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 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:
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.
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.
As you look at French presses, here are four great brands to look at:
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.