Coffee is the drink of choice for millions of people all around the world. The simple act of making a cup of liquid caffeine in the early morning hours helps countless individuals get a jump start on their busy daily lives, but how is everyone making all of this coffee?
In today’s comparison, we’re going to take a look at two of the most common brewing methods around, with the hope that we can help you decide which the better choice for you is.
After all, the question of whether to use a French Press or a drip coffee maker is not just about the equipment, but the person using it. Are you after speed and convenience above all else, or is taste your main motivator? Maybe all of the above? Let’s dive in.
French Press VS Drip Comparison
Variety of Brews
Nowadays, there’s quite literally a coffee bean out there for everyone. This staggering array of different flavors begs the question; is one of these brewing methods better than the other when it comes to versatility?
The answer? Not really. In short, both the drip and the French Press are compatible with just about any type of coffee you throw at them. What really matters is the consistency of the grind you use for each of them; this is where the main differences can be found. A French Press is going to need a coarse grind, while a drip machine is meant for a finer granule size.
In either situation, most avid coffee drinkers prefer to grind their own beans instead of using the pre-ground variety. This allows for a much higher degree of control over the finished product and even allows you to use both the French Press and a drip machine interchangeably, depending on what you need on a given day.
It’s tough to say that there’s a winner here at all. Just about any type of coffee bean can be used in both a French press and a standard drip coffee maker, so both are going to be on equal footing when it comes to allowing you to use your favorite.
Necessary Brewing Skills
This is where things get a bit more interesting. Though neither method is particularly difficult, it is pretty much agreed upon that there is a much larger margin for error when using a French Press than there is with a drip machine.
This is partly due to the fact that using a press means having the freedom to determine things like brewing time, water temperature, plunge rate, and grind consistency.
With a drip machine, all of this is done for you, for the most part. You simply need to put water into the machine, load your grinds, and turn it on.
Basically, it’s really hard to screw that up, whereas, with a French Press, you could end up with a less-than-stellar cup of joe more easily than you might think.
The other side of this, of course, is that with enough time and patience, you can get much more creative with a pres.. Having the ability to customize so many different aspects of your brew means that you’re bound to discover the exact way you like yours the best. Once this happens, you may even find it difficult to go back.
Are you someone who craves control? If so, the French press has your number. In terms of sheer simplicity, however, the humble drip machine is undefeated. After all, there’s a reason these little miracle workers have absolutely exploded in popularity over the last several decades.
Coffee is enjoyed at many different times of the day, but perhaps the most important cup from a utilitarian standpoint is that first one, the one made through groggy eyes by stiff limbs. If you’re just trying to get up and get going, which brewing method gets you out the door the quickest?
The good news here is that this race is very, very close one. On average, it should take you anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes to brew coffee using a French Press. With a drip coffee machine, you’ll probably be looking at anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending highly upon which specific model you opt for.
In addition, it’s important to note that the process behind both options varies a bit as well. The French press sees you boiling water yourself, usually over the stove, which takes a small amount of added effort. Even though it takes slightly longer on average, some may enjoy the “set it and forget it” nature of the drip machine enough to give it the edge.
Ultimately, this comes down to how much time you have on your hands, and how involved you want the process to be. For our money, the French Press will usually get coffee into your system the fastest, and that’s what this is all about.
Capacity & Sustainability
Alright, we’ve established that the French Press is usually the fastest method out of the two, but which one can make the most goodness per batch (and how long can it keep it good for?) Both presses and drip machines come in a wide variety of sizes, but each tends to max out at around 10 cups per brew. So, without a clear winner there, which one can keep the coffee hot the longest?
This is where the drip coffee maker has the clearest advantage over its more manual cousin. Most of these devices have hot plates at their base, allowing them to keep the goods warmer for much longer than the alternative. Keep in mind, however, that the longer your finished product is sitting out after brewing is done, the worse off it’ll be. Fresh coffee is the best coffee.
On another note, if you’re someone who would have an IV line put into your arm if it could pump coffee through your veins all day long, the drip machine may have another advantage; it can keep the caffeine flowing all throughout the day without having to manually extract and rinse after each batch.
The drip, for most folks. This is another close one, though (starting to notice a trend?). Both options will brew about the same volume, but the addition of the hot plate gives an automatic coffee maker a slight advantage over doing things by hand. That said, simply keeping coffee warmer for longer doesn’t always guarantee the same great taste, especially if you’re waiting over 15 minutes or so to enjoy it.
And so, we finally arrive. This may be the most important factor of all, but it’s also the most subjective and personal. There a couple quick things to note here. Firstly, what some people consider to be a really good cup of coffee is one that is brimming with bold, exciting flavors. For others, a lighter, more straightforward cup is preferred. So, which are you? Answering that question is key here.
There’s no denying that a French press is going to give you the most control out of the finished product, we’ve covered that already. But, most folks also agree that the coffee that comes out of these glass cylinders is fuller and richer. This largely is due to the fact that presses preserve much of the natural oils found in the beans themselves.
Drip machines, on the other hand, tend to filter these out, leaving the coffee tasting a bit “weak” in the eyes of many self-proclaimed aficionados.
When it comes down to taste, yours is the only opinion that counts for anything here. If you just want a lighter coffee taste, and you want it hassle-free, a drip machine is going to be ideal.
If you’re someone who is looking for the exceptional smells, tastes, and experiences that come alongside a meticulously crafted cuppa, though, only a French Press will truly deliver. Since you may be able to guess that we’re sort of big on “coffee as an experience” around here, our vote goes to the press.
Summary of Findings
- Lower initial expense
- More control over the finished product
Drip Coffee Machine
- More convenient for many
- Keeps coffee warmer for longer
Overall, we find it incredibly difficult to declare a “winner,” overall. Both brewing methods have their merits, and to be perfectly honest, this writer’s French Press is situated directly next to his drip machine.
Both have their place in a true coffee arsenal, but neither are required. Which one works best for you is a question that can only be answered by determining exactly how much time and energy you want to dedicate to the craft (if any), and how you want the finished product to taste.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.