Although most French presses appear the same, they differ in many ways; materials, insulation, pour-spouts, handles, filters, and plungers can all vary wildly. Given this, it’s no surprise that the quality of French presses also varies a lot, which is why I’ve written this article. It sorts out the wheat from the chaff and gives you the five best single-cup French presses on the market.
Now, the thing is, single-cup French presses are hard to find, so I’ve included larger but still small French presses in my review. As a bonus, however, I’ve added a section explaining exactly how to create a single perfect cup of coffee using a French press of virtually any size. Intrigued? Excellent. Read on.
Here are the Five Best Single-Cup/Small French Presses you can buy (My Recommendation)
- Best Luxury: Frieling Insulated French Press
- Most Portable: AeroPress Go Coffee Maker
- Best Insulated: Espro Travel Coffee Press
- Most Durable: Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker
- Best for Beginners: Secura French Press Coffee Maker
Note: Hand on heart, I cannot recommend five single-cup French presses, so I’ve had to add a couple of two-cup presses to make a list of five.
Best Luxury Single-Cup: Frieling Insulated French Press
The tiny but powerful Frieling French Press (8 oz. brushed model) always brews a strong, excellent cup of coffee that is full of flavor. The 8 oz. model is just over 6 inches tall. The stainless-steel double-walled carafe is tough enough to withstand repeated daily use, even with daily dishwasher cleaning.
There is a reason the Frieling is the top-rated press among countless coffee fans, magazines, hotels, and restaurants. That reason is the combination of durability and quality of the brew this press delivers. The Frieling retains heat for up to four times longer than glass presses. Frieling presses come with a five-year warranty.
- Pros: The press is exceptionally durable. One of these lasts a long time.
The Frieling delivers an incredible brew every single time.
- Cons: Cost! This is not a cheap press!
Most Portable Single-Cup: AeroPress Go Coffee Maker
The AeroPress Go Coffee Maker is a cleverly designed Press specifically targeted at coffee fans who are constantly on the go. AeroPress also asserts that brews from this gadget deliver 1/9th the bitterness of standard presses. However, although I’m not saying it isn’t so, I can’t begin to understand how the science behind that claim would work.
The 8-ounce size is ideal for brewing single-cup coffees. It is small enough to bring to work or to travel with without constantly wasting excess coffee brew.
- Pros: Amazingly portable. This press comes with its own mug.
(The specially-engineered mug doubles as a holder for the press and all its accessories, a remarkable feat of ergonomic design.)
- Cons: The lid on the mug is not spill-proof.
Unfortunately, some coffee ground can get into the brew.
Tip: regardless of which press is being used, avoid getting coffee ground into the brew by not draining the press to its very dregs.
Best Insulated: Espro Travel Coffee Press
The Espro Travel Coffee Press is an excellent choice for keeping coffee hot while it’s brewing. The Espro press features a double-walled, vacuum-insulated stainless metal carafe. The manufacturers boast that the Espro will keep your coffee hot for up to six hours!
- This stainless-steel press is totally dishwasher safe and rust-resistant. Naturally, it is stronger, tougher, more durable, and easier to clean than glass alternatives.
- The Espro comes with a handcrafted bamboo paddle, adding an unmistakable touch of class to the kit. (Delightfully snooty for those who–like me–love to show off.)
- Although designed that way on purpose to facilitate portability, the plunger stands unguided and it is therefore up to the user to ensure its smooth operation. Newbies must be careful not to press down on the plunger too quickly, or they might spill the coffee and make a mess, or even worse, get scalded too. The Espro must be used carefully.
Most Durable Single-Cup: Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker
The Bodum CHAMBORD French Press Coffee Maker delivers years of faithful service even when used daily. The Bodum is a green product. Although the contribution to the green cause might be small, every little helps.
The 12-ounce size delivers one BIG cup of coffee or two goodish-sized espressos. Even so, the press is small enough to bring to work or to travel with without constantly wasting precious brew.
- Pros: Amazingly durable, both by reputation and personal experience.
Bodum CHAMBORD is available in nine finishes, giving buyers a range of attractive choices.
- Cons: The frame around the glass carafe can loosen a little and slip.
Unfortunately, some coffee ground does get into the brew.
The plunger mechanism sometimes wobbles.
Best for Beginners: Secura French Press Coffee Maker
The Secura French Press is noteworthy for brewing smooth, full-bodied coffee that’s full of flavor. This 12 oz. French press is made entirely from 18/10 stainless steel both inside and out, making it almost as durable as the Bodum.
- It is effortless to use (which is why it is so appropriate for beginners) because its three-layered, in-built filter easily traps even the smallest coffee ground to deliver a smooth, hassle-free brew.
- All parts of this press are dishwater safe, which is amazing.
- Anyone who, like me, hates the idea of old coffee beans sullying their press will find that cleaning the filters to pristine condition means disassembling the multi-part filter each time. Although this is really easy to do, it is a bit of a chore which not everyone will appreciate.
- This press is double-walled, but unlike the Espro, it is not vacuum sealed.
