French Press vs. Drip Coffee: Taste, Quality, How to Make
The French press and drip coffee makers are two of the most widely used coffee makers across the world, and this has been the case for many decades now.
But, many coffee lovers and fanatics are always debating on which one between the two is the best or makes the best brews.
What you pick among them will ultimately boil down to your preferences and what you find most convenient. However, understanding why the press or drip debate is still raging many years later and how the two methods differ should help you know which side of the fence to sit on.
Below is a simple comparison chart and an in-depth analysis of how the two popular coffee making methods differ.
Origin and Period
Italy, 1929 but more widely used in France hence the name
Germany, 1954 (for the electric drip brewer but manual pour-overs have been around longer)
Ease of Use
How the Coffee is Made
Add grinds to beaker, pour in the water, leave it to bloom, stir, steep 4 minutes and press plunger down
Add coffee grounds to portafilter and press the start button for brew cycle to begin
Average Price Range
French Press vs. Drip Coffee
Both the French Press and Drip Coffee makers have been in use for several decades now and although they are now popular across the world, they all originate from different places.
The French press or coffee plunger, press pot or coffee press as it is also fondly referred to as was first patented back in 1929 by an Italian designer. But, after its inception, the coffee maker ended up being more widely used in France than Italy and this explains where it gets its name.
This simple but sleek coffee making machine features a cylindrical beaker which is often either stainless steel or glass, a permanent metal filter, and a plunger.
With the French press, coffee is made by adding coarse coffee grounds then hot water and leaving it to steep for a few minutes before pushing down the plunger to filter the beverage.
There are no electrical parts on this coffee maker, and so it will not require any electricity which makes it ideal for use from almost anywhere, and this is more so given that most are compact and easily portable.
And in 1954 Gottlob Widmann patented the Wigomat which is considered to be the first electrical drip coffee maker in the world.
The electrical drip coffee maker had replaced the traditional percolators in most homes and coffee houses by the 1970s, and it underwent a lot of transformation before becoming the completely automatic coffee maker it is today.
With these automatic coffee makers, the set up is more complicated than with a French press as it includes different electronic components.
To make coffee, you only need to add medium size coffee grinds to the filter and cold water to the reservoir, push the start button and the machine will do the rest.
2. Bean to Brew Time
No one wants to wait for 20 minutes just to get one small cup of coffee. Luckily with both French press and drip coffee makers, you will never need to wait all that long to get your caffeine fix.
However, the coffee making time when starting with fresh coffee beans will be slightly different for the two brewing methods.
With a French press, the time required to get a cup is between 5 and 8 minute which includes about 2-4 minutes for the actual brewing/steeping and a couple of other minutes for you to boil water.
For a drip coffee maker, the process is slightly longer as it is around 5 to 10 minutes. With these machines, you have to fill up the reservoir, give the machine a few minutes to warm up and then push the start button. But the actual brew time is faster than the French press.
3. Brewing Capacity
Capacity always matters for coffee lovers, and this is more so for those that take lots of coffee or live in a house with several coffee drinkers.
With the French press coffee maker, the capacity will vary from one model to the other. But, the typical ones will come with 8, 16, 23 or 32-ounce capacities. In terms of cups, you can get a French press with as little as 1-cup capacity and most will max out at 10 cups.
For the drip coffee makers, the capacity depends on the model as you can get small ones for homes and offices that will only make 1 or 2 cups, larger models that make a full carafe or even commercial models that can brew dozens of cups at a go. However, with the drip coffee makers, the average capacity is 8 to 12 cups of coffee in one cycle.
But as you look at the capacity, you also need to consider the wait time between cups. If the time is long then it means that it will take more time to make many cups of coffee. Most modern drip coffee makers have almost no wait time in between, and so you can make cup after cup.
4. Ease of Use
A good coffee maker is one that gives you an easy time and does not require any special skills and barista kind of experience to use. Hence, as you pick between French press and drip coffee makers the ease of use also matters.
With the French press, coffee making will require you to add in the grounds, then the hot water before leaving it to steep for a while and then plunging. But, there are several components of the process that will need some know-how.
Key among them is the grind size and steeping time. The grind size has to be coarse and the steeping time has to be right because if you get the two or one of them wrong, you are likely to end up with under or over-extracted coffee.
When using a drip coffee maker, on the other hand, all you need is to get the grind size and quantity right and the machine will do the rest for you at the push of a button.
Hence, when it comes to the ease of use, both coffee-making methods are quite straightforward, but the French press comes with a steeper learning curve than drip coffee makers.
5. Coffee Brewing Method Reliability
When it comes to the reliability of the two coffee makers, there is a clear winner here which is the French press, and this is mostly because it does not have any mechanical parts.
With a French press, the worst thing that can happen is dropping it accidentally which can lead to the breakage of the glass beaker. But, at the end of the day, the French press is quite cheap, and so many coffee lovers can replace the entire unit without feeling a pinch.
Another thing that makes French press more reliable is that it is designed to be highly portable, and you can carry it with you and make coffee from almost anywhere whether you are camping or even traveling.
The presence of electrical components and the fact that it is quite bulky will make the drip coffee maker less reliable. However, when it comes to consistency, it is the more reliable of the two as you can always expect the same quality of coffee every time given that the process is automated.
6. Finished Brew Flavor and Taste
The resulting coffee from these two brewing methods should be one of the main deciding factors. If the brew does not taste great, the brewer will not be of any use for you as you will probably hardly ever use it.
Because the French press gives you more control over the brewing process, you are most likely to end up with coffee that suits your specific preferences. However, given that this is a more manual process, you are also more likely to ruin the coffee by under or over-extracting the grinds.
If you use a drip machine, the paper filters will catch most of the mineral oils, and adjusting the taste is quite difficult, and so it is easy to end up with a light and insipid flavor. Also, these machines can heat up the coffee too much if you leave it in the hot pot for too long which can result in a bitter taste.
When it comes to the brew flavor and taste, the French press will make much better coffee than a drip brewer once you master how to use it.
Which One Should You Choose?
Because each of the two machines has its strengths and weaknesses, the right one for you will depend on your specific preferences, and of course your budget as they come in varying price ranges.
But, if you are looking for something that gives you more control over the brewing process and preserves the natural oils in the coffee beans for maximum flavor extraction, the French press will be the best choice. Also, the French press is more ideal for those looking for a cheaper coffee maker.
The drip coffee maker, on the other hand, is the perfect option for you if you want something that is generally easier to use and does most of the work for you and also allows you to keep coffee hot for later consumption.