Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 5 Best Unbreakable French Coffee Presses

Unbreakable French Coffee Presses Review Part 3

Last we discussed what you need to know about French presses, and what makes a good one. We also reviewed models that did not make the grade. Now for the best of them all!

The best unbreakable French presses

#5 Nissan Gourmet Coffee Press. The Thermos Nissan Gourmet Coffee Press ($30) comes from a company with a reputation for excellent quality, and with a great track record in insulated beverage containers. The Gourmet Coffee Press has accumulated many reviews and many fans. Reviewers gush about how unbreakable it is and how long it lasts: "this Nissan will last forever","quality vacuum insulation, and a sturdy press mechanism", "it is very durable","this coffee maker is tough", "incredibly durable, great for travel","clean, functional and effective." It comes however with a very significant flaw - many users complain about filter leaks, which let coffee grounds into the brew: "the problem I have is the volume of escape of coffee grounds into the coffee as the plunger is pressed", "the screen didn't fit rightly, I got grit in my coffee", "the screen ... allowed lots of grounds to escape", "plunger with the mesh does not keep the coffee powder where it is supposed to be","filter screen is "skimpy." We appreciate the toughness of the design, but can only recommend this model with reservations, due to the great many complaints about the leaking filter.

#4 Planetary Design Table Top Press. We did not want to include the Planetary Design Table Top Stainless Steel French press ($30)  into this review, because the materials appeared too cheap. However, its very good reviews could not be ignored. This French press, despite its name, is primarily made of plastic, and comes in several sizes, from 4 cups (20 oz), to 8 (36 oz) and 12 cups (48 oz). Its looks are mediocre, and most of what you can see is plastic: we fail to see much of the 18/8 marine stainless steel advertised by the manufacturer. Reviewers really like the robustness of this model, which is where it truly shines. Many reviewers use this press for tea (it comes in several configurations), and are pleased with it. Users say: "easy to clean... cleans well, it is made VERY well (i.e., not too fragile for everyday use", "I have yet to get a mouth full of coffee grinds", "the carafe is very sturdy, but not heavy", "except for the steel kettle, the rest of this pot is plastic with a little bit of mesh", "the screen is one entire part that's easy to clean", "the body of the carafe itself is fairly well insulated... However, around the plastic spout there is a considerable amount of heat that is lost","I appreciate the built-in rubberized mat on the bottom that prevents the pot from slipping around", "no grounds in your cup, keeps the coffee hot quite a while (hours)", "my only criticism is the plunger. It is plastic for one thing." We feel that the Planetary Design Table Top French press is a good model for camping and outdoors use, but the excessive use of plastic inside and outside does not allow us to recommend it for general purpose kitchen use. Planetary design also makes a 4-cup Desk Press mug/press combination ($28), with more metal and less plastic, and equally good reviews.

#3 Bodum Columbia. The Bodum Columbia Stainless Steel Thermal Press Pot ($56) is made by the same company which manufactures the iconic Chambord French press, a model that has come to be the model of a French press.It is an 8-cup model (although you can also find a 2-3-cup model and a 12-cup model for this press) made of stainless steel, with an insulating double wall, and a modern, agreeable but not unforgettable, design. It corrects several shortcomings of the Chambord: the double wall insulation keeps coffee warmer longer, and the stainless steel carafe is unbreakable, while the glass beaker of the Chambord breaks regularly and repeatedly. The Columbia has a very large number of reviews, most of which are very positive: "the real advantage of the stainless steel is that I'm not going to break it", "My favorite feature in this new design is the one-piece filter", "super-fine screen that allows you to use the finer ground coffee grinds", "handle is big, comfortable and offers a rock solid grip", "made exceptionally well", "filter seals tightly, and is a finer mesh", "comfortable to hold, well proportioned and balanced","plunger seals tightly to reduce sludge". This model, however, has one big downside compered to the Chambord - it has a plastic plunger: "plunger is mostly plastic", "rubber-edged gasket plunger of all the Bodum designs wears out", "we returned it for a different one because my husband wanted the internal parts to be all stainless steel and this has a plastic press", " the part inside was part stainless and part plastic", "a portion of the lid is made of plastic, and the press/plunger itself is made of plastic spokes, with a big rubber ring." A few reviewers complain about dripping, pouring and balance problems: "it has tipped over on my counter several times", "if you don't pour slowly, it drips", "when I pour quickly, the spout somehow leaks." Overall, we find this French press to be very well made, and functionally excellent, but we regret the step backwards in using plastic on the lid and plunger.

#2 LaCafetiere Thermique. LaCafetiere Thermique ($45),  despite its French name, is designed in the UK and built in China. It is an 8-cup model, made of stainless steel, with a double insulated wall. While most French presses are of a modern or post-modern design, this one harks back to turn of the (19th) century Art Nouveau, with elegant soft curves. While it only has a few reviews, they are uniformly good, pointing out the good fit-and-finish, the quality of the coffee, and the tight fit of the press filter: "makes perfectly strong but non-bitter coffee, keeps it hot for a reasonable amount of time and it looks rather handsome on the breakfast table", "the construction is S-O-L-I-D", "the handle and the spout are very artfully, cleanly welded onto the body, and chased back to smooth, as you would expect of a piece of jewelry", "all the grounds had been captured by the stainless, mesh filter." The only down sides according to the reviews: it is not dishwasher-safe, and it is not made in the USA. We really like LaCafetiere Thermique, but we would feel better if it had many more reviews.

#1 Frieling Stainless Steel French press.   The striking Frieling Stainless Steel French press ($69), of modern design, is an 8-cup model (also available in 2-cup and 4-cup models), all stainless inside and outside, with no plastic or glass. It captures almost as many reviews as the popular Bodum Columbia, but its ratio of positive to negative reviews is even better (89% positive 126/16 vs 86% for the Columbia). Reviewers rave about the high quality fit-and-finish, the looks, and the filter: "extremely well made", "solid, very well built", "plunger is heavy duty", "nearly indestructible",  "beautiful finish", "Functional art for the kitchen", "oozes quality craftsmanship", "love the filter, never have any grounds in the cup","liked the solid stainless steel mesh strainer", "mesh on this french press is also finer than on any Bodum model." The very few complaints mostly have to do with lemons, about finish and about filters: "it is full of imperfections... 2nd one that I received is 99% perfect", "the weld/braze joint there was botched, replacement had its handle welded on quite noticeably crooked, the third one was less crooked, but still wonky", "screw stripped at the base of the filter after a few uses, but I received a new one from the company right away", "plunger does NOT filter out the bits".

We find the Frieling French press an outstanding design with a very good look and a great fit-and-finish, that should last many years and make honor to your kitchen table.

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