Understanding Press Coffee & Our Top Picks
Basics of Press Coffee
Keep it Simple, and Affordable...
The French Press has two simple parts: the glass or stainless steel beaker and the plunger/filter mechanism.
Freshly ground coffee goes into the beaker’s base, and hot water is poured over the grounds. The water/coffee ground mixture is given a stir and left to steep for about four minutes. Then, a piston-like plunger mechanism with a filter attached at its base forces the coffee grounds down through the hot water. The grounds are contained beneath the filter, so you’re free to pour a cup of coffee from the beaker’s spout.
While hipsters get technical with French Press coffee and specify things like water temperature and weight of coffee beans in grams, there’s no need to be so scientific.
I turn coffee into teaching
You can make a decent French Press coffee with only coffee, hot water, and a French Press. Once you begin to grow familiar with the process, you can start to experiment with variables like water temperature or bean roast, which will elevate your already excellent cup of coffee.
Along with being simple to use, the French Press method is also affordable and portable. A classic French Press can be purchased for as little as $25, and because they don’t require electricity like a drip coffee maker, they are excellent companions for camping trips or vacations. There are even some models small and portable enough for hiking and backpacking trips.
A classic French Press can be purchased for as little as $25
If you’re just staying at home, the French Press takes up very little room and is especially well suited for small living spaces where storage is a concern.
Another advantage of the French Press is the ability to customize how much coffee you want. If you brew using a method like the Moka Pot or Aeropress, you’re limited to smaller quantities of coffee. A French Press is an easy way to make multiple servings of coffee at once without sacrificing taste and quality as you would with a drip coffee maker.
Full-bodied & Full Flavored
The French Press produces a distinct type of coffee. Pressing the filter through the hot water and coffee grounds causes some particles of coffee to be suspended in the final brew, producing the viscous, slightly oily coffee that the French Press is uniquely known for.
This slightly oily coffee is full-bodied and flavorful. It is distinctly French Press; you’d never mistake it for coffee from a regular drip pot.
While French Press coffee’s viscosity is an advantage for many people, some coffee drinkers dislike the “grittiness” of a French Press cup. The filter cannot remove all coffee particulates, so the end result is grittier than a regular drip cup. If you would be bothered by small particles of coffee remaining in your cup, especially at the bottom, the French Press may not be the brewing method for you.
What to Know Before Buying a French Press Coffee Maker
The biggest choice you have to make regarding a French Press is whether to select a glass or stainless steel model. Glass is traditional, but is susceptible to shattering if you accidentally drop the unit on the floor. Glass also doesn’t have very good heat retention, so your coffee may get cold before you’ve gotten to the last drop. Stainless steel models, on the other hand, are much better for retaining heat, but could consequently over-extract your coffee.
A major drawback to the French Press method is heat retention. Because the standard French Press model brews several cups of coffee, a single coffee drinker may find their coffee is cold long before they finish the whole French Press. This is because traditional French Presses have used glass beakers, which rapidly lose their heat. Modern stainless steel models have tried to answer this concern by creating stainless steel beakers that hold heat in for much longer than their traditional glass counterparts. However, the stainless steel models are more expensive, so some French Press users stay with the traditional glass beaker design and get stuck with microwaving the final cup of their French Press brew, which has a definite negative effect on the flavor.
In general, French Press coffee will be extremely flavorful and full-bodied because some of the coffee’s natural oils will remain in the final brew, giving a delightful sheen to the top of your coffee.
An easy variable you can control for optimal flavor is water temperature. If your water is too hot, you’ll scorch your coffee grounds, and water too tepid won’t fully extract the coffee, making a weak brew. An easy rule of thumb to remember is to let your boiled water sit for 30 seconds to one minute before pouring it over the grounds. You can also use a thermometer if you want to be scientific about it! But we find that the 30-second rule is easy and reliable, no equipment required.
It’s important to remember that part of the charm of French Press coffee is some grittiness in the brew. Most models promise no sediment, but this is hard to truly achieve. Even if the filter pushes all coffee grinds to the bottom, some grounds could still resurface when pouring your coffee. If you find some grit in your coffee, don’t be concerned; this is a normal part of the French Press coffee experience. It’s best to avoid pouring the last bit of coffee from the French press and drinking the last bit of coffee in your cup, as these are both almost guaranteed to be full of grit.
