UNDERSTANDING PRESS COFFEE & OUR TOP PICKS
French 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.
Put freshly ground coffee into the beaker and pour hot water over the grounds. Give it a stir and leave it to steep for about four minutes. Then push the piston-like plunger mechanism through the mixture. The filter on the plunger forces the coffee grounds down through the hot water, then contains them at the bottom of the pot. Pour the delicious coffee from the spout at the top.
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.
You can get as technical as you want about French press coffee and explore the fine details of coffee-water ratio, grind size, water temperature, technique, and more, but the beauty of the French press is that you don’t have to. You can make a good cup of coffee with the basic elements of beans, water, and time, then refine through practice and experiment.
A classic French Press can be purchased for as little as $25.
Along with being simple to use, the French press method is also affordable and portable. You can purchase a great French press 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.
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.
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 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.
How to Use It
I said earlier that you don’t have to measure every detail, but it helps to know the territory.
Coffee beans are full of volatile compounds that start to evaporate as soon as the coffee comes out of the roaster. Those flavors float away even faster from ground coffee, so you’re best off grinding fresh whole bean coffee. The filter on your French press is very coarse compared to a paper filter, so you’ll need a coarse grind to keep the grounds out of your cup. I use the #2 or #3 setting on the Capresso Infinity Plus (my favorite grinder), and I’d describe the feel as a little bigger than Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but smaller than steel-cut oats.
Next, the water. Too low a temperature will fail to extract the full flavor from coffee, while too high will extract unpleasant burnt flavors. Your target temperature is around 203°F. If you want to be really fancy, you can grab a temperature-controlled kettle. Slightly less fancy, and you can check the water temperature with an instant-read thermometer. For everyday use, bring your water to a full boil, then let it sit for 30 seconds. This should get you pretty close.
I usually use a ratio of 16 grams water to 1 gram coffee, though some like a more concentrated brew. One important note here: manufacturers sell French presses on the total capacity of the vessel, not the amount of water you should use. In my experience, about ¾ the listed capacity is your water quantity. From there, divide that by 16 to get your bean weight. I find my 2-tablespoon coffee scoops get about 13 grams of whole beans on a casual rounded scoop.
The longer the brew time, the greater the level of extraction. You’re looking for the sweet spot in between sour-tasting underextracted coffee and bitter-tasting overextracted coffee. 4 minutes is pretty standard, but some people like more.
It’s also popular to bloom the coffee at the start of the brewing process by adding double the weight of the coffee ground in water, waiting 30 seconds, and then stirring and adding the remainder of the water. Blooming allows carbon dioxide to escape from the coffee grounds to allow better extraction.
One other factor on brew time: it doesn’t stop completely after filtering. If you leave the coffee in the French press while you drink the first cup, some extraction continues to happen over time. For ideal results, move your coffee into an insulated flask as soon as it’s done brewing. I don’t usually do this myself, but you might want to try it if you really nurse your first cup.
Putting it all together, here’s my recipe for a 1-liter model (like most of the models in our test).
- Put about 1 liter of water in the kettle and start it heating. While the water heats, grind 47 grams of coffee beans on setting #3 on the Capresso Infinity Plus. Add the ground coffee to the beaker.
- When the water reaches a full boil, turn off the heat and let stand until it falls to 203°F. Add 94 grams water to the beaker and wait 30 seconds. Stir the coffee with a long spoon while adding the remaining 656 grams of water (for a total of 750 grams of water). Put the piston on top of the vessel.
- Wait 4 minutes. Gently press the piston until it stops. Serve immediately.
What to Know Before Buying a
French Press Coffee Maker
Your first big choice is the material of the beaker. Glass has a nice classic feel to it, and lets you see the coffee level, but it doesn’t retain heat as well as stainless steel. It definitely doesn’t hold heat as well as double-wall stainless steel. We tried a few other materials in the camping test, but none of them quite measured up.
The most unpleasant part of French press coffee is the last few sips, which can be unpleasantly gritty. Our tests show that there’s no magic formula for getting a clean cup. Some manufacturers use a silicone gasket around the outside, some use the classic spring. Some use a two-layer mesh while others do a single layer. None of these things is a silver bullet. Check out the individual reviews for stats on how much grit each filter let through.
