The right cup of coffee can make or break your morning. Those first few minutes of quiet where you simply sip and settle into your day can quickly become ruined if your coffee is not up to your standards.
Therefore choosing the right coffee maker can impact your whole day.
Drip coffee has long been the gold standard in coffee brewing, but the French Press has been gaining popularity recently. It seems that coffee drinkers can favor one over the other for various reasons.
So which one is right for you? The good news is that both have their benefits. We will discuss these two popular brewing methods to help you determine which one is best suited to your taste.
French Press or Drip Coffee
While debating which is better, French Press vs Drip coffee, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind.
French Press coffee requires a special glass beaker and top. To get the most out of a French Press you will also want to use the freshest coffee, so whole beans and a grinder are also recommended.
The coffee produced from a French Press is strong and robust. The brewing method leads it to have the natural oils from the coffee detectable and it often has a grittier texture.
Drip coffee is made in a more traditional electric coffee maker and requires coffee filters fitted to the basket size. Drip coffee is less complex in flavor than French Press coffee but tends to be balanced in flavor.
The coffee produced from this method is smooth and can still have the rich feel of more artisanal methods like pour-over and French Press.
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How Are They Made?
French Press coffee does not require electricity. Coffee ground to a medium coarseness is placed at the bottom of a glass beaker.
Using one tablespoon of coffee for every four ounces of water, water just off-boil is poured over the grounds before being mixed together and “brewed”.
The mixture sits for approximately 4 minutes before a plunger is slowly pushed, separating the coffee grounds from the now brewed coffee. The coffee can then be poured directly from the beaker into a coffee cup.
Drip coffee takes a bit longer, but using the machine is surprisingly simple. Using an electric coffee maker, filtered water is poured into a reservoir on the side or back of the machine.
A coffee filter is then placed in the “basket” of a plastic container at the top of the machine. Coffee grounds are placed into the basket and the coffee-making cycle is turned on.
As the cycle progresses, water from the reservoir boils and travels up a tube to the top of the basket where it is distributed evenly over the coffee grounds.
Gravity takes over and the water drips through the grounds, picking up flavor and oils from the coffee as it travels down to a glass pot situated under the basket.
The water, now turned to coffee, drips into the pot, giving this method its illustrative name.
What Are They Made of?
The French Press is a simple coffee maker that encompasses a glass beaker and top with a mesh filter and metal plunger.
While there are various materials used, most French Press brewers also include a plastic or rubber handle to protect your hands from the glass and allow the beverage to be poured.
A drip coffee maker is more complex. Typically the machine has 3 parts, the base which includes the plastic water reservoir, electrical wires, and tubing.
A removable basket, usually made of plastic, houses the coffee filters, and a glass coffee pot sits under the basket, catching the dripping coffee as it emerges.
French Press vs Drip Coffee, How Are They Similar?
While the two methods are very different in how they produce coffee, they share many similarities. Both methods produce a flavorful coffee and both allow the user to alter the flavor of the brew by adjusting the water to coffee ratio.
Depending on the size of the maker, both methods allow for single or multiple cups of coffee to be made. While drip coffee machines are more readily available, you can find both types of brewers at most retail stores.
Price, Size, Brew Time, Taste, Brew Method
- Brew Method: Steeping
- Brew Time: 4 minutes
- Taste: Full, rich, acidic, oily
- Size: 8oz-36oz
- Price: $20-$40
- Brew Method: Dripping
- Brew Time: 5-10 minutes
- Taste: Lighter, smooth, balanced
- Size: 32 oz- 96 oz
- Price: $20-$500
The French Press produces a stronger more acidic coffee than a drip coffee maker mainly due to the different brewing methods.
Coffee made in a drip coffee maker will be milder, but more balanced in flavor. The filter in a drip coffee maker blocks some of the natural coffee oils from making it into the final brew.
Some people prefer this as it produces a more standard cup of coffee. The French Press on the other hand produces a more oily coffee since the mesh strainer does not filter out the natural oil.
