for much longer.

Another reason you need to really make sure each item is dry is because mold thrives in damp spaces, and any water droplet in an enclosed environment that’s not particularly clean will trigger its growth.

How to keep your French press clean longer

Part of cleaning your French press is taking care of it between each major cleaning session. So let’s say you use your French press everyday, 2 times a day. A thorough cleaning like I explained before isn’t necessary each day, but maybe twice a week with this use frequency.

So here are some tips for everyday use, and how to make sure you have less to clean when the deep clean comes.

1. Always, always rinse thoroughly after each use

After each cup of French press coffee, make sure you not only empty out the grounds, but also rise the daylights out of that thing. Dried up coffee looks nasty, and can impart a weird smell and taste to the French press over time.

So always make sure you at least rinse with hot water until no light brown liquid comes out anymore, and let it breathe for a few minutes, with the plunger taken out.

2. Never let any coffee grounds sit hours on end in the press

Letting coffee grounds sit in your French press will mean even more stale coffee taste, and will make the deep cleaning more difficult.

So make sure you never forget to throw out the coffee grounds, since letting them just sit there isn’t going to¬† be a good thing.

Besides, the more you let them sit there, the more time the filters are in contact with the coffee oils.

3. Do not underestimate coffee oils

And I’m talking about coffee oils again, yes, because too few people take them into account. They’re a small amount, but can really mess up your French press in the long run.

Grimy spots made by built-up coffee oil (this takes weeks) make pushing the plunger more difficult, and end up as breeding ground for various bacteria and possibly mold.

This is why you need to really scrub the whole installation – carafe, filter, plunger, lid, all of it – with vinegar/baking soda, or dish soap.

4. Do replace parts of the French press if needed

Eventually your French press will become old. Some parts, like the carafe itself will still be functional and serve you very well.

Others, like the mesh filter or the plunger itself can break down in time. Or they can become a bit rusty and keeping your coffee in contact with them is not going to help.

So don’t hesitate to replace parts of your French press whenever they stop performing. Try and fix them first, but it you fail, get new parts.

In some cases you might need to get a wholly different press, and that’s okay.

Final thoughts

A French press is easy enough to clean if you’ve got an eye for details, and remember what the item looked like assembled.

It’s one of the best items to brew coffee in, and it’s really a shame whenever one of them become useless.

So thoroughly cleaning the press every few days (or at least once a week) will make sure you get years and years of use from your French press.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?