When looking for a great way to brew coffee you're going to bump into French presses, and drip filters as well. I own a drip filter, and am very much in love with it.
If you're searching the internet to figure out which one is for you, you're going to want a very thorough comparison between the two. This is going to be a longer read.
What are the main differences between a drip filter, and a French press ? And which should you choose ? Let's help you out, and start with number one...
1. A French press is better for light roasts
When making your coffee, everything matters. Grind size, roast, water temperature, steeping time, etc.
A light roast, if you're into that, will shine beautifully in a French press coffee. Any roast level will benefit from this kind of brewing method, actually.
The thing is that a French press actually steeps the coffee for several minutes, and then you decide how long you want to leave it. There's also the fact that you are in complete control of the water temperature, so you can use non-boiling water.
For comparison, a drip filter cannot use anything other than near-boiling water, since the water will only travel up to the coffee grounds in that manner.
So, if you were to add a light roast to a drip filter, you'd miss out on some of the qualities of a light roast. Plus the paper filter would catch many of the beautiful coffee oils.
It would still come out tasty, but a bit muted and possibly scalded, depending on how sensitive the coffee is.
A French press, since you can control absolutely everything, will give you a great cup of light roast. It will give you a great cup of dark roast as well, if you're into that.
It's a lot like making tea, in that delicate brews are always going to need a lot of attention to temperature and steeping time. And a french press is pretty much the best tool for delicate brews.
Winner: French press, for being so versatile, flexible, and gentle with any kind of coffee out there.
2. Drip filters are semi-automated, thus convenient
This is something I find is absolutely beautiful about the drip filters, is that they're semi-automated. Some of them are even programmable to turn on on their own at a set time.
This means you can wake up to fresh, hot coffee without lifting a finger (in the morning). You have to prep it in the evening, and set the timer, but there's nothing more convenient than that.
There is also the fact that even if your particular drip filter doesn't go off on its own (mine doesn't), you can just flick the switch and and go about your morning routine.
Even after the coffee's done, it will sit there patiently on the hot plate, waiting for you. I do not recommend actually using that function, since the coffee can turn odd after more than an hour left on the heating plate.
So it's a fuss-free, simple, and quick method of making coffee. As long as your machine has fresh water in it, a filter, and a round of ground coffee, you can turn it on and do something else until it's done.
Read Also: All About The Flat White
French press requires your attention at (almost) all times. The water must be boiled before-hand, and once you add the ground coffee and water and plunger, you're going to wait for it and decide when it's done.
This can be tricky, since it depends on the water temperature, the kind of coffee you've got, and your preferred coffee strength. It'll probably take you a few tries, but mastering the French press isn't too complicated.
As long as you've got the patience to notice every detail of the brewing process in the first few tries until you figure out your preferred combination, you'll do just fine with the French press.
But if you're in a rush in the morning, which most of us are, the French press can be a bit much. It's more of an afternoon coffee thing, where you sit down to relax.
Winner: Drip-filter machines, for being so, so convenient in the morning when you have so many other things to do before rushing out the door.
3. French press coffee is more concentrated and generally tastes better
If you're a coffee lover for the taste and texture, the various nuances and notes found in every coffee out there, then the French press is more your style.
The way the French press works allows the brew to be one of the most flavorful ones, right up there with the Turkish style coffee.
Your coffee's going to be very well steeped, or at least just the way you like it. The water temperature is up to you, which means you can work with lower temperatures if you like, and leave it to steep for longer if you've got a more delicate coffee.
You'll also get the slightest bit of sediments, which will only add to the body of the coffee. You're meant to use coarse ground coffee, but some sediments and very fine coffee dust will still go through the filer.
The coffee oils will come out as well, and your ensuing cup of coffee is going to be very well made.
You're getting body, essential oils, all the notes in the coffee bean, and juuuuust a bit of thickness. I think that's an amazing cup of coffee on its own, and would be beautiful as a black coffee.
