Best French Press Coffee Maker Reviews
Walking up to the bar of just about any coffee shop, and seeing all the impressive and (sometimes) bizarre coffee gadgets, you would get the impression that brewing coffee is quite complicated. However, nowhere in the coffee Bible does it say brewing cannot be simple.
One of the simplest brew methods, the Press pot, is also one of the most trusted. Which is why, today - for all you devout coffee-ists - I’ll be taking a look at the most efficient, highest quality, and all round best French presses of 2016.
What To Look For In Your French Press
Despite how simple the mechanism is, press pots come in all sorts of variations, and it can be difficult to separate the functional from the flashy. To help you navigate the flurry of dinky knock-offs and overpriced frustration traps, here is a list of what to look for the perfect press:
Material - Stainless Steel vs Glass
These coffee makers are almost exclusively made from one of two materials: borosilicate glass or stainless steel.
Although some may think the choice between one or the other comes down to visual appeal, it’s really more of a practical matter.
A glass press is pretty, but it won’t retain heat as well as a stainless steel model. However, if you feel particularly driven towards glass, breathe easy, because, unless you plan to let your coffee sit for more than ten minutes, the amount of heat lost in a glass French press isn’t too significant.
Between these two choices, stainless steel is going to offer you more control over temperature for a longer period of time, and this may be good for someone brewing for more than themselves. If you’re the one responsible for the morning coffee for you and your special someone, ensuring that their coffee will stay hot - no matter how long they take doing God knows what in the bathroom - can be the key to a happy morning.
Also, stainless steel is orders of magnitude more accident-proof than glass. Although the glass often used in French presses - borosilicate glass - isn’t as fragile as momma’s fancy wine glasses, it’s still glass, which, as science still maintains, is more prone to breaking than steel.
Design & Comfort
Design may seem superficial - and it often is - but it can also be practical. Comfort, for example, is one of those unappreciated-until-you-try-it advantages.
Considering the times we crave coffee the most are also the times when our fine motor skills are at their lowest (AKA mornings), a comfortable handle may reduce the rate of morning rage-attacks.
Whether you’re pouring for just yourself, or for a plus-one, a good handle keeps that delicate coffee maker from careening off the counter to an untimely, messy death.
While on the topic of design, it’d be evasive to not at least mention aesthetics, so I’ll say this: a handsome French press isn’t always a well functioning one. Showing off your pretty new coffee brewer is fun and all, but tasty coffee doesn’t always come from the prettiest instruments (e.g. the AeroPress).
Size - is bigger really better?
When you make a cup of coffee, are you really just making a cup, or is it more like two cups? If your morning “cup” consists of one to wake and one to go, then you probably need something that can keep up.
There are a few standard sizes to choose from, but 12 oz. and 34 oz. are the most popular. For most cases I’d recommend going with the 32 oz., which usually aren’t that much more - and sometimes less - expensive than the 12 oz. To give you some perspective, 12 oz. is the standard small size for many coffee chains, like Starbucks.
A benefit, however, of owning a 12 oz. model is that they are much more portable. For the road brewer, portability is everything, and a 12 oz. press pot won’t take up as much space in your luggage.
The final consideration before purchasing your press is its filter. The filter in a typical french press, being composed of two overlapping sheets of steel mesh, is not nearly as fine as those in a drip or pressure coffee maker, and not as good at keeping out bits of sediment.
However, a French press filter will not filter out the tasty and aromatic coffee oils like other filters will.
Although some people like, or don’t mind, some extra grit floating around in their coffee, it’s not for everybody.
That said, there are some unique ways to get around brew debris. One of which, the “pull” method of brewing, has you place coffee grounds on top of the filter, and pull them out after steeping.
The 5 Best French Presses of 2016
Now that you know how to spot a good press pot, let’s take a look at the finalists:
1. The Colorful Brew French Press
Kicking off this review roundup is Colorful Brew’s 34 oz. French press. Unlike how you may be picturing French presses, this one is made from plastic - instead of metal - and glass; however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Unlike metal, the plastic frame fits more snuggly around the beaker, making the whole setup more stable, and plastic won’t cling to fingerprints or water spots like metal will.
This French press is made with care in the good ol’ US of A and doesn’t suffer from the cheap manufacturing of other mass-produced, Chinese knock-offs. It is built with high quality parts, which makes it one of the more reliable French presses available.
