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 to sit on. By unlocking this discussion, we’ll help you choose which product is best for you.
The French Press
The French Press has quite a recognisable look. This classic device, also known as the coffee press or coffee plunger, is a mainstay of many kitchen cabinets and hotel rooms. If you’re a coffee brewing newbie who is yet to learn about French Press coffee, here’s Home Grounds’ article that explains what a coffee press is and how it works.
The French Press is a humble but sleek little creation that has gone through a few modifications since an Italian designer first patented it in 1929.
So is it French or Italian? It doesn’t matter in the end. What is important is what it does to coffee, how easy it is to use, and how good is the coffee. Many coffee lovers consider the coffee press to provide flavour comparable to an espresso machine, though with a more mouth-filling texture.
The French press coffee maker brews an intensely flavoured, richly textured cup of coffee.
It’s is a simple design: a cylindrical container that 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. Then you push the plunger-filter downwards at a slow rate, forcing the coffee grounds to the bottom while the delicious brewed coffee stays on top.
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.
But like any time you make coffee, there’s a science and an art to coffee making with the press (1). So, if you want to become an expert, you might want to check out this article: how to use a french press, or watch our in house expert brewer, Steven, make the perfect cup:
Drip Coffee Makers
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. Generally, 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. It will extract the deliciousness and leave 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. You can watch Steven from Home Grounds compare drip and immersion brewing in this video:
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!
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 the brew 3-4 minutes to steep.
Coffee brewing with a drip machine generally takes about 5-10 minutes. Wait for the machine to warm up, brew for the recommended time, and let the coffee drip down in the pot. Still, some automatic drip machines, such as the Bunn coffee maker, brew coffee in 3 minutes. This places the drip machines ahead of the press in terms of brew time.
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 drip machine scrapes through as the winner here. Yet, clean up time is the same for both. However, 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, then 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. Somewhat different, drip makers begin at a few cups and peak at around the fourteen 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 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. However, if you do want to keep your French press coffee hot for longer, you can invest in a thermos.
It’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.
WINNER: The drip method wins this one as well. 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.
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 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 maximize the flavour potential.
Paper filters take out flavour and oils. When eating good foods, the flavour usually exists in the fats and oils.
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 (3). But there’s no accounting for individual preference, and many people simply prefer the taste they get from the drip. However, we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that for drip machines, lighter roasts may simply be better suited.
Another issue worth mentioning is that many automatic drip coffee makers continually heat coffee. After enough time, the coffee tastes burned. Not good. Still, some drip coffee makers come with a thermal carafe which is something we’d always recommend over the heat plates.
WINNER: The French press is the winner when it comes to full-bodied, rich-tasting coffee. At the same time, some people prefer the lighter taste produced with the drip method. Thus, choosing a better method for your subjective taste is a matter of your taste rather than the method.
So, French press vs an automatic drip coffee machine – is there a winner? No, not really because at the end of the day it’s 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:
- Read our guide on the best French presses here, or;
- Browse through our reviews of drip coffee makers here.
No. The flavours 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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