French press coffee is the most adorable way of brewing coffee. This process results in a stronger, more flavorful cup of coffee, which is lovely for the people who prefer more robust flavors.
French press coffee makes use of a plunger that forces the coffee down so that the grounds sink to the bottom of the filter. But this plunger may sometimes get stuck or become very hard to press. This also happened many times with me when I was a beginner, and I must say it’s really a very annoying experience. But over time, I acknowledged and overcame the mistakes I had been making.
So why does the French Press plunger get very hard to push down sometimes?
This especially happens when you use fine grind size for brewing French Press or don’t clean the mesh screen properly before using it, as finer coffee particles may have clogged the screen from your previous brew. Or it might happen if you try to push the plunger too quickly.
We will address all these problems in detail in this article and give you recommendations on how to use French Press properly.
Why is my French Press hard to push down? 4 Reasons
1- You are using the wrong ground size
Using fine grounds is undoubtedly the most common reason which can make your French press plunger stuck or hard to push down.
So, what’s the best size of coffee particles you should use for French Press? The answer is a coarse grind. French Press is an immersion-style brewing method that requires time to brew; coffee has many soluble components that get dissolved in water.
So, it’s best to use coarsely ground coffee beans to brew a perfect cup of French Press. Fine grounds can clog the mesh screen of the plunger, or they can also make your drink muddy or sludgy as fine particles can pass through the mesh screen of the French press plunger.
But remember also don’t use too much coarse grounds because more coarse grounds have a larger surface area, so they don’t extract the flavors thoroughly and can make your drink watery. You have to experiment with different grind sizes in the coarse and medium coarse region size until you find the perfect taste.
I recommend you to buy some good quality coffee grinder with burrs if you want the best from your French Press. If you don’t have a grinder, buy some good quality pre-ground coffee with coarse size. But in my experience, it’s tough to find the exact grind size in the pre-ground coffee pack as required for French Press, and the size of pre-ground coffee is also very inconsistent.
2- The mesh screen is not clean
If you are already using the coarse grounds for brewing French Press and it is still very hard to push the plunger down. Then it might be possible that you have forgotten to clean your French Press, or you might not have cleaned it properly before brewing.
The coffee grounds from your previous brew may have clogged the screen; that’s why it gets stuck.
How to clean the French Press properly?
There are two methods to clean a French Press coffee maker: daily cleaning and thorough cleaning.
For daily cleaning, take the plunger out, fill your French press jar with water about halfway, take a metal strainer, pour those grounds and water into it, and then dump the grounds into the trash from the metal strainer.
Now fill the French Press jar again with water and also add some drops of soap into it. Fit the plunger and just move it up and down three to four times; this will create agitation, and your French Press will get cleaned properly.
Now rinse one more time, and your French Press coffee maker will be ready to brew another cup of great coffee.
This method works fine only when you clean your French Press just after brewing a coffee. Because as time passes, the coffee grounds and coffee oils get stuck to the surface of the French Press Jar and strainer of the plunger. Which makes it difficult to clean it later on. So, I suggest you build a habit of cleaning the French Press coffee maker just after brewing.
If your plunger is stuck or if it’s very hard to push down, then, in that case, I think you need to do a thorough cleaning.
For thorough cleaning, you have to disassemble the whole assembly of the plunger. The plunger usually contains a mesh screen, cross plate, and spiral plate; you have to separate them all and clean them with baking soda.
Baking soda will break down all the oil components that might be the culprit of clogging your filter screen. I recommend you do a thorough cleaning once a week or at least in a month. This will increase the life span of your French Press coffee maker.
You can buy baking soda from this link
3- The rod of your plunger is bent, or Jar is damaged
These two possibilities might be very unlikely to occur, but if you are doing the above two things right, this might be the cause of the problem.
The French Press coffee maker might get damaged if you wash it too vigorously or push it down by applying too much force.
To check if your French Press is damaged or not, empty the French Press jar and try to push the plunger up and down in the empty French Press. If it’s still getting stuck or hard to push down, your French Press is undoubtedly damaged.
4- Don’t be in a rush! Push the plunger slowly
Never push the plunger by applying too much force; always push the plunger slowly and smoothly.
Because when you apply too much force, it creates agitation inside the Jar. This will make the coffee grounds move up. These coffee grounds then might block the filter of the plunger, making it harder to push down.
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What to do if the French Press plunger is stuck? Solutions
Sometimes it’s hard to push the plunger down, and sometimes it gets stuck very badly that it becomes tough to push it down as well as to move it up. So, what to do in that case.
Twist the plunger slightly as you move down
First, try to twist the plunger and slowly move it down. It might be possible that coffee grounds are blocking the plunger, and they get out of the way by twisting the plunger.
Twisting also helps to reduce the friction as you move down.
Don’t push the plunger further if it’s stuck
Never push the plunger by applying too much force because it can break the glass jar of your French Press, or it can form dents if you have steel French Press.
Applying too much force can also damage the filter screen of the plunger, or the rod can also get bent. So, what to do if the plunger gets stuck?
First, shake your coffee maker for 10 to 15 seconds; if the bunch of coffee grounds is blocking the screen, they will get out of the way by doing it, and then you can push the plunger.
If this also doesn’t work, you have to waste your coffee inside the French Press, or you can save your coffee by using paper filters if you have one. Just empty the French Press jar and pull the plunger upwards. In this way, you can save your French Press.
Getting your French Press plunger stuck is the most annoying experience, and It can ruin your morning. If your plunger is stuck or very hard to push down, you must be making any of the mistakes mentioned above. So, try to acknowledge and overcome your mistakes and master the art of French Press.
How long do you let a French Press sit before pressing?
The ideal steeping time for French Press coffee is 4 minutes. Never steep for less than 4 minutes as the coffee grounds settle down slowly. If you push the plunger before 4 minutes, it might be possible that many coffee grounds are floating in the water, and they might block the filter screen of the plunger.
You can wait for more than 4 minutes if you are a fan of a stronger cup of coffee but remember the coffee gets bitter and bitter with time.