With a French press, you pour coarse ground coffee into the bottom of the unit, then fill it with boiling water and let it steep. After the recommended time, you slowly depress a plunger attached to a mesh filter, which traps the grounds at the bottom of the pot.
An advantage over some of the other no-electricity methods is that you don’t have to watch it as closely, although it’s still not as “start it and forget it” as a Mr. Coffee.
The biggest gripe is getting grounds in your coffee if you use too fine a grind. Many people also complain that it’s hard to clean, particularly on a boat where water is precious.
A French press doesn’t use electricity but less expensive units all have glass pots. The more expensive ones have a thermal carafe that will keep coffee warm a few hours and I really prefer these as there’s no danger of broken glass.
In rough seas, this is probably the easiest system to wedge into the sink without it tipping over while the coffee is brewing but you still have to be careful not to spill boiling water on yourself when pouring it into the pot.
I’ve never owned a French press, but I know several people who love them. One of my best friends, Robin on The Cat’s Meow, uses and recommends the ones listed below. We stayed on their boat about a couple years ago and used the 17-ounce French press shown above. Great coffee and easy to use!
Pros: Some think it makes better coffee, since oils aren’t filtered out, moderate space required, no electricity, can buy a thermal carafe press without glass which keeps coffee hot for one to two hours
Cons: Some attention required to time how long coffee has steeped; largest presses produce about 50 ounces; less expensive setups have glass pots
Keeping it hot: Can get a system that makes the coffee right in a thermal carafe (which will stay hot for a couple of hours), or buy a separate Thermos to keep coffee hot up to 12 hours (depending on the Thermos)
Cost: $15 for a small press made of glass to $100 for a stainless press with thermal carafe that will make 50 ounces (4 mugs)
Good choices for a French press from Amazon.com (several sizes and variations):
- 8-cup press with stainless thermal carafe (makes 4 mugs)
- 17-ounce shatterproof press (makes one mug — not insulated) (Update: the 17 oz press is no longer available; it has been replaced with a 34-ounce one).
- Insulated mug that will fit in most drink holders
- 2 quart stainless tea kettle
NOTE: Since you have to boil water and then pour it into the press, I strongly recommend two things for safety: (1) Wedge the press into the sink before you pour boiling water into it — that will protect you if it tips or splashes. (2) Boil the water in a tea kettle to reduce the risk of boiling water sloshing out and also to enable more accurate pouring.