REVIEW: The Travel French Press- The Perfect Cup of Coffee

By: Sarah Blessington

The rich bold delight of the perfectly ground coffee that makes its debut to your taste buds every morning, deserves to be treated with the upmost respect. You earned it, and you know it. Now, not everyone has the luxury of time to give those choice select beans the treatment they need before rushing off to work, to climb a mountain, or to solve world peace. Those who have not given up have probably attempted to recreate your home brewed joy in a travel mug. Here are your main travel french press options:


FrenchPressStock 3FrenchPressStock 4The REI Double Shot Press Mug, which you can find for $29.50 online. This french press is the same size mug as your typical travel mug (ideal for most cup holders) with a fancy handle that you can put a carabineer on to attach it to your bag. The bottom area of the mug has been sectioned off for coffee storage with a screw in, airtight container. That’s all fine and dandy unless you’re like me, and actually want to be able to use the whole mug for your coffee enjoyment. Not have your mug seductively flashing some stored stainless skin with the lure of, ‘maybe another cup later, tee hee!’ If you’re interested in the ‘later’, then carrying around some fresh grounds for another cup in the same vessel isn’t a bad way to go. The only benefit I see from this shorter and wider french press, is that it’s easier to clean the cup, as you can actually fit your hand in to get to the bottom.

As with most travel presses on the market today, there comes a time when you want to add some fixin’s, and you start to run into issues. If you’re not a purest (and don’t actually like the taste of coffee), you can add your sugar/spice/everything nice into the grounds before you add the press lid, OR you can get crafty carefully adding sugar crystals and cream droplets down the drinking spout. You’re going to feel ridiculous, and it’s not going to be all that successful either, due to the fact you can’t stir it in, or eye your perfect color match. Wouldn’t it be nice to open the lid and, oh wait, you wouldn’t dare to move the plunger, as you would disturb the grounds, and would turn your perfect press into cowboy coffee, so that nixes that idea.

Then comes the heat. For me, a travel mug should be as close to a thermos as possible. I want to brew my coffee, at my house, by a mouse, in a fancy blouse, and not have to worry about needing to drink it immediately, less it feels luke warm, sad, and abandoned. I need my mug to put its big boy pants on and wait for me. High maintenance? Maybe, but if I can have the perfect cup, I sure as heck want it. This stainless steel mug, as with most of ‘em, has the attention span of my Golden Retriever (who doesn’t retrieve), but the REI Double Shot Press Mug doesn’t have enough cute, fury, redeeming qualities to make paying that much worth it. So, no thanks. Been there, done that.


FrenchPressStock 2FrenchPressStock 1Another popular option is the Bodum Travel Press (it comes in stainless steel or plastic) from $20.00+ online. My favorite part of this mug is that it still maintains my qualification of being a full sized (15 oz) coffee mug while still fitting in most cup holders. In lieu of a handle, it has a silicone sleeve to jazz up your coffee with a splash of color, brand name, and to give your hand something to aim for. While the plastic version is cheaper, and typically has less ability to retain heat, I like that I can see my coffee. While on the move, you’re usually not staring at a timer waiting with undying love of clocks to submerge your press into action. No, I love to watch the grounds mingle with the water until it gets that perfect deep mahogany, letting me know it’s ready to take the plunge. Which, you can watch to make sure the grounds aren’t sneaking up past the rubber, not that there’s too much you can do when it happens, but at least you know that it did. This mug also runs into the problem of the fixin’ addition, but with a bit more of an upside, as the mouth of the lid is sizeable enough to not be so messy. Also, if you are pouring some cream in after the fact, at least you’re able to see the color change. A downside to the plastic option is that once any part of the double wall is cracked, the mug is pretty much finished. So, if you’re a clutz, or want to bring this mug into the outdoors, your better option for sure is the stainless. With both styles, I still run into the problem of the plunger. No matter how careful you are, after these rubber systems get well used, they wear. With each use, you are getting closer and closer to cowboy coffee and there’s not too much you can do about it besides making sure the press is completely clean as soon as possible after each use.

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Now here is where I begin to drool incessantly. The GSI Commuter Java Press Coffeemaker is the best thing since sliced bread, and can be found for $19.95 online or at REI. With one product, all of my issues with the other two mugs have been solved! Let me begin; first off, this travel press is made up of two separate BPA-free plastic cups (that fits in most cup holders), with the inner cup bottomed with a metal filter. What does that mean for the press action you ask?? Well for one, it means you will never fear cowboy coffee again as there is no plunger to sneak around! Secondly, it means that when you open the lid, *GASP*, you can add cream and sugar at any point, to your hearts content without disturbing the grounds!!! And, unless you are grinding your coffee into powder, the only stuff getting through that filter is your perfectly brewed coffee. Now comes to the heat, HOLY CANOLI, it’s like a molten lava container. Not only do you have the double walls of the plastic, but it also comes with a neoprene sleeve and a non-slip rubbery bottom making for triple threat insulation. The first cup of coffee I made in this thing was a million degrees for about an hour. I have since taken to removing the sleeve and bottom until after my coffee has steeped, and cooled down a bit. Then, after I put them back on, it stays that perfect temperature for at least thirty minutes. DELIGHT!!! When it comes to cleaning the press, again, this thing is superior. Not only do my hands fit inside both of the mugs, the grounds that you have to clean off are on the outside of the metal filter, and there are no sneaky little nooks and crannies for them to hide in, so they’re super easy to rinse off. No matter how you take your coffee, even just the assurance of not having any grounds escape into your mug makes the GSI Commuter Java Press a winner. Not only is this one of the cheaper options, but also allows you to make YOUR perfect Cup-a-Joe. My only beef with this mug is that if you have already screwed the lid on tight, there is nowhere to grip the inner cup without having to ‘unpress’ it slightly to get access to it. If they ever offer a version 2.0 of this mug with an added place to grip, this thing will be unstoppable.

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“If you crave it hot, lust for it anywhere, and yearn for it any way you want it, when you want it, the GSI Commuter Java Press is the talk dark and strong you are looking for.”

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(I know I’m an odd ball, as I don’t drink coffee, yet drive super long distances all over the world. I know coffee makes Sarah happy, and the tiny GSI French Press takes up very little room in the van, which makes me happy! Do stay tuned for more of the women’s perspective on the van life from Sarah Blessington. See you on the road- Bryon Dorr)

Also be sure to check out Sarah’s review of the new GSI JavaMill so that you can have freshly ground beans to go with your perfect Java Press.

-Help support the Van Life adventures on Exploring Elements by purchasing the GSI Commuter Java Press Coffeemaker through HERE.-

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