The performance of the French Press can’t be judged on its own; a cup of French Press coffee is only as good as the beans. If you find that your coffee is muddy and bitter, you likely ground your coffee beans on too fine a setting. Investing in a Burr grinder, which grinds beans much more uniformly than a traditional blade grinder, can be a great way to improve the quality of your coffee.
One common complaint is the difficulty of cleaning French Press coffee makers. While the majority of models are dishwasher safe, most consumers agree that disassembling their French Press periodically for a tedious hand-cleaning is necessary. The dishwasher just doesn’t fully clean the fine mesh screen and filter components. Even in the most expensive models on this list, the hassle of cleaning the French Press by hand persists. There’s no good way around the issue of cleaning; it is simply the trade-off for all the excellent features the French Press offers.
The affordability of the French Press is one of its great features. It’s perfectly possible to get a great French Press for around $20. Basic French Presses in the lower price bracket are typically made of glass; more expensive French Presses are stainless steel. However, this is one situation where price does not necessarily equate quality; some cheaper French Press models seem to hold up for just as long and perform just as well as their higher-priced cousins. See below for our rankings based on performance and price.
Best French Coffee Presses for 2020
Bodum Columbia French Press Coffee Maker, Double Wall, 8 Cup
Bodum is an industry-leader in French Press design, and this model, our best choice pick, is no exception. Double-wall stainless steel construction keeps your coffee warm for up to two hours. That’s definitely an advantage since this French Press brews up to 8 cups. The lid can also be slid into the “off” position, totally sealing the unit and preventing heat escape. (Most French Press units don’t have this option, and heat inevitably escapes from the pouring spout).
2. Frieling USA Double Wall Stainless Steel
Frieling’s serving carafe is made of insulated stainless steel, making this another good pick if you’re worried about heat retention. The Frieling is unique for its 2-stage filter technology, which promises no grit or settlement in your final cup. The pre-filter features a patented super-fine Italian mesh, which helps to keep grit out.
Frieling’s French Press is also unique because it does not contain any plastic components, so there’s no worry about discoloration or funny smells developing over time with plastic pieces. Finally, Frieling manufactures its coffee presses in the USA.
3. Bodum Chambord
The Bodum Chambord is a classic French Press with a glass carafe. This version gets a sleek upgrade by using copper on the exterior where traditional French Presses use plastic.
There are two main disadvantages here: First, the glass is not very good at holding in heat. Second, the capacity of the Bodum Chambord is small, and you may get fewer than two cups of coffee from this French Press, which is a deal-breaker for some consumers.Whether you decide to get technical with factors like bean weight and grind consistency or choose to just stick with standard brewing procedures, the French Press will happily accommodate your desire for a strong and tasty cup of joe.
Despite those potential drawbacks, users are consistently pleased with the coffee the Chambord brews; it has a good balance of the coffee’s natural oils but doesn’t leave too much grit behind in your cup.
4. Espro 1032C
At over $100, this is an expensive French Press. However, that higher price tag gives some excellent features.
First, the Espro 1032C is made of stainless steel, which, as we’ve discussed, is best at retaining heat. Unfortunately, though, the lid cannot be turned to completely seal off the spout, leading to inevitable heat escape.
This model features a buffer between its dual filters that helps prevent over-extraction, which can lead to a bitter coffee flavor. It also boasts a double lip seal that is excellent at keeping grounds from getting into your cup of coffee. Overall, consumers enjoy the mellow, sediment-free cup the Espro brews with all the ease of the traditional French Press.
5. Bodum Brazil
If you’re new to French Press brewing, this may be a good option for you. This was the first coffee press Bodum marketed, and it has retained a loyal and happy fan base in the 30 years since then. The low price tag makes it extremely accessible, and even though it is inexpensive, it is still well-designed and durable.
The sturdy German-made borosilicate glass resists cracking, and any plastic components of this press are BPA free.