As for the drip filter, this level of detail won't be present in your cup. This can be both good and bad, depending on what you're after.
The paper filter (or any filter) you use for the drip filter will catch any and all sediments and coffee oils, resulting in a very clean cup of coffee.
If you were to look through your coffee pot (I do, when I switch coffee brands) with a fresh brew, you'll notice only the deep red and amber tones of your coffee, but no sediments at all.
This also means your coffee can taste a bit bland or weak. Before using a drip filter I used to make my coffee Turskish style, and was used tot he kind of taste.
When I used the same coffee for my drip filter, I realized I had to change the coffee since it came out significantly weaker.
Don't underestimate the sediments or shy away from them. They add more flavor to the final brew.
Winner: French press, if you're very much into flavor, notes, and texture.
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4. Drip filters allow no control over water temperature or steeping time
When making the coffee, the water temperature matters a lot, no matter the roast types. Now, not every drip filter brings coffee to the boiling point, since they're made to offer good coffee.
Still, for some coffee roast types (the lighter ones) a drip filter won't be that great.
This isn't an issue if you're using a medium-dark or dark roast. Those aren't going to be too much affected by water that's too hot.
And most people use medium or medium-dark roasts.
As for the steeping time, this is something that you can't really control. From the moment the hot water comes into contact with your coffee grounds, it will trickle down to the nub and drip into the coffee pot.
This happens as fast as gravity allows, which is still a bit fast when we look at how long the elements in coffee need in order to be fully released.
You can slow down this process by not setting the coffee pot under the filter nub. This means it won't push the nub out, so it can't drip into the cup.
You're essentially forcing the filter to steep the coffee for longer.
But this is not a good idea. The anti-drip system isn't fail-proof, and it only works so far. IF you look at your drip filter, you'll notice the coffee basket is smaller than the coffee pot itself.
In that coffee basket there's coffee grinds and the water that's coming through, and you risk the basket overflowing if you abuse the anti-drip system.
It comes in handy, if you ever forget to set the pot under the filter nub sometimes ( I did once), but leave it without a pot for too long and everything will spill over.
A French press will give you control over everything. Absolutely everything. The water temperature can be as low as 80 c/176 F if you like, and you can brew your light-medium roast to your heart's content.
And it's you who decides when the coffee is done, not the press. Which means you can steep it for 10 minutes if you like, though I see no point in that.
Winner: French press, for being control-freak friendly.
5. French presses are a bit harder to clean thoroughly
Another aspect you'll need to think of when getting yourself a new coffee maker is: how easy is it to clean ?
Here the French press isn't a favorite, I must say.
You see, the metal filter that separates the coffee grounds from the coffee brew is very, very hard to clean. Even if you get a model that has a fairly simple filter mesh, there's the coffee oil to take into account.
There are nooks and crannies the oils will seep into, and you can't really get to them with a dish sponge, or sometimes not even with a brush.
If you can't clean the filter very well, the buildup will accumulate in time and it'll lend a rancid taste to the freshly brewed coffee. So, cleanliness is a bit of an issue with French presses.
There's also the fact that A french press is a bit delicate, being made of glass. Dropping it would mean you have to replace the whole thing entirely, and even a small crack can ruin it.
The same can happen to the coffee pot from a drip filter, I know because I broke one myself. But replacing the coffee pot is easy and cheap enough, and you've still got the rest of the machine.
A drip filter isn't a beauty to clean either, but it's more convenient to just remove the coffee basket and coffee pot and give those a thorough scrub.
And since the coffee oils remain in the paper filters (for the most part), there will be very little residue inside the coffee basket.
You can always run a rinse with fresh water and lemon juice, and your drip-filter's going to be just fine.
Winner: Drip-filter, for being so convenient and much easier to clean.
6. Drip filters offer more cups of coffee per brew
If you've gt a large family and everyone needs their coffee in the morning, then a drip filter's going to save you.
These machines can brew up to 12 cups per cycle, so you've got everyone covered.