How I Make a Perfect Single Cup of Coffee Every Time
French press coffee can be a delicious treat if done correctly. However, people often find it hard to make that single, perfect cup of coffee. A single cup of exquisite coffee needs not just the right amount of coffee but the right amount of water too. Anyone who drinks coffee only occasionally or only needs one cup a day, sooner or later, runs into this problem, especially when using larger presses (for example, the two-cup presses I list above).
The texture and taste of that single cup of coffee can make or break a day. I know because that’s how I feel about it. I look forward to my mid-morning cuppa. I salivate at the thought of it, I wait for it, I hanker after it. If, after all the waiting for–and frankly, lusting after–that one cup, I end up with something less than exquisite, I feel deflated and cheated. After several disappointments, I have learned how to make immaculate cups of coffee, not just once but repeatedly, and here’s how.
- 1 French press coffeemaker
- 0.6 oz, or 17 grams, of about two-and-a-quarter tablespoons of coarse ground coffee
- here’s a handy calculator to help figure out the perfect water-to-coffee ratio for French presses
- 8 oz, or 235 ml of water
- 1 spoon
- 1 timer
- My favorite coffee mug. (I favor ceramic mugs as they don’t seem to interfere with the taste of my coffee, whereas most other materials do.)
I begin the actual process when the water is just coming to a boil.
Tip: if I’m busy and can’t stand over the kettle, I let the water boil, then wait for at least one minute (but no longer than two) to let the water cool a little.
I use only freshly ground coffee. The easy way out is to buy fresh-ground coffee from my barista, but the best way out is to grind the coffee myself.
Tip: I never fall for the urge to buy large quantities of beans from my barista because they age and go stale. The exception is a unique blend that is available only early in the Christmas season. Because this Christmas mix is so popular, my barista quickly runs out of the limited supply. I have no alternative but to buy a large quantity of the unique blend. To preserve the beans’ freshness for as long as possible, I divide them into small mounds and wrap each mound carefully in clingfilm, storing individual wraps in an airtight container. This helps to preserve the beans for at least a month.
Tip: I grind my beans coarsely. Coarsely ground beans preserve their flavor better than finely ground ones, and coarsely ground beans don’t sneak their way through the filter.
- My preferred coffee-water ratio is two tablespoons of coffee for every cup of coffee. I find this ratio works perfectly, no matter which coffee bean I use. This ratio gives me fantastic flavor without overwhelming me.
- Next, I pour the water over the ground beans, stirring the mixture so that each grain of coffee gets a chance to ‘meet’ the water. If I don’t follow this step, I cannot guarantee that any two cups of coffee I make will taste the same.
- Now that I am near the end of the process, I let the coffee stand for four minutes. Four is a ‘magic number’ I found through experiment, and it works for me.
- Finally, to filter out the coffee ground, I push down on the plunger slowly and evenly. Pressing down at an angle, or pressing down quickly, might cause the coffee to spill out of the French press.
Tip: I dispose of the filter immediately and rinse my French press, if not actually clean it thoroughly. This is because when coffee ground waste has had a chance to dry, it becomes more challenging to wash away.
Why do so many coffee enthusiasts favor the French press over other methods of brewing coffee?
The paper filters used in French presses do not remove acidic tannins and essential oils, which give coffee its flavor. Therefore, coffee brewed using other methods cannot compete in flavor with French press coffee.
Does repeatedly using my French press’ plunger make my coffee tastier and stronger?
Short answer: “No,” so don’t do it. All the flavor-giving tannins and essential oils are taken from the beans during the first five minutes of brewing. Repeatedly using the plunger will only produce bitter-tasting coffee.
Would my coffee-enthusiast friend appreciate a French press as a great gift?
That’s impossible to say. Some hardcore coffee fans are married to a particular brewing method, while others enjoy experimenting. If it isn’t possible to ask the friend directly, “Would you like a French press for your birthday?” because the gift is meant to be a surprise, my advice is to find something else.
Time to Stop Beating Around the Bush: Which French Press Would I Buy?
Well, it’s not a matter of what I would buy, but what did I buy? All the French presses I reviewed above are pretty great, but this is where “it gets real”, as folks like to say. So, for me, the Frieling Stainless Steel French Press beats the competition hands down. The Frieling is sturdy, holds onto heat the way a miser holds onto cash, and it helps brew absolutely the most delicious coffee into the bargain. It isn’t cheap, but then in life, the best things rarely are.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Single Cup/Small French Press
Here are the top four things to watch out for when considering which French press to buy:
- Smooth and sturdy plunger action. Wobbly plungers with too much leeway can be horrible to operate, often leading to a messy experience with the press.
- Heat retention. I like to enjoy my coffee at a leisurely pace. The last thing I want to worry about is to rush my treat because I know it will soon go cold.
- Easy cleaning. The best routine for using a French press is to clean it after each use. This routine is easier to maintain if the press is easy to clean. Having to mess around trying to eke out bits of uncooperative old coffee ground with a spoon is frustrating.
- No bits of ground coffee with the brew. It’s horrible to sip a refreshing brew only to find that some coffee grounds have come along to soil the party. When it has happened to me, I’ve spit out the brew (on one occasion with disastrous results for both my nearby friend and my self-esteem). Those pesky follow-through coffee bits are downright nasty. I can’t help feeling that particle-free coffee is a fundamental human right.