Freshly Pressed Coffee- Tips for Buying a French Press
I’ve always looked at these things a bit skeptically…why do I need to hand make my coffee when I have a fancy machine and I can just press a button?? But after talking to people about the French Press, researching them and reading this DIY Latte post from Fabulous on a Budget, I was convinced that I needed to take the plunge. I knew absolutely nothing about the French Press when I started my shopping quest so for those of you who are also press-novices, I will share some things that I found useful in my little journey!
First of all a little background…The French Press is a simple brewing device originating in 1800 France consisting of a carafe containing a screen fitted to a rod that is pressed down on to hot water. Coarser ground coffee is better for use with a press because finer grounds may seep through the screen/filter; some coffee grinds floating in your drink are to be expected. Buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself (you can get a cheap grinder at Wal-Mart) is not a bad idea if you will be using a press often. Because coffee is left to steep in the hot water (unlike your typical drip machine) the press allows your beverage to capture more flavor from the essential oils in the beans, this method also yields a stronger cup of coffee. Some coffee grinds floating in your drink are to be expected. The French Press is often used to brew loose tea as well.
For the novices like me, here is an illustrated article on How to Use a Coffee Press.
- Cheaper is NOT always better when it comes to culinary equipment. -I knew this from buying my drip coffee machine and espresso machine (and blenders are the worst with this!). Apparently the French press can be a pretty fragile tool, especially tricky for someone who is not familiar with using one.
- Don’t go for the most expensive one. –Go for the middle ground, there are affordable products out there that work fantastically, you don’t have to break the bank just for a good cup of coffee. If you insist on getting the Cadillac of coffee products then look for coupons or wait till it’s on sale.
- Go to the store and actually look at the product before buying. -Some products you just can’t tell what the quality is like from online research. When I’m in doubt or I am purchasing something that I know will be getting heavy use, I go check it out in person. For the impatient people, this is not as instantly gratifying as clicking and getting a package 2 days later but hey, it might save you some money in the long run.
- Read product reviews! -Don’t just read the rating, read what people had to say about thier experience with the product….the good and the bad reviews. Sometimes the bad reviews are just people out there who like to rant on the internet, sometimes the bad reviews are things that you can live with, and sometimes they are just bad reviews…so read them! 🙂 First read the reviews on the seller’s site and then when you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of products, Google that item and read reviews from independent sites, you might be surprised what you find. (HINT: Amazon usually has great reviews).
- Metal vs. Plastic Frame-Most people seemed to prefer the metal, saying that it was stronger and of better quality than the plastic type and they thought this supported the glass carafe better.
- Cup size- Ignore the ‘cup size’ that is listed and look at the ounces that the press holds. Apparently being a ‘French’ press, this has nothing to do with the cup measurements that we use in the US.
- Removable Carafe-This was preferred by most people because it made cleaning easier. However, most people complained that almost all glass carafes break easily, so use with caution!
- Lid Seal/Leakage– This was a major issue or many people, look for a lid with a strong seal. Test it out if you can, inspect the seal and its fit into the carafe so you don’t get coffee all over your counter, or you in the mornings.
- Can it go in the dishwasher? Do I care?– Ask yourself these questions and then check product specifications accordingly. I like to make sure I cover all of the ‘questions’ when I buy something so there are no annoying surprises later.
- Coffee warmth-Other than how fragile French Presses are, this was the biggest complaint. Unlike your typical electric coffee maker, you have to heat your water and then hope the container retains that heat until you finish your cups of coffee for the day. Many models claim to be ‘thermal’ and retain heat but most reviews were unsatisfactory on that.
- All Stainless-Steel Models– Most people seem pretty happy with the heat retention of these, the durability is also outstanding compared to glass models. The only real downfall is there are no neat windows where you can see your coffee being pressed, oh and they are really expensive.
- All Plastic Models-Best of all worlds? You can see your coffee, yet it is more durable than the glass carafe style.
Bottom Line: You want to look for sturdy plastic or metal housing, thicker looking-glass for the body, a well attached handle.
If you don’t mind spending a pretty penny- go for the stainless steel model. They are dishwasher safe, far more durable than the glass ones, retain heat better and make good coffee. These two were well received in my research:
- Expensive- Bodum Columbia 12 Thermal Coffee Press $109.99
- Middle ground price: Frieling USA Ultimo Stainless-Steel French Press, 35oz. $79.95
- Affordable- Starbucks Tribute Coffee Press $39.99
The most bang for your buck-
- World Market 8-cup French Press $16.99 -This is a glass model so care should be taken but it only had good reviews. It is dishwasher safe and holds 64oz. Charming design, great price. [PS. This is the one that I bought, it works well, seems sturdy, makes some tasty coffee and is a cute accessory in my kitchen 🙂 ]
- BonJour Ami-Matin Unbreakable 8-cup French Press- $24.99 – Made with BPA free plastic, this model is far more durable than glass versions…and far cheaper than the stainless steel variety. Search for it on Amazon and you’ll find some great deals.
Now go and enjoy your new press- maybe try it with the Fabulous Lattes for Less recipe!