How to Pick the Best French Coffee Press
Pointers for choosing the best French Press
I've made coffee almost exclusively from French Presses. It's not that I haven't had drip coffee, I just find French Press' results better. Making French Pressed coffee is a more intimate coffee experience, requiring care and attention to detail compared to a drip machine.
When I first started exploring French Pressed coffee, I made a few errors, used some inferior French Presses. I am going to show you how to pick the right one, the first time!
All photos with green background by me
Choose a press you can fit your hand into.
To facilitate cleaning the beaker
My first coffee press was a 1 cup Disney coffee press and it will always have a special place in my heart, because it was my first (you always remember your first time). There were a few problems with my press, and chief among them was that I couldn't fit my hand inside with a sponge to clean the inside.
The best I could come up with is to take a butter knife, cover it in a paper towel, and run it along the sides to pick up residue, then top rack dishwasher it. It worked well enough, but I think a slightly larger press is in order, to facilitate cleaning.
Make sure the plunger comes apart
to clean out coffee residue that gets stuck in the mesh
Coffee Presses don't have a filter you lift out and toss. You should at least rinse the press after every use. But every week or so, you should take apart your coffee plunger and clean it thoroughly. Very fine bits of coffee grounds get wedged between the smaller parts of your coffee press.
So make sure you get a coffee press that disassembles.
The reason for this is a little trick I discovered. The mesh part of your press can wear out, or get damaged through use, causing coffee grounds to sneak around it and get into your coffee.
If you have a plunger that comes apart and a mesh with no seam, you can flip the mesh around and re-attach, prolonging the life of your mesh, and consequently your press. This will start to reverse the effects of use over time and as long as the mesh isn't too badly damaged, you can do this indefinitely.
Look at all that coffee on the piece on the far left. There is residue on the mesh itself, and the piece to the right of it. CLEAN IT OFF!
Here is a picture after the coffee residue was removed.
While your plunger is apart, examine the mesh
Your mesh should be smooth. Some meshes are simply folded back on itself. You don't want that. Nice, smooth, and seam free. This was another problem with my Disney coffee press - there was a seam on the mesh (see picture). Along the outer edge of the mesh, you can see it folded over. I pulled the mesh at the top up so you could see it easier, revealing old coffee that is pretty difficult to remove.
If your mesh has a seam in it, that seam can come into contact with your beaker when you push the plunger, scratching the beaker.
Find a press that has a flat base.
Bonus points if it is wider than the beaker!
You'll see French presses that are very attractive. They have feet on them and sit above the counter. They match your décor in your kitchen, and would look so great next to your stove. RESIST!
Find a press without these feet. A drip-style coffee machine doesn't get moved much. Everything is handled right where it sits. Yes, you pull the filter out and put more coffee in, but the receptacle usually swings out or is even removable. The machine itself stays where it is in most circumstances.
Not true with a coffee press. Coffee presses are moved around constantly. They require a little more input to achieve greater results, like a car that has a manual transmission.
If you choose a coffee press that has feet on it, one day, maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day, you will be cleaning it near the sink. You'll set it down near the edge of the sink and, because it has feet, your coffee press will tumble to the floor, shattering the beaker. One of the feet was over the edge, unbalancing the coffee press.
A press with a flat base would not have this problem. You might look down, realize how close to the edge it was, and think "Wow, close call" but you will still be enjoying pressed coffee the next day.
This happened to me. I acquired a very nice 2 cup Bodum press with stainless steel accents, including feet. It did not last long, and I still miss it. But now I know what to look for. If you have kept reading this far, you know too.