The Fellow French Press is in many ways the Porsche of this trusted brewing method. The Fellow Clara is elegant, sophisticated, premium, and just slightly decadent.
Fellow is a well-known and well-trusted company in the Specialty Coffee scene. Its most recognized and loved products include classics like the Fellow Stagg kettle, The Fellow Atmos canisters, and the Fellow Ode brew grinder.
Anything by Fellow is typically elegant, beautiful, well-made, thoughtfully designed, and quite simply expensive. And the Fellow Clara French Press is no exception.
However, the Clara French Press is not just expensive but really expensive. $99 expensive. To put that in context, it is at least 3 times as expensive as the classic Bodum Chambord French press!
And so the question becomes, is the Fellow French Press really worth its exorbitant price?
Fellow Clara French Press
The Fellow Clara is advertised by Fellow as ‘The cure for the common cafetière.’ Its distinctives include vacuum-insulated walls for heat retention, an enhanced mesh filter for sludge-free coffee, a 360-degree pour lid, and incredible elegance and taste.
Fellow French Press Review
General Description of the Fellow Clara
The French Press has been a tried and true brew method for as long as any of us can remember. Its strengths lie in its ease of use, its ability to brew large batches of coffee, and its consistency. Also up to now one of its strengths has been price. To brew with a French Press you don’t need a gooseneck kettle, at a pinch you can get by without coffee scales, and you don’t really need any other accessories.
Up to the Clara French Press, most French Presses have cost somewhere between $10-40 and have usually but not exclusively had a glass exterior allowing you to see the coffee brewing.
I would say that the Clara is not a reinvention so much as a refinement of the classic model. It still brews in the same fundamental way, and most of its distinctives can be found in other premium French Presses, most notably in the Espro range.
Aesthetics and Build Quality of the Clara French Press
The first thing you will notice about the Clara is that it just looks beautiful. In every way, it looks and feels premium. As with most Fellow products, it is characterized by gentle curves and a soft aesthetic. It comes in Matte black with either a standard black handle ($99) or else with a wooden walnut accent ($129).
It just looks good in the same way most Fellow products do. It is the sort of French Press that you will be proud to leave out on the bench and will very naturally be a topic of conversation.
And to be completely honest, that is the Lion’s share of the appeal of the Fellow French Press. In design, taste, and usability, it is good but certainly not revolutionary. Rather the appeal that may, for some, justify the price tag is that it looks amazing and just feels good to use.
This is how one customer described it:
‘I knew the Fellow would not make coffee that tastes $70 better… No, I bought it because I knew I would enjoy using it.’
However, this is not to say that it is just a pretty face. As with almost all Fellow products the Clara French Press is well made with premium materials. This is a French Press that won’t be breaking any time soon.
Design of the Fellow Clara
There are a number of noteworthy aspects of the design of the Clara.
As noted, the body of the French Press is vacuum insulated with stainless steel. Basically, it is double-walled with the air removed between the two walls to minimize heat loss. This has two advantages; 1) it means that the water stays hot during brewing for better extraction, and 2) it means that if you choose to leave some of the coffee in the French Press it will stay warm for longer (although we tend to recommend actually pouring excess coffee into a carafe for better flavor).
It comes with an all-direction pour lid. Basically, you don’t need to make sure you align the lid with the beaker. While this is a helpful wee hack, it is certainly not a major problem that needs solving.
It is also advertised as having a non-stick interior for easier cleaning. To be honest this has been poorly received. It is not worse than cleaning a normal glass French Press, but it is hardly better. Like non-stick saucepans, this feature is fairly underwhelming. Also to make it clear only the filter is dishwasher safe, the rest must be hand washed.
The Clara also comes with an agitation stick that looks like an oar for stirring the coffee. This is a helpful wee tool as it is made to fit perfectly for the size of the Fellow Clara French Press. It also again just lifts the general experience again.
Usability and Taste
In terms of using the Fellow Clara, it is generally pleasant and effective albeit similar to using any standard French Press.
The Clara comes with ratio lines built into it for both the amount of coffee and water. Not a terrible idea but 1) this only works if you are making a full pot, 2) the lines, especially the coffee line, is actually really hard to see, and 3) we recommend using a coffee scale anyway. So not a bad idea but practically not actually all that useful.
One enjoyable aspect of brewing with the Clara is that the pieces just fit really well together. As opposed to cheap French Presses, the filter fits perfectly into the body of the French Press and the lid feels tight rather than loose. The filter is also well-designed and clearly has smaller-than-usual holes to keep fines to a minimum.
Having the body made of stainless steel is an interesting choice. On the one hand, it does mean that this baby won’t break and can be taken anywhere confidently (not that I would want to take it for fear of scratching its stunning look). This is handy considering just how easy it is to accidentally knock over a French Press as many glass French press owners have discovered. However, for some anyway, part of the appeal to French presses is that you can watch the coffee as it brews. This of course is nullified when using stainless steel.
Another noteworthy aspect of using it is that the capacity is smaller than you might suspect. While the Clara is relatively large, the capacity of the Fellow French press really maxes out at 3-4 cups. This is because the vacuum-sealed walls mean the interior is significantly smaller than the exterior. So perfectly fine size if you are brewing for 1-4 people, but can’t brew the sort of capacities available with some other French Presses.
In terms of taste, it is very nice depending on your brewing technique and of course the beans and grind consistency. The two advantages that the Fellow Clara French Press has in terms of taste are heat retention and filter quality. The double-walled body does mean better heat retention for better extraction, and the filter is very good and so leads to less silt and cleaner brews.
Apart from these, the actual taste of the coffee will be dictated by the quality of beans, the grind size and consistency, and just the usual brewing parameters. So is the taste better than a cheap $15 French Press? Yes, but probably not that much better.
Who is the Fellow Clara French Press for?
Overall my impressions are very positive of the Fellow Clara. As expected it is not particularly revolutionary (I mean a French Press is a French Press), but it is premium, beautiful, and luxurious, as well as intelligently designed.
So I would say that the Fellow Clara is for the French Press lover looking for elegance and luxury and willing to pay for it.
It is not worth getting the Fellow Clara for the taste alone, it is good but really not $100 good. No with the Fellow French Press, you are paying for the brand, the feel, and the look. And I will be honest, I like the brand, the feel, and the look. There is a reason we already own a number of Fellow products.
Alternatives to the Fellow Clara?
If you are looking for a premium French press but the Clara doesn’t do it for you then Espro is the name you name to need to memorize. Espro French Presses are also expensive, come in interesting design choices, and just look good. The Espro French Presses come with a patented double filter for extra clean coffee.
For other or cheaper alternatives you can see our more extensive guide to the Best French Presses here.
Fellow French Press: The Takeaway
While I have been critical at times, to be honest, I actually love the Fellow Clara. I don’t think it is amazing or revolutionary, but I do think it has the elegance and premium build, befitting a Fellow product.
The Fellow Clara is the French Press you buy to treat yourself. Not because it is the best value for money (it isn’t), but because you know that just owning it, looking at it, and using it will make your life that little bit better.
If that sounds like you then splash out on the Fellow Clara French Press, you won’t regret it!
Again you can either buy the standard black Fellow Clara, or else the slightly more expensive Clara with a walnut wooden handle.