Gadget name: Bodum Columbia French Press Coffee Maker, Double Wall, 8 Cup, available on Amazon
It looks like: It’s shaped a bit like a penguin and has a shiny handle and spout, with the traditional press handle on top.
How it’s supposed to work: The French press (or cafetière à piston, as the French call it) uses a piston-like mechanism to force ground coffee through hot water, sending the spent grounds to the bottom of the pot and leaving a full-bodied brew on top. Oily and thick from minute particles of the grind suspended in the brew, French press coffee is impossible to confuse with drip coffee.
How we tested it: We brewed and tasted pots of coffee, compared the coffees’ temperature after brewing, and cleaned the pots by hand.
How it actually works: This thick, insulated pot was as simple to use as a traditional glass press, but it kept the great-tasting coffee it brewed hotter for much longer.
Good to know: It’s sturdier than most of the models we tested, with a round, comfortable handle. It was also easy to clean (it’s even completely dishwasher-safe), which is important if you’re going to be using it often.
My favorite part: The coffee it produced was rich, rounded, nutty, and full-bodied.
Overall: This sturdy, double-walled stainless-steel maker gets the whole equation just right. It’s simple to use, brews great coffee that stays piping hot, and is a snap to clean up.
Test Kitchen Tip: How to Make Even Better Coffee from a French Press
Even devoted fans of the simplicity and convenience of using a French press know that the coffee made in it can be a bit bitter and lacking in complexity. But 2007 World Barista Champion James Hoffmann has popularized a break-and-clean method of preparing French press coffee designed to fix some of its shortcomings.
Ordinarily, with a French press you pour nearly boiling water over coarsely ground coffee, stir the grounds into the water, let it steep for 5 minutes or so, and then push down the plunger to separate the grounds from the coffee. The problem is that the raft of grounds creates back pressure against the filter, which can force unwanted compounds from the beans, resulting in an overextracted, bitter flavor.
The break-and-clean method circumvents this entirely by removing most of the grounds prior to plunging. Here’s how it’s done: First, once the steeping is complete, you “break” the raft of grounds by gently stirring it up with a large spoon. Then you use a spoon to clean out most of the remaining grounds floating on the surface before using the plunger to filter those that are left behind.
When we gave it a whirl, the majority of our tasters agreed that the technique produced a cup of coffee that was distinctly rounder, sweeter, and more complex. (If you find your coffee not quite as strong as you like, try extending the brewing time by a minute or two.)