A good French press has a plunger with a tight seal, meaning the plunger fits snugly inside the walls of the press to ensure that stray grounds don’t escape into your coffee. The plunger should also have a steel filter with a mesh screen to trap grounds at the bottom of the pot. The screen should be sturdy enough not to warp over time, but it’s still a huge plus if you can purchase replacement filters online.
Most French presses come in multiple sizes, but we recommend buying a 32-ounce press, especially if you want to make coffee for multiple people. If you choose to go smaller, pay attention to how many ounces, not “cups,” the press can hold. For reference, a tall cup of coffee at Starbucks is 8 ounces.
The press should also be sturdy enough to handle daily plunging and cleaning with ease. Presses with a glass beaker should have an exterior that will cushion and protect it from bumps and drops. But even the nicest glass beaker may crack after years of handling, so if you want a French press to grow old with you, a stainless steel model is a great choice. And any good press should have replacement parts, such as beakers and filters, available to purchase online.
Many stainless steel French presses advertise a heat-retaining double-wall construction, but we think this feature isn’t too important because you should pour pressed coffee out of the beaker as soon as you’ve plunged it. Still, the handle of a glass press and the body of any steel press should feel cool to the touch so you don’t burn yourself while pouring a cup. And glass presses should have a handle that’s far enough from the glass beaker to keep you from burning your knuckles.
Most glass French presses are made of borosilicate, a type of glass made more resistant to thermal shock by the addition of boric oxide. Thermal shock is what causes glass to break when it undergoes sharp changes in temperature. So a borosilicate beaker is important if you want your French press to remain in one piece even when you fill it with boiling water.
Pay attention to how many ounces, not “cups,” the press can hold.