The best French presses
- A French press is as fast and simple as coffee brewing gets; the whole process takes no more than four or five minutes.
- We spoke with coffee experts at The Coffee Project NYC and Brooklyn Roasting Company to learn what makes a good French press.
- After testing multiple options, we found the Bodum Chambord to be the best French press for most people, thanks to its affordability, durability, and polished design.
- The Chambord's dual filters work well to trap grit, resulting in a smooth and flavorful cup of coffee.
Also called a coffee press, a coffee plunger, or a cafetière, the French press is about as basic and foolproof as coffee-making gets. You simply steep coffee grounds in just-boiled water for four to five minutes, push the plunger down, and pour yourself a cup. But even though a French press is a straightforward device, some function better than others, and there are a few things to keep in mind while shopping for one.
The most important consideration is the beaker's material; your main options are glass, plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel. Glass and ceramic are easier to break, but they have a more traditional look and won't impart a faint metallic taste the way some people claim stainless steel can (we, for the record, didn't detect any difference in flavor during our tests). Stainless steel is durable and retains heat the longest (although you should pour French press coffee right away so it doesn't become bitter), but it's the most expensive option. Plastic may be able to withstand drops in the short-term, but it will scratch and eventually crack; for that reason, we decided not to include it in this guide.
"When I choose a French press, it's all down to how easy it is to clean and if the grinds will be properly filtered when I push down the filter," said Coffee Project NY co-founder Sum Ngai.
We tested nine French presses using both of those metrics, making at least three pots of coffee with three different sizes of grounds in each press, then monitoring the fine particulate and sludge left behind before washing them (you can find a more detailed explanation of our testing methods here). We also noted how sturdy the presses felt, whether their handles were cool to the touch, and if the plungers felt tightly-sealed.
Because most of the French presses we tried out were good — it's hard to botch such a simple gadget — we highlighted the three that will suit most people based on material, ease of use, durability, price, availability of replacement parts, and, to some degree, aesthetics.
Here are the best French presses
- Best French press overall: Bodum Chambord
- Best budget French press: Bodum Brazil
- Best stainless steel French press: Espro P7
Prices and links are accurate as of 12/8/20: We updated this guide after re-testing our previous picks, testing several new French presses, and speaking with coffee experts. We also added new sections on how to make French press coffee and how to properly clean a French press. We're continuing our search for a great travel option.
The best French press overall
The Bodum Chambord is about as timeless as French presses get. It's unfussy and operates smoothly, and replacement parts (screens, braces, etc.) are affordable and easily attainable.
Pros: Affordable, simple to use, easy to find (also affordable) replacement parts
Cons: Won't survive a fall from your kitchen counter, those who prefer finer grounds or use blade grinders might find fine particulate in their brew (look to the Espro 7), doesn't retain heat well
There's probably no French press more widely recommended than the Bodum Chambord (which, wouldn't you know it, is by a Portuguese brand), and it's what you'll find on most countertops in both coffee shops and home kitchens. It's also what our friends at Brooklyn Roasting Company exclusively use in their testing lab.
The Chambord's borosilicate glass is good at withstanding heat, but doesn't do much in the way of retaining it (at least not compared to the double-walled, vacuum-sealed stainless steel of our investment pick, the Espro P7). Heat retention doesn't matter that much in the world of French presses, though; if you're not going to drink the coffee right away you should pour it into a carafe so it doesn't sit in the grounds and become bitter.
While some French presses we tested had plungers that left gaps around the edges, the Chambord's was tightly sealed. That being said, a small amount of fine particles did get through — to completely eliminate any speck of grit you'll have to invest in a press with a micro-filter, like the Espro P7.
Cleaning any French press thoroughly is not the easiest task, but we found that plunging soapy hot water through the strainer and checking for stray grounds did the trick, and the Chambord certainly wasn't among the more difficult French presses to clean. Again, a French press with a micro-filter, which doesn't have as many crevices in which to catch grounds, will be easier to wash.
Speaking of grounds, the French press you choose may be informed by the way you prefer to grind your coffee. If you tend to use finer grounds, or if you use a grinder that doesn't churn out uniform grounds (as is the case with most blade grinders) you might want to look to a press with a finer filter so that you don't end up with as much fine particulate in your brew.
Can you spend more on a French press? Of course, but the uptick in quality will be fairly marginal. Can you spend less? Yes, but only a little — there is a slightly cheaper version Bodum makes called the Brazil, which is the Chambord with the steel trap swapped for plastic. We recommend the Brazil for budget-minded folks (and those who have a penchant for breaking things), and you can read more about it here.
Otherwise, the Chambord is the right price point for most people, and replacement parts are affordable and easy to find. And, when you do drop and break it, picking up a new one (or a new beaker, at least) won't cost too much, nor will a filter.
Like most other French presses, the Bodum Chambord comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Read our full review of the Bodum Chambord French press here.
The best budget French press
Bodum's Brazil is, at its core, the very same French press as the Bodum Chambord, just pared down and a bit more durable with plastic in lieu of glass and steel.