Basic dishwashing will get almost all of the coffee grounds out of your carafe and filter, but every now and again, you’ll want to take apart the filter mechanism and get the last little bits out. None of the French presses in our test had any exciting way to avoid this, so you’re stuck with the job if you like the coffee.
We tried a whole range of French presses from $19 to $100 to see what your money buys you. Our conclusion is unsurprising — the cheapest models aren’t very good while the most expensive aren’t so incredible to be worth the extra cash. The sweet spot appears to be $30‒40.
>>> Jump down to Best Press for Camping
FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKERS
We brewed a pot of coffee according to the recipe above with my favorite everyday coffee: the Guatemalan Huehuetenango Medium Roast from Fresh Roasted Coffee. We took a temperature reading right after brewing, then poured two 100 mL cups for tasting. We set aside the remainder for 20 minutes, then took another temperature reading to measure the insulating properties of the carafe. We also tested heat retention by monitoring insulation performance over the course of an hour. This test was more of an indication of how well double-wall metal presses maintained heat compared to their glass counterparts.
The next test is a new one that we’re pretty proud of: we poured the remaining 550 mL of coffee through a paper filter, then dried the filter in the Arizona sun until it was completely dry. We weighed the filters against a new filter to measure the amount of grit each pot left in the finished coffee.
The Best Values
Our top two presses are extremely close in performance and price. Pick the one that fits your personal style, and you won’t be disappointed.
The Secura was our favorite model in the test, featuring great design and top marks on every measurement we tested. Available in ½ liter, 1 liter, and 1½ liter sizes, the Secura is built from double-wall stainless steel for great heat retention.
It led the pack there, dropping just 13°F after 20 minutes. The filter features a double screen that did the best in our roundup, leaving just 0.44 grams of coffee solids in the finished coffee. We also really liked the handle, which allowed a sure grip and an easy pour. We noted that the coffee the Secura produced was especially good, possibly due to the great heat retention holding the water in the ideal brewing zone for longer than other presses. At just $30 for the 1-liter model, this is the best value out there.
The Veken is right there at the top of the list with the Secura. It features a more modern industrial look in grey, black, silver, or stainless silver, sized at either 1 liter or 1½ liters. The Veken features double-wall construction, and held in the heat extremely well, dropping just 15°F in 20 minutes.
The Veken also uses a double filter that is extremely effective, letting just 0.45 grams of solids into your cup. You also get a few extras with the Veken beyond the usual replacement screens: a cleaning brush, long spoon, and electric milk frother. Setting aside the extras, we especially liked the long spout which gave a smooth and precise pour of some of the best coffee in the test. For $27, this is a great French press and a better deal.
The Expensive Ones
If you really like one of these, don’t let me dissuade you — they’re really good coffee pots. In our testing, though, they didn’t perform any better than our top picks at a third of the price.
#3 Bodum Columbia
When we opened up the Bodum Columbia, it looked immediately familiar. You see these in nice coffee shops all the time, so they clearly hold up over the long run. The Columbia is all big sweeping curves of double-wall stainless steel, available in ½ liter, 1 liter, and 1½ liter sizes.
That double-wall construction insulates very well, dropping just 17°F in 20 minutes. We had high hopes for the single filter with silicone gasket, but the Columbia let a shocking 0.85 grams of solids through. Jumping back to the good stuff, we loved the handle and long spout, which combined for a sure grip and easy pouring. Overall, this is a really good pot (minus the filter issues), but a tough sell at $71.
At $100, the Frieling is the most expensive pot in the test. Is it even possible to live up to that number? Frieling certainly tries on the build quality. Every piece is noticeably solid and high quality. It is available in 17 ounce, 23 ounce, 36 ounce, and 44 ounce sizes, each in either brushed or polished finish.
The Frieleng has an aggressively industrial look, though the curve in the handle softens it a little, and helps the grip. It features double-wall construction, and holds the heat as well as that implies, with a 17°F drop in 20 minutes. The filter is heavy double-mesh and fits very stiffly into the carafe. It wasn’t that effective, though, leaving 0.79 grams of solids in the test filter. Overall, it’s very good, but it’s not better than the Secura or Veden, and costs three times as much.
