Conflicting History about the Origins of the French Press: Italian or French?
The French Press is an oddity among coffee machines in that it’s not only extremely user-friendly, but it’s a coffee machine believed to be created in Italy but named the French press. So why do we call it the French press?
There’s still debate circulating whether a Frenchman is the inventor of this crazy concoction since one was said to have added a fine screen to his coffee pot to contain grounds as he poured the coffee into his cup. The first patent for the French press was in 1929 by Milanese Designer Attilio Callimani—you could start calling it the Italian press, but it’s likely no one will know what you’re talking about.
What Makes the French Press Unique?
I think its uniqueness definitely lies in the fact that it’s pretty versatile and travel friendly—if you have a bag of coffee grounds, a French press and a way to get boiling water, you can pretty much have a cup of coffee anywhere. I love to take mine with me when I go camping since I can heat up a pot of water over an open fire and have a fresh cup of coffee in minutes—you don’t even need electricity to enjoy it.
The real redeeming factor of the French press though is it’s user-friendly, and if you know how to steep a cup of tea then you’ll be able to handle making a coffee using a French press. I’m pretty old-school when it comes to coffee, and I don’t like a lot of sugary additives or cream. French press machines offer a no-frills coffee with plenty of taste that’s easy to come by.
What are Some Cons of Switching to the French Press Method?
Change is never easy—and so I completely understand how you could question your current decision and ask yourself why you should change from the standard drip coffee technique that you’ve come to love and adore. The French press has its fair share of flaws including most of the designs using glass containers that can quickly make the coffee cold, it’s a time sink if you’re planning on grinding your own beans each morning and heating up water and still finding time to steep the coffee—I spend on average 10-15 minutes preparing about 8 cups of coffee with my French press each morning. If those flaws are something you can live with then your reward will be a delicious tasting cup of coffee.
Is the Flavor of French Press Coffee Different Compared to Other Methods?
There are many different coffee brewing methods. Each method can give a different coffee taste, however subtle.
Flavor is always a difficult thing to talk about when we discuss coffee because everyone and their uncle has different taste buds, but if you’re getting my opinion I’d like to say that French press does in fact make the best tasting cup of coffee. You may disagree with me on that fact though, but let’s look at the science behind why this coffee is so delectable and tasty.
French press doesn’t need paper filters, which is already an amazing cost-saving and environmentally-friendly factor of the machine. Paper filters do one thing really well—and that’s taking out all the rich flavors and coffee oils of your coffee grounds. French press machines can’t do that because there isn’t anything taking away from the original flavors and since you’re slowly percolating the taste will come out much richer than before. The smell while those flavors are steeping is pretty enchanting as well.
Is a French Press in My Budget?
A French press can fit any budget—whether you only have $20 to spend or you want a designer inspired $100 French press set. There’s something for everyone, and that’s probably one of the greatest benefits of the machine. I sadly have two French press sets, which I tell few people about—but one of the biggest downfalls of the French press is that it’s challenging to clean out. I have a backup one just in case I “forget” to clean my other one for afternoon coffee, and it cost $20 at Target. You have to remember that you’ll also be saving money if you’re buying a lot of paper filters or you use a K-cup or coffee pods because you won’t have to factor those added costs into your grocery budget. French press is definitely one of the cheaper alternatives as far as coffee machines go, and they last a long time as long as you clean them and maintain them properly.
Is French Press Truly a Coffee Machine for Everyone?
I’m going to be honest here—a French press might not be for everyone. It does take some time to learn how much coffee to use and how long the coffee should percolate for, and if you’re not willing or you can’t sacrifice extra time for those things then this method might not be right for you. It’s one of the easiest machines to use, but it has a downside because it’s also pretty time-consuming. You have to boil water, steep the coffee and clean the French press after all is said and done. I think it could be for anyone that’s willing to take the time for a tasty cup of coffee, but if you’re like me and you’re constantly running late and don’t have extra time in the morning then I would steer clear of anything that takes more than 8 minutes to produce a cup of coffee.
Top 3 Best French Press Coffee Makers
In my coffee adventures, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to play around and test out different machines. I’ve created a list of some of those top French press coffee machines that should hopefully be finding a home in your kitchen soon enough:
The Best Budget Choice
Perfect for the Classic Lover
Price: Ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 (depending on size and color)
Features: Easy to use, makes 8-cups of coffee and is beautifully designed
Cons: Conflicting dishwasher safe claims
Colors: Gold, Chrome, Copper, Matte and Red
Why: Bodum is probably one of the most well-known coffee machine brands and with good reason—they’re prices are low and the quality of what they make is high. I especially enjoy the design of the Bodum Chambord French press series because of it’s nod to the classic aesthetic beauty of former French press designs.
The timeless design takes their popular concept for the ’50s and redesigns it to make it more modern and sleek for today’s households. It has three main parts the glass, holder and mesh filter, which are fairly simple to clean—and are supposed to be dishwasher safe, but if I were you I would stick to hand washing. Putting one of these in the dishwasher just once could result in the paint chipping and that would ruin the overall quality of your French press maker—at least aesthetically speaking. The French press would still operate normally.
The frame and lid are made of steel so as long as you take care of the set it should last for many years producing hundreds of delicious cups of coffee. The handle is polypropylene which means you won’t have to worry about it getting hot when serving your favorite coffee. This coffee machine also has more color choices then most other French press sets and is cheaper than many of its alternatives, which is why I’m going to categorize it as the most budget-concious French press maker on the market.
