BEST FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKERS 2002
French Press Coffee.
KEEP IT SIMPLE AND AFFORDABLE...
A French Press coffee maker has two simple parts: the glass or stainless steel beaker and the plunger/filter mechanism.
Put freshly coarsely ground coffee beans 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 mesh 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.
We've tested and reviewed all the French presses, from traditional French presses you'd use at home, to presses we'd recommend for camping.
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 coffee 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 by way of immersion brewing. 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. French presses are also great at making an affordable cold brew.
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 the brewed 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 coffee 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. Most of us like coffee hot. 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 french presses. 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 using a French press brewer. 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.
>>> See Our Favorite French Presses for Camping
BEST 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 and makes our list for the "Best Coffee Gift Ideas".
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 steel French press 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.