Pros: Simple, operates smoothly, durable, easy to find replacement parts
Cons: Perhaps not as elegant as the Chambord, doesn't retain heat well
While you won't get the elegance of the Chambord in Bodum's economy model — the Brazil's glass beaker is held in place with a black plastic frame, as opposed to gleaming steel — you will get the same exact coffee. That's because both models contain identical filtering mechanisms.
I personally have owned several Brazils and Chambords over the past decade, and I've found that they produce the same brew. Like with the Chambord, you'll find a few stray grounds here and there, but that's standard unless your French press has a micro-filter.
Again, if you're working with a blade grinder or a cheaper burr grinder that doesn't churn out the most consistent grounds, a French press with a finer filter might be in order to keep any significant amount of particulate, and maybe even sludge, from working its way into your coffee. That is, unless you like it that way; if so, you're not alone (see Turkish coffee or cowboy coffee).
Replacing the Brazil's filter (18-ounce or 32-ounce) is the same as replacing the Chambord's since they're identical and won't sting too much. The glass beaker is also easy to replace, although doing so may cost the same as or even more than buying a whole new press, depending on which size you're after.
The Brazil is a more affordable and more durable answer to the slightly more expensive (and alluring) Chambord with the same one-year limited warranty.
The best stainless steel French press
The Espro P7 is an investment piece, but retains heat exponentially better than glass or plastic French presses and comes with a micro-filter that prevents finer particulate from finding its way into your mug.
Pros: Virtually indestructible, fine mesh filter keeps fine particulate out of your coffee, affordable replacement parts, extremely easy to clean
Cons: Some say the dual micro-filters rob your brew of flavor (though we didn't find that to be the case)
While all of our picks will get the job done and last about as long as you can manage not to drop them, there are a few reasons you might consider investing a bit more in a French press. The main one being, a press with a micro-filter will keep finer particles out of your coffee.
The Espro P7's excellent two-part micro-filter system — two very fine mesh baskets attached to the plunger — leaves you without the bit of sludge that invariably ends up at the bottom of most cups of French press coffee. The coffee made in the P7 was the cleanest out of all the presses we tried.
Outside of buying a press with a micro-filter, the only other way to ensure your French press coffee remains sludge-free is to get a burr grinder that produces uniform grounds without too many fine particles. That's not to say that a blade grinder won't grind your beans (if only in a very basic way), but achieving even decent consistency with one is difficult.
A big interest in stainless-steel French presses is heat retention. While they do invariably keep your coffee hotter longer, it's important to recognize that, as with tea, leaving your coffee steeping (even after pushing the plunger down) leads to a bitter flavor. Unless you're going to drink your coffee within about 45 minutes, it's best to decant it into a thermos or pitcher to keep warm and prevent it from over-steeping.
The P7 was the easiest French press to clean thoroughly since coffee grounds don't get stuck in its extra-fine mesh. Just note that as with most stainless steel cookware and appliances, a scouring pad will scratch up the exterior so use a soft sponge.
This was also the most durable French press we tried due to the stainless steel construction. The brand's warranty, called the "Friends for Life Guarantee," only protects against manufacturing flaws. That being said, you're unlikely to find any, and if something goes wrong with the filter, replacements aren't terribly expensive (though they're more than twice the price of Bodum's).
So long as you don't misplace the Espro P7, or drive a car over it, it's worth the investment, especially for those who are a) constantly breaking their glass French presses or b) looking to banish fine sediment from their coffee mug once and for all.
What we also recommended
Bodum Travel: This French press built into a mug is not the only one out there, but it's the only one we've tested so far. It does its job well, but we'd like to compare it to other travel French presses before deciding whether to include it in our guide.
Coffee Gator: Coffee Gator makes a highly competitive vacuum-sealed, double-walled, stainless steel press, but as with most designs, you'll find a good deal of sediment at the bottom of your cup. We like the travel container that comes with this press and allows you to pack it for a day on the road or trail, but when looking for a true upgrade, we found a finer filter to be paramount. If all you're after is something indestructible, look no further.
Frieling: Frieling's French press is well-designed and appointed with high-grade steel, but the filter isn't anything special, and we ultimately decided that for about the same price you could have grit-free coffee with every bit of the flavor and heat retention. It also only comes with a five-year warranty, compared to Espro's "Friends for Life Guarantee." Still, it's by no means a bad option.
Stanley: If you're looking for something for camping, boating, or RVing, there's hardly a better choice than Stanley's robust line of drinkware. This French press comes in multiple sizes and can just about withstand a tumble into the campfire like the original, if it weren't for a few plastic modifications, including the handle.
What else we considered
Le Creuset: Le Creuset's ceramic French presses certainly have aesthetic appeal, but in our experience, they've been too easily breakable, and oftentimes the filter either doesn't quite fit in the first place or begins to warp over time, allowing too many grounds to end up in your coffee.