The Pretty Good
Nothing wrong with this next list, but they’re a step down from our top tiers. They’ll all make you a nice cup of coffee, but we like the double-walled stainless pots better, especially at about the same price.
The Pukomc is the best of the rest, and my favorite of the glass models. The glass beaker is surrounded by a cool stainless steel frame with cutouts that indicate how many people you can serve at three different fill levels. It’s pleasant to use and attractive on the counter.
Performance-wise, we really like the coffee this produced. By the numbers, it dropped 23°F in 20 minutes, which is very good for a glass model. The double filter let a pretty average 0.63 grams of solids through in our test. At $30, it’s a nice enough coffee pot for a reasonable price.
#6 Bodum Chambord
The Bodum Chambord is my mental picture of a French press. My parents had one when I was a kid and I’ve had three in different sizes. The metal-framed glass is pretty, but as someone who’s broken two of them, I can tell you it doesn’t last.
These come in a dizzying array of options: glass or plastic; 12 ounces, 17 ounces, 34 ounces, or 51 ounces; black frame, silver frame, copper frame and top, cork top, matte chrome frame, or white frame and lid. The glass is pretty, but it doesn’t hold the heat, dropping 29°F in 20 minutes. The single filter is about average at keeping solids out, leaving 0.59 grams in the coffee. At $50, you’re ultimately paying a lot for style.
I always appreciate when a company tries something new, so I give Iwoxs points for integrating a thermometer and timer into the push-knob on top of the lid. Negative points for the hard to spell and say name. Setting aside the gadgetry, the Iwoxs features a glass carafe with either black plastic or stainless steel hardware. Both options have a cool modernist shroud look that I like.
Like the other glass models, the temperature drops pretty hard — 28°F in 20 minutes. The single filter ties for worst in the test, letting through 0.85 grams of solids. The electronics are tough to use. Limited controls (to keep it cheap and waterproof) make control like programming an 80s VCR. The clock is a nice add, but the thermometer is not that useful. Once the water is in the pot (and high enough to get to the sensor), it’s too late to do anything about it. For $37, it’s not too bad a price for style and features, but I’d rather use my phone for a timer.
#8 Café du Château
The Café du Château is a collection of interesting contradictions that doesn’t add up to anything that good. Our first impression was good, with a nice solid glass beaker in a sweeping sleeve of stainless steel, like the lapels of a suit jacket. The next impression was the highly questionable handle, held on by the chintziest strips of steel in the test.
The beaker held on to heat reasonably well, dropping just 22°F over 20 minutes, but the double filter let through 0.85 grams of solids, tied for worst in the test. Two factors drop it to the bottom of the medium category. First, the coffee it produced was weak and underwhelming. Second, the lousy handle made pouring tricky, especially with the heavy base messing with the balance. In conclusion, the $25 Café du Château is adequate, but not worth the trouble.
These two had enough issues that they had to fall a tier. The simplicity of the French press means that they still work, but you can do better.
#9 Bodum Brazil
The Bodum Brazil is similar to the Bodum Chambord, but integrates the glass beaker into a plastic frame. It can theoretically be taken apart, but it’s basically one unit. It’s available in 12 ounce, 34 ounce, and 51 ounce sizes, with the frame in red and black. They’ve also got a three-piece set with the 12-ounce version, a blade grinder, and an electric kettle available if you want a tiny starter kit.
I’d avoid it, if for no other reason than the 12 ounce French press might make you 9 ounces of coffee at a time. The plastic frame has a big problem: a nub for the (bad) handle extends over the top of the beaker, so you have to tuck the filter around the nub. This isn’t a huge problem, but you can do better easily. By the numbers, the Brazil dropped 25°F in 20 minutes, and left 0.73 grams of solids in our coffee. At $19 it’s cheap, but that’s the only thing going for it.
The NicPay looks a lot like the Bodum Chambord, but doesn’t perform like it. Available in black, brown, or silver frame colors, the NicPay has the classic metal frame over a glass beaker look, though the lid shape is flatter.
The glass feels less substantial, and definitely let out more heat, dropping a test-worst 34°F in 20 minutes. The double filter was quite good, letting through 0.49 grams of solids into what we felt was dull, lifeless coffee. At $22, you don’t even get a good price break on the NicPay.
