There are a broad range of brewing methods that people use today in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. Some of these methods are old, some quite new, but one of the most popular and enduring coffee makers in the world has been around for almost a century: the venerable French press. The first French press came about in the early 20th century, and in spite of its name, the design was actually patented by an Italian inventor.
Aside from modifications like steel mesh filters (the original filters were simple cheesecloth), the basic French press hasn’t really changed much in the decades since its conception. That’s owed to its dead-simple design that works beautifully, particularly for dark-roasted coffee – you’ll often see dark roasts marketed as “French roast” for a reason – and this ingenious and elegant brewing method is now enjoyed by millions of people all around the world.
The genius of the French press is that, despite its sheer simplicity, it gives the user complete control over almost the entire brewing process from the temperature of the water to the pouring method and, of course, that ever-important steeping time. Pair it with a good burr grinder for making fresh grounds and you can dial in your perfect home brewing regimen with relative ease. This is vital for developing the right process for different coffees; one roast might benefit from longer steeping, for instance, while another might end up over-extracted with that same steep time.
Along with making excellent coffee, the French press is a very versatile device. You can make cold brew coffee as well as hot or cold tea (including loose leaf tea, thanks to the filter plunger) right inside the beaker. A French press can even be used to whip up cocktails, from refreshing iced Moscow mules to hot drinks that are perfect in the fall and winter. This is a must-have tool in anyone’s kitchen arsenal, and there are a million of these things on Amazon – we did say they were very popular – but to make your life a little easier, we’ve rounded up the best ones below.
Bodum is a name you’ll see a lot when perusing French presses, as this brand has more or less set the standard for this style of coffee maker. Made in Portugal, the Bodum Chambord features a 34-ounce beaker made of borosilicate glass (a type of glass that resists expansion due to heat, meaning it won’t crack or shatter when hot water is poured into it) with a gorgeous chromed metal lid and frame.
The Chambord looks as great as the coffee it makes, and it’s easy to disassemble as the beaker pops right out of the base and the filter plunger comes completely apart for easy cleaning. It’s also a fantastic value for what you get and replacement mesh filters are readily available on the cheap if and when yours starts looking a little frayed. The standard 34-ounce model makes enough coffee for about three normal coffee mugs, but other sizes are available.
If “form follows function” is your philosophy, then the Bodum Brazil offers the same coffee-making capabilities as the Chambord minus the elegant chrome styling. The Brazil’s beaker, plunger, and filter are identical to that of Chambord French press, but the lid, base, and handle are all plastic. If that doesn’t bother you, then for less than 20 bucks, the Bodum Brazil is by far the best value you’re going to find in a French press. And, like most Bodum presses, it’s made in Portugal.
Since the French press is so versatile, you might even consider grabbing a Bodum Brazil as a cheap backup if you frequently find yourself pushing your favorite press into service for making things like cold brew coffee, tea, and cocktails along with your regular cup of morning joe. There is also anwith a different handle shape; the two Brazil models are almost identical aside from the styling of the plastic parts, though, so pick whichever you prefer.
For those who prefer to ditch the glass and plastic altogether, the Frieling French press is an excellent all-stainless upgrade pick. By “all-stainless,” we mean all-stainless – there is not one piece of plastic on this thing (even the chromed Bodum Chambord has plastic parts on the lid and plunger). Its double-walled body is crafted entirely of 18/10 stainless steel, as is its dual-layered filter that keeps both grounds and fine sediment sludge out of your coffee.
Another advantage of this double-walled stainless steel is that it’s a much better insulator than glass, so it will retain the heat or coldness of its contents for considerably longer, not unlike a thermos (it’s not air-tight, though, so don’t try throwing it in your bag). It’s a little pricey at almost $100, but if you want an all-metal French press that will almost certainly never break, then the Frieling USA will keep you sipping coffee happily for a long, long time.
Whether you just want a good cup of French press Java when you’re out and about or you don’t want to be without your favorite brew during your extended trips out of town, a good travel press like this one from Espro has what you need for your on-the-go coffee fix. This handy travel French press can make 10 ounces of coffee with the plunger installed, or it can hold 15 ounces of liquid if you ditch the filter and just use it as a regular travel mug.
Fine grounds, or “fines,” aren’t a huge problem with a normal French press, as they’ll usually settle to the bottom of the beaker or your cup, allowing you to avoid drinking them. This is a luxury you obviously don’t have when you’re drinking right from the press, and what we really like about the Espro is its dual micro-filter that does a superb job of keeping those gritty fines out of your drink (and your mouth). It’s double-walled stainless steel body also keeps whatever you’re drinking nicely insulated.
Coffee is one of those simple pleasures that become immeasurably more satisfying when enjoyed on a crisp morning out in the wilderness, but you don’t need to settle for the mediocrity of instant coffee when you’re away from the comforts of civilization. Percolators and pour-over coffee makers are popular ways for campers to make Java on the trail, but if nothing beats a French press for your cup of morning glory, then the Stanley Cook & Brew set lets you enjoy your favorite roast just about anywhere.
The Cook & Brew set is more than a French press: Its double-walled 18/8 stainless steel body can sit right over an open flame or other heat source by itself for cooking food and boiling water. Rather than a standard plunger (which might be too delicate for the field), the Stanley Cook & Brew features a heavy-duty melt-resistant nesting filter system which you press down into the steel “canteen” to push the grounds to the bottom – just like a French press. No external filters, pour-over devices, or anything else required.
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