The French press is arguably one of the most popular coffee brewing methods there is. It is simple to use, easy to clean and produces delicious results every time. As if the humble Frech press wasn’t already awesome enough, many companies decided to upgrade it further by combining a French press with a travel mug! Imagine— a spill-free French press coffee maker with its own mug…Whether you’re camping, hiking, at home or at the office, a French press travel mug may just be the most useful bit of brewing kit one could own.
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What Is a French Press Travel Mug
First off, what is a French press? A French press is a form of immersion brewing — meaning that the brewing water and the ground coffee are in contact with one another for the entire brew duration. This is opposed to infusion brewing methods, like pour-over brewing methods, espresso, or drip coffee makers, in which the water and the coffee are kept separate, with the water being introduced to the coffee incrementally.
A standard French press usually comes as a glass or steel container with a mesh plunger, which acts as the filter. The plunger fits neatly inside the container and is used to keep the coffee grinds out of your cup of coffee. It presses the grinds down to the bottom of the container and keeps them there.
A French press travel mug, on the other hand, is almost always made of either plastic or stainless steel. They look pretty much identical to a regular travel mug — they have the sippy lid, they are often insulated and are generally no bigger in size— but hidden within is the plunger.
Benefits of Using French Press Travel Mug
French Press and a Travel Mug All in One
Using a French press travel mug, there’s no need to worry about bringing a coffee maker and a mug to go with it— everything you need (except the coffee and water) is contained within the mug. Plus, as an added bonus, using a container designed specifically for coffee means it may have a few fancy coffee specific features that other travel mugs don’t— such as the coffee storage compartment featured on the BruTrek Double Shot 3.0 by Planetary Design.
Great for Travelling, Camping or Hiking
Coffee maker and travel mug combos make excellent brewers for camping and hiking. Not needing to carry along a brewer and a separate mug saves precious backpack space, which in turn means more room for coffee!
Easy to Clean
Combining your travel mug with your French press means you only have one thing to wash! Gone are the days of having to wash your French press before enjoying your coffee. When it comes time to clean, simply throw the used grinds in the bin and wash out the cup and plunger with soapy water. Easy.
No Need for Filters
Pour-over coffee makers are excellent. They are able to brew a delicious coffee super easily. But the one downside for many people, and what stops most from bringing a V60 on a camping trip, is the need for paper filters. A French press doesn’t have this issue. Everything you need is right; there is the mug.
How Does French Press Travel Mug Work
A French press works by using a mesh filter— usually made of steel, attached to a plunger— to separate the ground coffee from the brewed liquid coffee. It is incredibly simple and offers possibly the most delicious coffee, especially when compared to the amount of effort it takes to use (very little!). For a full rundown on exactly how to use a French press travel mug, see the section and step-by-step guide below.
Just like a siphon coffee maker, the French press is a form of immersion brewing. Immersion brews generally offer a very full, rich, and heavy-bodied coffee. This is because the water and the coffee are together for the entire brew time, which means the coffee is being fully extracted and therefore giving most of its flavors to the brew.
Both the French press and the siphon coffee maker allow you to control the brewing process by choosing your grind size, brew water temperature, and the amount of time you steep the coffee in hot water.
The only functional difference between a traditional French press and a French press travel mug is that a French press travel mug replaces the usual glass or metal container with an insulated travel mug. Traditional French press offers a traditional coffee taste similar to the one you get with a stovetop espresso maker.
Pros and Cons of French Press Travel Mugs
- A total space saver! No need to worry about a mug and a brewer. A French press travel mug is both brewing and drinking vessels.
- You never need to buy filters! The French press is a self-contained brewer. Save the planet by using fewer resources!
- French press travel mugs are usually designed for traveling, so they are generally very durable.
- Most French press travel mugs are designed to make a single cup of coffee, which isn’t ideal for two people.
- French press travel mugs are a little heavier than your standard travel mug. This is, of course, because it is also a brewer, but still, something to consider.
Types of French Press Travel Coffee Makers
There are a few different forms that a French press can come in— but basically, all types of French press will brew coffee in the same way. If we were to do a Nespresso vs Keurig comparison, we would find the two brewers make very different cups of coffee— but if we were to perform a similar test, this time with different types of French presses, the results would end up being fairly similar. Because of what a French press is designed to do, the brewer shouldn’t affect the flavor of the coffee too much. All the brewer is really doing in this case, is separate the coffee grinds from the water.
Let’s take a look at the three main kinds types of French press coffee makers.
Classic French Press
The classic French press is a staple coffee maker that any coffee lover should own. They are super simple to use, can be very inexpensive, and will provide years of delicious coffee. Unlike making a coffee in a percolator, a French press doesn’t need electricity, nor does it need to sit atop the stove— simply add ground coffee and hot water and you’re good to go!
