Best French Press of 2021
The Coffee Gator Insulated press topped the charts in every one of our metrics. It produced a nearly sediment-free cup — a surprise, considering the notoriously muddy brew of pressed coffee. This outcome is in large part the result of the double mesh filters stacked on the business end of the unit's plunger. Further minimizing sediment passthrough is the well-matched carafe/plunger assembly that traps the grounds without limiting the plunger's ease of movement. When the coffee is drained, cleaning the Coffee Gator is a snap. Simply toss out the grounds and pop it in the dishwasher.
Although the Gator is easy to clean, you can't wash off ugly. And, while we think it's what comes out the spout that counts, this unit's outward appearance may not be to everyone's liking. As it is, the Gator sports modern-industrial styling that speaks to utility over aesthetics. With that in mind, this press' all-metal construction makes it nearly indestructible and, thus, well-suited to busy kitchens and campsites alike.
First and foremost, the Poliviar brews a wonderfully clean cup of java, thus eliminating the main criticism leveled at the press extraction method. As with other models that can back up such a claim, this achievement is the product of the tight tolerance maintained between plunger and carafe as well as the employment of redundant mesh filters. Utility aside, the Poliviar's design captures a more timeless look that may earn it a permanent place on the countertop. This last point is largely the result of the mottled exterior of the metal carafe and the oiled teak fixtures.
While the wood adornments are undeniably a nice touch, they do require hand washing as they will be the worse for wear if run through the washing machine. Moreover, wood is a less durable material in general, meaning drops landing handle first could prove to be costly. Despite these limited concerns, this unit is more than sturdy enough for most kitchens. Moreover, we found the speckled exterior to be a nice choice as it prevents the unsightly smudges produced when handling glass or polished metal presses.
The luxurious polished stainless steel exterior of the Mueller belies its modest cost. More than just a looker, this press hammers home its favorable cost to quality ratio with double mesh filters well-fitted to an insulated carafe. The result is a gratifyingly clean brew that will maintain its warmth long enough for a top-off or two. After the coffee is drained, simply rinse out the grounds and place it in the dishwasher. All told, the Mueller's easy-to-use design and durable construction make it an easy choice regardless of one's budget.
While the Mueller's design is certainly sturdy and easy to maintain, its mirror-like finish readily shows greasy smudges and splatterings, which mars its aesthetic appeal. Additionally, while the filtration is good, it is not as thorough as some of the other models in this review. Yet, if you're looking to plunge into a better coffee experience without having to take a financial bath to do so, this unit is a great option.
With a whopping 48-ounce capacity, the Stanley easily creamed the competition and earned the designation as the leading large capacity press. How much bigger is it? Where standard-sized units are limited to about three mugs of joe, the Stanley filled four with some to spare for top-offs and warm-ups. Speaking of top-offs, this coffee maker's all-metal construction is the proverbial cherry on the cake as it is durable and dishwasher safe. Given the plus-size carafe and the built-to-last design, we believe this unit's performance more than justifies its relatively high cost.
Although there is much to praise this unit for, it is certainly not without its shortcomings. For example, the Stanley's lid fits somewhat loosely, allowing the plunger to wobble when pressed down. We were also less than impressed with the spout design as it did little to rein in the rate of discharge. While these concerns could easily be overlooked, the relatively poor filtration provided by the double filters stuck in our craw. Despite these shortcomings, if you need high volume pressing capacity, the Stanley leads the pack. And, with a carafe that size, one can spare a little coffee in the bottom to hold the dregs.
Size isn't everything. Case in point, the Veken carved out a place for itself as a miniaturized version of a classic press design. Specifically, the Veken is a 12-ounce, single-serving unit comprised of a glass carafe cradled in a stainless steel frame with a lid/plunger assembly to match. The unit is dishwasher safe, includes a pair of extra filter screens, and is quite affordable.
Admittedly, we were drawn to the Veken as it appeals to our minimalist instincts and ritualized daily coffee quaffing. However, this unit's filtration isn't as complete as we have observed in other models in the group. This unit yields a somewhat gritty brew, especially if one overloads it with grounds or rushes the plunger. Moreover, the metal frame provides gaps where residue can build up, so the frame will likely need to be removed from time to time for a thorough cleaning. That said, if you're a one-cup-a-day kind of java drinker, this unit is worth a gander.
In overall scoring, the Sterling Pro is a leader. This unit offers a double filter that generates better than average filtration, yielding a nearly sediment-free brew. The unit also boasts double wall insulation to keep the exterior cool while maintaining the warmth of the contents. Moreover, the fully stainless construction makes cleanup easy as it is machine washable. When it's time for a deep clean, the plunger assembly easily comes apart and back together.
