Thoughtful design meets exceptional quality. Modern style takes on a timeless classic. Fellow’s product design team followed these guiding principles when they took on a 169-year-old brewing staple—the French press. Following extensive user testing and prototyping, our designers ushered this beloved brewer into the 2020s by combining form and function. With a whole lot of work and a sprinkling of Fellow fairy dust, Clara French Press is ready to make your morning more magical.
We interviewed Drew Cosgarea, Fellow’s senior product manager, to deep dive into the design details of this new take on an old classic.
When considering what brewer to make next, why did the product team land on a French press?
Initially, the product team was considering doing an immersion brewer similar to AeroPress®. After testing immersion brewers that were more simple, more complex, and everything in between, we landed on a French press. The traditional 169-year-old design had a lot of user pain points that we could improve upon, so we switched gears and decided to take on the French press.
How did you narrow down which changes and improvements to make to the French press?
We asked dozens of users what their pain points were when brewing French press. Some of the big issues users faced were silty cups of coffee, difficult clean-up, the annoyance of lining up the strainer with the spout, and a body that didn’t keep coffee hot for very long. We also looked at the competitor landscape, and we read tons of competitors’ Amazon reviews to better inform our design process.
What did the design process look like?
A lot of user concerns were that traditional French presses didn’t hold enough coffee to make a cup for them and the person they lived with, so we iterated over size. The team also played a lot with the handle—tall, short, wide.
In the French press world, the all-directional pour was a big manufacturing change, given the vast majority of French presses have a small strainer that needs to be carefully lined up with the spout. The lid provided some difficulty. Some came out too tight while others were far too loose. We wanted to make sure that the lid felt secure without having to push it down with a lot of force. It took quite a long time to finally get the All-Directional Pour Lid dialed in on our final product.
Tell us about the ultra-fine mesh!
The biggest complaint about French presses is that coffee comes out too silty. Generally speaking, the finer the mesh, the better the brew—but if the mesh is too fine, it will clog. Our ultra-fine mesh offers a balance. Clara produces a cleaner cup with a heavier body than your typical pour-over. We tried dozens of mesh varieties with numerous recipes. This was to make certain that Clara would provide a cleaner strain no matter the recipe. It was also important to have a mesh and strainer that was easy for users of any level of strength to use since many French presses are often difficult to push down in the straining process.
The agitation stick is such a thoughtful detail and is unique to Clara. Can you discuss why the design team decided to add it in?
When using the wrong material, Clara’s non-stick coating can be susceptible to scratches. We found that a lot of users would most likely grab their most readily available stirring tool—a metal spoon. If you stir with metal against the non-stick coating, it would eventually scratch and damage it. So instead of suggesting using specific tools to stir with, we went one step further and added the necessary tool ourselves.
Were there any major difficulties throughout the design process?
The vacuum walls were very difficult to get right. We wanted the entire body, including the pour spout, to be vacuum-insulated. It was extremely difficult to make a vacuum-sealed body and spout; it took six months to get it right. The biggest issue we faced during the prototyping phase was lining up the spout and body properly while maintaining the welding and seal. The team wanted to maintain high-quality aesthetics while keeping Clara up to snuff, quality-wise. This was exceptionally hard to do, but we eventually got there.