This would be the perfect French Press to gift to a new college student to use easily in their dorm room in combination with an electric kettle, or to a devoted Keurig user who you know secretly would love a better cup of coffee but is intimidated by the world of modern coffee brewing.
The Veken French Press has the standard glass carafe, but it pairs that with something extraordinary: a 4-level filtration system. Two double-screen stainless steel filters are durable and keep sediment out of your brew.
Veken wants to go above and beyond to improve your coffee drinking experience. They include a free wooden spoon (the best option for stirring your grounds and hot water together) and a cleaning brush, and they put measurement lines on the outside of the carafe so you can know exactly how much coffee you’re making.
They also boast about their smooth plunger mechanism that won’t squeak as it is depressed through the coffee grounds.
The Muller French Press is German designed and engineered. If you’re looking for a stylish and sleek looking French Press at an affordable price, this is the best option for you. The mirrored stainless steel will look great displayed on your kitchen counter, and the double-wall insulation will keep your coffee hot for hours. Both the style and functionality are far beyond what the small price tag would imply.
Muller is so sure of their product, and they guarantee you won’t find any grinds in your coffee.
Like most French Presses, the Muller makes tea, too, and can even be used for cold brew coffee. Simply allow the coffee to soak in the water for several hours rather than several minutes before pushing down the plunger.
8. Secura French
If you need a lot of coffee in the morning, the Secura French Press has you covered with its 1.5-liter capacity. Three exterior layers of the stainless steel carafe help keep all that coffee warm, and the cool touch handle protects you from heat as you pour.
Even though it is very large, the Secura is very reasonably priced, and consumers consistently feel they got a good value by purchasing this French Press. Secura does include extra mesh screens, which do need to be replaced from time to time in most French Presses, but users frequently praise this model’s durability.
As a bonus, the Secura is completely dishwasher safe, including filters and plunger.
9. FikaPress French Press
The FikaPress is unique because it includes measurement lines inside its double-walled insulated carafe. Typically, only glass French Press models have measurement lines.
The FikaPress stands out aesthetically from the other French Press units on our list: its exterior stainless steel has a dark navy matte finish. Many users have high praise for the unique look and outstanding customer service. FikaPress offers a free lifetime warranty and a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.
One drawback of the matte stainless steel finish is that it could become damaged in the dishwasher. If you decide to buy the FikaPress, your best bet is to wash it by hand in order to maintain its original beauty.
10. Cafe Du Chateau
Cafe Du Chateau stands apart from the competition because of its above-and-beyond customer service. Incredibly, they provide a lifetime guarantee and always promise completely to replace your French Press if anything breaks or malfunctions.
The Cafe Du Chateau French Press also features a 4-level filtration system to keep sediment from entering your coffee. The carafe is glass, so you may have an issue with coffee not staying hot till the last drop, but for this price, you could easily invest in an insulated coffee mug to decant your brew into.
The 304 food-grade stainless steel will prevent rust, and the heavy tempered glass easily withstands the heat of boiling water, day after day.
French Press Brewing Instructions
As mentioned earlier, brewing basic French Press coffee is simple; just pour hot water over ground coffee, stir, wait four minutes, deploy the plunger, and voila! Delicious French Press coffee.
However, if you’d like to dig deeper into the science of the perfect French Press cup, there are additional rules you can follow.
First, start with water quality. Using clean, filtered water can make a big difference in the taste of your final product. You may also want to consider investing in a Burr grinder and a kitchen scale. While you can measure coffee beans by the tablespoon, light and dark roasts will have different weights, so for true accuracy, you should measure your coffee beans by the gram on a kitchen scale. Once you’ve weighed out those beans, the next step is to grind them. Traditional electric blade grinders are harsh and result in an inconsistent grind. A burr grinder, on the other hand, is gentle and will yield a consistent bean grind every time, thus improving your cup of coffee. You want a medium grind for French Press coffee; if your grounds are too coarse, the plunger will sail down too quickly towards the bottom of the beaker. If the grounds are too thin, the plunger will be difficult to press down. A medium grind will create just the right amount of pressure so you can push the plunger down through the coffee grounds, not too fast, not too slow, but just right for extracting maximum flavor.