Given such acclaim, one may be wondering at the relatively low ranking this press received. This result is a consequence of the Sterling Pro's relatively minor filtration and cleaning shortfalls. First of all, the edges of the filter do not fold over. As a result, the filters permit a bit more flex and, thus, a bit more sediment to pass by the plunger. As for cleaning, we found it hard to maintain the out-of-the-box shine that makes this model so visually appealing. Yet, when taken as a whole, the Sterling Pro is a top-notch press that is both durable and effective at making a praiseworthy cup of joe.
The Frieling Double Wall French press delivered an excellent performance in all of our tests. Moreover, this model has that solid feel that speaks to the quality of its construction. The Frieling filters grounds using a pair of stacked mesh screens, with the upper being finer and slightly smaller in diameter than the lower. Happily, this unusual design produces a brew far cleaner than average — though it's not perfect. However, the quality of this unit's filtration may have more to do with the plunger being well-fitted to the carafe, a feature that is evidenced in the tight fit and smooth action of the plunger. Finally, the stainless steel construction allows for machine washing once the dregs are removed.
While the Frieling is certainly easy to operate and maintain, it fell short of the leaders in a minor but notable way. Specifically, the use of a recessed secondary filter reduces the stiffness of the outer edge of the plunger. Although this contributes to easier depression of the plunger, it allows small amounts of grounds to work their way around the filter as it slides down the carafe. The result is a slightly muddier brew as compared to the higher scoring models. For a product that slightly misses the mark in this key metric, we found the Frieling's hefty price tag to be a bit out of proportion and thus less desirable. With that said, if one has a budget to match, this stylish press isn't likely to disappoint those looking for a bolder tactile-richness in a cup of java.
The double-walled, polished stainless steel Secura has the look and feel of a solidly constructed press. This impression is supported by the well-fitted plunger and its dishwasher safe status. While the unit only uses a single mesh filter to strain out grounds and sediment, it does have the advantage of a doubled-over edge on that filter. The quality of the filter combined with the tight carafe/plunger tolerance produces better filtration than most single filter models. The press also comes with two spare filters, which can be added to the plunger to increase filtration or set aside as replacements.
The Secura scored well in most metrics but came up short in our filtration tests as it was competing with double filter models. While the purity of the brew could be improved by adding one of its extra filters, we chose to test it right out-of-the-box as many consumers don't like to fiddle around with a brand new purchase. Aside from the filter, the only other downside is that the Secura's polished stainless steel shows the grease smudges from every hand that touches it and, as a result, it's hard to maintain the mirror-like finish. Yet, this product remains a good choice for someone who likes the look of polished steel and is disciplined enough to keep their hand on the handle.
The Cafe Du Chateau press is a modern take on a classic design. The unit has a traditional glass carafe; however, the polished stainless steel frame supporting the glass has the look of a low-cut collar. We'll leave it to the reader to decide if this model's décolletage is pleasing to the eye. Moving on to more practical matters, this unit rates above average for filtration, which is the result of its twin folded edge filters. Yet, apart from the curvy polished steel frame, this press lacks distinction.
As with all the polished steel models in our review, the Cafe Du Chateau's finish is hard to maintain, and it readily shows fingerprints. Additionally, the frame forms a pocket wherein residue may build-up, thus increasing the cleaning burden. However, the unit is dishwasher safe and comes with a couple of extra filters. When one strips away all of this unit's garnishments, it is simply a decent double filter press at a reasonable price.
The Bodum Brazil is one of the least expensive presses in our review. This coffee maker features the humdrum, though adequate, performance that we have come to expect from Bodum. The glass carafe and polypropylene frame are dishwasher safe, easy to disassemble, and are relatively durable.
While we prefer simple designs, the basic Brazil leaves out some key features to achieve this end. Most significantly, the unit lacks double filters, and the one filter screen it does has an open edge. Moreover, the spring supporting the filter screens overlaps where it meets, creating a weakness that allows grounds to pass through. Despite these issues, we think the Brazil is appropriately priced and, thus, a good choice for the less discerning coffee drinker who'd like to save a buck.
When many people think of a press, an image of something akin to the Bodum Chambord likely comes to mind. Whether one agrees with this statement or not, it is undeniable that this model has been a staple in kitchens and coffee shops for many years. This product is simple to use, and as long as everything goes to plan, equally easy to clean and maintain. Coffee drinkers who love a more heavy body, tactile experience will find the Chambord to be quite satisfactory.
