The concept is brilliant -- combine the convenience and excellent coffee flavor for which a French press is highly regarded with a Lexan wide-mouth, 1-quart bottle, such as a Nalgene.
Yes, we SNEWSÂ® editors are coffee snobs, some of us even going so far as to pack a Lexan French press on multi-day backpacking trips or long road trips (or an insulated coffee mug with a built-in press). However, both the standard press and the coffee mug have limitations, one of them being if they tip over, coffee can dump everywhere. And then there is the matter of dealing with the sludge of grounds and soupy water left at the bottom of either contraption that you either have to clean before packing or take the risk of spreading coffee slurry over the inside of your luggage or pack.
So, when Anthony Pigliacampo, president of VentureDesignWorks, told us about his new invention -- a coffee press that folds in half so it will fit through the opening of a wide-mouth bottle, then secures quickly into place to become a fully operational coffee press -- we almost started salivating on the phone. Had to have one.
The Press-Bot Coffee Press is essentially the innards of a quality French press coffee maker, sans outer bottle. Weighing only 2.8 ounces, the plastic and metal contraption relies on the user having a Lexan wide-mouth, 1-quart water bottle, such as a Nalgene, available as a de facto container.
After three months of testing in hotel rooms, home kitchens, and yes, outdoors, we can say unequivocally that the assembly of the Press-Bot is very, very easy. Add coffee grounds to the bottle, fold together wings of the press, insert into bottle, deploy wings outward, add hot water, press and leave it to brew for five minutes. We should point out that you have to pour the hot water in very, very slowly while manipulating your fingers to also hold the press' handle slightly aside. Several practice runs are recommended to ensure you don't send a flood of hot water all over yourself, your hands and the floor, as one of our testers (obviously desperate for coffee) nearly did.
The coffee flavor is superb -- of course, this depends on your particular selection and quantity of grounds, but that's a different story. The Press-Bot features an integrated pouring spout like a travel mug that is suitable for both pouring and sipping. If you want to save some coffee for later, simply screw on the bottle lid and the coffee, as well as the slurry of grounds, is prevented from spilling or leaking.
Tea drinkers can rejoice as well, as the Press-Bot works superbly well with tea grounds, producing a much higher-quality tea flavor than mere mesh bags.
As smooth as the assembly and brewing process is, however, the cleaning process leaves a lot to be desired. Despite the ease of disassembly and cleaning promised by the instructions, our testers found that initial experiences with cleaning required a Press-Bot wrestling match that involved much grunting, swearing and cramped fingers before the Press-Bot could be successfully extricated from the bottle. In most cases, hands were left coated in coffee grounds. Not exactly an ideal way to endear users to a product's virtues. Even repeated practice did not make perfect, though, we did get to understand the folding press' self-opening tendencies sufficiently to be able to thwart its re-opening with fingers to allow the unit's extraction. Pigliacampo told us that he is working on a solution to make this process much easier. Â
We'd suggest a slight redesign that adds a notched tab to allow the user to snap one side of the mesh screen press against the stem, thereby preventing the press from re-opening every time it slides toward the tapered and narrower opening of the bottle. Â
Though it is considered an accessory, we'd say the Sleeve-Bot Bottle Warmer is an absolute necessity, unless you enjoy drinking lukewarm coffee. In virtually every test over a three-month period, once steaming hot coffee chilled within 15 minutes in non-insulated bottles. The Sleeve-Bot (we didn't test one since it was not part of the package until earlier this year) is a neoprene cozy that slips over the bottle and should help to keep hot drinks hot longer and cold drinks colder. That would make some testers, grumpy about lukewarm coffee, very happy.
Despite the current cleaning and thermal challenges, we do believe the Press-Bot is a quick modification away from any traveling and adventuring coffee lover not wanting to leave home without it. It is a brilliant idea that simply needs another tweak or two to become truly convenient.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 3.5 (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $20 for the Press-Bot Coffee Press; $8 for the Sleeve-Bot bottle warmer
For more information:www.press-bot.com