This is also very handy if you've for a lot of guests coming over, and need to serve coffee for everyone at a time.
For me this has been a blessing, since I grew up with an espresso machine and don't wanna hear about multiple espressos at a time.
Every time guests came over (we often ended up being more than 10 people) I was in charge of making the coffee.
All espressos, back to back, complete with cleaning the coffee basket, adding fresh water and coffee grounds, and being fast about it.
A drip filter is a host's best friend, especially if people come over in large numbers.
As for the French press, it can brew 2-6 cups, depending on the size you get. They're usually on the smaller side, since they're meant to be more of a quality-over-quantity kind of product.
Plus carrying around a large glass pitcher, made of thin glass, is fairly dangerous and often results in accidents.
Winner: Drip-filter machines, for brewing in large batches and being way easier to deal with.
7. French press coffee needs coarse grounds
When you buy pre-ground coffee, this means you're relying on the coffee brand to do a good job. And it also means that some coffee types won't be available in some grind sizes.
Which coffee makes you get can be influences by this. For example I buy my coffee pre-ground from brands I trust and I've known them for years.
Finding coarsely ground coffee is a bit of a task, if you're just looking in the supermarket. But if you were to go to a specialty shop, and there are so many nowadays, you can even ask them to grind the coffee there for you.
So, I think it depends on your willingness to look for a certain type of grind.
If you're a more comfortable type of person, you'll probably opt for a drip filter, since many brands offer medium or small-medium ground coffee.
And if you'd rather go to any length for a great cup of coffee, then finding coarse ground coffee will be worth the time and effort.
Of course, you can always just buy a coffee grinder for your home, and grind your own coffee. In that case, you're faced with another possible problem.
Not all coffee types also come in bean form. For example your favorite coffee from the supermarket might not be available as a whole bean, and you'll have to look for it somewhere else.
This can be good, since you'll have to find new and exciting coffee beans, and possibly find one that's even better than what you're currently drinking.
Again, this is all up to you.
As for why they require different sizes of ground coffee, the drip-filter needs medium size coffee because of the amount of time water spends in contact with the coffee.
The smaller the grind, the faster the extraction, like with espresso. This can sometimes result in overextraction, and a medium-sized grind will mean that the dripping water will extract as much as it needs.
Conversely, the larger the grind, the slower the extraction. This means that you're getting more pronounced notes in your coffee, making the overall flavor much more pronounced.
This is the case for French press coffee, and it's a much tastier brew than an espresso.
This is because the large coffee grinds will take their time releasing their caffeine and flavor, and their size also means they'll be trapped by the filter.
When you press on the plunger, the coffee grinds will remain at the bottom. If you were to use a smaller grind, they'd float through the filter.
Winner: Drip-filter for convenience since most coffee brands offer pre-ground medium-sized coffee.
8. Drip filters require no special skills, are easy to use
Drip filters are very easy to use, in that getting things right doesn't require much skill on your part.
As long as you respect the instructions given from the manufacturer, and take that as a baseline, you're good. You can always change the water to coffee ratio, until you find the one that's perfect for you.
All you need to know for drip-filter coffee is how to add water into the reservoir, add the paper filter, add coffee, and set the coffee pot. Switch it on, and you're done.
French press requires more skill, in that you'll need to know when to stop brewing. This is something that you;ll learn how to do by using a timer at first, and learning all the signs associated with the coffee bring done.
Like noticing when the grinds sink to the bottom, and how the color changes, even the smell itself.
It takes a bit of practice. But you'll soon learn to master how fast (and when) to press the plunge, the perfect water to coffee ratio, and what to expect from your French press.
Winner: Drip-filter, since it requires nearly zero skill and can be operated by pretty much anyone.
Which coffee maker you choose is going to be up to you, and your preferences alone.
From this comparison the drip filter came out as the winner, for its ease of use, convenience, ability to brew multiple cups at a time, and just being overall easier to work with.
If you've a very comfy person and would like very little hassle when making your morning coffee, then I think you'll get along with the drip-filter just great.
