— TESTING & REVEIW —
Travel & Press Coffee Makers
I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to the travel French press. My secret Vegas move for years (since I always drive) is to pack my French press and an electric kettle in my suitcase. Instead of having to stand in a ridiculous line in the morning to pay five bucks for a third-rate cup of coffee, I just brew up a pot in my room and face the day when I feel like it.
French press was my entry point into a better world of coffee. Part of the appeal is its simplicity: coffee and water are mixed in the beaker, then the filter presses the coffee grounds to the bottom, leaving a big bold mug of joe. That simplicity means that it can plug into all kinds of situations — as long as you can get boiling water, you’ve got top-quality coffee.
Now I’ve got French presses everywhere — a big one at home, a medium one at work, and a metal one with the camping gear. I especially like the French press when camping since you can get great coffee by putting a kettle on the fire. Nothing’s better than sitting by the fire sipping coffee as the sun climbs over the mountains.
Top Coffee Makers for Travel
|1. Stanley Classic||16 Ounces||★★★★|
|2. Kohipress||16 Ounces||★★★★|
|3. Espro||12 Ounces||★★☆|
|4. AmoVee||15 Ounces||★★☆|
|5. Presse by Bobble||14 Ounces||★☆|
|6. AeroPress Go||6 Ounces||Doin’ Its Own Thing|
|7. Bodum Travel Press||13 Ounces||★|
How It Works
If you’re reading this article, you probably already know this, but it never hurts to recap. A French press is a device for making coffee by infusion. Coarse-ground coffee and near-boiling/boiling water are combined in a beaker and allowed to infuse. A metal filter is pressed down into the beaker, trapping the coffee grounds at the bottom of the pot. The coffee produced should be poured off immediately, either into cups for drinking right away, or into an insulated thermos for drinking later.
One problem with French press coffee is that once the coffee is pressed, the grounds are still at the bottom of the beaker in contact with the water. The coffee continues to brew, albeit at a slower rate, gradually turning your perfect coffee into bitter overextracted coffee. The solution at home is easy: pour the coffee as soon as it’s brewed so it can’t sit on the grounds. You can’t pull that off when your pot is also your mug, so we were eager to see how much that would affect the flavor over time.
The AeroPress is not the same thing as a French press, but the ideas are similar enough that we included a portable AeroPress in this roundup. The basic idea is somewhat like an upside-down French press: finely-ground coffee and water infuse briefly in a beaker, then you press a solid piston down from the top, pushing the coffee down through a paper filter into your mug.
We brewed a cup of coffee in each press using a ratio of 16:1 of coffee to water just off the boil. We first added double the weight of the coffee in water, waited 30 seconds, stirred, added the remaining water, steeped 4 minutes, and pressed. We took the temperature and tasted the coffee immediately after brewing. We left the lid closed for 30 minutes, then tasted and recorded the temperature again. After sampling the coffee, we cleaned each press and noted any problems.
Utility as a French Press
These coffee makers should make a good cup of coffee with about the same amount of effort as a standard French press. The coffee should taste good, with no more coffee solids in the finished coffee than usual. The pressing process should be simple and neat.
Utility as a Travel Mug
The travel mug should keep the coffee hot over a reasonable period of time while keeping the outside from getting uncomfortably hot. The lid should protect against spills and be easy to drink from. The shape should afford an easy grip in the car and easy storage in a cupholder.
Best Portable French Press Coffee Makers for Travel
Best for Camping – Stanley Classic Travel Mug French Press |★★★★
Best for Office Use – Kohipress |★★★★
I later tried again with 12 ounces, and a little coffee still spilled out while pressing. 12 ounces is probably the right amount of coffee for this unit, but the gaskets fit so tightly that I think there’s always going to be coffee trapped in different spots that’s going to get squirted out. The tall and narrow design also makes it difficult to maneuver everything around. It’s tricky to pour the grounds from the grinder container in there neatly, and getting a spoon in for stirring is awkward. It also takes a fair amount of force to press, which is tricky since you don’t want to seal off the whole opening, but there’s not much room for your hand to go that doesn’t block it.The flavor on the coffee was reasonably good, and the secondary gasket performed admirably. Even at 2½ hours in the cup, the coffee never became overextracted. As a bonus test, after drinking all the coffee, I rinsed the cup out, then added water. I tasted it immediately and after a five minute rest and found no coffee flavor. That seal really does a good job. Temperature retention was also good, dropping from 189° to 155° in 30 minutes.
Espro — ★★☆
AmoVee — ★★☆
Presse by Bobble — ★☆
Doin’ Its Own Thing — AeroPress Go
My first thought when I heard about the travel French presses was, “Are any of these travel presses better than a standard French press and a travel mug?” The answer, unfortunately, is probably not. Unless you’re so strapped for space that you can only have one thing, you can do better than any of these units with more standard gear. Still, I’ll throw out a couple of superlatives.
Best for Backpacking
Best for the Office