- The glass beaker is stronger and sturdier than those on other French presses and, therefore, less likely to break.
- It can be completely disassembled and machine washed.
- The filter is very effective at keeping sediment out of your coffee.
- Extended use will stretch the plastic frame, loosening its hold on the glass beaker.
- This French press is not as pretty as other French presses.
2. The Francois et Mimi Double Walled French Press
At only 12 oz., the francois et mimi french press is the smallest on the list, making it a smart choice for the solo-brewer. Additionally, this French press features a double walled interior, and is made entirely from stainless steel, which makes it much better at retaining heat than its glass-beakered counterparts.
Where this French press loses some points is its relatively high price point, and its comparatively less-effective screen filter. For the small size, you may not be willing to pay $40 for this French press, considering you can easily make the same amount of coffee in a lower priced, 34 oz. French press.
In regards to the filter, although it is by no means bad, it is not as good as some of the others on this list.
- The small and compact design is also good for packing and travelling.
- It is more effective at keeping your coffee hotter for longer.
- The small size can only accommodate 12 oz. at a time.
- At $40, it’s the second most expensive on the list.
- The filter is not as effective at keeping sediment out of your coffee.
3. The Bodum Chambord French Press
Somewhere amongst all the confusing press pot origin stories, the Dutch company, Bodum has also staked a claim. Although Bodum does not pretend to have invented the press, they certainly contend to have perfected it.
I won’t support or refute this claim, but I will say that it’s no mystery why Starbucks continues to stock their shelves with these very well designed French presses.
Bodum has a number of different glass-walled models available (which you can see here), but this model is the classic. I have owned and used this press, and can attest to its reliability and ease of using and cleaning.
However, like the Francois et Mimi, the Bodum Chambord will leave a little fine sediment in your coffee.
- The Chambord is more reliable than other models over longer periods of time.
- The casing for the beaker is made from stainless steel, which will not loosen over time.
- The filter is not always effective at removing sediment from the coffee.
- The handle is not very well designed, which makes pouring a little awkward.
- Sediment is left floating near the bottom, because the filter does not press all the way to the bottom.
4. The KONA French Press
Like the Colorful Brew, the KONA’s frame is made from plastic. Additionally, this bad boy is able to be completely disassembled and machine washed.
However, what sets this press apart from Colorful Brew is its unique design. The KONA is not only fun to look at, but easier to use. The large handle is ergonomically designed, which means the handle fits comfortably and more securely in your hand as you pour.
Apart from that, the KONA is the least expensive item on this list, and it still functions just as well as all the others, although it may not last quite as long.
- At $24, the KONA is the least expensive on this list.
- A finer filter screen is better at straining out the sediment than the Bodum Chambord.
- Ergonomic design is easy and comfortable to handle.
- Certain pieces, like the filter and filter attachments, have a comparatively short lifespan.
- The thin plastic lid on the KONA may begin to stretch and crack over time.
5. The Frieling Stainless Steel French Press
The last but certainly not the least (seriously, this one is pretty expensive) model on this list is the Frieling. Just like the Francois et Mimi, the Frieling is 100% stainless steel, but, unlike the Mimi, the Frieling holds 36 oz. instead of only 12 oz.
It also features a double-walled interior, which makes it very effective at retaining heat. In addition to that, the Frieling’s filter fits more snuggly into the chamber and is better at keeping out sediment.
Unlike all the other contendors on this list, the Frieling is not machine washable, and will need to be hand washed and dried after each use.
- The minimalistic design is both utilitarian and eye-catching.
- The metal filter is better at screening out sediment than other models.
- The stainless steel is more durable than glass.
- At $99, the Frieling is the most expensive on this list.
- It is not easy to clean.
For today’s review roundup, I have chosen the Colorful Brew as the winner. Although it was a close race, Colorful Brew’s French press offered the the greatest quality for its price - Americans take their coffee seriously!
Even though this press pot isn’t as pretty as many of the others, it isn’t an eyesore, and it will continue to churn out well-bodied - but not chunky - coffee longer than its daintier competitors (definitely referring to you, KONA).
What did you think of today’s roundup? Have you used any of these French presses? In the comments below, tell me your thoughts and experiences. And if you liked the article, don’t forget to share!