French Press makers are ideal for making an individual cup, whereas drip coffee makers are able to produce larger quantities of coffee, making them great for a crowd.
While drip coffee makers do take slightly longer, 5-10 minutes, compared to the French Press makers’ 2-4 minute brew time, they are automated and easy to use.
It is difficult to offer a price comparison as it does depend on the style of the machine, but in general, you can get a decent French Press in the $20-$40 range.
Drip coffee makers also start at around $20 but can be priced as high as $500 depending on extra attachments and capabilities.
How To Drink French Press vs Drip Coffee
The drip coffee maker produces a classic cup of coffee that can be made to your preference. Traditional milk (or milk alternative) and sugar additions are common, but you can also use a few tricks to make your beverage even more special.
You can add a baking spice, such as cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice mix to the basket with the grounds prior to brew to give your coffee a whole new flavor profile.
Coffee house syrups are also now available for purchase online and in many grocery and retail stores. Adding them to the bottom of your cup prior to pouring in your coffee is a fun and flavorful addition.
You can use syrup to make a flavored latte with your drip coffee maker. It will be milder and sweeter than the espresso-based drinks at your local coffee shop. Here’s how:
Drip Vanilla Latte
- 2 tbsp Vanilla Syrup
- 4 oz hot coffee
- 4 oz steamed milk
Add your syrup to the bottom of your coffee mug. Once your drip coffee has brewed add 4 oz while it is very hot over the syrup and stir.
In a milk frother, steam 4 oz of milk. If you don’t have a frother you can heat milk in a saucepan and git it a quick whisk to froth it a bit. Pour your milk over the top of the coffee and syrup, do not stir, simply enjoy.
French Press coffee can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It makes a great base for macchiatos or lattes, but can also be enjoyed with steamed milk and sugar.
If you are looking for a fun coffee-based treat, French Press coffee makes a great affogato. Here’s how to make it:
French Press Affogato
- 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
- 3-4 tbsp French Press coffee
In a small dish add 1-2 scoops of high-quality vanilla ice cream. Once your French Press has brewed, pour 1-2 tablespoons directly over the ice cream allowing it to melt slightly. Enjoy!
Alternatives to French Press and Drip Coffee Makers
If you like the ease of a drip coffee maker but want some other options, there are some great alternatives.
A Nespresso machine provides the easy push-button brew and consistency of drip coffee, but with the added strength and flavor of espresso. Nespresso machines while providing excellent coffee, tend to be single-cup makers.
If you tend to serve a crowd and want the ability to make a pot, a percolator is a great alternative to drip coffee. Percolators operate similarly to a drip maker in that boiled water rises up and then drips through a basket filled with grounds.
However, it produces a stronger coffee since it passes through the coffee twice. Percolators tend to produce enough coffee for multiple cups.
The French Press also has some great alternatives. A pour-over coffee maker provides the same customization and control that the French Press provides while brewing a smoother-tasting beverage.
If you want fewer steps in the brewing process, the moka pot is a great alternative.
It requires the user to place the water and grounds in, turn the burner on, and the coffee maker does the rest. Similar to the French Press, the coffee can be poured directly from the Moka pot into the coffee cup.
Which came first?
Although the drip coffee maker was developed in the 1780s it didn’t take root until the early 1900s when Melitta Bentz developed the disposable filters that are such an important part of the brewing process.
Similarly, the French Press was developed in the mid-1800s but also didn’t gain popularity until the early 1900s when its design was improved.
So while the drip coffee maker was invented first, the modern makers as we know them today were both developed around the same time.
Which is stronger?
French Press coffee produces a stronger, bolder, more acidic brew than drip coffee. Drip coffee produces a smoother coffee with a more consistent and balanced flavor.
Which is the most popular?
Both coffee styles are popular today, but the drip coffee machine is far more ubiquitous. Drip coffee machines can be found in most households and offices.
41 percent of coffee drinkers in the United States make their brew using a drip coffee maker.
While more globally renowned, less than 10 percent of the coffee drinkers in the United States use the French Press, though its popularity increases each year.