French Press Travel Mug
Travel French press mugs would have to win the award for the most convenient brewer to use on the go. From at-home to in the office, hotel hopping from city to city to in the park or at the beach— the standard French press travel mug can do it all. Some of these are constructed of stainless steel, while others are made of plastic and sometimes even glass.
French Press Travel Thermos
The backcountry campers best friend! If you need to brew a cup of coffee and keep it hot all-day, an insulated, or thermos style travel French press is absolutely the ticket. These are usually constructed of stainless steel with layers of insulation, designed to not only brew your coffee but keep it hot for hours. Leave the world’s best mug warmer at home. Whether you make your coffee with a pour-over or French press, a good travel thermos is always handy.
Thermos style French press mugs are really invaluable in cold weather, where coffee is likely to go cold within minutes of pouring. That’s not to say that thermos style travel mugs are only for colder climates— they also keep coffee ice cold for a long time too! Bring a cold brew coffee to the beach and keep it cold the entire time!
How to Choose the Best French Press Travel Mug
While the idea of a French press travel mug is simple, there are still a few things we can look at in order to help us choose the best French press travel mug for our needs.
How much coffee do you like to drink? Are you brewing for one or for two? This is probably the first thing to consider when choosing any cup/brewer— is it big enough, is it too big, or is it perfect? The two most common sizes of French press travel mugs are 12 and 16oz. While they do come larger and smaller, these are generally the most common.
Material and Durability
If you are brewing coffee at home, the material a French press is constructed of isn’t such a big deal. No need to think about how heavy it is, nor how durable it may be. This is definitely not the case if you will be using your French press travel mug out of the house. Just like a premium stainless steel coffee mug, a stainless steel French press is the way to go if you’ll be using it for camping, or in the outdoors. They are basically bulletproof (please don’t test this theory!) and are reasonably light considering how durable they are. On the other hand, if you’ll be using your French press travel mug in the office, or in hotel rooms, a plastic or glass one may work just fine.
While most French press travel mugs stick to the simple idea of a travel mug with a French press built-in, some companies have taken the idea and ran with it in an entirely new direction. From including airtight coffee storage in the base of the cup/brewer to innovative leak-free designs, there are numerous unique French press travel mug designs to explore.
Possibly the most important part of the French press, the filter. Here, we want to make sure the filter is durable. A flimsy plastic filter may work for a week or even a month, but it will eventually go out of shape and begin to allow ground coffee into the cup— which will result in a mouthful of grinds. The durability of the filter isn’t the only thing to consider— French press travel cups like the Espro Press use a unique system of adding the ground coffee to the filter cup, rather than the brewer itself. This results in a coffee maker that is easy to clean and produces a near silt free cup of coffee.
Leaks and Transportation
Can the French press in question be flipped upside down without leaking? How about in a car’s cupholder— will it leak when the car goes around a sharp corner? Will it fit in the cup holder in the first place? Think about how, were, and in what situations you’ll be using your French press travel mug. If it is not leaking is essential, be sure to buy one that has a no-leak lid.
Number of Parts
A standard French press will have two parts only— the container, and the filter/plunger. A French press travel mug may have a few more. Parts like the lid, an inner brewing chamber, or a coffee storage cup aren’t uncommon to see. Many different parts might not be an issue if you plan on brewing in the office— but if you plan on making coffee in the wild, too many parts might just mean more things that can roll under a rock and never be seen again!
You’re probably going to need a place to store your coffee while you’re on the road, right? How about in an airtight container hidden within your French press travel mug? Sounds good! Or maybe you want the option to use the travel mug part of the device without using the French press part. Some French press travel mugs have a long feature list, while others are more simple. Take a look at the feature list and see which brewers tick your boxes.
While the prices of French press travel mugs vary pretty wildly, there does seem to be a sweet spot where quality and value for money meet. One can easily find an excellent quality French press travel mug that will last, for between $30 and $50. While this may still sound quite expensive, this price is for the lifetime of the product— no extra filters or special cleaning products to buy. Many of the cups in the low priced category of sub $10 might forgo quality to attain such a low price.
How to Make Coffee in a French Press Travel Mug
Making coffee in a French press travel mug is incredibly simple. There are no complicated steps, no pouring patterns, and no difficult timings you need to keep track of (that last point is directed at you, pour-over coffee!). Just add the ground coffee, add the water, let it steep, then plunge!
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of the process. In this step-by-step coffee making guide, we’ll use a standard 12oz (350ml) French press travel mug.
- Boiling water
- French press travel mug
- Grinder (optional)
- Scales (optional)
Step 1 — Boil the kettle
First, put the kettle on to boil. Give your French press a good rinse to make sure there is no leftover dishwashing liquid in the mug. Put the plunger in place and press it down and pull it up a few times.
