French presses are a classic, simple way to brew coffee. Despite their simplicity, they make great coffee — and there is a good amount of variation among French presses. If you’re considering buying a French press, here’s what to look for in one, along with a few specific recommendations.
French Presses Have Three Main Components
French presses have a number of small parts, but there are three main components you should look at when selecting a French press. They are the carafe, plunger and lid.
Carafes hold the coffee and water, and they have a small spout for pouring the brewed coffee out of. French press carafes are made of tempered glass, plastic or stainless steel, and each of these materials has advantages and disadvantages:
- tempered glass doesn’t interfere with brewing and looks beautiful, but it breaks easily
- plastic, some people claim, isn’t as good for brewing coffee, but it doesn’t break easily
- stainless steel doesn’t interfere with brewing and doesn’t break, but it’s opaque so you can’t see the brewed coffee
All plungers consist of a handle, plunger and filter. As you push down on the handle, the filter moves down and forces the grounds to the bottom of the carafe.
The most important part of the plunger to inspect is the side of the filter. If the filter’s edges are made of plastic, the plastic will break down over time — especially if it’s put in the dishwasher. After a few months or years, grounds will slip through cracks and tears in the plastic edges. Metal edges, in contrast, won’t degrade. They’ll last forever unless they’re bent.
The top is a basic piece, but there is some slight variation in tops. The tops on cheaper French presses often don’t block heat from escaping through the carafe spout while the coffee is brewing. Nicer presses have a guard that will keep heat from escaping through this gap. When you’re ready to pour the coffee, you can twist these tops so the passage through the spout is clear of any barrier.
French Presses Come in Various Sizes and Designs
Aside from purchasing a quality French press, you should select one that will make the right amount of coffee for you and looks good in your kitchen. The most common sizes are 3-cup, 8-cup and 12-cup presses, with a cup being 4 ounces. Designs vary widely, ranging from classic stainless steel to crazy-colored plastic.
Four Great French Presses to Buy
As you look at French presses, here are four great brands to look at:
- Bodum is one of the best-known makers of French presses. The company’s Chambord French Press (affiliate link) hasn’t changed since 1982 and continues to be popular. In 2004, the American Culinary Instituted identified it as the best French coffee maker. Bodum offers many other designs as well.
- SterlingPro was the first company to include double screens in their French presses, and they’re the other established manufacturer of these coffee makers. SterlingPro offers several different designs and sizes of presses.
- Frieling is an up-and-coming French press maker that has a line of stainless steel presses. All of the company’s presses are insulated, and they all have the same streamlined design. There are five different sizes available.
- Gorshe has a modern, edgy French press that’s distinctive and popular. Uniquely, Gorshe has pledged to provide five days worth of safe drinking water to people in need for each press the company sells.
Send Us a Picture of Your French Press
One of the attractions of French presses is how beautiful and artistic they are. If you use a French press, take a picture of it when you’re brewing coffee and send the picture to us via Instagram. We love to see coffee being brewed beautifully.