Tradition aside, when compared to contemporary press designs, the Chambord falters in a number of areas. First and foremost is filtration. This coffee maker puts out a muddy cup, and while many drinkers will expect that from this extraction method, it doesn't have to be that way. Another issue is that the glass carafe is not securely restrained by the metal frame and can slide out when emptying spent grounds. Given the unit's propensity for unannounced aerial displays, it's not surprising that the manufacturer sells replacement carafes and other parts.
The Le Creuset French press catches the eye wherever it sits. This gorgeous kitchen staple features the brand's signature enamel coating and comes in many colors to compliment your decor or existing collection. The Le Creuset press is stain-resistant, and if properly cared for, it could become a family heirloom. Despite its luxurious and fragile appearance, this coffee maker is quite durable and is even dishwasher safe.
Given how taken we were by the good looks of this model, we were disappointed to discover that the high cost of the Le Creuset did not equate to high filtering performance. The single filter and heavy lid are loosely fit to the body, which results in a wonky feel and poor sediment filtration. Moreover, when pouring, the loose-fitting lid caused us to instinctively secure it with our thumb in an awkward grip. Unfortunately, we can only recommend this model to those who value form over function or those looking to match their Le Creuset set.
Why You Should Trust Us
Heading up French press research and testing is Michelle Powell. With over a decade of experience as a professional barista, Michelle brings a well-rounded understanding of coffee, and its many iterations, to the task. She has twice competed in the Southwest Regional Barista Competition, undergone countless hours of instruction and training with Four Barrel and Blue Bottle Coffee, and has managed an artisanal cafe where she ran workshops instructing customers on how to make better coffee at home. Michelle has tested hundreds of coffee and kitchen-related products for GearLab. In this most recent iteration of our French press review, Michelle was joined by Senior Review Editor Nick Miley. Nick is an avid home cook and baker as well as a published research scientist and investigative journalist.
Before purchasing the products for our side-by-side analysis, our team performed extensive research into the needs, wants, and common frustrations of French press consumers. Using that information as well as our own experience, we devised independent metrics that, when satisfied, collectively describe an ideal press. Far from being a one-size-fits-all review, our analysis makes allowances for variables such as carafe size, aesthetic appeal, and cost.
Analysis and Test Results
To capture the essence of what makes for a great French press, we scored each model based on four weighted metrics. In order of impact, these are filtration, ease of use, ease of cleaning, and durability. The particulars of the tests informing these metrics are described below, including which models performed well and why.
Filtration is the most important and thus most heavily weighted metric in our review. While French presses are not known for producing a particularly clean brew — quite the opposite, in fact — some products address this issue better than others. Leading the pack in this evaluation are the Coffee Gator Insulated and the Poliviar presses. Both of these units boast double filter screens with folded over edges and plunger pistons that fit tightly to the body of the press. Filtration was assessed by coffee color uniformity, sediment in the bottom of a cup, and, most importantly, mouthfeel.
While the impact of doubled-up filters and a tight-fitting plunger on the filtration process is easy to understand, folded filter edges may be less obvious. Filter screens are made of woven metal sheets (usually steel), and when cut into disks, they have a frayed edge that exposes the individual wires of the weave. Severed from the structure of the weave, these exposed wire ends are quite weak and prone to let particulates suspended in the water pass by the plunger. Folding the edge essentially doubles the resistance to such action. Stacking the filters adds that much more strength to this vulnerable portion of the plunger componentry.
Several models in our review employ folded edge screens, double-up screens, or both, and yet, all failed to produce coffee clarity on par with the Coffee Gator and Poliviar. For example, the Cafe Du Chateau yields a slightly cloudier draft despite having both of the aforementioned features. The difference here is in the loose fit of the plunger. Conversely, the Mueller has a tight-fitting plunger and double filters, yet the frayed edges of those filters render sediments levels similar to the Cafe Du Chateau.
As a final example, the Frieling, which was ranked alongside the Mueller and Cafe Du Chateau, utilizes a recessed, extra-fine mesh filter on top of a standard filter. While this may seem like a good design, we found that the smaller diameter of the upper filter meant that the unit performed more like a single frayed-edge filter as it moved along the wall of the carafe. If all this seems like a lot to take in, all you really need to know is that a tight-fitting plunger housing double filters with folded edges yields the best results.
Ease of Use
To test ease of use, we made dozens of pots of coffee, using each press multiple times to ensure we became familiar with each model's strengths and weaknesses. The Poliviar was a leader in the class due to the smooth action of its tight-fitting plunger and its well-designed handle that facilitated comfortable, controlled pouring. While it's true that the Poliviar's wooden components will require some extra care, that will be addressed in the ease of cleaning and durability discussions below.
