How should I empty my cafetière (French press)?
November 18, 2020 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Important factor: we can’t rinse any coffee grounds down the drain.

The press stops an inch or so above the bottom of the glass, so the grounds can’t be squeezed. They’re still wet and don’t come out easily. Does anyone have a trick for this?

The grounds go in the food waste bag for local industrial composting, by the way, and any that end up in the drain contribute to an eventual clog we have to pay to remove. We’re in the UK.
posted by lokta to Home & Garden (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I usually sort of "strain" the grounds by holding the grounds back with my hand while dumping the excess water out, then shovel the wet grounds out with my hand.

It feels more difficult than it should be. Watching this thread to see if there's a better way!
posted by mekily at 2:43 PM on November 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I scoop out the wet grounds from mine with a spoon, and then get the last remaining grounds out with a small spatula.
posted by Lycaste at 2:43 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Tip the cafetière upside down to get as much water out of the grounds as possible (you can even leave it upside down in a bowl for a bit) then wipe out grounds with your hand and/or a paper towel. Or a regular towel that you then shake outside.
posted by mskyle at 2:44 PM on November 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would highly recommend you get the OXO grinds removal scoop.

As someone who HATES products that only do one thing and tries to streamline the kitchen with as few items as possible, I'm telling you that this spoon/spatula in one can scoop out grinds easier than anything else out there. And you rarely need more than one quick swipe to remove absolutely all of the grinds and water that's left. It can be used to scoop out other things too, but even if you only use it for the grinds in your press it's still oh so worth it IMO.
posted by fantasticness at 2:47 PM on November 18, 2020 [14 favorites]

Fill the carafe half way or so with water, swish and then pour the resulting slurry through a strainer. It's much easier to bang the grounds out of the strainer and into the composting container. We had a strainer devoted to this purpose so we didn't sweat it if all grounds didn't make it into the compost every time.
posted by carmicha at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2020 [27 favorites]

Do you have a garden? Scoop as many of the grounds as you can into the food waste bag, add water to the carafe, swish the remaining grounds around a bit, and water your plants with the grounds-water.
posted by mochapickle at 2:49 PM on November 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

A slender spatula (Dutch "jar-licker") like this one from Sur la Table works great, and has many uses.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:59 PM on November 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

How dry do you want/need them to be? I generally add just enough extra water to help loosen the grounds (aided stirring/swirling a bit) and then they dump out pretty easily. Whatever is left gets wiped out with a paper towel.
posted by edencosmic at 3:00 PM on November 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I just use a fine mesh strainer, fill the glass with water and pour everything over the strainer. Cleans out the pot in a jiffy and still avoids putting grounds into the sink.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 3:00 PM on November 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have a fine mesh strainer that I dump them in. It captures all but the most minute particles, which are barely more than talcum powder, and only a few teaspoons at most. I let it sit for a while and when it's done I just dump them into compost.

On preview: Wow, NotTheRedBaron, were you reading over my shoulder as I wrote my comment? LOL
posted by dozo at 3:04 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

It's not how you empty it, it's how you put the grounds in in the first place! Put the grounds on top of the strainer instead of underneath. That will make it easy to remove all the grounds at once just by pulling the strainer back up!
posted by aniola at 3:15 PM on November 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

FWIW I've found an Aeropress much easier to clean up after as the grounds get compacted into a nice tight puck that's easily ejectable into the compost bin.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:25 PM on November 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I make cold brew with my French Press, and I end up putting my grounds in a food grade muslin bag, like this: Organic Muslin Bag. Makes it dead easy to take out, and then dump the grounds in the compost/garden, etc.

The bag will get coffee stained, but that's much better than having a clogged drain, IMHO.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:45 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is my +1 for the Aeropress as well! It's so easy to clean up and very satisfying, too. But I may have to put one of those OXO scoops in the stocking this year of my favorite french press fan.
posted by amanda at 3:45 PM on November 18, 2020

Yes, I agree with everyone else who says the Aeropress is superior in cleaning (and in making coffee in my opinion.)
posted by blob at 4:24 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I put the coffee grounds in a paper coffee filter at the bottom of the French press and then scrape the filter and grounds out afterwards.
posted by gt2 at 4:34 PM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I usually just set mine with its grounds by the window with the lid off, and by the next morning it will have dried out enough to upend into my green (compostables) bin. There will be a little left stuck to the glass, which I just rinse out, but wouldn't be much trouble to scrape out with a spoon or spatula. Also, you have a toilet.
posted by rodlymight at 5:08 PM on November 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I turn mine upside-down for a bit to let it drain, like mskyle suggested, then scoop the solids into my compost bucket.

It’s not likely that a few stray coffee grounds would cause problems with your drain. These are not sticky, starchy, greasy or fibrous; they move along quite easily.
posted by jon1270 at 5:34 PM on November 18, 2020

When I use my French press I usually get the grounds out with a spoon spatula. It's flexible enough to "squeegee" almost all of the grounds up, but the shape allows you to lift the grounds out of the carafe and into the trash/compost much more easily than a flat spatula.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:53 PM on November 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I use a chopstick to break/stir up the compressed grounds while it's still kind of warm, then shake as much of that as I can into the bin, and tap/scrape off most of what sticks to the filter, then leave it sitting to dry until the next day. Another quick pass with the chopstick lets me dump out most of anything left and then I rinse clean and make my coffee.
posted by miratime at 8:12 PM on November 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have an old small sieve that had seen better days, and I use that - pour a little water into the French Press to loosen up the grounds, then dump it all out into the sieve. Give the French Press another quick rinse to dislodge any last grounds and dump that through the sieve as well. Then, the grounds get tipped into the trash. Since I now only use that sieve for coffee ground waste disposal I don't even wash it after - maybe give it a quick rinse so it doesn't smell weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 PM on November 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

