French press and drip coffee both introduce water to ground coffee beans to produce a drink loved by millions around the world. Despite their similarities, though, the two processes produce quite different results. One produces a stronger brew while the other tends to offer an automated process and a drink that keeps warm for an hour or more. The French press vs drip coffee debate will likely continue for generations of coffee makers to come, and the best method of brewing is dictated by your personal preferences, but if you’re unsure which is better for your morning coffee, read on.
What Is a French Press?
The French press is also known as the coffee plunger or cafetiere. Despite its name, though, the French press is Italian in origin and in the nearly 100 years since its introduction, it has become a popular addition to cupboards, hotels, restaurants, and dining tables. It is incredibly simple in design, consisting of a glass beaker and a plunger that includes a wire mesh filter.
Put coarse grounds in the bottom of the carafe and add hot water. Stir the grounds a little to separate any lumps, and then put the lid on and allow the grounds to steep for between five and seven minutes. When it reaches your preferred strength, slowly push the plunger down. The grounds are pushed to the bottom of the carafe and are kept out of your drink, thanks to the combination of fine wire mesh and coarse grounds.
Using a press is relatively easy, but it takes work to master the process. Grind your own beans to ensure you get the right coarseness of grounds, and that you leave it to steep for the appropriate amount of time.
What Is A Drip Coffee Maker?
While the French press requires a very manual process, the drip coffee maker offers a more automated experience. You can make up to 12 cups of coffee and it will keep the coffee warm, usually for up to an hour. You will find the drip coffee maker in offices and other workplaces, in homes, and in restaurants.
Place a paper filter in the machine, add medium grounds to the machine, and fill the water tank. As the machine heats, bubbles of water are dispersed onto the grounds and the hot water passes over them, and the prepared coffee passes down into the carafe. The carafe sits on a hotplate, which serves to keep the coffee warm.
The cafetiere is a mechanical device and requires a mechanical process. You control everything from the temperature of the water to the amount of grounds you use and the time you leave the coffee to steep. Some people love this level of involvement, and it can be extremely rewarding. It also enables you to determine the strength and other elements of the brew.
The drip coffee maker is more automated. You do still need to add the coffee grounds, filter, and cold water yourself. But, once you press the button to start the brewing, the process is out of your hands.
The drip maker is easier to use and takes less preparation time. If you don’t enjoy the preparation and just want a good tasting coffee, the drip wins it.
Theoretically, there are French press and drip machines with roughly the same capacity. Both have single cup versions, and both have models that can make around a dozen cups. So, this round of French press vs drip should be a draw, right?
Not really. If you have 10 people sat around the table, then there is no way of choosing between the two. They can both make 10 cups.
However, the drip coffee maker has a hot plate that will keep coffee warm for up to an hour. Some may keep the coffee warm for longer, but it will start to taste stewed. No amount of cafetiere jackets will keep the liquid hot in the carafe for that long.
So, while they can both produce the same amount of coffee, the drip coffee maker is better, in terms of the volume of coffee brewed.
There is no winner here, but the two brewing methods do have different requirements for the grind coarseness. The wire mesh of the French press has quite large holes, which means that you need a coarse grind. The drip coffee maker takes medium ground coffee. In both cases, getting the wrong coarseness can lead to poor tasting or grit-filled coffee.
Time to Brew
When it comes to brew time, the French press takes between 5 and 7 minutes from water to plunge. The drip coffee machine takes a little bit longer. The machine has to warm up and then slowly pass water through the coffee. You should expect the drip machine to take around 10 minutes from button to brew.
The difference is minimal, but it can make a big difference, especially if you’re in a rush in the morning. However, the automatic nature of the drip machine means that you can hit the button and then get dressed while the machine does the rest. You can’t set and forget a French press, or you’ll have cold, stewed coffee.
The cost of both machines can vary wildly but expect to pay anywhere from around $10 to $40 for a French press.
Drip coffee makers are available for between $30 for a standard machine with limited volume to $150 for a more advanced machine with 12 cup volume.
You will also have to pay for paper filters for the drip machine, although the cost of these is negligible, especially if you buy in bulk.
The French press is the clear winner, here, because it is a simple device with minimal parts.
The French press is entirely mechanical in its operation. While it is possible that the plunger and mesh can rust or become damaged, it is far more likely that the electrical components in a drip machine will wear out or become damaged. With that said, there aren’t too many parts to become damaged in a drip coffee maker.
Convenience, cost, and reliability are important factors when choosing a coffee making method. But, taste and quality of the finished brew is the most important factor.
The French press gives you total control over everything. Initially, this can give mixed results, while you master the technique. Eventually, though, you will be making the best tasting coffee. The press allows you to extract all the flavor from the beans, too. It gives a well-rounded flavor that hits all the right coffee notes. A lot of coffee lovers swear that the French press produces the best tasting coffee.
Some coffee drinkers love the taste of drip coffee, and that’s fine, too. But the paper filters remove a lot of the oil from the coffee, which means that you don’t get the secondary flavors and the subtle undertones that are present in the coffee bean. You get coffee. The result is a coffee that can taste a bit watery: lacking in full-bodied flavor. Also, while the drop coffee keeps coffee warm on the hotplate, it will get increasingly bitter the longer you leave it.
French Press Vs Drip – The Winner
In the battle of French press vs drip coffee maker, the French press is the cheaper option. It gives a better and more rounded flavor. It has fewer parts to break down, too. The drip coffee machine requires less effort because it is automated, and it can keep your coffee warm, too. For a good cup of coffee, with all the right flavors, though, the French press is the winner.
There are many other types of coffee makers available, but the French press and drip coffee maker are two of the most popular.