Here’s a little secret about French-press coffee makers: They all basically work the same. You add the coffee grounds, you pour in hot water from your kettle, you stir, you cover and wait about four minutes, you plunge, and then you pour into a mug and enjoy. And unlike drip coffee makers, which will only make coffee as good as the machine, the quality of coffee you get from a French press relies pretty heavily on your skill and process, as well as the quality of beans that you’re using. That’s why it can be hard to tell if coffee was made in a French press that costs $10 or $100, just by sipping it.
However, this is a case where material matters, and French presses made of certain materials are better for different types of coffee drinkers, even if all of these coffee machines function in basically the same way. So to help you figure out which French press is best for you and your caffeine habit, we took a deep dive into the most common types of French presses available and broke down the pros and cons of each material, along with some archetypal examples that you can buy.
Glass French-Press Coffee Makers
When you picture a French press, you’re probably picturing something with metal scaffolding and a glass carafe. That’s the standard style of French press, and as such, is often the least expensive and most readily available. This is why a glass French press is a solid choice for beginners, or anyone who doesn’t want to spend too much money on a coffee maker.
The most obvious downside is that the glass can break easily, but bigger brands like Bodum also sell replacement carafes for their French presses in case of such an accident. But glass is easy to clean, and some of these carafes are even dishwasher-safe. Plus, the actual French presses come in a variety of colorful, or not-so-colorful, designs, depending on your preference.
However, if you like to drink your coffee over the course of a couple of hours, glass might not be the best choice, even if it’s the easiest. This material isn’t the best insulator, so coffee made in these is best enjoyed as soon after making as possible, especially if you like your brew hot.
For only $10, this simple, no-frills four-cup French press is a good option for beginners or those who aren’t entirely sure they’re into this style of coffee.
This classically-styled French press, with silver accents and glass carafe, comes in three sizes. The smallest, a three-cup, is ideal for people who mainly make coffee for one.
A stainless-steel-and-glass French press from the Italian espresso company Bialetti.
This classic style of eight-cup French press has a modern copper finish.
You could try this minimalist, metal French press from Canadian coffee company Grosche.
Or this maximalist metal one, from Bodum.
French presses can be colorful, too — like this bright-orange one.
Grosche also makes a French press with a glass body and wooden detailing, for those with a more organic sensibility.
Plastic French-Press Coffee Makers
The main advantage of having a plastic French press is that it’s harder to break than a glass one, yet much cheaper than a stoneware or metal one (but more on those in a bit). It’s also a great French press for camping or anywhere you can’t bring glass. The flavor of the coffee really shouldn’t be affected if you’re using BPA-plastic versus glass, just be sure that the plunger itself is made of stainless steel.