Simpli Press: This is an attractive device if you ask us, but the trap in the bottom, which is supposed to come up with the plunger for easy cleaning, doesn't catch and gets stuck. Otherwise, the fine filter (akin to the Espro P7's system) works well.
What we're looking forward to testing
There are lots of travel French press mugs or mugs with French presses built-in, but we have only tested one from Bodum so far. For our next update, we're looking forward to trying out the models below.
Bodum Travel Press ($37): Considering Bodum's success in our testing of regular French presses and the brand's long-standing status in the world of French press, we'd be remiss not to consider its travel option. With essentially the same components as the Chambord and Brazil, we imagine it will perform well, but with so many other designs within the travel press market, we can't make any predictions, either.
Espro P1 ($38.99): Essentially our upgrade pick above built into a travel mug, the Espro P1 contains a microfilter that looks as easy to use as its less portable bigger sibling. At a competitive price with other travel French press options, this looks like a strong contender.
GSI Commuter Javapress ($20.73 on sale): Foregoing the plunging rod for a secondary inner mug, the GSI take on the travel French press looks both novel and convenient. We're usually fans of their camping gear, and their Coffee Rocket earned a top spot in our guide to the best coffee-making gear for camping.
Stanley Classic Travel Mug French Press, 16 oz. ($35): A rugged and utilitarian design, Stanley's vacuum-sealed double-walled stainless-steel travel mug is the basic design of Stanley's original (and 100-year-old) model comes with a fine filter, and seems easy to clean.
Otterbox Elevation 20 French Press Lid ($29.99): This is an alternate lid for the brand's existing thermoses, and it would be interesting to see how it works and if it's compatible with the Espro P1, which is essentially our stainless steel pick built into a travel mug, and GSI, which foregoes the plunging rod for a secondary inner mug.
Our testing methodology
Before selecting French presses to test, we spoke to Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY, Jordan Rosenaker of Atlas Coffee Club, and Jim Munson, CEO of Brooklyn Roasting Company to learn what their favorite presses were and what the most critical components of a French press are.
Here are the criteria we looked for during each test:
Ease of use: We checked to see if each French press's plunger worked smoothly, and noted whether or not there were gaps between the presses' filters and beakers. We also paid attention to the size and placement of the handle size; a poorly-designed handle could leave your knuckles grazing hot glass.
Ability to handle different sizes of coffee grounds: We filled each press three times with 54 grams of coarse grinds and water at 200° Fahrenheit. We used a Kruve sieve to measure the grinds to ensure accuracy and consistency: 1150 micrometers, 1220 micrometers, and 1280 micrometers. We gave each pot a quick stir and let it steep for four to five minutes (four minutes for finer grounds, five minutes for coarser grounds) before evaluating the coffee.
Amount of sludge left behind: While we kept an eye out for residual fine particulate and sludge after decanting each pot into a Kruve carafe, the amount found in each batch was almost identical, save for the finer (600-1000 micrometer) grounds, which left more fine particulate matter in all but our stainless steel pick, the ESPRO P7.
Effort to clean: We aggressively washed each strainer, although we found them all to be fairly sturdy. As mentioned earlier, the P7's filter was the easiest to clean and coffee grounds didn't get stuck in its ultra-fine mesh.
How to make French press coffee
There's some debate as to the "perfect" way to make French press coffee, and Brooklyn Roasting Company offered a ratio of 16 milliliters of water to 1 gram of coffee for those who want to be technical. That said, the brand's CEO, Jim Munson, never measures out his grounds and prefers to use what he calls "the grandma method," which Julia Childs herself taught him. It goes like this:
- Fill a one-liter French press with about an inch of grounds (somewhere in the range of 1100-1200 micrometers, as we watched him).
- Fill the carafe with water just off a boil, letting it rest for 30 seconds to a minute before pouring.
- Pour the water over the grounds, give it a stir, cover it with the plunger, and let it steep about four minutes before gently plunging and serving.
- Pour right away, as it will get bitter if it steeps for too long.
Here we should mention that your coffee grounds should be anywhere between the size of coarse sand and fine breadcrumbs (or 600 to 1300 micrometers), according to various experts and texts we consulted, including "The Craft and Science of Coffee."
You can also check out this guide we put together on how to make French press coffee, but it all comes down to personal preference and can be as freeform an art or as exact a science as you'd like.
How to clean a French press
Coffee pots of all types are breeding grounds for mold spores and bacteria, so it's important to clean them regularly. However, French presses — typically consisting of a plate, a spiral, and a layer of mesh — can be tricky to clean, and coffee grounds get stuck inside them easily. Here's the cleaning method we find the most effective:
- Fill the basin or carafe of your French press with hot, soapy water (regular dish soap works here).
- Plunge the plunger back and forth to create a froth. This will generally get out most of the grounds.
- You can go and pick out any stray grounds, but that might be a bit much for most people, and plunging the hot soapy water takes care of any mold or bacteria anyway.
Check out our other great coffee maker buying guides
The best espresso machines
The best coffee makers
The best stovetop espresso makers
The best coffee grinders
The best milk frothers
The best tampers for your espresso machine
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