When I make coffee, it’s often to take with me. I budget 10-15 minutes for coffee each morning. Usually I remember to bring it. Sometimes I forget it. The Bodum Travel Press is a portable French press and insulated travel mug that lets you brew coffee and take it with you. Though I’m generally skeptical of coffee gear that promises to do too many things, I decided to give it a try. Here’s my review.
Disclaimer: Why I’m skeptical of French Press travel mugs
Timing is everything with coffee. If grounds stay in contact with water too long, bitter flavors will develop. That’s why you should pour French press coffee shortly after brewing is complete. The design of portable French presses, however, means that you must drink directly from the press. The coffee will always stay in contact with the brewed grounds.
Even worse, the ratio of coffee to leftover grounds will only increase as you continue drinking. Once you’re finished, you’re likely to set a travel coffee press aside and worry about it the next day. Cleaning up cold grounds and leftover coffee feels icky.
So it’s not really possible to brew a perfect cup of a coffee with a travel press. Of course, not every coffee needs to be perfect, and there’s a good reason to accept some compromise in favor of convenience. I decided to frame my review and analysis from this perspective.
Bodum Travel Press Review: Design & Specifications
The Bodum travel French press has a very simple and straightforward design. It can brew coffee as well as loose-leaf tea. Here are the basic specifications and features:
- 2-cup capacity (0.35 L / 12 oz)– perfect for a single-serve French press
- Colors: White, black, red, green and more
- Insulated middle section to keep coffee warm
- Additional lid for secondary use as a travel mug
- Rubber base and rubber grip to prevent tip-overs
- Dishwasher-safe design
Size-wise, the coffee press feels large in my hand but not too oversized. It’s about the size of a medium fast food to-go cup and should fit in most car holders. The mug holds 12 ounces of coffee, which is more than enough for one person.
The version I bought had a stainless steel exterior with white accents. Other colors such as black and green are also available. There is also transparent version.
Like all of its products, Bodum put a lot of thought into design and aesthetics. The Bodum travel press is a pleasure to look at. Since it’s made of stainless steel instead of plastic, it won’t absorb taste and odor over time. This is one thing I would normally be afraid of as I usually leave leftover coffee in my travel mugs for extended periods of time.
To drink from the Bodum mug, all you have to do is pull up the snap-on lid and secure it to the back of the cup. The lid closes securely, so you can put the travel mug in your bag and not worry about coffee spilling, even if it gets jostled around.
One thing I did not like about the design is the prominent Bodum branding on the side: “Bodum: The fresh way to brew fresh coffee & tea.” Does the world really need to know that I’m brewing fresh coffee the fresh way? I prefer to keep my coffee setup minimalist.
Brewing with the Bodum Travel French Press
Brewing works just like any other coffee press. Boil water, add coarse coffee grounds (Bodum recommends 3-4 tablespoons), stir, let it sit for 3-4 minutes, and press the plunger downward.
When I brewed my first cup, I was happy to see that Bodum weighted the base of the unit and added a rubberized bottom to prevent tip-overs. This is a smart safety feature. The plunger has a silicone seal on the side that made plunging more difficult than I’m used to, but I presume it will get easier over time as the silicone wears in.
After plunging (the most satisfying part of French press brewing), I took my cup of coffee for a walk in the cold Berlin winter. Here are a few things I liked:
- The lid is very secure, to the point that it is a minor hassle to snap off. I could flip my mug upside down and spin it around without coffee leaking. This is very important for commuter mugs.
- The lid was also a bit hard to put on. Again, this is probably a good thing as it prevents leaks.
- The coffee tasted just like any other French press coffee. The plunger did an excellent job of filtering sediment
- The insulated walls did an excellent job of keeping the coffee warm in the 32-degree weather.
As I noted above, travel coffee presses are not an ideal solution because the coffee never leaves contact with the grounds. Walking adds motion to the process, making the situation worse. This is why I decided to go for a walk after brewing.
I did notice some change in taste as I slowly drank my coffee. This is what I anticipated. As I got further through my coffee, the taste become stronger and more bitter. I tend to drink coffee more slowly than most people so the difference was especially noticeable for me.
This didn’t bother me as much as I expected. Looking back, I think I value the convenience this coffee maker provides over perfect taste. It was really nice to brew coffee and run out the door. A typical commuter who makes French press coffee every morning could save 4-5 minutes per day with this product.
Note that Bodum includes a second lid without a plunger so that you can use the travel press as a travel mug instead. This is a very handy feature. You can still make use of the Bodum travel press even if you don’t drink French press coffee every day. I normally drink filter coffee, so this is a huge plus for me.
I also ran the Bodum through my dishwasher and did not notice any wear on the mug base or lid. The mug feels like it will last a long time.
Final thoughts– and why I was wrong
Before I started my review, I was skeptical of travel coffee presses because letting water sit with coffee grounds is not ideal. This is mitigated if you drink the coffee quickly, and I found the time I saved worth the trade-off.
I will keep the Bodum travel press in my coffee collection. It’s great to have an insulated travel mug that can also brew coffee when I’m in a hurry, even if the coffee at the bottom tastes a bit better.
The Bodum travel press is a well-designed portable French press that also doubles as a mug. It’s perfect for brewing coffee if you’re in a hurry. Since the coffee dredges remain sealed at the bottom of the cup, however, the coffee may taste more bitter than normal French press brew.