My French Press Review So You Can Make Great Coffee
When I first wrote this post, I had just bought my first french press. I was new to the world of the french press and I wanted to write a review of the best french press coffee makers.
Since then, I’ve broken several french presses, and learned a lot more about making great coffee with a french press, and an Aeropress.
I’ve realized that most true coffee lovers have a french press. In my opinion, it’s the BEST way to make your coffee for a few reasons:
- Ease of use
- Reasonable price
- You don’t need much coffee (it’s great for couples or singles)
- You can use it for cold brew!
- You don’t need coffee machines
- They are usually a simple design
- It’s easy to get replacement parts for cheap
- They come in all different sizes
What’s the point of french press coffee?
To some, it seems snobby to make french press coffee. When I first got a french press, I thought the same thing. What’s the big deal? It can’t be that much better than drip coffee.
Then I made some. Oh. My. God. It’s just so much better. It pulls out the flavor in a different way, it’s thicker and smoother, and almost has a froth.
I’ve broken a few french presses and keep buying a new one because coffee is a whole different experience with a french press.
How to get started with your french press
Here’s what you need to get started with your french press:
1. Coffee grinder
For best results, you’ll need a burr grinder. Blade grinder produce inconsistent flavor because they don’t grind the beans consistently.
When I first started, I watched a lot of reviews on grinders and I wasn’t willing to spend a few hundred without having much experience, so I thought a hand grinder would be a great starter option, and I can just keep it for traveling later on.
As I became more experienced, I bought an electric burr grinder. It’s much easier. The hand crank gets tiresome and makes it a lot more work to make a cup of coffee.
Check out my post on how to chose a grinder here.
2. French Press
If you don’t know how to choose a French Press, check out this post on how to make an educated buying decision when you buy a French Press. After doing some research, I chose one with a glass carafe and metal frame. The quality, filtration system, and casing looked good given the price point.
2021 update: I’ve broken a few of these. Keep reading to find out more about my bad luck in a later section of this post. French presses come in all different colors and designs. If you’re clumsy, avoid glass and try stainless steel versions. I like the glass because I can see how smooth the coffee is. It gets sort of frothy. I’m okay with the lower quality french press. If you want top quality and a unique design, read the reviews and buy one that’s durable.
Remember when you’re first getting starting, the important thing is getting a good cup of coffee.
3. Type of Coffee – You’ll need some REALLY good beans
My favorite is Kicking Horse Medium Roast, whole bean, free trade coffee.
My maxwell house pre-ground coffee doesn’t cut it if I’m going to make amazing coffee. This brand is roasted in Canada, I’m Canadian and it is free trade, so I thought I would give it a go and it quickly became my favorite.
4. A Kettle
(if you already have one, you can skip this step, but since the temperature is important, I needed one)
I currently have a cuisinart keurig coffee maker, I tested the temperature and it doesn’t get nearly hot enough. The kettle I bought will work well and get hot enough.
Here are the few items you need to get started.
Zingy Hand Held Coffee Grinder
This grinder is easy to hold, small and portable and has a nice window so you can see the grinds going into the catch tray.
This particular grinder seems to come in lots of different brands. I’ve seen it called different brands in many videos, but it looks like the exact same one. This one has a nice hand grip and travel bag, so I was sold.
It was easy to use, just put the beans in the top, put the lid back on and start cranking away. You can adjust how find your grind is easily by turning the nob inside the grinder (this is all described in the instructions in case you forget).
The only downside is that it takes quite a while to get enough grinds to do an entire pot. Eventually, I will get an electric grinder, but for now, this one will do just fine. It’s a great beginner burr grinder.
I chose this French Press because, from my research, most French Presses in this price point are pretty similar.
I wasn’t going to spend a ton of money to get a fancy brand name when I could get this French Press for a decent price and test out if I like it, and if it does make the best coffee around.
2021 Update: I have since gone through several versions of this french press. I broke one trying to bring it to work, I broke one in the sink when I was washing it. I am clumsy! But the glass carafe is delicate, so if you’re clumsy like I am, don’t travel with it and be careful when washing. Or don’t buy the glass models.
As you can see in the images, mine has a metal frame, but still ended up breaking.
You may want to buy a high quality french press. You can get a good one for an affordable price if you shop around on amazon. You may need to replace the mesh screen once in a while, so look for one with a few replacements.
Any french press will still produce better coffee than drip coffee makers, in my opinion.
I like a stainless steel plunger, and some stainless steel elements. Some of the best french presses come with full stainless steel construction. If you’re extra clumsy, try a stainless steel carafe instead of a glass carafe.
It takes a while to get the perfect cup of coffee, so be patient while you’re learning the brewing process.
It was fairly simple and actually didn’t take that long to do.
Steps to Use Your French Press
- Fill the kettle and heat up some water. After the kettle shuts itself off, I waited about 30 seconds to pour the boiling water in with my coffee grounds.
- Pour some hot water into the French Press to heat it up (no coffee involved yet). This helps keep the coffee warm later.
- My French Press doesn’t have any measuring notches on it, so I figured out how many cups it would hold. The instructions said it would take 2 tablespoons for each 6 ounces of water. I could already tell this would be too strong for me, so I made some adjustments. My French Press holds about 4 cups of coffee, so I put 6 tablespoons. That should be enough for 3, but for me it was just about right for 4 cups of coffee.
- I put about 6 ounces of water in the bottom and stirred the water and the grounds together. I let that sit for 30 seconds with the lid on to hold the heat in.
- After the 30 seconds, I filled the rest of the French Press with hot water and let it sit for 3 minutes. The video above said 3.5 minutes, but I know I like weaker coffee, so I went with 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, I pushed the plunger down slowly and poured my first ever cup of French Press coffee.
At first I was disappointed in the smell because it was incredibly strong. I’m used to the beautiful smell of fresh brewed coffee that fills the air, but this smelled quite bitter. I usually put some milk in my coffee, but I wanted to make sure I liked the coffee black before I changed the flavors.
I waited for it to cool a bit and took my first sip. I was VERY HAPPY with the results. I usually hate black coffee, and this was pretty good. I can tell I am well on my way to making a great cup of coffee.
The thing it was missing is a bit of milk, so I did a bit of research and found out you can make some frothed milk at home with your French Press.
I watched several videos on frothing milk at home. This one by Cafe Britt is straight to the point.
I found that frothing the milk while it was cold then heating it up made it much frothier.
3 steps to frothing your own milk at home
- Pour cold milk into the french press. You only need a bit, 6oz or so (I used 1%, but I think 2% or whole milk would taste better).
- Plunge up and down for about a minute or until you see the consistency that you want. This doesn’t take long.
- Pour milk into a microwave safe cup or container. Heat for 30 seconds at first. I ended up heating for 30 seconds, then another 20 seconds. This will depend on your microwave.
This made a big difference in how smooth and delicious the coffee was. My husband was very pleased with his cup of coffee. I enjoyed it as well. I don’t think I will be able to have a regular cup of coffee without being a snob anymore.