The overall feel that a press has when filling, pressing, and pouring it is a large part of ease of use evaluation. However, these feelings are not lofty sentiments but rather the product of focusing on details such as weight, balance, ergonomics, pour control, and the fit of the components. We have already mentioned the Poliviar's performance in this regard. Close competitors include the Mueller, Secura, Sterling Pro, and Coffee Gator. All of these models feature a plunger that is fit to maximize sediment capture while remaining easy to depress. Moreover, these presses have very similar spouts to the Poliviar, which promote accurate, regulated pours while limiting the spurts that can occur during the press. Yet, none of the handles on these units were a match for the Poliviar.
On the other end of the spectrum, we found the Stanley and Le Creuset to be particularly unruly. Due to its massive stature, the Stanley was a bit cumbersome to bring to bear, and its loose-fitting lid wanted to spin at inopportune times. The Le Creuset presented challenges with its loose-fitting lid as well, but more because it is made of heavy enameled ceramic and felt like it would fall out and take the plunger with it while pouring. Similarly, the Bodum Chambord's loose-fitting frame threatened to pour-out the carafe when tossing used grounds.
Ease of Cleaning
Before we delve into the differences in cleaning requirements, we want to point out that, in general, French presses are easy to clean and maintain. In comparison to an electric coffee maker, the process is trivial and, in part, contributes to the long-standing appeal of the press extraction method. With that said, we have found that small differences in the ease of cleaning can have a big impact on one's satisfaction with their purchase. As such, the Coffee Gator's all-metal construction, uniform exterior, matte finish, and dishwasher safe rating made it a leader in this evaluation.
The Coffee Gator's dishwasher safe rating is largely a result of its durable metal construction, and the benefit to cleaning is clear. However, the contribution of the exterior features to this assessment may need some explaining. The uniform exterior eliminates the nooks and crannies where coffee residue tends to build up in other models. The matte finish limits the display of water spots following a wash. Finally, it is easy to disassemble the Coffee Gator's plunger when a deep clean is in order.
Several other models such as the Mueller, Veken, and Sterling Pro are also dishwasher safe, and their plunger assemblies are easy to break down. However, the Veken's frame requires removal for a thorough clean, while the Mueller and Sterling Pro's polished exterior tends to come out of the wash looking a bit spotty, requiring a buffing to bring back the finish.
As a final note, models that require hand washing suffered in this evaluation. While many deserve such an evaluation, the Poliviar is perhaps an exception. The Poliviar's mottled finish, uniform exterior, and metal carafe make it quite easy to maintain so long as one is willing to forego the dishwasher as its wooden handle and plunger knob won't long withstand such treatment.
No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on a promising product only to have it fall apart. This is why we rate each press on its construction materials, manufacturing tolerances, and the quality of its assembly. Moreover, we ask practical questions such as, would we feel comfortable taking the press on a camping trip or setting it on a table next to a child at play? The Coffee Gator, Secura, Mueller, Frieling, Sterling Pro, and Stanley all earned top marks in this category due to their all-metal construction. If any of these models were knocked off the counter, they are likely to remain intact. In support of this assessment, all of these models are double-walled, which provides a buffer that will better maintain the integrity of the inner layer and thus the function of the filter.
The remaining models are uninsulated, which landed them on the other end of the spectrum in terms of durability. The Bodum Chambord scored particularly poorly because its glass carafe can slide from its frame when cleaning. The Bodum Brazil, Cafe Du Chateau, and Veken are secure in their frames, but their carafes are also made of glass and thus fragile. The Le Creuset press scored slightly better than the Brazil because of its sturdier-than-glass enamel coating. However, we have observed chipping in other Le Creuset enamel products in the past, causing concern about a similar outcome with the press.
Again, the Poliviar was an outlier due to its wooded adornment. This unit has all the durability and quality manufacturing of its top-rated competitors; however, the wooden handle and knob are not likely to survive a direct blow. As such, this model is ranked just below the toughest models in the class.
This review of French presses covered all the aspects that make up a satisfying device. Specifically, our analysis looks at filtration, ease of use, cleaning, and durability. We used these products heavily as we made dozens of cups of coffee, repeatedly washed them, took them apart and put them back together, and even dropped a few. The information gathered from our research and testing has been organized such that one can quickly make accurate comparisons of the products. The above review will help one find the best press to meet their needs and pocketbook.
— Michelle Powell and Nick Miley