The French press may appear to be a simple tool for brewing, but the rich coffee it produces makes it a really popular method of making a cup of joe.
However, starting out can be quite the quest when you’re finding the right French press. I’ve been there, trust me. I found that the material used for the French press is an important factor for different reasons.
In this article, I’ll go compare glass and stainless steel French presses (the two best options for coffee lovers), so you can make a wise choice when purchasing one.
What is a French press?
A French press, also known as a cafetière or coffee plunger, is a cylindrical coffee maker that is used to steep coffee grounds in hot water for a few minutes before you push down the plunger to filter out the ground coffee.
The resulting drink is a rich and full-bodied cup of French press coffee.
When it comes to French press materials, there are different choices available on the market:
- Metal (stainless steel)
Among these options, glass and stainless steel are the most popular and common picks of coffee lovers. Let’s have a closer look at the main differences between the two to help you decide which one suits you better.
Glass vs Metal French Press
Glass and stainless steel each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Check out this overview of their pros and cons below:
|Stainless steel||– More durable and shatter-proof|
– Highly portable
– Better heat retention
|– Opaque so you can’t see the brewing process|
– Generally more expensive
|Glass||– Classic aesthetic|
– Generally lower price point
– Transparency allows you to see the brewing process
|– Can shatter|
– Not as portable as steel material
There’s no exact answer as to which one is better between glass and metal French presses. It really depends on your needs. My take on the question though:
- Stainless steel is perfect if you prioritize durability and portability.
- On the other hand, if you like the timeless and classic style that allows you to look through your brew at a more affordable price, go for a glass French press.
Comparing Glass and Stainless Steel French Presses
Now let’s have a closer look at each of the features that these French presses have to offer. Here’s an overview:
|Durability||– Can shatter|
– Borosilicate glass is thermal shock-resistant
|– Most durable option|
|Portability||– Lighter but fragile||– Heavier but very durable and better for travel|
|Taste||– Extracts flavor with no issues||– Some lower-end models can add a metal taste|
|Heat Retention||– Loses heat faster||– Can retain heat for 1-2 hours|
|Style||– Classic and stylish aesthetic|
– Transparency allows you to see the brewing process
|– Modern look|
– Opaque material
|Cleaning||– Mostly dishwasher safe|
– Metal mesh needs extra care
|– Bit more straightforward to clean|
|Price Point||– More affordable than the stainless steel French press||– More expensive than the glass French press|
Glass French presses are more delicate compared to their stainless steel counterparts. They can break if dropped or knocked over during cleaning. I’ve also heard of them shattering due to thermal shock on occasion, but that is rare. (Still a point to make sure to always preheat the glass.)
On the other hand, stainless steel is sturdier and less likely to break even when accidentally bumped off the counter or while cleaning. And it will never explode due to thermal shock.
It is important to note though that glass French presses are often made with borosilicate glass, which is thermal shock-resistant and sturdier than standard glass.
When I travel, I like bringing my trusty brewing equipment with me. If you also prefer brewing your coffee wherever you go, then portability should also be a priority. The obvious choice here is the stainless steel French press since it’s not prone to breakage like a glass French press.
It’s worth noting though that glass variants are generally lighter than stainless steel ones.
Another thing worth considering when picking between the two materials is their effects on taste. Glass French press can extract great flavor for your cup without any issues. There is no residual taste, since glass is non-pourous. If you clean it properly, it will brew perfectly clean cups of coffee.
For low-quality metal French presses, however, there are some cases where there’s a slight metal taste added to the coffee. This is why I recommend purchasing from reputable brands such as Espro, Bodum, and Frieling if you prefer stainless steel. And don’t forget to give it a thorough cleaning after every use especially if you’re using oily coffee beans.
The ability of a French press to retain heat is essential as it affects the brewing process and coffee’s taste. A glass carafe tends to lose heat faster compared to stainless steel. To give the glass slightly better heat retention, you can (and should) preheat your French press before brewing.
With its insulating capability, the stainless-steel carafe allows you to brew your coffee with boiling water and still enjoy hot coffee even after an hour or two in theory. But of course, you wouldn’t really do that, as that would over-extract your coffee and cause it to become bitter.
You can even get double waller metal French press, which has even better heat retention.
Whichever material you use though, it is still best to consume your coffee as soon as possible after brewing.
There’s no denying that glass French presses look beautiful on any kitchen countertop with their sleek and elegant design. The ability to see the coffee brewing process adds an extra appeal that many coffee enthusiasts find attractive.
However, stainless steel options often come in various unique designs, from classic models to modern ones, adding personality and style to your morning routine as well.
Cleaning up after using your French press should be easy and hassle-free, but it does take a few minutes. The process is the same for both the metal and glass variants.
Click here to read my article on the four methods to clean your French press.
When it comes to cost, glass French presses tend to be more affordable than their metal counterparts. If you’re looking for an affordable option without compromising quality, then a glass French press may be perfect for you.
In contrast, stainless steel versions are often pricier due to the higher manufacturing costs of this sturdy material. The difference between price is about 20-30%.
Picking the Right French Press Size
Aside from the material used, it is also important that you pick the size that suits you best. French presses often come in four sizes which can cater to your different needs. Here’s a comparison of the French press sizes:
|3-Cup||0.35 l / 12 oz||1 serving|
|4-Cup||0.5 l / 17 oz||2-3 servings|
|8-Cup||1 l / 34 oz||4 servings|
|12-Cup||1.5 l / 511 oz||8 servings|
To learn more, check out my in-depth article on the different French press sizes.
Both glass and stainless steel French Press coffee makers provide excellent quality coffee; selecting between the two really depends on personal preference. If you prefer a slightly more affordable option that looks great on your countertop, then glass might suit you best. But if you don’t mind paying extra bucks for durability, portability, and heat retention, then investing in a high-quality stainless steel model would be better for you.
At the end of the day though, we all want to sip on a great cup of coffee, and there’s a good reason why the French press is one of the most popular brewing methods. After you’ve mastered using the French press, go ahead and try different recipes such as a French press cold brew, Cafe au lait, and more.