The 10 Best Steel French Presses
The Steel French Press: Simplicity And Elegance
Coffee brings people together for social reasons and it energizes someone to start their day when they're alone. For many, coffee is nothing short of its own religion. Despite the simplicity of running hot water through coffee grounds, there are many inventive ways of preparing it, storing it, and enjoying it, all of which are dedicated to helping you get through the daily grind. Sure, you can visit your local Starbucks to get a caffeine fix, but when you crave the extra-rich taste of freshly-brewed java without the fanfare and extra time that comes along with waiting in line at a busy coffee shop, consider the steel French press as an excellent alternative.
French presses are cylindrical-shaped brewing devices that are ideal for preparing coarsely-ground coffee beans in a short period of time. Steel French presses have several components in common. These include a carafe (or beaker), the main body that holds both the water and ground coffee; a mesh piston (or plunger), responsible for "pressing" and separating the coffee grounds from the water at the bottom of the carafe; the lid, keeping the coffee hot; and a spout for pouring. As one of the most functional parts of the press, the piston consists of a handle protruding from the top of the lid, a plunger, and a metal filter that keeps the coffee grounds as close to the bottom of the carafe as possible. It's important to note that while the plunger and filter do not compress the coffee grounds directly, they do help to keep the grounds separate from the water, preventing excess sediment from being poured into your cup when the coffee is served. For particularly dark roasts, this operation can also help to keep bitterness to a minimum, assuming the temperature remains constant.
So, aside from its simplicity, what else gives the steel French press its appeal? For one thing, the flavor of the coffee brewed from a French press is typically fuller and richer than it is when prepared in a traditional drip machine. Typically, its aroma is stronger, as well. This is primarily due to the minimal filtration process involved with the press. While a traditional coffee machine uses a paper filter as a barrier to prevent the grounds from falling into the unit's serving carafe, this setup also removes many of the essential oils naturally present in coffee beans, resulting in a weaker taste by the time it reaches your cup. By contrast, a metal filter allows the coffee oils (as well as a small amount of the grounds) into each cup that gets served from the French press, leaving you with a full-bodied flavor.
Further setting the steel French press apart from its glass competition is its durability and ability to retain heat for extended periods of time, making it an ideal travel companion. Finally, its lack of paper filters makes it an eco-friendly option for a caffeine fix without sacrificing the bold taste you demand.
Minimizing The Learning Curve
If you're new to the art of steel French pressed coffee, there are several considerations to keep in mind. It's important to understand the amount of time involved in the process. The ideal brewing time is approximately four to five minutes. The initial water temperature is usually between 199 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that by the time you've given the coffee a chance to bloom and steep, the serving temperature may not be to your liking. To avoid this scenario, consider a steel French press with vacuum-insulated walls to prevent excess heat loss. This it also comes in handy with the travel variety of steel French presses, ensuring your beverage stays hot while in transit. Your French press of choice should also have a wide, stay-cool handle for easy pouring.
With respect to the use of coffee beans, a coarse grind is ideal for use in the steel French press. When possible, it's a good idea to grind your beans no more than 20-30 minutes before steeping them and serving. Doing so will help to maximize the richness of their flavor when brewing is complete, which is true for a variety of coffee preparation techniques.
Finally, when traveling with a French press that doubles as a thermos, the outside of the container should be equipped with a heat-resistant silicone grip to prevent burns.
A Brief History Of Steel French Presses
The coffee press was first patented in 1929 by Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta. Unlike today's mesh metal filters and plungers, Calimani and Moneta's early device utilized a cheesecloth-like filter to process ground coffee instead.
The French press went through several subsequent design modifications in the early 20th century, courtesy of Faliero Bondanini, who later patented his own French press in 1958. Bondanini then began manufacturing the device in a French clarinet factory called Martin SA where the press eventually became known throughout France as a Chambord. The French press was given different names in different parts of Europe, depending on where it was being used. For example, Bondanini marketed the Chambord as La Cafetiére Classic to the English market. The well-known Danish company Bodum later became a distributor of the Chambord in Denmark and eventually bought the rights to the Chambord name and factory.
Today's steel French press maintains both the simplicity and sophistication of its predecessors with a modern concentration on durability, flavor retention, and the assurance that the beverage is kept hot, regardless of your location.