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If you want fresh coffee, fast, there is nothing better than a French press coffeemaker.
As soon as the water is hot enough, it is simply a matter of pouring it into the carafe and waiting for three or four minutes. Compared to almost any other method, it is a near-instant brewing process.
There is a guide below for people unfamiliar with the method.
The Quick Guide to Making French Press Coffee
Tips for Getting the Best From a French Press
Details matter if you want to make good coffee.
For the best results, you need to start with the right coffee that's stored in the right way and ground to the right size.
The stainless steel mesh of the filter (pictured above) is relatively coarse. This makes filtration fast, but fine coffee grounds will pass through and make your coffee muddy and foul-tasting.
You can buy coffee ground to the right size for a French press, or use a grinder that allows good control of the resulting particle size.
Burr grinders are best. Blade grinders smash coffee beans into particles ranging from the very large to the very small. At least part of the grind will find its way into your beverage.
A manual burr grinder can cost as little as fifteen dollars.
Best Prep and Storage Practice
It is best to roast your own beans or buy freshly roasted coffee in small quantities then store carefully and use quickly.
Coffee flavors are easily be ruined by mistreatment.
Most of the flavors that we value come from the aromatic oils in the beans. Oils of all kinds spoil if they are exposed to air or to too much heat. Bitter flavors can easily result.
If you keep roast coffee in a glass jar on a sunny window shelf with a loose-fitting lid it will spoil in hours.
Vacuum-packed coffee of the kind specifically ground for a French press is a good option for busy people. If you are out of your home in a hurry every morning, this kind of coffee will brew fast in a French press and is a huge improvement over the instant kind. You can even brew directly in specially designed travel mugs!
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Presses With a Glass Carafe
The venerable Bodum Chambord is one of the most famous designs in the world of coffee-making. I bought my first over thirty years ago, after being served fresh coffee in a Chambord during a visit to London. Never having seen one before, I asked the waiter how it worked. He explained in about thirty seconds and, after tasting the result, I was sold.
The Chambord is still one of the most popular designs of French press. It comes in every size, from the 12-cup down to the 3-cup.
Aside from being elegant and practical, the Bodum Chambord has some outstanding features:
- The frame is chrome-plated brass, of a good enough quality to stand up to heavy use over many years.
- The tempered glass carafe pulls out of the frame very easily for cleaning.
- The stainless steel filter is replaceable.
- It is dishwasher-proof in its entirety.
Note that none of the coffee makers on this page (including the Chambord) can be used on a stove top. The glass is tough, but not that tough!
The Bodum Chambord is available in three, four, eight, and twelve-cup sizes.
Keep in mind that "cup" here means one of those rather small cups that you find in many up-market restaurants. If you drink your coffee by the mugful, a three-cup press will only give you enough for one serving.
As you can see from the picture above, the makers of the Sterling Pro have cleverly based their design on the classic Bodum Chambord.
However, the Sterling Pro offers a double layer filter to reduce the amount of coffee grounds getting into the brew. This can help if you are grinding your own coffee and do not quite get the perfect particle size.
Having said that, in my experience, the Chambord filter only allows grounds through as it ages. When you start to notice this happening, it is time to get a new filter.
The eight-cup version of the Sterling Pro is now the most popular French press to source online. If you are not a traditionalist, and want to save a few dollars, it is certainly worth consideration.
I gave one of these to a niece for her birthday. She was living out of a suitcase at the time as she worked her way through college. She manged to break the glass carafe, but was so pleased with the French press as an idea, she invested in a stainless steel Freiling (you can find this down the page). Stainless steel is much harder to break!
It is similar in design to the Chambord above but the curvy design and tough plastic frame make it a good choice for less formal settings.
The Grosche Rome is one of the more recent French presses to arrive in the US.
If you like a glass pot (it certainly helps if you can check that no grounds are escaping the filter) the Rome is a worthy competitor to the Bodum above.
The design is striking. It is also well-made, with a snug fitting plunger in a sturdy metal frame.
Some parts are plastic but it is a tough kind of plastic that stands up well to hot water (including dishwashers). The use of plastic in the lid gives the advantage of superior heat retention. Your coffee stays hot longer.
The broad base means it is hard to knock over.
Stainless Steel Presses
Nissan's Vaccuum Flask Press Pot
For purely practical purposes, this is one of the most successful press pots available. It is not only hard to break, it is hard to scratch. The stainless steel container is well-protected within the tough plastic handle unit.
Best of all, the vacuum flask will keep coffee hot for a long while after it is made. The makers say two hours but one hour is closer to the truth (good enough for most people).
