Getting your feet wet with brewing specialty coffee at home doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, though sometimes it feels that way with all the shiny gear you see at specialty coffee shops. In fact, a budget french press coffee setup can be less expensive than another boring, ineffective drip coffee pot—and the coffee’s dramatically better.
In this mini-guide, we’ll show you how you can make delicious, full-flavored french press coffee at home without breaking the bank. And we’re not going to suggest you use janky equipment that only half-works—we’re talking strong, effective gear that’ll serve you for years.
In fact, we’re going to show you how you can accomplish with $55 or less. Not bad when you consider the immense upgrade in coffee quality you’ll get by brewing with a french press, as well as the mental benefits you get by enjoying coffee you made by your own hand.
Let’s get started.
Why French Press Brewing Is Great For Your Budget
Making coffee with a french press is not complicated, and, thus, doesn’t require a ton of extra gear to do well. There are really only two pieces of equipment that are non-negotiable:
- A french press (naturally)
- A coffee grinder
You don’t need a special pouring kettle. You don’t need a bunch of filters. And you don’t even need to use a coffee scale (though you may still choose to—more on this later).
The other little accessories you do need, you almost certainly already have:
- A timer
- A measuring spoon
- A liquid measuring cup
If you cook anything at all, you should have measuring gear—and your phone can act as your timer. Beyond that, there’s nothing else that’s essential, which is why brewing with a french press is especially great for people on a budget.
Finding Your Budget-Friendly French Press
There are french presses for all budgets, from $15 to $150. The cheapest of these are functional, but we don’t actually suggest going for the cheapest model you can find.
Inexpensive french presses are cheap—and not just when it comes to price. To lower costs, knock-off brands use cheap plastic and thin glass. While this makes the price tag more appealing, it’s actually a disservice to you.
Glass is fragile. Breakage is a risk you face with any press. However, these cheap glass carafes in low-cost presses are not borosilicate (will shatter if you pour hot water directly into them) and are usually pretty thin (more prone to cracking with small taps).
Instead, you should find a french press with the following build:
- Heat-resistant, borosilicate glass
- Chrome or stainless steel frame
A quality press may be more expensive (~$30), but it’ll save you money in the long run on glass carafe replacements (often $10-20 each).
Finding Your Budget-Friendly Coffee Grinder
A grinder is a non-negotiable with french press coffee. Normal pre-ground coffee from the store is too fine for the french press’ filter, and getting beans ground at your local coffee shop destroys all their fresh flavors in a matter of minutes.
Grinding your own coffee is the only way to ensure your grounds are fresh and the right size.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted a high-quality coffee grinder that would produce uniform grounds, you had to be willing to pay $50, $100, or more. These days, however, the options are much more budget-friendly.
Manual burr coffee grinders are effective, yet still cost-efficient. Sure, you have to put some elbow-grease into the process each morning, but it’s not difficult. Actually, in some ways, it’s better than using an automatic grinder.
- The grinding process becomes a connecting experience. Throwing beans in an electronic grinder gets the job done, but it doesn’t connect you with your coffee. When you can feel the grounds crush between the burrs and smell the fresh rising aromas, the rewarding coffee experience begins even before the liquid touches your lips.
- It’s a much quieter process. Grinding electrically is usually very loud, thanks to the motor that turns the burrs. When grinding by hand, you don’t have to worry about waking anyone else up.
- And it’ll cost you less than $25. Get all the control of an electric grinder for a quarter of the cost.
There are electric grinders for less than $25. They are called ‘blade grinders’, and you want to avoid them at all cost. They don’t grind your coffee beans—they just chop them. The inconsistent grounds you get from these low-grade grinders brew imbalanced coffee and are definitely not what you want when using a french press.
Get yourself an efficient manual burr grinder and your french press coffee with thank you—as well as your wallet.
To Scale Or Not To Scale?
We often suggest using a kitchen scale to help you brew coffee with precision and consistency. It allows you to use the exact same amount of coffee and water every time, which eliminates a lot of guesswork. However, because of the french press’ simplicity, you can actually get by without one pretty well.
The golden coffee to water ratios are 1:15 to 1:18, and it’s here that coffee is super balanced. Usually, this means we use 1g of coffee beans for every 15 to 18g of water. But to measure grams, you need a scale. Let me show you how you can use these golden ratios without a scale.
Grab your tablespoon and your liquid measuring cup.
- 1 tablespoon of coffee beans is roughly 5g. Though not all beans are the same size or density, you can be pretty confident in this rough estimate.
- 1 milliliter of water is exactly the same as 1 gram of water. If a brewing recipe calls for 400g of water, you can simply weigh out 400ml of water.
See? No scale required. You don’t have quite as much precision as you would with a scale, but you’re much more precise than you would be just ballparking it with “a few scoops”.
There we go: an effective, delicious, budget french press setup for just $55.
With just a french press, a burr coffee grinder, and those simple measurement tools, you have everything you need to brew rich, balanced french press coffee.
And, of course, remember that it’s not the brewer that creates the flavor—it just pulls out what’s already in the beans. If you’re starting with super dark or stale beans, you won’t enjoy all the potential that your french press is offering you.
Instead, buy yourself some specialty-grade, freshly roasted coffee beans. We send our Coffee Club subscribers beans harvested from some of the best farms in the world. They’re passionate about flavor, passionate about sustainability, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer these coffees to you.
The beans are so fresh, in fact, that we ship them to you just two hours after they’re roasted. You then get to experience them at peak freshness and flavor, with your french press at your side.Want to experience coffee as it’s meant to be enjoyed? Check out the Coffee Club for yourself!