AeroPress vs. French Press
For any aspiring home barista just heading into the vast world of coffee understanding the differences between the AeroPress and the French Press can leave you scratching your head. Sure on paper, these two look like they work in the same way; you add your ground coffee, then some water, wait a bit and then finally push the plunger down.
But, that’s where the similarities stop, these coffee makers actually brew two completely different tasting cups of coffee. The French Press uses a full coffee immersion (the coffee sits, soaks and steeps) and no paper filters. Whereas the AeroPress relies on pressure to push water through the coffee grounds and the paper filter (and some immersion depending on how long you want to let your coffee steep before you plunge).
So they may sound like very similar coffee makers from the outset but believe me, the end result is completely different. Intrigued? Keep on reading and find out what's makes these coffee brewers SO different.
Total brew time: 4 minutes (+/-)
The French Press is the granddaddy of coffee brewing. This tried and true method of brewing coffee has been around for centuries in one version or another. Brewing coffee using a French Press is super easy, you have a cylindrical body (usually glass, though stainless steel is also common) where coarse ground coffee is added, a metal mesh plunger is used to push the coffee to the bottom, you’re left with coffee minus the grounds which can then be served.
Even though the French Press is very easy to use you don’t have any options to tweak various variables to change the taste of the final brew.
The AeroPress is the new kid on the block, even though it’s relatively new compared to the French Press it has managed to build up a loyal fan base with coffee geeks (and bearded hipsters).
The AeroPress works very much like an espresso machine and relies on a combination of pressure and hot water to squeeze out and extract as much flavor as it can from your ground coffee beans. When compared to the French Press the AeroPress has a much shorter brew time of around 30 to 90 seconds. The AeroPress typically uses a paper filter (although metal aftermarket filters are available) so you won’t find the bitter oils and chemicals in AeroPress coffee that you can usually find in French Press coffee.
With the AeroPress you can use the standard brewing technique as described in the supplied instructions or you can use the inverted method which is a fan favorite with AeroPress lovers.
Capacity Of The AeroPress vs. French Press
Just by looking at the French Press you can see that it's been made with sharing in mind (you’ll get more coffee out of a French Press versus the AeroPress). A standard 1-liter French Press will brew enough coffee for a handful of people, and you shouldn’t have any problems getting 8 cups out of it.
The AeroPress, on the other hand, is a “one-man band” it’s only going to give you enough coffee for a single cup. However, at a stretch, you could add extra water to your AeroPress shot and turn it into an Americano and share with another person, but I wouldn’t recommend it!
The AeroPress is going to give you a lot more options, for example, with the AeroPress you can use the extracted espresso “like” coffee as a foundation for a Latte, Americano, or Cappuccino. On the other hand, the French Press is very limited; you’re going to get an Americano style coffee which you can then add milk or creamer to as per your liking. The French Press does also give you the option the brew fresh Tea.
Filtered Or Unfiltered
The AeroPress uses paper filters (by default), and you get a pack of 350 with your initial purchase. The paper filters are going to allow you to filter out a lot more of the coffee oils and sediment which in turn is going to give you a much “cleaner” cup of coffee. You also have the option to buy additional aftermarket metal filters with varying hole sizes from fine to super fine and even gold AeroPress filters.
With the French Press, you don’t use a filter the French Press comes with a mesh type filter which is used to push the coffee to the bottom of the pot. That being said you can sometimes find French Press paper filters that you can use to filter out the coffee oils and sediment if you prefer a cleaner cup.
Portability And Traveling
For portability, the AeroPress wins hands-down. Why? The AeroPress is plastic compared to the French Press which tends to be made from glass (would you like to travel with glass in your luggage? Nope, didn’t think so).
The AeroPress is also relatively small, very lightweight, and compact plus you can even place a small Burr hand grinder into the center of the AeroPress which makes for a perfect travel companion.
The French Press isn’t suited for traveling, but with that being said you can find a few gems like this Bodum Travel Press.
Plastic Or Glass?
The AeroPress comes in BPA free industrial strength plastic that is both durable and lightweight. It won't melt, and it can be thrown into your dishwasher once you're done. The French Press is typically made from durable and heat-resistant borosilicate glass; however, manufacturers are now marketing stainless steel and even ceramic coffee pots. The French Press has more options to suit your kitchen decor.
Bang For Your Buck!
Let’s be honest, for most of you reading this the cost of the AeroPress over the French Press is going to be a deciding factor on which one you buy. The price of a French Press varies but with that being said you can expect to buy a good French Press for around $15 but the better French Presses can demand a price of $100 or more. So no matter what your budget is there should be a French Press that meets your needs.
The AeroPress is priced pretty much the same wherever you shop and is typically locked in at around $30. With that, you get the AeroPress, a starter pack of paper filters and a few other tools. You can also invest in a reusable metal AeroPress filter
If you want to know more about that type of filter check out my article Standard Paper vs. the AeroPress Metal Filter where I go into more details regarding the difference between the two.
Which Is Easier To Use?
The AeroPress once mastered makes a more superior cup of coffee in my opinion, and the learning curve is relativity small. The French Press is perfect for those of you wanting to move away from automatic coffee makers and wanting to get your “feet wet” in the world of manual coffee brewing.
When cleaning expect a bit more work with the French Press, and you’ll also find that the coffee grounds tend to get stuck in the mesh filter, expect a 2 to 3 minute clean time.
The AeroPress is super-easy to clean, just unscrew the filter cap and push the plunger to “shoot” the coffee grounds in the garbage, it takes 2-seconds.
Both the AeroPress and the French Press are going to take a bit of practice, however, for the home barista newbie, the French Press might be a bit easier to master and get a more consistent brew. You need to remember that both of these coffee brewers are not “push button” machines and they do require for you to have the right coffee grind size as well as proper extraction times, both of which can affect the taste of your final brew.
Brewing a great tasting cup of coffee using the French Press can take some experimentation with the amount of coffee and the amount of brew time to get the strength and taste you’d like. Also, the fine metal mesh plunger of the press often leaves a fine silt in your cup, usually along with a few unwanted coffee grinds.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the AeroPress works on roughly the same principle as an espresso machine, so It’s not much of a surprise that it delivers a finished product that tastes much closer to an espresso shot than to drip brewed coffee. The AeroPress produces a highly concentrated shot of coffee that you can drink as-is, with the addition of a paper (or metal) filter you also eliminate any stray coffee grinds. Using a filter also allows for a smoother and a bit more even-tempered taste versus the French Press.
The Verdict: Which Is Better?
If you prefer a robust cup of coffee that is easy to make the French Press is probably going to be a good option for you. The French Press doesn’t require paper filters, so it produces less waste and it easier on your wallet.
You have more design options with the French Press, and you can choose between glass, stainless steel, and even ceramic (here are some of the best). The AeroPress is only available in plastic but makes up for the lack of options with its portability.
When comparing the AeroPress vs. the French Press, I have to say that I love using my AeroPress. I typically use my French Press first thing in the morning so that I can share the coffee with my wife, in the afternoon or evening I will use my AeroPress for a single serving.
Which one is the best option for you really depends on your requirements, remember the AeroPress is going to allow you to make the base for various coffee drinks but there will be only enough coffee for one. The French Press is perfect when there are a few of you wanting to share coffee you’ll have no problem brewing enough for eight.