How to clean a French press: a barista’s advice for a spotless cafetière

A French press, also known as a cafetière or coffee press, is a popular manual coffee brewing device loved by coffee connoisseurs for producing a bold, flavorful brew. However, like any coffeemaker, the French press needs regular cleaning to keep it in optimal working order and prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and mineral deposits that can negatively impact taste over time.

As a barista with years of experience using French presses, I’m often asked how to properly clean this iconic coffee maker. A thorough cleaning is straightforward and takes just a few minutes. With some hot water, a scrub brush, and dish soap, you’ll have your French press sparkling clean and ready for its next use.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the complete cleaning process step-by-step. I’ll also share my top tips and tricks for keeping your French press in tip-top shape between cleanings. With my advice, your morning cup of French press coffee will always taste fresh and delicious. Let’s dive in!

Why Regular Cleaning is Essential

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to clean your French press, let’s review why regular cleaning is so important for this type of coffeemaker. Here are the key reasons you should clean your French press after every use or at least every couple of days:

  • Prevent Buildup of Coffee Oils and Residues – Each time you brew coffee in a French press, oils and tiny grains of spent coffee grounds stick to the glass carafe and metal filter screen. If left unchecked, these residues can accumulate and rancidify, lending undesirable flavors to future cups of coffee.
  • Stop Mold and Bacteria Growth – The damp, oxygen-free environment inside a French press is ideal for growing mold and bacteria. Regular cleaning inhibits their growth, keeping your health and safety protected.
  • Remove Mineral Deposits – Minerals naturally present in water can leave chalky deposits on French press parts after repeated use. Cleaning helps dissolve these deposits so they don’t build up over time.
  • Improve Taste – Most importantly, a clean French press simply makes coffee that tastes better. Without old coffee oils, mineral deposits or bacteria impacting flavor, your French press coffee will taste pure and delicious.

So in summary, cleaning your French press regularly is non-negotiable if you want the best-tasting coffee possible. It takes minimal effort and is well worth the rewards of flavorful, fresh coffee every day.

Supplies Needed

Cleaning your French press doesn’t require any fancy tools or supplies. Here are the basic items you’ll need:

  • Hot water – The key to an effective French press cleaning is hot water, as it helps dissolve and rinse away coffee residues. Use freshly boiled water for best results.
  • Mild dish soap – A small amount of mild, unscented dish soap combined with hot water helps break down oils and lift away grime.
  • Scrub brush – A soft brush is ideal for scrubbing away stubborn deposits on the French press’s filter screen and beaker. Look for one with sturdy but gentle plastic or silicone bristles.
  • Dish towel – Have a clean towel on hand to dry all parts after washing.

Optional extras:

  • Cafiza or other coffee equipment cleaner – These commercial cleaners offer a powerful solution for tackling very stubborn buildup. Always rinse thoroughly after use.
  • Bottle brush – For cleaning the inside of the carafe, a narrow bottle brush can reach tight spaces.

With just these basic supplies, you’re ready to learn how to clean your French press like a professional!

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Follow these steps every time you clean your French press:

1. Rinse Out Coffee Grounds

After you’ve plunged and poured your final cup, the first step is to rinse out the remaining coffee grounds.

  • Remove the lid and filter screen and set aside.
  • Fill the empty beaker about 1/3 full with hot tap water.
  • Cover the opening with one hand and gently swirl the carafe to rinse away all wet grounds stuck to the interior.
  • Discard the rinse water and grounds in the sink or compost.

This quick rinse prevents wet grounds from drying stuck to the inside of the beaker.

2. Wash All Parts

Next, it’s time to wash all parts of the French press.

  • Beaker – Fill the beaker about halfway with hot water and add a small squirt of dish soap. Use a bottle brush to scrub the interior, focusing on the bottom where oils accumulate most. The hot soapy water will cut through the oil for easy rinsing.
  • Lid and filter screen – Soak these pieces in a bowl or basin filled with hot, soapy water. Use a brush to scrub away any grime on the metal filter screen. Soaking helps loosen stuck-on bits.
  • Plunger – Run the plunger under hot water and rub a small amount of soap along its length with your fingers to clean.

Take your time scrubbing all parts, giving special attention to the filter screen. The goal is to remove all traces of coffee residue.

3. Rinse Thoroughly

Once scrubbed, everything must be thoroughly rinsed. Any remaining soap taste will ruin coffee flavor.

