French Press vs. Pour Over: Flavor, Preparation, How to Make
For many coffee aficionados, making that perfect cup of coffee usually comes down to a choice between French press and pour-over.
Both are manual coffee making methods and are among the cheapest and easiest ways of making coffee, and contrary to what some might assume, the coffee taste and quality that you get is not the same.
And if you are still on the fence on which method you should choose for the best coffee, this piece is for you as we provide an in-depth comparison of the two coffee brewing methods using different parameters.
Beaker, mesh filter and plunger
Stand, paper filter, dripper and container/carafe
How Coffee is Made
Add coffee grounds, pour hot water, steep for 4 minutes and push down the plunger
Place grounds on the paper filter, wet them, let them bloom and slowly add more hot water
Finished Brew Quality
Strong, bold and rich
Lighter and smoother
3, 6, and 8 cups
Average Price Range
$10 - $70
$30 - $70
French Press vs. Pour Over
1. Coffee Maker Design
Before getting into the nitty-gritty details of these manual coffee makers, it is important to know what each is all about because as unbelievable as it might sound there are many people still do not know what they look like or how they work.
Although the French press can come in various colors and sizes, and they are also made from different types of materials, the basic design and working principle or coffee making technique are the same.
A typical French press set up will consist of three main components which are the beaker or carafe, mesh filter, and plunger.
The beaker can be stainless steel, glass or plastic, and it is where the steeping happens given that it is where you place the grounds and pour the hot water. The mesh filter is responsible for separating the coffee from the grounds while the plunger is what makes this possible by pushing the mesh down.
This simple and straightforward design means that almost anyone can figure out how to use a French press, but there is still a significant learning curve.
Just like the French press, the set up for a pour-over coffee maker is also quite straightforward, and this should explain why some people might have a hard time choosing between the two.
However, pour-over coffee makers can come in an array of styles. But, the actual set up almost never changes as it will always include a stand, beaker/carafe, paper filter and dripper
The dripper is often the difference among different pour-over coffee makers. Some will be smooth/flat-sided while others will include ribs on the inside to keep the filter in place. With others, you can get one tiny hole and others will have multiple holes.
With these coffee makers, things like the number and size of holes play an important role. For example, multiple small holes increase the extraction potential while one big hole allows for faster brewing.
2. Ideal Grind Size
A French press will typically require you to use a coarse grind. The key reason for this is to ensure that there is no over-extraction given the relatively longer brew time. Also, a coarse grind will minimize the likelihood of ending up with grinds in your cup.
For pour-over, it is mostly a trial and error process, and so you might need to try out different grinds until you find what produces the best coffee for you. However, a medium-fine grind often works best for most pour-over setups.
However, with both brewing methods, you will probably still need to try out a few grind sizes before you get that perfect one because everyone has a particular coffee flavor and strength preference.
3. Brewing Time
While both these methods might not be as fast as automatic espresso machines they are still way faster than cold brewing.
French press and pour-over coffee making take just about the same time, and the difference between the two is the set up that you have to do.
For French press, there is nothing much to set up but many people will prefer to warm up the beaker which adds to the time. Also, you need to wait for the water to boil. But, the actual brew or steeping time is between 2 to 5 minutes.
If you are using a pour over set up, you can also warm the beaker but most of the time will go to pouring the hot water as you have to do it slowly to ensure maximum extraction. Also, you will need to spare a few seconds or at least a minute for wetting the grinds and giving them time to bloom.
4. Ease of Use
Both the French press and pour over coffee makers will probably not be as convenient as pushing a button when using a single-serve or automatic coffee maker. But the good news is that neither of the two will require a lot of effort to use.
But, many people will find it little easier to use a French press than a pour-over coffee maker as the brewing process is not very involved. The only place where the French press can be a little complicated is getting the steep time and grind size right as everything else is straightforward.
When using a pour-over there is more to do. Besides wetting the grounds, you also need to pour the water at a slow and consistent speed to ensure a good extraction. While pouring might take a lot of effort, some coffee lovers will find it more involving than they would have wished.
With both brew methods, you need to give the process the dedicated attention that it deserves because even with the French press, you also have to press the plunger down slowly but steadily.
5. Brew Sizes
If you are a light coffee drinker, the brew size might not be all that important to you because both coffee makers are capable of making at least one cup of coffee within a relatively short time.
However, things change when you have to make coffee for more than one or are the kind of person that starts the day by taking two or more cups of coffee.
French press coffee makers are typically available in capacities of 8, 16, 23 and 32 ounces. These coffee makers can make anything from 1 to 10 cups which is more than enough coffee for most people.
The brew sizes for pour-over coffee makers are typically 1, 3, 6 or 8 cups but given the style of these coffee makers, you will often need to make one cup at a time. Also, the pour over style means that there is almost no limit on the number of cups you can make provided you have hot water and coffee grinds.
6. User Convenience
The ease of cleaning up the coffee maker after use and portability are two reliable parameters that you can use to measure their convenience.
When it comes to ease of cleaning, the pour-over seems to have an edge over the French press. After brewing your pour-over coffee, you will only need to take out the filter with the grounds and toss it before cleaning the other components in the sink.
Cleaning French press can take more effort than this as it does not have a disposable filter. The mesh filter will be full of grounds that you will need to scrape or strain out which takes quite some time.
For portability, a compact French-press with a stainless steel beaker will be super easy to pack and carry around. But, if you are using a standard pour-over with everything including a stand and a large, fragile glass carafe it will not be very portable.
7. Resulting Brew Flavor
Given the long full-immersion that you get with a French press, the resultant brew is often full-bodied, strong and rich. Because there is no paper filter on the French press it is also able to preserve most of the natural oils for a more flavorful brew.
With the French press, you are also able to easily control brew flavor by altering the steeping time and grind size. But, you can also easily end up with bitter, over-extracted coffee if you are not keen enough which hardly ever happens when using pour-over.
Pour-over brewing, on the other hand, will deliver a smoother, lighter and cleaner brew. The addition of a paper filter and the relatively shorter extraction time are responsible for this.
On the flip side, the paper filter that gives you lighter and cleaner coffee in pour-over also holds back the flavorful mineral oils.
Which One is Right for You?
It is hard to tell anyone which one between the two is right for them as it will always boil down to personal preferences. And this is more so given that both are quite affordable manual coffee makers.
Despite there not being a definitive answer as to which one is the best for you, a French press will be more ideal for anyone that wants full-bodied, stronger and bolder coffee. If you prefer lighter, cleaner and smoother coffee with fruity flavors, go for a pour-over.
However, a wise idea for a true coffee aficionado is to have both coffee makers so as to get the best of both worlds since these are inexpensive coffee makers.