This exact problem is why we switched to an Aeropress a few years ago.
We still use the French press on occasion, but for daily coffee the Aeropress is so much easier.
posted by nat at 10:59 PM on November 18, 2020

EmpressCallipygos has the answer, we use the same sieve to strain the coffee into our mugs as well--though ours goes through the dishwasher every other day or so.
posted by nenequesadilla at 11:49 PM on November 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I save my grounds in a little glass Tupperware container that I keep in the fridge. After every cup, I empty the “sludge” from the press into the container, put a little more water into the press, swish it around a bit, and then empty the water and remaining grounds into the container. After a week or so, the container will have filled up, and the grounds will have separated from the liquid. You can drain off the liquid and throw it away, or you can do like I sometimes do and drink it, if I find I need an extra jolt that day. Don’t judge. The grounds in the container will have formed sort of a compact cake on the bottom, and you can scrape this into the trash with a spoon. I usually do this on days when I have to take out the trash anyway, so I don’t always have a trash can sitting under my sink, filling my kitchen with the smell of discarded coffee grounds.

And that is how I empty a French press.
posted by panama joe at 2:22 AM on November 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Add just enough extra water to loosen the grounds and then empty into the trash, the trash bin can cope with a small amount of water, it will mostly evaporate. That typically leaves around a teaspoon of grounds stuck to the sides of the cafeterie. Add a larger amount of water, roughly a mugfull, swirl and toss down the sink. British plumbing can cope with a small amount of grounds.
posted by Lanark at 3:31 AM on November 19, 2020

I have a fine screen stopper that goes in my kitchen sink just like a regular sink stopper would. It catches everything that shouldn't go down the drain, including coffee grounds, and it's easy to lift out and knock on the side of the compost bucket to empty.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:33 AM on November 19, 2020

aniola, are you some kind of witch? That's fucking brilliant.

I rinse mine into a bucket then use the water on my garden. On occasions when this is not possible, we use the sieve method so popular here.
posted by Jilder at 4:02 AM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Adding another vote for “use a rubber spatula to scrape grounds into trash/compost.” It’s simple, quick, and easy.
posted by snowmentality at 4:16 AM on November 19, 2020

Nth’ing the fine mesh strainer setup. I line mine with a paper towel but you certainly don’t have to. I fill the press with water, strain into the strainer, then fill with water and a drop of soap and plunge the plunger a few times. Rinse everything. All is clean.
posted by kellygrape at 4:47 AM on November 19, 2020

The problem with aniola's method is that makes it very easy to get grounds in the coffee you pour out.
posted by Lanark at 6:19 AM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Add water, swirl it around, then dump it in the toilet. Bit of a surprise for the next user if you don't flush tho.

If the drain blocks even with a few grounds (like you'd get rinsing off the carafe and plunger) that's a problem. Run lots of water before and after so the grounds can't settle and build up.

Aeropresses are great if you like thimblefuls of tepid coffee and the fiddliest cleanup EVAR.
posted by scruss at 7:17 AM on November 19, 2020

Response by poster: I’m so so delighted by this lot of responses, thank you so much!

I will make a lot of coffee, do some tests and mark out some winners.
posted by lokta at 7:32 AM on November 19, 2020

Another couple objections to anoila's method -

1. Fiddly to do. Instead of dumping grounds into the french press, you have to sort of finagle them on top of the plunger by holding it just the right way, and the risk is much greater for spilling grounds all over your countertop.

2. You run the risk of grounds floating on top of the water instead of getting a full steep so your coffee may be weaker.

Conversely, nearly everyone has a mesh strainer to catch the grounds if you fill the press back up with water and strain that through.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on November 19, 2020

A note on my muslin bag method - while I find that it works beautifully for Cold Brew, I don't know how well it'd work for a hot coffee, where the steeping time is measured in minutes rather than hours.

However, you could make hot coffee with the regular method, and to clean it out? Just fill the French Press again with water to loosen the grounds, and then pour the entire sludge into an empty bag, over a sink or garden. The water will go through the muslin, but the bag will catch all of the particles, even the dust-sized residue. To clean the bag, empty out the contents into the garbage/compost, and if there's grounds that stick to the bag? Rinse it with water, over the compost, to get rid of the rest of the grounds.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:14 PM on November 19, 2020

Straight on the garden if you have one.
posted by Coaticass at 7:14 PM on November 19, 2020

Aeropresses are great if you like thimblefuls of tepid coffee and the fiddliest cleanup EVAR.

What? Clearly I must be doing it wrong. Big mug of hot coffee (at whatever temp you like). Pop the grounds in the trash. Rinse the plunger. Rinse the strainer cap. Done.
posted by amanda at 9:55 PM on November 19, 2020

Add a bit more water and pour into garden or water houseplants. If I can't do that I add more water and then pour that out again using the press filter as a strainer I just sort of hold the strainer bit near the top, with the lid in my hand. Tip it so that the grounds end up near the top of the press, and then dump them out from there.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2020

I bought a flexible silicon spatula with a long wooden handle. It perfectly fits the inner contour at the bottom of the press and the silicon part can be removed for washing. I do use it for other things as well, but mostly the French press. It’s also great for scraping down the sides and getting the last bits out of a quart of yogurt.

I try to get every last bit of liquid coffee out before cleaning A) because I need it inside of me so I can function properly and B) I don’t want a wet glop in the compost bag because it’s a big mess. The mostly dry grounds come out easily with the spatula and the glass carafe just needs a quick rinse to be grounds free.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 10:30 AM on November 30, 2020

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