Best Overall Choice
For the Slow Sippers
Price: Ranging anywhere from $67 to $125 (depending on size)
Features: Durable, keeps coffee hot for long periods and has a 5 year warranty against manufacturing defects
Cons: Concerns over filter and plunger needing to be replaced and wearing out quickly and can’t see how much coffee is left inside container
Colors: Stainless Steel
Frieling is a reputable brand that you should definitely consider looking into—especially if you’re looking for a glass container replacement to the French press. One of my biggest problems when I first started using my French press was that I’d often be the only person drinking coffee, and since my French press could produce 8 cups it was hard for me to learn how to either prepare less or deal with cold coffee. That’s why a stainless steel, insulated French press might be a great alternative—now of course, there are better insulated glass containers out there then there were previously, but it’s still not wonderful to find yourself pouring a cup of cold coffee. This insulated stainless steel French press probably won’t give you too much extra time for a hot cup, but it seems like 30 extra minutes of heat could do the job nicely.
The Frieling French press comes in five different sizes: 1-2 cups (8 oz.), 3-4 cups (17 oz.), 5-6 cups (23 oz.), 7-8 cups (36 oz.) or 8-9 cups (44 oz.). This is an awesome feature since your coffee drinking experience depends widely and the price will also be a huge factor. Most of the other brands don’t have as many size variations and you’re usually stuck with the standard choices.
The Frieling stainless steel French press had a few concerns for me that some other top of the line French presses don’t—the filter didn’t catch all of the grounds. I’ve read a few complaints about this, but more than not it seems like I just had an unlucky day with the press. I would take note of this though since the whole point of a French press is to produce an excellent coffee full of flavor and not coffee grounds. If you clean out your filter the correct way, there shouldn’t be any grounds from former batches to get into your coffee and this will hopefully resolve that issue, which is why I think the Frieling stainless steel French press is the best overall choice.
Best Premium Choice
Coffee Lover’s Splurge
Price: Ranging in price from $79 to $99 (This one may be hard to come by)
Features: Modern design and double-walled glass keeps coffee hotter than standard glass French presses
Cons: The leather band gets in the way when cleaning the container and it yields very little coffee
Colors: Olive Wood
This French press is not for the faint of heart, and it’s catered more for those that have a natural tendency to go for beautiful designs. The Hario Double Glass French press is one of the most expensive ones on the market—and for good reason. It’s definitely one of the most impressive and attractive French presses that I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
One of the biggest annoyances is the brown leather strap because it constantly feels like it’s vying for your attention—but the sharp-looking olive wood and double-walled glass pitcher make up for its slight annoyances. The French press is a combination of sophistication and simplicity.
Another flaw of this beautiful design is that you have to be especially careful handling it while cleaning since the wood is real and the glass is extremely fragile. There are sponges that you can buy to clean the inside of the glass, but it does have an added time commitment because of this. One things for sure this French press won’t let any coffee grounds into your cup, and it’ll impress your guests with its unique design. Overall, this one produced one of the best tasting coffees and it stayed hotter than most other glass French press machines that I’ve worked with which is why it’s definitely the best premium choice on the market.
Brewing Guide: Tips and Tricks for the French Press Method
I’ve had the pleasure of making many of my friends and family a pot of coffee using the French press method, and they’re never disappointed by the taste and the quickness—it might look like I’m working with some crazy magic coffee-producing hands, but it’s the French press that’s doing all the work.
Making Good Coffee with a French Press…Every Time
If you want extremely fresh coffee, then buy your coffee beans wholesale from a nearby coffee roastery—and only grind up what you’re going to use in the machine that day. Otherwise, any bag of coffee grounds will do from your local coffee shop or supermarket.
- I use a kettle to set my temperature to the exact amount that I like depending on if I’m using a dark or medium roast coffee, but if you have a stove and a pot just fill it with water and wait until it starts boiling.
- You’re going to want to fill your French press up with your coffee grounds, it’s suggested that the perfect amount of ground coffee beans is 27 grams—I usually just eyeball how much I want and add it to the French press but if you’re looking for precision than that number might be more suitable.
- You’re going to fill the French press to the halfway mark and let it sit for about 30 seconds. One important note here is to make sure all your grounds are wet, so pouring the hot water in a circular motion almost always guarantees this.
- After the 30 seconds are up, you’re going to want to pour the water almost to the top leaving a little bit of room so that you can still fit the lid on.
- Make sure the plunger is sticking up so you can push it down after you set your timer.
- Now, wait 3-4 minutes depending on how strong you like your coffee and then slowly push the plunger downward until it can’t go any further—now enjoy your freshly made coffee. It’s easy as pie and tastes fantastic too.
Make sure you read how to brew the best French Press coffee with our brewing guide for more tips.
Pro Tip: One handy item to have is a carafe to put your coffee in because not even the best French press on the market can keep your coffee hot for as long as one of these can—I usually pour all of my freshly made French press coffee into a large carafe and then whatever I want in my cup so that all I have left in my French press are the coffee grounds. This will help keep the flavor from changing while it sits in the coffee grounds and keep your coffee is hot as when you first brewed it. Good luck and happy brewing!