French Press vs Espresso – Comparing Two Brewing Methods

French Press and Espresso are unarguably the two most common coffee brewing methods around the world. However, being an avid coffee enthusiast, do you really know the detailed differences between Espresso VS French Press?

That is what we are going to tell you about in this article. We know that both methods are totally different from each other in all the imaginable ways, however, we will have a thorough look at all the various elements associated with these two classic brewing methods.

Let’s get started.

French Press – A Hands-on Brewing Method

The French press is a practical way of brewing coffee. You have the ground coffee, boiling water, the plunging, steeping time, and so on.

It is not the kind of brewing where you can switch on the machine and do some other chores, it is more like making tea. Just so you know, you can also make tea in it.

French press is one of the best ways to making tea and coffee. As you need to be present physically, you get to know the amount of time you let the coffee steep. How hot you prefer the water and how hard you push the plunger.

Read more: Best coffee for French Press

Coffee Making Overview with a French Press

Making coffee in a French press is easy. You learn with practice when the coffee is made.  It normally takes about 4 minutes and the steeping time can be adjusted as per your liking.

French Press Tip: Don’t squeeze out the last few drops of coffee. The coffee grounds might give you an over-extracted taste.

In fact, everything can be adjusted according to yourself. The water temperature, water to coffee grounds ratio and anything that you like. We will have a more detailed look about the coffee making process with a French Press.

Coffee Making Overview with an Espresso Machine

The dynamics of an espresso machine are different. Espresso is a standardized drink, like most automatic processes. This can taste good or bad or probably both.

The thing to know here is that an espresso will turn out to be the same every time. Based on the espresso machine, you can either change the quantity of coffee grounds or turn the water off faster or let it run some more seconds.

High-pressure, almost boiling-temperature water is forced through finely ground coffee beans to extract the full flavour into a “shot” of liquid.

Even when you make these small changes, it is still a completely automatic process. This gives you more time to get ready for work in the morning while you are waiting for your coffee to be ready. It is for the people who barely have time on their hands and need quick fix of coffee.

The Crema and Latte Art Texture

The famous latte art that makes for aesthetic coffee pictures! You can only get it with an espresso maker, as it is the only process that runs hot water with that much pressure via the coffee grounds.

The Moka pot seldom produces crema but it is not nearly as good as the espresso. It is in fact the closest to an espresso, without being it. It’s very much similar in shape and size to the espresso.

As for the crema that is made from the espresso, the latte art can be made from it. Those who are practicing to be baristas or who want perfect latte made at home, will need an espresso maker for this purpose.

The French press won’t be able to make this thick layer because of its mechanism.

Espresso vs French Press

The French press steeps coffee grounds in hot water for as long as you like. The espresso on the other hand, sends hot water with great espresso and rapidly, via the grounds off coffee, this produces the crema that appears on top of your espresso shot. 

Both the coffees do however, have a full body and thick side. Since there is no filter paper to collect the residue, this makes the final taste much better.

French Press – Made For the Lighter Roasts and Arabica Beans

You can use any roast and bean type when you are brewing coffee with French Press. French Press reveals the beauty in a dark roast and amplifies the caramel notes. It reveals the floral/fruity notes in a lighter roast.

This is also because of the different brewing process. As the French Press soaks the coffee, this allows it to release caffeine and each flavor in a gentle manner. It does not push out, rather coax out.

Be Careful with the Arabica beans

Since the water temperature can be adjusted as per your preference, you have to boil it and add yourself. You can make sure that the coffee beans are not scalded – especially the Arabica beans.

What Happens to Roasts when You Use Espresso Machine

It is different in case of espresso. The brewing method of espresso keeps coffee grounds in contact with water for very less time. So, the aroma is not full when the coffee is brewed.

If Arabica is used in a large quantity in espresso, then there is a risk of scalding it as its sensitive to temperature.

If you use a light roast, the flavor gets lost in the heating water and the pressure that forces out the brew in the espresso machine.

If you want a strong and aromatic coffee then the French Press is for you. The coffee does not taste harsh. But if taste is not something that you care for much, then espresso would be a good option too.

The Price Factor

While comparing prices, there is a vast difference between an espresso machine and French press.

An espresso has a high end and a low end. The high-end espresso machine can easily go up to $500 and due to its large size, can occupy a lot of kitchen counter space. The low-end espresso machine can be around $50 or maybe a little less.

However, with smaller sized espresso machine, the cups of espresso produced will be poor in taste due to the fact that regulating water temperature and pressure is not probable.

