For those interested in taking a more hands-on approach to their morning coffee routine, a French press is one of the simplest ways to go. What is a French press?
They usually consist of a lid, a metal shell with a handle, and a glass beaker. There are upgraded models available, too, but the wonderful thing about the French press is that lower price doesn’t have to mean worse results. In fact, if you’re preparing your coffee right, the biggest differences between a $20 French press and a $60 French press are going to be how much coffee you can make at one time and how long the press lasts.
With a French Press lower price doesn't have to mean lower quality coffee
Of course, there can be good reasons to opt for a more expensive press from the start. These higher-end presses are likely to have a sturdier plunger, heat-resistant lid, and perhaps extra layers to the filter. These extra filters help to keep finer-ground coffees from leaking dregs into the cup, although it’s still recommended to use a coarser grind, if at all possible.
Additionally, your higher-end French presses will give you the option of brewing a partial pot, instead of a full pot at once. Since the coffee will continue to brew until you take it out of the pot, it is preferable to only make what you’re going to drink within the next few minutes. Unlike drip coffee, however, it’s not always a death sentence if you leave it “on” for longer – you can simply add some hot water to thin it back out to suit your tastes. We find that it’s not a bad idea to plan on this, anyway, as French press coffee tends to be a bit strong when compared to most other methods of extraction which is great if you prefer stronger coffee but can be a bit much for the rest of us.
Some of the benefits of higher end French Presses
- Sturdier plungers
- Heat Reistant lids
- Additional filter layers
- Brewing partial pots
What’s in a name?
You may have heard of a coffee plunger, Italian caffettiera a stantuffo, or even the original French cafetière à piston, depending on your region. These are all different names for the same device – the French press. The many names of this simplistic coffee machine are all references to the actual act of pressing the coffee. No matter what the name, rest assured that - with proper care and practice - you can get an amazing drink out of your press.
How does a French press compare to other methods of preparation?
Time & Difficulty
French press coffee takes about half as long as a fast drip coffee maker. It is one of the simplest ways to make coffee – all you need to do is measure (or estimate), stir, wait four minutes, and plunge. This doesn’t include your time spent grinding beans or boiling water.
French pressing gives you a smooth taste, comparable to an espresso shot. Since all the volatile oils are kept in the drink (instead of trapped in the filter), there is no bitterness – even when the coffee is over-steeped. It’s still a good idea to pour the coffee into a separate container immediately after brewing – preferably your cup!
A French press takes up significantly less size than any type of automatic coffee maker, as the cup sizes are much smaller and there is no water tank, this makes them much more convenient to store when not in use.
French presses aren’t just for piping hot coffee. They can also be used for tea, replacing ground coffee with loose tea leaves. Just as with coffee, it’s recommended that you pour it into a separate container after brewing to prevent it from over-steeping and turning bitter. You can also use a coffee press for cold brew coffee, allowing the coffee to steep in cold water for several hours before plunging.
What are some “bonus features” of higher-end French presses?
Some French presses use a pulling action, rather than a pressing action, in order to draw the grounds up out of the water and prevent over-steeping.
Some accomplish a similar effect by having shutters that fully separate the grounds from the water. Others may be made of stainless steel, which stays hot for longer (and is much less likely to break). Some French presses are made to double as a mug, and don’t need to be emptied into another container before drinking (although you will need to drink quickly – most coffee lovers agree that the coffee is over-steeped at around 20 minutes).
The most common “bonus feature” is going to be the larger size. We’ve seen presses that brew up to 54 ounces at a time, but even larger models may be out there. T
he key thing to remember is that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to French Presses. If you like the extra features (especially the increased size) then by all means spend another $20-$40 but if you just want a decent coffee go for a basic French press and use the money left over to get a decent grinder!