There are at least 3 different materials that a French press pot is made of: glass, steel, and plastic. How do they compare?
Glass is the most common, and what most French press connaisseurs use. There is a certain elegance to the look of glass. The Bodum Chambord is one of the most popular models, and quite stylish. The main downside of a glass French Press is that it will eventually break. Some pots are thicker than others, and some are made of higher quality glass. The glass thickness also affects how long it will retain heat. I’ve used my Bodum Chambord a few hundred times without it breaking. However, when they do break, replacement glass can be had for an average of $10-20.
Stainless steel press pots, also known as Thermal, have a significant advantage in that it isn’t very easy to break steel. A good one, such as the Frieling, costs about $70, much more than the $20-30 cost of a glass press. Not all steel pots have the same quality, though the major brands, like Bodum and Frieling, are safe bets. The better press pots do a better job at maintaining a constant temperature for 4 minutes. Compared to a glass pot, a steel pot will also keep the coffee hot longer. While you wouldn’t want to leave coffee in the pot with grounds at the bottom, a steel pot would work well as a carafe as well. In my experience, a stainless steel French press produces a different flavor coffee than a glass pot would. Personally, I like the flavor, but keep this in mind if you go this direction.
A plastic French press is the least common of the bunch, and will produce a different flavor coffee. Quality varies, and even the unbreakable ones are known to break eventually. It is, however, lite to carry, and harder to break than glass. As such, these presses are ideal for camping, backpacking, and traveling. My only experience with a plastic (in that case, Lexan) French press was on a camping trip where we backpacked in.
If you have anything to add about any of these, or if your experience differs, feel free to share.
Posted on April 4th, 2009 by Seth Daire
Filed under: French Press