French Presses for Camping
When the morning sun shines into your tent, it’s time to burrow out of your sleeping bag and throw on some coffee. There’s nothing as good as morning in the mountains with a hot cup of joe to warm you up to face the day. In town, I mix up my morning coffee between a V60 pourover, an Aeropress, and a French press, but when I hit the road, it’s French press all the way. A good camping French press is easy to brew and easy to clean, and gives you a first-class cup of coffee.
Infusion is the best way to make coffee when camping, and the French press is the best design to make that happen. Combine coarsely ground coffee with near-boiling water in a brewing vessel, let infuse for 4 minutes with a stir after 30 seconds to make sure all the coffee is doing its job, then press a metal filter through the coffee. The filter traps the coffee grounds at the bottom of the pot, letting you pour coffee out the top.
When you brew with a French press, you get a robust cup of coffee. Without a paper filter, you lose none of the liquid contents of your coffee, giving a unique and strong flavor. There’s a dark side here — you get a little bit of the solids in your coffee too. The finest bits are just a part of the characteristic texture of French press coffee, but the last swallow or two in your cup are usually full of undrinkable grounds, which have to just get tossed.
Why Choose a French Press for Camp Coffee?
A French press is a good choice for camping because it’s a simple way to get a great cup of coffee with minimal equipment and waste. French press coffee is tastier than boiled coffee or a percolator. It’s easier than pourover, especially if you’re making it on the ground. There’s no paper filters needed, and no extraneous parts to lose. The French press doesn’t care what heat source to heat up your water, so it’s versatile.
Not every good French press is a good choice for camping, though. Glass is just fine around the house, but you need something stronger for camp use, usually metal or plastic. While you’re better off transferring your coffee to a thermos to get it off the grounds once it’s brewed, I don’t go to that kind of trouble when camping. A good camping French press should be well-insulated so it holds onto the heat for your second cup of coffee. This is also useful for cold mornings where you’re brewing your coffee at well below room temperature. A bad pot won’t even give you a hot first cup of coffee.
When you take your French press camping, you should do a little prep-work to make your morning coffee easier. Pregrind your coffee and portion it out at home into one-pot units. I recommend reusable plastic 1-cup containers, since they’re useful around camp for storing leftovers or easy to stack and store for taking home. Ziptop plastic bags are fine too, but are harder to empty all the way and leave you with more trash.
Our Testing Method
We made a pot of coffee in each of the presses at a ratio of 16 parts water to 1 part coffee and noted any problems in the brewing process. After pressing, we measured the temperature of the coffee and tasted it, noting any problems. We then set the presses aside for 30 minutes and measured the temperature again to check for temperature retention. Afterward, we cleaned all the presses to look for any problems on that end. Throughout the process, we took notes on the design of the pots.
Camping French Presses
[Tested & Ranked]
Ordinarily, I’d be breaking down these pots individually, but these four are all extremely similar, and extremely good. They’re all stainless steel pots with double-wall insulation, all with a 1-liter capacity. We got a tasty cup of coffee from each of them with a minimum of grit. Each one dropped about 20° in a half hour, so your coffee will stay good and hot. They’re all solidly built, and should last a good while.
Any of these four would be a great choice for your next camping trip. Your choice comes down to mostly price and style.
Müeller — Best Value
The Müeller rises a little higher than this top group because of its great price — at $25, it’s $10 less than the other top choices. It’s got a sleek industrial look, and includes a small matching canister for grounds. That canister won’t get a group through a long weekend, but the coffee pot sure will.
Imagine the Müeller, but dull gray instead of shiny silver, and you’ve pictured the Coffee Gator, down to the matching canister. The biggest difference is the price — $36. This too is a great coffee pot, but I’d rather have the extra $11.
This time, take the grey finish and give it a stone texture, plus nice-looking wood for the handle and the pressing knob, and you’ve got the Poliviar. There’s no coffee canister included for your $37, but the pot is marked inside with measurement lines, which is good if you just want to make a half pot. I like the look and feel of the wood handle, but I don’t love the handle attachment, which looks a little weak.
The Müeller wins on price, but the VeoHome wins on style. The functionality is the same, but I love the sweeping curves of the VeoHome, and the feel of the closed-loop handle. You’ve got to pay $35 for that style, and while I love the feel of the handle, the attachment looks a little iffy. Honestly, I’d rather keep this one and home, and the Müeller in the camping box.