Step 2 — Grind the coffee
While the kettle is boiling, weigh out and grind your coffee. For this brew recipe, we’re going to use 22g of coffee. We’re looking for a grind size around the same texture as raw sugar— on the courser end of the spectrum.
Suppose you don’t have a set of scales handy, no worries. You can approximate by using tablespoons— there are around 5g of whole coffee beans in one tablespoon. If you don’t have fresh beans and you’ll be using pre-ground, no problem— use the same measurement— 1 tablespoon of ground coffee is also approximately 5g of ground coffee.
Step 3 — Add the coffee and water
Empty the French press travel mug. Add your 22g of coffee. Don’t worry too much if you don’t hit exactly 22g. That is one of the beautiful things about the French press! Your coffee will still be a tasty promise.
As soon as the water has boiled, press start on the timer and add 350ml of water to the French press.
When you are pouring the water, try to pour it evenly, entirely saturating the coffee. If you can see dry chunks of coffee, give it a stir. If not, just leave it be.
Step 4 — Steep
Now we’re going to let the coffee brew for 4 minutes. Again, you don’t really need to be exact here— if you overshoot or undershoot by 30 seconds or so, no big deal.
Step 5 — Plunge
Once the 4-minute wait is over, stir the coffee a few times, fix the plunger in place, and gently press down. This will separate the coffee grinds from the liquid, and will also stop the extraction.
Step 6 — Enjoy
If your particular French press travel mug has a lid, fix it into place. Enjoy your delicious coffee!
How to Clean a French Press Travel Mug
One of the many great things about the French press is that it doesn’t require filters. Not needing to pack filters everywhere you go is super handy— just throw the French press in your bag and you’re set!
But the downside to this is that the French press does require slightly more attention in the cleaning department than a V60. Luckily, cleaning a French press isn’t as in-depth as cleaning a drip coffee maker, and you’ll never need to do a ‘deep clean’. Just a simple wash and rinse after each use will do the trick.
Step 1 — Empty the French Press
First, drink your coffee! Then empty the grinds into the trash, or compost them (coffee grinds are quite good for plants too!).
Step 2 — Wash
Rinse the mug and the plunger. Then fill up the mug with water and press and pull the plunger down and up a few times. This will clear away any coffee grinds leftover and hiding in the mesh filter. Now give everything a good wash with soapy water. Try not to use too much detergent, and if you can, use fragrance-free soap. Don’t use a scouring pad or anything too harsh as this will scratch the finish on your mug.
Step 3 — Rinse
Give everything a good rinse. Make sure there is no soap residue left, as this can taint the flavor of your coffee. Now either dry each piece or leave it to air dry— you are now ready to make coffee another day!
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
To a certain extent, spending more will buy you a better French press travel mug. While there are mugs well under $10, and there are certainly plenty over $50, there is a sweet spot where price and value for money meet. That sweet spot is between $30 and $50. This price will buy you a quality brewer/cup that will last and will make a delicious mug of coffee that will stay hot for a long time.
Do’s and Don’ts With French Press Travel Mugs
- Do keep your French press travel mug clean. A clean mug and brewer will equal clean tasting coffee.
- Do try to use quality, specialty grade coffee. The difference between a coffee that has been grown and roasted by expert hands, and one from the supermarket shelf, is astounding. Try a coffee from Kenya or Ethiopia— you’ll love it!
- Do experiment with different brew times. Some coffees are working great with a short extraction, while others go better with a long one.
- Don’t be afraid to use your French press travel mug for other things too. You can brew tea, or even use the mug as a thermos for cold drinks.
- Don’t leave old coffee grinds in the mug for too long. Be sure to give it a good wash at the end of every day. Leaving old coffee grinds in the mug will promote the buildup of coffee oils, which will make your next coffee not so tasty.
FAQ About French Press Travel Mugs
Have a question about the French press travel mug? The answer may be just below!
What’s the best French press travel mug?
While best is hard to quantify, one of the most trusted and popular French press options in specialty coffee is currently the Espro Travel Coffee Press.
Which French press travel mug has the highest capacity?
16oz (473ml) is currently about the biggest size that most companies make. That’s not to say you can’t find a bigger French press; it just won’t be a travel mug, too.
What French press is made of the most durable material?
You can’t go wrong with stainless steel. The BruTrek Steel Toe by Planetary Design may be a good choice, with its tough stainless steel construction and minimal plastic parts.
Why use a French press travel mug?
French press travel mugs are one of the easiest ways to make delicious coffee, nearly anywhere, with very minimal equipment. They are also lightweight, good for traveling, and can be very inexpensive.
Whether you’re a diehard pour-over fan, or you’ve never brewed a drop of coffee in your life, a French press travel mug is an excellent choice for brewing tasty coffee. Choose the right brewer for you and you’ll be rewarded with delicious caffeinated goodness, day in and day out.
Photos from: Daxiao_Productions / depositphotos.com and microgen / depositphotos.com.