  • Rinse the beaker, lid, filter screen, and plunger under hot running water, scrubbing lightly with your fingers or brush to remove all soap.
  • Continue rinsing each piece under hot water until the water runs clear.
  • Use a clean dish towel to dry all parts completely so they are ready for the next use. Air drying prevents water spots.

That’s all it takes! Just three simple steps of rinsing, washing, and rinsing again, and your French press will be sparkling clean.

Top Tips for Keeping Your French Press Clean

Here are my pro tips and best practices for keeping your French press in excellent shape between deep cleanings:

  • Rinse after every use – At the bare minimum, do a quick rinse of the carafe and filter screen after each use to prevent residue buildup.
  • Use coarse ground coffee – The right grind size helps minimize particulate matter left behind. Aim for a uniform coarse grind around the size of breadcrumbs.
  • Don’t overfill with grounds – Excess grounds can clog the filter screen and be harder to rinse out after brewing. Stick to about 2-3 tablespoons per 3-4 cups water.
  • Clean frequently – Do a full soap and water cleaning at least every 2-3 days. Even better is cleaning daily or after each use if possible.
  • Remove odors with lemon – If plastic or rubber parts absorb odors, soak them in hot water mixed with lemon juice and baking soda to freshen.
  • Deep clean monthly – Once a month, do an extended cleaning by soaking parts in hot water mixed with cafiza or vinegar for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Replace plunger seal annually – The plunger’s rubber seal wears out over time. Replace yearly to prevent leaking.

Common Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

While cleaning a French press is generally straightforward, there are a few mistakes to be aware of:

  • Not disassembling fully – All parts, including the rubber plunger seal, need cleaned. Don’t just rinse assembled.
  • Letting coffee dry out – Always rinse right after brewing as dried liquid is harder to clean.
  • Using abrasive scrubbers – Scouring pads and powders can scratch the glass beaker over time, creating an ideal home for grime.
  • Skipping the second rinse – It’s critical to rinse extremely thoroughly after soaping to remove all residue.
  • Not air drying – Let all parts air dry fully before reassembling to prevent water spots or corrosion.
  • Forgetting scrub the filter – Pay special attention to scrubbing the metal filter screen of oils and particulates.

Avoid these mistakes, and cleaning your French press will be quick, easy, and effective.

FAQs About Cleaning a French Press

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cleaning French presses:

Can I put a French press in the dishwasher?

I don’t recommend dishwashing, as the high heat and harsh detergent can wear down parts over time. Handwashing preserves the French press better.

How should I clean the outside of the beaker?

Use a sponge or cloth with hot, soapy water to wipe down the exterior of the beaker after each use. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

What’s the best way to clean the plunger seal?

Remove the seal from the plunger assembly and gently scrub it with a brush and dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and air dry before replacing.

How do I remove stained coffee oils?

For tough oil stains, let parts soak for 5-10 minutes in hot water mixed with a little cafiza or vinegar. This mixture helps dissolve oils for easier rinsing.

Can I use bleach or alcohol to sanitize?

Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach and alcohol inside the beaker, as residue can leach into coffee. Hot soapy water removes bacteria effectively.

How do I clean a discolored metal filter screen?

Scrub discolored screens with a paste of water and baking soda. Rinse thoroughly. Replace screens that are badly corroded.

What’s the best way to prevent mineral buildup?

Use filtered water to help inhibit mineral deposits. Clean frequently with hot water to dissolve any deposits before they build up.

Why does my French press retain odors?

Rubber lids and seals easily absorb odors. Soak them in hot water with lemon juice and baking soda to help remove scents between cleanings.

Getting a Spotless Clean Every Time

While it only takes a few minutes, properly cleaning a French press is vital for both hygiene and the best-tasting coffee possible. With hot water, mild dish soap, and a soft brush, you can easily remove coffee residues and oils that impact flavor if allowed to build up over time.

Be sure to fully disassemble all parts, scrub thoroughly with soap and a brush, and rinse extremely well after cleaning. Follow my tips, like rinsing right after brewing and cleaning frequently, for spotless results. With its glass and stainless steel construction, your beloved French press will provide many years of delicious coffee with proper care and cleaning.


A clean French press is the first step in brewing a great cup of coffee. While it may seem simple, properly cleaning all components is critical for both safety and optimizing flavor. By regularly washing away oil and mineral buildup, you allow the pure, fresh taste of each new batch of coffee to shine through.

I hope this guide has shown that keeping your French press spotlessly clean is an easy, worthwhile task for any coffee lover. Follow my step-by-step instructions and expert tips, and you’ll get café-quality coffee from your French press every morning. Here’s to many more years of enjoyable brewing!