Plenty of coffee drinkers swear that French press is the ultimate brewing method. Made correctly, French press coffee is intense, powerful and packed with delicious coffee flavor. It should be almost as concentrated as cold brew, yet have the full taste of hot-brewed coffee. But selecting the right French press isn't exactly easy. Though they're simple to operate, there are multiple designs to choose from.
Fortunately for you, I've personally used and tested a group of top-selling models. And, after grinding pounds of beans and drinking scores of cups of coffee, here's what I learned on my quest to find the best French press a coffee lover can buy.
The Bodum Chambord has a classic French press design that hasn't changed much from when it first hit the scene in the 1950s. Despite that, this model brews great coffee that's strong, well-balanced and richly flavored. Its steel parts also come in various finishes. I especially like the vibrant red version shown here.
For just $20, the Bodum Brazil delivers hot coffee every bit as good as the company's more expensive Chambord model. To cut down the price, Bodum uses plastic instead of steel for some of the coffee maker's parts. Its carafe, however, is borosilicate glass. The coffee I brewed in the Brazil was satisfyingly strong, yet balanced.
The Veken French press is very well-equipped considering its reasonable price. Inside the kit you'll find various tools you won't see bundled with other French press models: a fancy wooden mixing spoon, a cleaning wand and a battery-powered milk frother for whipping up cafe-style drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
I also like this French press' elegant copper finish. It really sets it apart from other models I've seen. Most importantly, the Veken brews outstandingly delicious cups of coffee.
The most expensive model in this group, the Frieling French Press doesn't come cheap. What you get for its steep price is a heavy stainless-steel press construction that's designed to last. Out of all the French press coffee makers I used, it felt the most durable by far. Its metal body also has insulating dual walls that keep coffee hot for hours.
Coffee I brewed in the Frieling came out well-extracted yet strong. So if money is no barrier, this is the French press for you.
We put a bunch of French press coffee makers to the test to find out which is best.Brian Bennett/CNET
Others we tested
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How we evaluated them
I test French press brewers much like I test standard drip coffee makers. I begin by hand-washing and hand-drying each product. Then I grind enough coffee beans to meet a specific brewing ratio. For a French press that's 4 ounces of ground coffee to 32 ounces of water.
We test French press coffee makers the same way we test standard drip machines.Brian Bennett/CNET
I then add hot water (203 F, 95 C) to the brewing chamber, stir the grounds and let them sit for 4 minutes. After that I drop the plunger for each press and pour a sample cup. Next I draw a sample of the brewed coffee and measure its percentage of total dissolved solids. I use a pocket reflectometer for this test. From there I can calculate the extraction percentage for each batch of coffee I brew.
Ideally, the extraction percentage of brewed coffee should be in the range of 19% to 22%. While this number alone doesn't guarantee delicious joe, it's a strong indicator of it. Ultimately the truth lies in a proper taste test.
Coffee extraction percentage
Bodum Chambord French Press
Bodum Brazil French Press
Mueller French Press
Hamilton Beach French Press
Coffee Gator French Press
Veken French Press
Frieling French Press
SterlingPro French Press
OXO Brew Venture French Press Coffee Maker
Note:The ideal range is between 19% and 22%.
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