SterlingPro Double-Walled Stainless
Sterling products are not always the most innovative but they certainly learn from those who went before them and often take an idea one step further.
This model pictured above has the same double screen filter as the glass Sterling Pro with the benefit of an almost unbreakable stainless steel construction.
The double wall design has good insulating qualities that will keep your coffee warm for longer and save you from painful brushes with hot surfaces.
In the summer time, this kind of carafe can be a great way to keep iced coffee cool.
The top plunger button is big which makes it easy to depress without hurting your hand.
It is a genuinely elegant product and sits well in any modern kitchen.
Frieling's French Press
The Frieling French press is available in various sizes and offers some valuable features, including an insulating, double wall construction.
Some people will like the matching creamer and sugar bowl.
As with all stainless steel, the highly polished surface will need some care to keep free of tiny scratches.
The VonShef press gets on my list because of that gorgeous red color! It has:
- a stainless steel body
- double wall insulation
- a very good price
It is new new to me right now, so I cannot give you much feedback except to say that VonShef is well known for quality kitchen appliances.
Drop me a line in the comments below if you are try it.
Stoneware Press Pots
Stoneware Press From Le Creuset
My family are big on gifting reliable presents that they know will last. I have had more French presses for birthdays and Xmas than I can probably use in a lifetime but I have been pleased with every single one.
The Stoneware Press from Le Creuset, pictured above, is a favorite for displaying in my kitchen and that wonderful color will never fade.
The ultra hard surface (your best kitchen knife will not scratch it) is easy to keep clean. It is also very difficult to chip.
The downside of stoneware is weight, but these French presses from Le Creuset are not much heavier than other similarly-sized stainless steel pots, and the big, well-designed handle makes it easy to use.
I was a little disappointed to see that the product is Chinese-made but then the Chinese have been making stoneware for nearly four thousand years. If they could produce masterpieces during the Shang Dynasty, I think a French press is well within their capacity.
There are three colors available presently, which you can see below. Matching coffee storage pots are also available.
Travel Mug French Presses
These are wonderful for those morning journeys. They are also useful in workplaces where the coffee is terrible!
Bodum Insulated Stainless
If you like to leave your home in the morning with coffee for the journey, a travel mug is a must. There are plenty to choose from these days. If you like bright, cheerful and, almost, indestructible, designs, one of the Bodum travel presses, pictured above, could be for you.
The double-wall construction keeps the coffee hot and your fingers safe.
Making the coffee directly in the mug/press saves time.
Stainless Steel Travel Mugs
The travel mug pictured above is from Planetary Design, and it will fit into most cup holders.
- It is made from cuisine-grade stainless steel with an insulating double wall.
- The lid helps stop spillages.
- There is even room in the bottom to keep extra ground coffee which is a big plus if you need good coffee in an office with just instant.
- The colors available are black, green tea, paprika (pictured), and pink.
- The big handle helps you to drink the coffee, but it does take up a lot of room!
I was initially skeptical about using a French press to make iced coffee. However, with practice, I've found that it delivers some of the best ice coffee I have ever tasted.
- The huge, 1.5 liter Bodum Bean Ice pictured above, is an excellent way to have iced coffee ready to drink throughout the day.
- Making the coffee is simple: follow the normal procedure for a press, but use cold water and leave it to steep overnight in a fridge before filtering.
- An extra lid is supplied, meaning that less space is required in the fridge, since you will not have to find room for the plunger.
Iced coffee is fine in summer but a cold cup on a cold morning is a let down.
Warming your mug with hot water before pouring in the coffee will help. Another way is to use a double-walled coffee mug from a maker like Eparé or Bodum.
These are tough mugs made of hardened glass that is hard to break or scratch. The double wall keeps your drink hotter, longer and also means the outside will not burn you.
They are useful for iced coffee too, preventing condensation and pools of water forming on a table top.
Alternative Names for a French Press
It can be useful to know the alternative names, especially if you are looking for reviews of makers or looking to buy the right kind of ground coffee. So, here are some of the most popular alternative names for French press coffee makers:
- Cafetiere (or cafetière). This is French name used in Britain, Ireland, and Canada as well as many places in the US
- Plunge pot or plunger pot
- Coffee plunger
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I put my Le Creuset French press on the stove on low?
Answer: Stoneware is often used for cooking in ovens but is not recommended for use on a stove top. In ovens, the stoneware will heat evenly, but on a stove top the base will get hot while the top stays cool (stoneware is not a great conductor). A big temperature difference can result in the stoneware cracking.
© 2010 Will Apse