The Second Tier
Stanley French Press 48 oz.
The number one reason to buy the big Stanley is right there in the title. Its 48 ounce capacity towers over the 30‒34 ounces offered by most of the other presses. The number one reason to not buy the big Stanley is the price tag — $65 is a lot of money to avoid making a second batch of coffee. Performance-wise, we got a quality cup of coffee from this model, plus the great heat retention we’d expect from Stanley, dropping just 21°. Build quality is solid, and Stanley is a trusted name.
The big question here is, how much coffee do you need at once? The big Stanley here will serve four people in one pass; the models in the top tier will get four people started, but you’ll probably want to throw on a second pot. The 48 ounce Stanley is a really good product, but I’d rather make two pots in the morning and have the extra cash.
Stanley Adventure All-in-One Boil + Brew
The Stanley Adventure is a coffee pot with great potential. It’s designed more explicitly for camping than other pots above it in this list, with folding handles to make it compact, and a rugged sleeve-style filter instead of a filter on a stick that moves through the lid. This gives the Stanley Adventure more parts than the other presses here, but the individual parts are tougher. The Adventure can be heated as a pot too, which is great for backpackers who don’t need an extra pot to heat the water. Just make sure to stir well when the coffee grounds go into the water, then again 30 seconds later to get all the grounds in contact with the water.
As a French press, I wish the Stanley Adventure were a little better. The sleeve filter is harder to press than the usual plunger style, and that’s only going to be more true without a sturdy table to work on. The taste of the coffee was good, but the Adventure has trouble with retaining heat. It dropped 35° in half an hour and was on the low side immediately after brewing too. The lid twists around as if it seals, but doesn’t seal that much. The folding handles are better for storing than pouring.
Overall, I like the idea of the Stanley Adventure better than I like the actual product, though I do like the reasonable $25 price tag. It would be pretty good for a pair of backpackers looking to split a liter of coffee, but not as good as the rest for car camping.
Not So Much
OXO 11181100 BREW
I started the day without a real preference between metal and plastic for a camping French press, but ended it pretty sure that metal was the right answer. The OXO looks like the classic glass French press, but made of Tritan plastic. Build quality is sold — you’re not breaking this thing without some serious effort. Unfortunately for the OXO, coffee quality is not as solid. The filter has a silicone outside gasket instead of the usual metal spring, and it did not do as good a job. The coffee was noticeably gritty and a bit unpleasant. The plastic might be tough, but it’s not as insulating as the metal presses, losing 31° in half an hour’s rest.
Add it all up, and even the $20 price tag and light weight doesn’t save the OXO.
Widesea Camping Coffee Pot
The Widesea is made for backpacking. It’s made of lightweight aluminum, and features a drink-through lid. Like the Stanley Adventure, it can be used as a pot over a stove or a fire. It’s labeled for ¾ liter, but will actually hold a little more, which is a nice change of pace in this category. The coffee we brewed in it was tasty enough, though the aluminum drops heat fast. It lost 47° in thirty minutes, so drink up fast. The lid and plunger are a little awkward and bendy, but there were no problems with grit. The lid suffers a bit as it’s not great for drinking or pouring, but it does work.
This isn’t a bad product, but the Stanley Adventure is better in basically every category for the same price ($25).
Bestargot Outdoor French Press
The Bestargot is another one for the backpacking crowd, trading off everything for light weight. This is a pot for one, with a capacity of just 16 ounces. It’s made of titanium, so it’s very light, but seems good and strong. It can be used as a pot over a fire or stove, but it heats a bit oddly, so you’ll want to try it a few times to get used to how the titanium behaves. The flavor on the coffee was fine, but the temperature drops like a rock. After half an hour, it was down a whopping 57°.
If you’re willing to trade away everything else about the pot, including $37, you get your light strong coffee pot. I’m looking elsewhere, myself.
My number one takeaway: these coffeepots were really good. I’ve been burned before, sometimes literally, on previous tests, but all of these pots have legitimate upside. I think it shows how good the French press design is. For value and quality, we recommend the Müeller, but you’ll be happy with any of these pots on your next camping trip. I look forw.comard to mine.