Since 2013, Fellow has been one of the most impactful coffee brands to date. Its Stagg EKG electric water kettle (our review of which you can read here) is practically the unofficial gooseneck kettle for making pour-over coffee; its Ode coffee grinder is consistently being praised for its form and function; and basically everything the brand makes somehow elevates the coffee-making process from bean storage to coffee to-go cups. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Fellow made a French press.
Launched in May 2021, the Clara French press is Fellow's high-end entryway into the category. Starting at $99, the Clara is one of the most expensive French presses we've ever seen. Fellow asserts its brewer will make "make good mornings great," so we wanted to test them on that claim.
So, do you need a $99 French press?
It's a good-looking French press: Yup, it's a Fellow product alright. From the matte black aesthetic to the clean lines, it's about as Fellow as it gets. Most French presses utilize a see-through glass construction whereas Fellow went the Fellow route with an all-over matte black construction.
That prevents you from watching the immersion brewing process, but it does work well to insulate the coffee so that it stays warm for longer. Fellow also makes its Clara with walnut details — on the plunger and handle — which adds an additional $30 to the price tag.
Results in a clean cup of coffee: A big qualm about French press coffee is that the end product can end up being muddy whether it's because of the lack of a good filter or a too-fine coffee grind. While Clara won't end up with a coffee that's as clean as a Chemex-brewed coffee, it is noticeably less muddy than some other French press coffee I've had. Chalk it up to Fellow's "Enhanced Filtration Mesh," which is ultra fine to keep silt out of your brew.
Thoughtful details address French press pain points: For some reason, most other French presses make you line up the lid in a specific way for you to pour out coffee. Clara uses an all-directional pour lid so there's no need to align a tiny opening with the pour spout.
My favorite part about Clara has nothing to do with the actual French press: Fellow includes an agitation stick, which basically looks like a very tiny oar. One could easily use a chopstick or a spoon to agitate the coffee — which breaks up lumps and ensures all of your coffee grounds get equal extraction — but the agitation stick's shape does this most effectively. It's the perfect height for reaching the bottle of the brewer, and its flat, wide bottom helps to really scrape up the grounds on the bottom.
The ratio aid lines: On the interior of the French press, Fellow added lines to show how much grounds and water to add. The brand did this so coffee lovers could use the brewer without needing a scale to weigh out the coffee and water. As a coffee nerd, I use a scale to weigh out my coffee and water, so I tried brewing French press coffee with it, too.
Fellow recommends 60 grams of coffee to 840 grams of water (or a 1:14 coffee-to-water ratio). I found that 60 grams of grounds came above Clara's ratio aid lines, and there wasn't enough capacity for 840 grams of water. I put aside my coffee nerdery and went with Clara's guesstimates, and guess what — I should've just listened to Fellow.
What's Not as Good
The price: The base price is $99 for the matte black option, and it costs $129 for the brewer with walnut accents. Clara ain't cheap. On the one hand, Fellow's French press feels significantly better made than others in the category. It's weighty in the hand, and the brand's attention to details are notable straight out of the box. Clara looks like a piece of art, but it also feels like you're paying for art.
The non-stick coating sticks: The worst part about French presses is the clean up. After you've finished your coffee, you're stuck with a moist mess of coffee grounds at the bottom, which takes some finessing to completely come out. Fellow addressed this by giving its interior a non-stick coating, but like a non-stick pan, it wasn't totally effective. While I hoped the grounds would slip out as a perfectly formed coffee ground cake, there was a layer of grounds that remained stuck to the base.
There's no shortage of good French presses on the market. And there's also no shortage of good and cheap French presses. Wirecutter's top pick for French presses is the $40 Espro P3, which is made of glass; in addition, Bodum makes a wide array of affordable French presses that have all received hundreds of positive reviews.
In terms of price, a comparable French press to Clara is the Espro P6 ($100.) It comes in stainless steel and matte black (which could've fooled me as being a Fellow product), and offers a lot of what Clara offers: a heat-retaining carafe, clean filtration, good looks. The Espro P6 also brews a bit more coffee, 32 ounces, compared to the Clara, 24 ounces.
I've never purchased a French press on my own, but I would buy the Clara. No French press is perfect, but I'm completely sold on this one based on aesthetics alone. Luckily, the coffee that comes out of the brewer is also solid. It's more labor intensive to use than a drip coffee machine, but my propensity for making pour overs every morning has slowly dwindled, opting for more sleep than better coffee. At least with Clara, I'm still able to get a really good cup of coffee with minimal work.