The expensive espresso machine gives you multiple options. It can grind beans on its own involving no involvement from you. Automatic machine has its own advantages.

Reasonably Priced French Press

The French Press costs between $15-30 and this has a significant impact if you are on a budget. This machine is made of glass so you need to be extra careful with the transport and packaging.

However, the budget is going to dictate what machine you get.

Thing to keep in mind

You must however, keep in mind that if you are going to buy the espresso machine, then don’t go for the cheaper option as the higher priced one will make much better coffee, enabling you to make changes to it as per your liking.

Since you will be consuming this coffee in the longer run, so go for a better option instead of a cheaper one.

Speed of an Espresso Machine

When it comes to speed, espresso machine takes the lead! If we look at the translation of the name, its “quickly, fast” and it is the fastest way of preparing coffee.

The brewing of coffee takes about half a minute. This is the time required for a shot of espresso. This is when you’ve prepared coffee grounds before and machine is ready to brew.

Time Required by a French Press

Time required by the French Press is much more than that. If you have heated up the water as per your preference and set up the machine, then the coffee brewing process would take about four minutes.

It is the suggested time to let the coffee soak, and after this plunger is to be pushed. The amount of time for which you let your coffee steep can always be adjusted as per your preference.

But it always takes more than half minute, regardless of how you make French Press coffee.

What has more caffeine – French Press or Espresso?

You should know that the amount of caffeine is double in the French Press as compared to the Espresso. This is because the steeping time is more in the French Press whereas in an espresso, water and coffee are in contact for little time only.

We cannot extract much caffeine in 30 seconds. As far as the French Press is concerned, 4 minutes is a good enough time for caffeine to release from the grounds and go to your cup.

Caffeine is an important factor to consider when buying one of the two machines.

Larger Batches can be Made with French Press

If you are tending to a lot of guests and need to make coffee in large amounts, then you should choose the French Press. It has the largest yield. It can make 1 liter (33.8 ounces of coffee). This should serve 5 cups in one go.

If you want to brew one cup only, then of course it can be brewed with ease.

Serving Coffee with Espresso Machine

Espresso, on the other hand serves a single cup of coffee. In case you own a cheaper espresso machine, then the filter cup must be refilled and cleaned after every use.

So, this is not a very favorable option when you have a lot of guests over unless you are okay with wasting hours making kitchen rather than spending time with your loved ones.

Some espresso machines can serve 2 cups at a time, this does save some time but still not as much like the French Press.

Now let’s discuss briefly about both the machines and their way of brewing.

Brewing Coffee with French Press

French Press is a glass cylinder. It has a lid on top of it. A plunger goes through this lid. There is a wire filter at the end that separates the brewed coffee from the coffee grounds.

Making coffee with French Press is easy. You add coffee grounds to the empty machine, then add boiled water in small amount so that the coffee can be bloomed. In about a minute, add the remaining water.

Then close the lid and put the plunger in its place. Let it steep for about four minutes. After four minutes (or less depending upon how you want your coffee) firmly push the plunger down.

Coffee grounds will be pushed towards the bottom. The brewed coffee will be left. You can sip on this delicious coffee!

For the measurements of water and coffee, there are instructions given with the French Press.

Brewing Coffee with Espresso

Espresso is brewed by pushing hot water via a filter containing coffee grounds. The force with which water is pushed makes the flavor of this coffee very different than the other methods.

This causes the fats inside the beans to react and make crema – something people are fond of.

Some machines have in-built coffee grinder and are connected to water source. In this case, you just press a button after setting your cup and wait for your espresso.

The lower end machines have a filter cup which is detachable that must be refilled and cleaned. The water is supposed to be refilled in a small container which is also removable.

Honestly, making espresso is very much like pushing just a button. If you follow all the instructions the machine comes with, then making an espresso will be really easy.

Our Final Word on French Press VS Espresso

Those who are fine with putting in some work but getting a strong and flavorful cup of coffee, would go for the French Press. However, those who do not have time for making coffee, would go for an espresso machine.

Espresso machine usually does the job well, however, equipment quality plays a vital role here. If you go for a cheap or sub-standard espresso machine, you might end up regretting a lot.

French Press is a low maintenance coffee brewing method. It does not come with a lot of bells and whistles, and is quite affordable and simple to use. No big machine, no buttons or LCD displays and all – just a small device that doesn’t really require much than your undivided attention for a few minutes.

So, French Press VS Espresso – which one should you go for? Well, at the end of the day, it all depends on your preferences, schedules, time availability, etc., that would make you choose either of these two well-known coffee brewing methods.