Sat in a roadside brasserie, catching the first rays of sun on a Parisien summer morning. Holding hands with the beautiful French guy or girl you met a few months ago in Montmarte, the smell of Guatemalan French Press brewing in the cafetiere in front of you…*
Anyway, I’ll stop daydreaming now.
So you wanna buy a French Press, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place. It’s certainly a romantic way to drink coffee. Some of the most beautiful mornings I have spent abroad have been working through a large French Press full of coffee as you watch the world go by.
The French Press, or Cafetiere, is one of the most popular methods for making coffee. It’s design is simple and you can learn how to do it in 10 seconds.
It’s easy to see French Press as a beginner’s way of making coffee because it’s simple and it’s cheap. Don’t fall into this trap! This is a great way to make coffee and one many experienced coffee drinkers use this as their go-to. And is actually not as simple as you might think for the beginner!
The immersion method combined with a mesh filter results in a rich, oily taste that is beautiful and unique. A full-bodied taste that is impossible to achieve with many more complicated and expensive methods. It does have a catch though, the filter allows a small amount of fine microsediment to pass through into your cup.
* I really need to stop associating French Press’s with France so much, they weren’t invented there and they’re not even that popular…
A French Press is a simple design. A pot where you mix coffee and water with a plunger to strain the coffee. As such, there is little to choose between most cheaper models – I suggest you choose the one you like the look of. I’ve also included a more expensive, premium model.
|Good Budget Option #1||Good Budget Option #2||Good Budget Option #3||Best High End Option|
|Bodum Brazil||Bodum Chambourd||Culinary Prestige||Frieling|
A few things you should know
They’re all the same?!
Choose the design you like the most – just to touch on this again. Making French Press coffee is extremely simple. Put the ground coffee in with the water and let it brew. Then strain it. That’s it. There’s not much else a French Press can do to improve the flavor of the coffee.
You might hear some sales-speak of a strainer that removes any microsediment. That’s BS. There will always be sediment in your French Press coffee. You could pour it through a paper filter to remove it, but then you’d no longer have the unique French Press taste.
The three ‘Good Budget Option; choices above are not identical, but they are all decent options. They are all well-made, durable French Press’s that have an adequately good plunger. There are poorly made French Press’s out there, but you won’t find them in this article. To reiterate: choose the design you like the most.
Even the very best and most expensive commercial coffee bean grinders produce some fine particles. Fine particles that will end up in the bottom of your cup and will probably make you choke and spit. If you drink it, of course. I recommend not drinking it.
This is not even an issue for some and a dealbreaker for others. I’ll leave it to the incredible handsome and intelligent person reading this to decide. If you detest the idea of having sediment in your drink then check out a few other ways to make coffee. I recommend Aeropress or Pour Over if you’re looking for another cheap option.
Many of the French Press’s you see will advertise themselves as ‘3-cup’ or ‘8-cup’. ‘Eight cups?! I don’t want one that big!’ I hear you cry. Be mindful that this is ‘cup’ as in 4 ounces. Not the number of cups of coffee you will be able to make.
The two most common sizes you will see are ‘3-cup’ or ‘8-cup’. Generally speaking, ‘3-cup’ is 12 oz which is good for one cup of coffee and ‘8-cup’ is 32 oz which is good for two or three cups. The reviews link to ‘8-cup’ French Press’s where possible, although there are usually alternative options.
The only reason to get a 3-cup is if you need a small, travel option. Otherwise get an 8-cup. If you need to make less coffee then you just don’t fill it all up. Easy!
The key to making good French Press coffee
Which French Press you buy does not change whether you make good coffee or not. Fantastic coffee comes from the right extraction and this is where most people trip up.
If you use preground coffee then your coffee will have lost all freshness within a few hours and be basically dead within a day or two. Even worse is using a cheap grinder or (god forbid) a blade grinder. This will produces ground coffee that is full of fine particles that extract too quickly making your coffee bitter and silty and full of large blocks that barely extract at all making your coffee weak and acidic. You want even grounds, not dust and boulders.
The quickest way to fast-track yourself to top tier coffee is by having smoooth, consistent, evenly and freshly ground coffee. The way to get there is by investing in a high quality burr grinder. Here’s my recommendations on hand grinders and automatic grinders.
Good Budget (under $20) Option #1
1. Bodum Brazil
Ah, Bodum. A huge name in coffee and coffee making apparatus. So huge, in fact, that the people of France typically call one of these, ‘un bodum’. But what would the French know about the French Press? Oh….
This is a classic design. It’s a solid piece of equipment, made of borosilicate glass which is super strong glass that feels a bit plasticky. It’s plain looking, a simple design that won’t win any awards for uniqueness. There are options to purchase it in alternative colors or red or lime green, if that so interests you.
My dad has owned one of these for years and swears by it. It’s simple, it’s reliable, it works.
Good Budget (under $20) Option #2
The Chambourd is another product by Bodum who felt the need to have one French Press in their range not enough. It’s lucky they did because this is a popular model and my particular favorite in terms of design. The chrome frame and borosilicate body look great and scream class.
Good Budget (under $20) Option #3
The Culinary Prestige is a newer French Press having only been available on Amazon since summer 2016. The design of the Culniary Prestige is very appealing. The outer section is stainless steel and overall it has a sleek, modern look.
It feels weighty and sturdy. The glass part sticks inside the frame a little bit , not an issue if, like me, you don’t take it out to clean it.
Best High End Option
The build of the Frieling is excellent. It’s entirely stainless steel and feels heavy in the hand. It’s silver, shiny, looks great and just feels like a quality product. As you’d expect for something made entirely from stainless steel French Press, it’s going to last.
One important point to note is that it was made in China. I don’t believe this in itself counts as a quality issue but some might for a high-end product.
There are a large number of options for capacity, 8 oz, 17 oz, 23 oz 36 oz or 44 oz. Beware however, the top inch or so should not be filled with water or coffee will ‘spurt’ out as your pushing the plunger down. Not a pleasant experience, as anyone who has ruined a freshly ironed white shirt at 7am can testify. So you might want to go one size up.
A unique feature of this French Press is its ‘double wall insulation’ that retains heat ‘four times longer’. This is a claim that is justified. It really does keep your coffee hot. If you’re the kind of person who cannot enjoy a hot beverage without it virtually scalding your tongue, this might be of use.
Due to the well-insulated nature of this French Press and its design, it has many other uses. You can use it to make tea, it’ll keep it hot. You can use it for serving iced water or orange juice, it’ll keep it cold. Do bear in mind that stainless steel will never be as good an insulator as plastic, it is not a replacement for a vacuum flask.
If money is no issue then grab the Frieling stirrer and Frieling kettle for a gorgeous set of paraphernalia for your kitchen.
Your new shiny French Press is in the mail? Learn how to make fantastic French Press coffee while you wait, with this superb Beginner’s Guide.
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