Every now and then I run into a debate over which brews the best tasting coffee, the French Press or the Drip coffee maker? Naturally, everyone has a favorite, and this heated debate will more than likely continue for decades.
However, understanding that there will never be a clear winner to this age-old coffee conundrum, in this detailed article I have decided to highlight the pros and cons of both the French Press and the drip coffee maker so that you can decide for yourself.
French Press or Drip Machine?
Both of the coffee brewing devices are useful in their own way and choosing which is the best can be pinpointed by the type of person you are, your lifestyle, and how you like your coffee to taste.
Let’s take a closer look.
The Humble French Press
First off let us take a look at the French Press. This popular coffee brewer goes by many names – off the top of my head some of the common ones are the press pot, coffee plunger, cafetière à piston cafetière, and the coffee press.
Fundamentally the French Press is very simple, and some would argue that it’s the underdog in this comparison.
A glass or metal cylindrical carafe is filled with coarsely ground coffee, you pour in some hot water (30 seconds off the boil), stir the coffee grounds the ensure all make contact with the water, place on the lid and plunger, wait the allotted steeping time, and then slowly push down on the plunger forcing the coffee grounds to the bottom and filter great tasting coffee to the top.
Sounds simple, right?
In theory, it is pretty straightforward. However, there is a knack for getting it just right. Take a look at this article for the complete French Press brewing guide. It will take you from a novice to a pro with easy-to-follow instructions.
The Automatic Drip Coffee Machine
On paper, you could be fooled into thinking that the automatic Drip coffee maker is the clear winner in this showdown. After all, you simply place in a paper filter then add your medium ground coffee that’s readily available on supermarkets shelves, add room temperature water to the reservoir, and flick a switch. Once you’ve pressed the brew button, it really is a hands-off process.
The automated drip coffee is basically a modern take on the manual brewing methods of yesteryear. It was brought into the modern era by utilizing electricity to reinvent the manual brewer to what we now know today – “an automatic drip system.”
Today, you can have over 12 cups of piping hot coffee in under 10 minutes all by simply flicking a switch.
How Many Cups can you Brew?
One of the key differences between the French Press and the Drip coffee maker is the number of cups you can brew at one time.
The French Press is the clear loser here allowing you to brew up to 4 cups of coffee on average; although, you can find a press pot if you look hard enough that can brew up to eight cups.
On the other hand, the Drip machine on average can churn out 12 cups of coffee effortlessly in just one brew cycle. So it’s clear to see that one of the significant advantages of using drip coffee makers is their brewing capacity when compared to a French Press.
If you often brew coffee in the office or like to have friends round to share the capacity is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing one coffee maker over the other.
One big issue with the French Press if you’re brewing a large amount of coffee is bitterness.
The longer the coffee is sat steeping in the French Press, the more bitter it will become. Obviously, this won’t be a concern if you’re drinking the coffee straight away, but if you’re on your own I doubt you could finish a full pot of French Press coffee by yourself?
The only way to get around this is to pour all of the coffee from your Press into a thermal flask, thus, separating the coffee grounds and in essence stopping the steeping process.
With drip coffee makers, this isn’t an issue, and you can have a full glass or thermal carafe of coffee kept warm on a built-in hot plate for hours (if needed, and in most cases not recommended).
Remember, with a Drip coffee machine, you’ll get to spend more time chatting and less time making extra cups of coffee than you would have if you were to babysit the French Press.
A Bit on the Coffee Beans and the Grind
If you’ve spent any amount of time reading through this coffee blog you should already know the importance of coffee bean selection and grinding your whole beans versus buying ready-ground coffee from a supermarket. To find out more about grinding your coffee.
There is a crucial difference between the Press and the Drip when it comes to the grind of your coffee, and getting this wrong could spell disaster, especially in the French Press!
The French Press requires a coarser grind, whereas the Drip machine needs a medium grind.
The French Press requires a coarse coffee grind, and there’s a reason for that – stopping the grounds passing through the mesh filter when you push down and also steeping your coffee with a coarser grind allows for a more flavorful brew.
The coarser grind allows the extraction of flavor-producing compounds to happen more quickly. Because there is more surface area, the soluble compounds are extracted rapidly from the ground coffee into the water.
If you opt for a medium grind, which is preferred in the drip machine, you could wind up with a cup full of sludge and bitter-tasting coffee grounds.
