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French Press vs Drip Coffee Maker

To press or to drip: which makes the best coffee? This is a battle coffee fanatics love to have. However, the French press vs drip coffee debate deserves thorough exploration.

While it all might boil down to a matter of preference, knowing the reasons why this debate remains 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

kona french press

This classic device, also known as the coffee press or coffee plunger, 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. Many coffee lovers consider the coffee press to provide flavor comparable to an espresso machine, though with a more mouth-filling texture.

The French press coffee maker and the Moka pot both brew an intensely flavored, richly textured cup of coffee.

It’s a simple design, all things considered. A cylindrical container is filled with an appropriate amount of coffee, you add some hot water (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 push the plunger-filter downwards at a slow rate, forcing the coffee grounds to the bottom while the delicious brewed coffee stays on top.

But like any time you make coffee, there's a science and an art (1) to coffee making with the press. If you want to become an expert, you might want to check out this article: how to use a french press.

Drip Coffee Makers

bunn coffee maker

Drip coffee can be 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. Drip has seen over a century of modifications. But the basic principle remains the same. (2

Drip makers are fully automated. You simply place the ground coffee 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 to drink whenever you're ready.

Drip makers simplify the process of creating that first cup. Some even have timers that let you program them to wake you with a fresh, steaming pot.

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 automatic drip system. 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 to French. But there’s more to it than this.

The Showdown: Press versus Drip

We’re going to compare the pros and cons of drip coffee machines versus French press coffee makers.

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?

french press vs drip infographic

You're about to find out, and in just 5 mins you'll know which brewing method is right for you!

"While there’s something that just feels fancy and elegant about using a French press, you won’t get high extractions out of it. Even though it’s an immersion method and you use very hot water."- Alexa Tucker, Well and Good (3)

Time: From Bean to Brew

Morning, sunshine! You need your coffee ASAP. Which one gives you a faster cup? The brewing time required to get a cup from a press is 5-8 minutes. This will see you boiling the water and allowing 2-3 minutes for brew time.

coffee drip machine and a cup

Coffee brewing with a drip machine takes only slightly longer at 5-10 minutes. Wait for the machine to warm up, brew for the recommended time, and it can your pot of coffee warm and ready to serve.

Clean up time is the same. A simple rinse and swish of your press, including running clean water through the stainless steel filter, will have it ready for the next brew. For the drip, a quick filter change and rinse the pot is all that’s required between each batch you make.

WINNER: The French press scrapes through as the winner here. Clean up time is the same for both; 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 press is for you.

Skill Required / Ease of Use

Making coffee is a habit. Perfecting it is art. Which is easier to use: press or drip?

There’s a lot to consider when making coffee with either of these. 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 the press. Too long or too short and your coffee is going to taste over-brewed or weak. 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 the press.

The only room for error is in the grind. If it’s too coarse or too fine, your coffee is going to be bad. Just remember to change the filter after each brew.

WINNER: Drip coffee machines are the clear winner. Using a spoon and pressing a button is all that's required for brewing coffee in a drip machine. While the press offers more control over every variable, the drip method ensures you can’t stuff it up.

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 brewing systems come in various sizes. The typical French press begins at the single serve and maxes out at around ten. Drip makers begin at a few cups and also peak at around the ten cup mark.

pouring hot coffee from a pot to a cup

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 your drip pot, the press doesn’t have a heat plate so you won’t be able to keep your brew hot 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.

WINNER: The drip method only just wins this one. While you can make roughly the same number of cups in either device, a drip pot allows you to keep all that coffee hot and ready to drink for a much longer period of time.

t’s worth remembering, however, that the longer you keep your coffee hot, ready and waiting for you, the worse it’s going to taste. The fresher the better.

How The Resulting Brew Tastes

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 brewing process to keep your taste-buds singing. The added complexity is a factor, but for taste alone critics consistently praise the press.

Much of your coffee’s flavor 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 maximize the flavor potential.

"Paper filters take out flavor and oils. When eating good foods, the flavor usually exists in the fats and oils." - Charles Crawford, Lifehack (4)

Serious coffee geeks find it hard to adjust to the taste of the drip method 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 drip.

Another issue worth mentioning: many automatic drip coffee makers continually heat coffee. After enough time, the coffee tastes burned. 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 produced with the drip method. But at the end of the day, if you want maximum flavor it has to be a French press.

THE VERDICT

So, French press vs an automatic drip coffee machine - is there a winner? No, not really because at the end of the day its up to YOU.

The French press gives you the most control over all possible variables and you’ll be left with a richer tasting brew. While not suited for keeping your coffee hot all day, it doesn’t take much effort to clean and prepare your French press to produce your next batch when you need it. 

Drip machines are perfect if you don’t want to think about making coffee for every single cup. Many people choose them for ease of use and the ability to keep a pot of coffee warm for long periods of time.

So now you know the difference:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is French press coffee stronger than drip coffee?

No. The flavors in press coffee tend to be more intense because the stainless steel mesh doesn't filter out the fine particles (called "fines") or the natural oils. Drip coffee filters out both oils and fines, which give a cleaner taste that can seem milder. The truth is that the kind of coffee, and the coffee-to-water ratio, determine coffee strength.

Can you use regular coffee in a French press?

Yes, you can use regular coffee in a French press, but if it's ground for drip or pour over, it's likely to produce a muddy, gritty cup. The stainless steel mesh in the plunder will not filter out fine particles of ground coffee. This is why a coarse grind is recommended for use in a press.

How do I keep my French press coffee hot?

You can keep your French press coffee hot by decanting it into a thermal carafe or decanter. For best results, heat the carafe first - if you have hot water remaining from brewing your coffee, use it to heat the decanter first. If you have a large travel mug, you can decant into that.


References

  1. Brones, A., & Brones, A. (2019, May 02). 3 Common Mistakes People Make When Brewing French Press Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.thekitchn.com/3-mistakes-people-make-when-brewing-french-press-coffee-207337
  2. Howcast. (2007, December 12). How to Make Coffee in a Coffee Maker - Howcast | The best how-to videos. Retrieved from https://www.howcast.com/videos/460-how-to-make-coffee-in-a-coffee-maker
  3. Tucker, A. (2018, October 24). The way you brew your coffee affects the caffeine levels-here's how. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/coffee-brewing-caffeine-connection/
  4. Crawford, C. (2018, January 10). Six Reasons Why French Press Makes the Best Coffee. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from https://www.lifehack.org/374773/6-reasons-why-french-press-makes-the-best-coffee
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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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