French Press vs Drip Coffee: Which Would You Pick?

French Press and Drip Coffee Machines are both popular ways of brewing coffee. While they are very different processes, it’s impossible to avoid comparisons between these two. A comparison of French Press vs Drip Coffee is essentially looking at the methods employed.

In large part, the results depend on your palate. It is futile to categorically rate one above the other.

There are some notable differences in the brew depending on what method you choose. And they can very well shape your choice.

The French Press Way Of Brewing Coffee

Brewing coffee in a French Press is a fairly simple and low-tech method. Generally speaking, this setup involves a carafe and a plunger with filter(s) attached. For most quality machines, this will be a metallic filter. However, some variants may also use other materials, including plastic.

The brewing process is pretty much a standard and doesn’t change with whatever model or style of equipment you use. You’ll spend a few minutes brewing coffee and enjoy its wonderful results. Here’s a quick tutorial on brewing with a French press.

Read more: Buy the best coffee for French Press

Start by adding coffee grounds to the French press carafe. Pour hot water on these grounds. Like most brewing techniques, this should not be boiling water, but at the right extraction temperature. The recommended temperature is 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shake the coffee-water mix a bit so that the grounds are evenly spread. Put the plunger on the carafe, but don’t push it down. Let the mixture sit this way for 3-5 minutes. The exact time depends on how strong you want your coffee.

If steeping time is too low, the coffee may feel weak and sour. If it is too high, the coffee may feel bitter.

Once the steeping time is done, slowly push the plunger down as far as it will go. Your coffee is ready. Pour some from the carafe to your cup and enjoy it! Key aspects to note are:

  • Coffee grind: Coarse
  • Amount of coffee grounds: 1:15 ratio with water. Add three tablespoons for each cup you want to brew
  • Time taken to brew: 3-5 minutes
  • Water temperature: 180-195 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Full-bodied coffee with rich taste

Using A Drip Coffee Maker To Brew Coffee

Unlike the French press that requires manual effort, Drip Coffee Makers are largely automatic. In most cases, there isn’t much for the user to do, beyond pressing a couple of buttons. For many machines, you can simply set a timer and the coffee maker will automatically brew a fresh cup at the set time.

A point to note here is that the features and taste of coffee vary depending on the machine you choose. Of course, there are some variations in French press use too, but drip machines can have very pronounced differences. 

For the sake of brevity, let’s consider the best drip machines available, those that fulfill SCA requirements.

We’re assuming that the drip coffee maker is a top of the line machine. This machine heats water to the optimal temperature and holds it there throughout the extraction process. It may also have other features like customizing the beverage or programmable options.

Another factor to consider is the filter. A metallic filter won’t interfere with the taste of coffee and will let all coffee oils and flavors to flow through. The classic paper filter will block finer particles of coffee from entering the brew. It will also absorb a fair amount of coffee oils. Again, the filter is a personal choice representative of your taste preferences.

Time taken to brew will depend on the machine itself. This can range anywhere between a few seconds to several minutes. If you’re brewing a large carafe, even 10 minutes is possible. Anyways, here are the highlights:

  • Coffee grind: Medium
  • Coffee amount: SCA golden cup recommendations stand at 55 grams per liter of water
  • Water temperature: 180-195 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Time taken to brew: Few seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the machine
  • Coffee body depends on your choice of filter

Which Method Is Easier To Use

As we see, both of these methods are fairly easy to use. Though it requires manual intervention, even the French press method isn’t labor-intensive. However, if we have to pick a winner, Drip coffee machines win for their ease of use. 

Even the simplest of these machines requires minimal effort from the user. In most cases, all you have to do is add coffee grounds and add/place the filter. Programmable machines will even let you select the time they should brew your cuppa. The machine may also have other options to manage brew strength, beverage size, etc.

For a French Press, you’ll need to look at the clock and stick to the right steeping times. For a drip machine, pressing a button is all that is needed.

Capacity: How Many Cups Does Each Method Brew

This again depends on the choice of the model. You could use a small French press that’s good enough to brew just one cup. Or, pick a larger carafe and brew a lot of cups at the same time.

The same principle applies to drip machines as well. You could pick a single-serve machine or a small machine that brews 4-cups. Or go big, and get one that brews a 12-cup carafe at the touch of a button.

Overall, there is no clear winner for this category. However, a point to note is that once you put water and coffee into the French press carafe, the brew volume is decided. 

For drip coffee makers, you may be able to choose smaller brew sizes even on larger machines. Many machines make it possible to stop brewing and draw a single cup. Or, brew a smaller size than the full carafe.

Which Method Is More Reliable?

Reliability is a tough metric since either method can be resilient or fragile depending on the product and models. However, in a generic setting, we can pick one over the other. It is likely that your French press will outperform your drip coffee maker here.

The French press doesn’t rely on an external power source like electricity. Besides, there are no electrical components to fail. Overall, the lower complexity for this method translates to greater reliability in the drip coffee vs French press comparison.

Coffee Quality And Taste: Is French Press Coffee Better

Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses in this department. Let’s consider them both.

French press coffee is likely to be rich and full-bodied. This is because the metallic filter won’t absorb any oils or flavors from the coffee. Your coffee cup gets the full force of flavors and you get to enjoy them. But, is French press coffee better for this factor alone?

Well, there are some negatives to consider as well. A French press cannot get a high extraction from the coffee grounds. Even though this is an immersion method, the large size of coarse grounds doesn’t lend itself well to extraction. Besides, given the steeping time, your coffee will lose some of its warmth. It won’t be a cold cup, but the hotter the better!

Filters And Extraction

In contrast, drip coffee makers are likely to be great at extraction. They’ll heat water to the right temperature and add it to the coffee grinds. The small size of the medium grinds gives them a larger surface area and allows higher extraction. And you get piping hot coffee.

The use of filters does come into play here. Choosing between metallic or paper filters is a function entirely of your preference. While metal filters don’t absorb oils, you might actually find that coffee tastes better without those oils. Besides, with the paper filter blocking smaller coffee particles, you get a cleaner cup. This might be preferable to many coffee drinkers.

Summing Up The Match

The clear winner in French press vs drip coffee comparison are your taste buds. Both methods brew a great cup of coffee, though each with its individual strengths and weaknesses. And these are exactly what make them suitable for different taste preferences. Take your pick, and savor your cup of coffee.