French Press vs Drip Machine – Which will you Choose?
To press or drip: this is a battle coffee fanatics and caffeine lovers love to have. However, the French press vs drip coffee debate deserves a thorough exploration.
Whilst it all might boil down to a matter of preference, knowing the reasons why this debate will remain eternal will let you know which side of the fence you sit on, and help you choose which product is best for you.
The French Press
The French Press, or ‘coffee plunger’ as it’s otherwise known, is a mainstay of many kitchen cabinets and hotel rooms. This humble but sleek little creation has gone through a few modifications since it was first patented by an Italian designer in 1929.
So is it French or Italian? It doesn’t really matter in the end.
What is important is what it does to coffee, how good it tastes, and how easy it is to use.
It’s a simple design all things considered. A cylindrical container is filled with an appropriate amount of ground coffee, you add some hot (but not boiling) water, give it a quick stir, place the lid on top allowing it to brew for the appropriate amount of time, and then just push the plunger-filter downwards at a slow rate, forcing the grounds to the bottom whilst the delicious brewed coffee stays on top.
But like any time you make coffee, there’s a science and an art to getting the French press just right.
If you want to become a French Press expert, you might want to check out this article.
Drip Coffee Machines
Drip Coffee machines are found in homes, offices, and on the set of cop-shows everywhere. They’re fantastic for keeping hot coffee ready and available and they’re an institution in and of themselves.
Much like the French press, drip coffee has seen over a century of modifications. But the basic principle remains the same.
Drip coffee machines are fully automated. You simply place the ground coffee beans inside the filter and flick the switch.
It’s then up to the machine to do the rest - extracting the deliciousness and leaving you with a brewed cup of coffee ready to drink whenever you're ready.
This simple way to make coffee first came into being with the pour-over method. It was brought into the modern era when we combined simplicity with electricity to invent the drip coffee machine. Offering complete automation and the ability to keep your brewed coffee hot for long periods of time, these really are ‘set and forget’ machines.
Some people prefer the taste of drip coffee to French Press. But there’s more to it than this.
The Showdown: French Press versus Drip Machine
We’re going to compare the pro’s and con’s of drip coffee machines versus French press brewers.
Which one is more versatile? How soon until you're sipping on a fresh cup of joe? How difficult are they to use? How many cups of coffee does each one make? And most importantly, which one tastes the best?
You're about to find out, and in just 5 mins you'll know which brewing method is right for you!
#1 - Versatility: How Many Brews can it Make?
When you’re shopping for coffee beans, it’s a buyers market. There are so many different varieties on offer catering for every taste. The good news is that both the French Press and drip machines can do them all!
Bean selection is only important when selecting your preferred flavour. What is important is the grind.
Your French Press requires a coarse grind, whereas your drip machine needs medium grind. Consistency is the key here and investing in good quality burr-grinder will ensure you get it right every time.
If you’re grind is too coarse or too fine, or the consistency varies you’ll be left with a poor result. This is due to the design of the filter in both devices which requires even and consistent coffee grinds, allowing the water to extract the same ratio of coffee from every ground bean.
WINNER: It’s an even result. There's no winner here. As long as you have a good quality burr-grinder and select the appropriate coarseness, you’ll be fine.
#2 - Time: From Bean > Brew
Morning sunshine! You need your coffee ASAP. Which one gives you a faster cup?
Time required to get a cup from a French press is 5-8 minutes. This will see you boiling the water and allowing 2-3 minutes for brew time.
A drip machine is only slightly longer at 5-10 minutes. You’ll wait for the machine to warm up, brew for the recommended time, and be able to keep your pot of coffee warm and ready to serve several cups coffee.
Clean up time is the same. A simple rinse and swish of your French press, and a quick filter change and rinse of your drip machine’s pot is all that’s required between each batch of coffee you make.
WINNER: The French press just scrapes through as the winner here. Clean up time is the same for both, and if you’re only boiling as much water as you need in order to save time, and you’re not fussed about having coffee ready and waiting for you at every minute of the day the French press is for you
#3 - Skill Required/Ease of Use
Making coffee is a habit. Perfecting it is art.
Which one is easier to use out of your French Press or Drip machine?
