To press, or not to press, that is the question. If you are as big of a fan of the French press as we are, then your answer is simple—“To press!” From there, we arrive at a much more complicated question: “Which is the best French press?” See the bottom of this post for our best press picks.
Heading straight for Amazon isn’t much help: “French Presses: Showing 1 – 24 of 557 Results.” Your kneejerk reaction to this shopping dilemma might be to close your eyes, spin in a circle and grab the closest Bodum. They do make a fine French press…
To help bring some clarity to the chaos, we have created this field guide to choosing the best French press. And by best, we mean the best one for you—one size does not fit all. We also offer a few choices to consider—yes, including a Bodum—when you are ready to take the plunge!
Stainless Steel French Press, Glass or Polycarbonate?
Choosing the right material for the body of your French press—stainless steel, glass or polycarbonate plastic— is the point where aesthetics meets up with practicality.
Glass purists argue that the flavor of coffee pressed in a glass carafe is cleaner. They also argue that a stainless steel French press is more difficult to clean properly, and improper cleaning further impacts flavor.
The flavor point is controversial, with some critics claiming there is a noticeable difference between glass and stainless, and some claiming there is no difference at all.
The best way to settle the great “glass versus stainless” flavor debate is with a blind taste test. Borrow some presses, invite a few friends over, fire up the kettle and designate an impartial pourer. You may or may not have a strong preference—either way, it is good to know that before you head out shopping.french press
(If you take us up on this taste test challenge, let us know your results!)
There is a third option, polycarbonate. Thermoplastic carafes are both lightweight and nearly unbreakable. Major manufacturers use BPA free plastic for the carafes, and this may be an option to consider for camping or other uses where durability is key.
Keep in mind that a high-quality burr grinder like the Capresso Infinity goes a long ways toward making the “gourmet coffee” you’ve always wanted. Simply owning the best French press by itself won’t cut it.
We would be remiss in our buying-guide duties if we didn’t talk about thermal properties. The type of the material, the thickness and the construction (single or double wall) determines the insulative properties of the French press. If the press is specifically designed to keep coffee warmer longer, you will be sure to see that information listed on the packaging or on the website.
That said—there is a good case for not letting coffee sit in even the best French press for any length of time after brewing. The coffee will continue to extract to some extent, even after the plunger is down. Pouring the coffee from the press into a thermos is a better option for staying warm. It does, however, add one more item to your coffee-accessory shopping list.
The Best Coffee Press: Capacity
Manufacturers report capacity in terms of cup size, with a typical reference cup of four ounces. An eight-cup (32-ounce) press is an average size. The bestsellers on the Bodum website include three-, four-, six- and eight-cup options.
The ideal size represents the amount of coffee you will drink in a single setting. Depending on your coffee-making goals, you may require more than one option. The best approach is to start with the press capacity that best suits your daily needs, and branch out from there.
Durability is another factor to consider when searching for the best French press that, in part, takes us back again to thinking about materials.
All glass is fragile, although not all glass is created equal. Thicker-walled glass presses are more durable than their thinner-walled counterparts, but at the end of the day (or in the bottom of the sink) all glass is breakable. Stainless steel has the advantage of being an unbreakable refuge for those of us who tend towards the clumsier end of the spectrum.
Online reviews are, hands down, the best way to assess durability before you buy. Consumer ratings (and the comments that go with them) tend to focus on functionality and durability. Any single review might be an anomalous rant (or rave), but if a product has any serious flaws they tend to emerge as a trend in the reviews.
Another aspect to consider is replacement parts for your French press coffee maker. Check out the manufacturer’s website before you buy, and see what they offer in the way of replacement parts—gaskets, filters, plungers, handles and carafes. French presses are simple to repair, and keeping a well-loved press in use is the perfect antidote to our “throw-away economy.”
Buy the best French Press Coffee Maker: Pricing
There is a best French press price point for nearly every wallet out there. Smaller presses, like the Bodum® Brazil, start at just under $20 dollars. Large capacity, stainless steel French presses can ring up for $100 and more. There are many price points, and many presses, between the two extremes.
Take the Plunge
OK, you have diligently studied our field guide to selecting the best coffee press. You have thought about materials (and have, perhaps, conducted an experiment or two at home). You have considered the practical aspects of durability and capacity. You know how (and how long) you want to keep your coffee warm. You’ve done your homework, read the online product reviews and decided on a budget. You are ready to take the plunge…
Might we suggest the following three models to consider as our picks for the best French press—one classic, one high end and one Indie alternative!
The Classic Choice: The Bodum® Chambord. There is a reason the name Bodum® is almost synonymous with French press. This best-selling three-cup glass press is affordable (around $30) and practical. Replacements are available for the carafe and the filter parts. Bodum® also offers a double wall version of the Chambord at a higher price point.
The High-End Option: The Frieling® French Press. This is a gorgeous French press for design aficionados. Nine-cup capacity, double-wall construction, mirror-finish stainless steel, and (wait for it…) an all-steel plunger. It is an investment piece at just under $100. Beauty in form meets function—need we say more?
An Indie Alternative: The Espro Press. folks behind Espro™ thought outside the box (or more accurately, inside the filter) with their re-design of the French press. Their goal was to improve the filtering process, and the result is their patented micro-filter. The double filter design has garnered rave reviews from an impressive list of critics. Innovation is pricey—the individual-size (8-ounce) press is just under $70, while the larger (30-ounce) press is just under $100. Another cool indie aspect of the larger press is that its launch was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Check out our review of the Espro Press here!
Have any “pressing” questions for us? A favorite French press gem to share? Let us know!