Total Brew Time
If you need your caffeine fix quickly to turn you from a blurry-eyed zombie to a fully functioning human being, the time it takes to brew your coffee will be crucial and could be a deal-breaker when deciding between the Drip coffee maker and the French Press.
Here’s what you need to know.
Typically brewing coffee in the French Press will take around 5 to 8 minutes, this is taking into account a few minutes to boil your water.
On the flip side, a Drip machine will take a little longer at roughly 10 minutes. However, you can find a fast coffee maker that can brew in half the time.
Clean-up time for both brew methods is about the same. The French Press just needs a simple rinse and swish and a more thorough deep clean removing all of the parts at least once a week.
The Drip machine’s coffee pot needs to be washed with soapy water, and a simple filter change plus the machine will need descaling periodically.
French Press or the Drip, Which is the Easiest Use?
I wouldn’t say that either of these coffee brewers is challenging to use, but if I had to choose one that has a slighter more significant learning curve I would have to point my finger at the French Press.
There are a lot of different variables that come into play when using the Press Pot, for example, coffee grind, steeping time, water temperature, and not forgetting the plunge rate, to name just a few; it’s not just as simple as pressing a button.
But that doesn’t really mean it’s harder to use vs. the Drip coffee maker. Once you’ve mastered the French Press, brewing a great-tasting batch of coffee will become second nature.
The Drip coffee machine is more or less “foolproof.” You can use a popular store brought medium grind coffee, load the machine with your ground coffee, fill the reservoir with water, and switch the machine on.
Bingo, you’re all set, the coffee machine will take all of the guesswork out of brewing your coffee. I mean, seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than that.
But, when it comes to flavor, the French Press wins hands down. Sure, it requires a little bit more effort to get there, but the final cup of coffee is definitely worth a little extra preparation.
Which is Coffee Maker is the Most Reliable?
This is easy!
When it comes down to which of the two is the most reliable, there can only be one winner. The French Press, it has no motors, pumps, or other mechanical parts. I suppose the worse thing that could happen to your Press Pot is to accidentally drop it on the floor causing it to shatter into a thousand pieces.
Even if you did manage to break your French Press, they are a lot cheaper to replace than purchasing a new auto-drip coffee machine.
I’m not saying that all drip coffee makers are unreliable. But, with all of the moving parts, pumps, circuit boards, heating elements, and other electronic components, it means there is potentially more that could break or need replacing.
It’s also worth pointing out that the French Press can also be taken with you when you travel — allowing you to ditch the hotel room coffee maker in favor of your French Press. Now try taking your hefty automatic drip coffee maker with you, … yep, I didn’t think so!
Let’s Not Forget About Taste?
Let’s be honest here, the only reason you love coffee is because of the taste, and maybe you also enjoy the caffeine buzz too. But, without a great taste you wouldn’t bother taking the time to nail perfectly each and every brewing variable, would you?
So it only makes sense that the flavor of the finished brew is all-important to you when deciding between the auto-drip coffee maker versus the French Press.
Anyone can use a drip coffee machine, add all of the “ingredients,” press a button, and sit back and wait. Easy peasy, right?
The problem is you have no real opportunity to change the brewing variables, you get what you get, which has more than likely been pre-programmed into the machine by some tech geek in a Chinese warehouse.
There are exceptions like these SCAA certified coffee makers, that is if you’re willing to shell out a fair bit of coinage.
And that brings me over to the French Press, as you have most likely guessed you do have full control over your cup of coffee using this brew method. You can adjust the coffee grind ever so slightly to say a medium coarse rather than a chunky coarse grind, and you can bloom your coffee, play with different water temperatures, and not forgetting adjusting the steeping time.
With a drip machine, although you can still use your preferred coffee grind, almost all of the flavorsome oils are removed from the coffee by the paper coffee filter. This isn’t the case when using the French Press and all of the oils and flavor-producing compounds make it all the way to your cup.
So, for the maximum flavor, the French Press is definitely the winner in this category.
Press Versus Drip is There a Clear Winner?
So what do you think? Is there a clear winner in the French Press vs. an automatic drip coffee machine showdown?
No, not really because at the end of the day, the better coffee brewer is entirely up to you.
Do you want a no-fuss caffeine fix to get you up and out the door? You will most likely prefer the drip coffee machine.
Do you enjoy tweaking the different brewing variables and also want maximum flavor? The French Press is a no-brainer!