There’s a lot to you’ll need to consider when making coffee with a French press when compared to a drip machine. All of the variables are at play here: coffee grind, water temperature, brew time, and the rate at which you push the plunger-filter.
Getting your brew time is vital for a French press. Too long or too short and your coffee is going to taste over-brewed or too weak.
The French press represents a challenge to the novice. However, once you’ve worked out what works best, it’s a simple matter of following the same process and keeping an eye on the time, every time.
It’s hard to go wrong with a drip coffee machine. Simply measure the correct amount of ground coffee (as per the manufacturer's instructions), pop it into the machine, check your water level, and come back as soon as the machine is ready. Some models allow you to make small adjustments, but these pale in comparison to a French press.
The only room for error is in the grind. If it’s too coarse or too fine you’re coffee is going to be bad. Just remember to change the filter after each brew.
WINNER: Drip coffee machines are the clear winner. If you can use a spoon and press a button, you can use a drip machine. Whilst a French press offers more control over every variable, a drip machine ensure you can’t stuff it up.
#4 - Capacity: How Many Cups per Brew?
This is a major factor for you to consider, depending on your morning coffee situation (posse or no posse?)
All coffee makers come in various sizes. The typical French press begins at the single serve and maxes out at around ten. Drip machines being at a few cups and also peak at around the ten cup mark.
If you’re serving coffee to your party guests or colleagues, think about how many cups you’ll need to produce each time.
But remember; unlike a drip machine a French press doesn’t have a heat plate so you won’t be able to keep your brew hot for for long. If you’re not drinking it straight away, all that coffee will go to waste (cold coffee = bitter coffee)
However, if you do want to keep your French press coffee hot for longer, you can invest in a thermos.
It’s not ideal, but will suit the needs for you if you’re as casual sipper who loves the taste of a French press brew.
WINNER: The drip machine only just makes it as the winner for this one. Whilst you can make roughly the same number of cups in either device, a drip machine allows you to keep all that coffee hot and ready to drink for a much longer period of time.
It’s worth remembering however, that the longer you keep your coffee hot, ready and waiting for you, the worse the it’s going to taste. The fresher the better!
#5 - The Resulting Brew
If you’re serious about coffee, like we are, the taste of the final product is the most important factor in any decision you make regarding coffee.
The amount of control you have over every variable with a French press ensures that you can perfect your brew to keep your taste-buds singing. The added complexity is a factor, but for taste alone critics consistently praise the French press.
So much of your coffee’s flavour comes from the oils. A drip machine’s paper filter retains most of these oils and they never make it to your cup. A French press on the other hand, lacks a paper filter and ensures you maximise the flavour potential.
Serious coffee geeks find it hard to adjust to the taste of drip machines and they often complain it’s a weaker, lighter taste. But there’s no accounting for individual preference and many people simply prefer the taste they get from a drip machine.
Another issue worth mentioning, is that auto-drip machines tend to continually boil coffee (to keep it hot) meaning the taste of your beans is effectively fried. Not good.
WINNER: The French press is definitely the winner when it comes to full bodied, rich tasting coffee. Some people may prefer the lighter taste from a drip machine. But at the end of the day, if you want maximum flavour it has to be a French press.
So, French press vs an auto-drip coffee machine - is there a winner? Both have come out dead even when weighing up the pro’s and con’s.
A French press will give you the most control over all the possible variables and you’ll be left with a nicer tasting brew. Whilst not suited for keeping your brew hot all day, it doesn’t take much more effort to clean and prepare you French press ready to produce your next batch of coffee when you next need it.
Drip machines are perfect for those who don’t want to think about making their coffee every single time. Both the ease of use and the ability to keep a pot of coffee warm for long periods of time sees them favoured by many people.
If you’re in the market for high quality drip machine at a reasonable price, we’d recommend the BUNN Velocity Brew 10-Cup Home Coffee Brewer.
Interested in the BUNN coffee makers? Make sure to check this article.
But we do have a winner?
Although convenience is great, we’ve weighted taste higher than any other measure. It’s for that reason that the French press is the winner - check out our favorite models right here.
You may simply prefer the taste of a drip machine and that’s completely fine. But in our opinion, putting in a just little more effort to get richer, more flavoursome coffee is worth the little extra time involved.
We recommend the KONA French Press Coffee Tea & Espresso Maker for a premium product at a comfortable price.