However the French press has its merits, and for some people might actually be the better choice.
If you don't mind overseeing every detail of the brewing process, nay, if you actually like it, then the French press would be better for you. The quality of a cup of French pres coffee is undeniable, and surpasses any drip-filter coffee.
It's much more flavorful, full-bodied, and it'll showcase every note in your cup of coffee.
I own a drip-filter, yes, and it's my go-to in the morning. Sometimes in the afternoon as well, if I'm in a rush or feeling extra lazy.
I've also had French press coffee and it's a beauty, and definitely something on my wish list. I currently don't own one, as I'm a bit cramped in my kitchen and having 3 coffee makers (I also have 2 Turkish ibrics) would be overkill.
How to make a cup of French press coffee
Alright, let's go through a short training and see how to make each of these coffees, so you can better compare the two.
For a French press you'll need only pre-heated water, and ground coffee. Do not add boiling water, keep it under boiling.
The French press is just a large glass beaker, with a handle and tiny feet for ease of use. On the top it's got a lid, and through the lid comes a rod, with a filter on the bottom, on the inside of the beaker.
It looks a lot like an over-sized syringe, without the needle.
So, in the clean French press you add the ground coffee, as much as you like. Add a bit of hot water, just enough to let the coffee bloom. It will bubble up a bit and make a bit of foam on the top. That's normal.
Then, add the rest of the hot water, and add the plunger and top. Let it sit for several minutes. I recommend going with 4 minutes at first, and then doing more or less the next time, according to how you'll like this batch.
Once the time is up, you can slowly but firmly push down on the nub on the top of the plunger. The plunger will offer some resistance, and you're not meant to do this fast.
Doing it too fast can clog the press, and disturb the sunken grinds. Lower the plunger slowly to keep things nice and separated.
Once the plunger is down, you can serve the coffee.
If you're also looking for a recommendation for a French press, you can check out this one.
It's got a large capacity: 1 full liter/34 fl oz of coffee, and I think you'll be able to make everyone happy with this one.
It's very well made, and it's going to stand up to frequent use.
The handle and surrounding material are plastic, easy to clean, and he entire thing is dishwasher-safe.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
How to make a cup of drip filter coffee
Drip filter coffee is easy enough to make.
The way the machine works is that water gets heated by a heating element, which is usually found under the heating plate on which the coffee pot sits.
Once the water's hot enough, which is near-boiling, it will travel up a tube that's going to disperse it evenly all over the coffee ground, in the coffee basket.
Once the water reaches the bottom of the basket, it will drip through the open filter nub, and into the coffee pot waiting below.
So let's see about making a cup of filter coffee.
In the water reservoir you need to add as much fresh water as you need. I recommend only adding water when you need it, and not letting it sit for a few days there.
So add as much fresh water as you need, and close the lid.
Open the coffee basket, and add the paper filter. If you want to use the filter some of these machines come with, be my guest. Just make sure there is a filter there.
Add the ground coffee according to your liking, and close the coffee basket. When you do, make sure the paper filter isn't folding over itself, it can sometimes do that and your coffee ends up weak.
Add the clean, empty coffee pot under the coffee basket, or where the filter nub is.
Turn on the machine and wait for it to be done.
You'll know it's done when it starts to sputter a bit (mine is fairly loud) and you hear no more water being brought over the coffee grounds.
Turn the machine off, and allow it another minute to make sure all the coffee has dripped into the pot.
If you're looking for a drip-filter recommendation, I recommend this one.
It can also brew your coffee single serve if you want, and you can even fit a travel mug in the single serve spot.
It's fully programmable, which means you can wake up to fresh, hot coffee without lifting a finger. I don't know about you but that's comfort right there.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
When choosing your coffee maker there's a lot to take into account. I know this can be very daunting at first, but a thorough comparison will benefit you in the long run.
I hope I managed to help you pick out the best possible coffee maker for your preferences, and you'll be happy with your choice.
If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?