Coffee is a highly personalized beverage. Everyone has their favorite flavors and add-ins. While some enjoy a sweet and mild morning brew, others enjoy a bold and strong coffee experience.
For those that prefer a little intensity, French Press and Espresso both provide that extra oomph. While the two have some similarities in their taste profile, they are very different.
If you are wondering which is the best choice for you, we will compare the two coffee classics in the debate on French Press vs Espresso.
French Press or Espresso
You may feel pressure when in line at a coffee shop to make the right choice. Espresso vs French Press? Which is best? The answer is, that they are both great, but they do have some qualities to be aware of.
French Press coffee is customizable depending on the coffee-to-water ratio that you use. Using freshly ground, medium coarse coffee and hot water, a strong, oily, and (sometimes) bitter brew is created in about 4 minutes.
French Press coffee is typically made for an individual serving but can accommodate up to four people. It requires no electricity and has many fans worldwide. The French Press uses immersion brewing to extract flavor.
Espresso is strong, bold, and slightly sweet. To make a proper espresso you need a machine, and while many get their fix at their local coffee shop, at home Espresso makers are becoming more popular.
Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a specialty coffee to make espresso, roasted freshly ground coffee beans and hot water are all it takes. Espresso uses pressure to extract flavor from the beans.
How Are They Made?
French Press coffee is relatively simple to make. Freshly ground coffee is placed in the bottom of a glass beaker. Hot water just off the boil (meaning the water is boiled and then allowed to sit for 30 seconds) is poured over the top.
The water and grounds are given a quick stir to combine, and the cover is placed on top, with the plunger pulled up. After 4 minutes of steeping, the plunger is pushed down, separating the grounds from the liquid.
The coffee can be poured directly from the French Press into the cup.
Espresso is typically made with a machine. Water is placed in the reservoir, and finely ground coffee is placed in the metal basket. A metal tamper is used to compress the coffee into a tight puck, and the basket is placed inside the machine.
The water is forced up through a tube and heating element where pressure forces it through the coffee and into the shot glass below.
What Are They Made of?
A French Press has two distinct pieces. A glass beaker and a specialty top. The top has a metal rod with a mesh filter attached.
Most French Press makers also have some kind of plastic or rubber handle around the outside to allow the user to pour the coffee without having to directly touch the hot glass.
Espresso makers have several parts, but almost all have a water reservoir, a water heater, and a portafilter. The portafilter has a handle and a basket and holds the coffee grounds during brewing.
Some espresso makers also have a built-in milk frother or steamer that uses the same pressure as the coffee maker itself.
How Are They Similar?
Both of these beverages are known for their strong, bold flavor. They each are highly caffeinated and both are best when made from freshly ground coffee. They are both served in most coffee houses, and both can be enjoyed as is or as the base of many craft beverages.
French Press and Espresso both benefit from using a dark roasted bean, though it is not a necessity.
Taste, Caffeine, Cost, Brew Time, and Serving Size Comparison
- Taste: Bold, gritty, oily, strong
- Caffeine: 80 mg-134 mg per 8 oz
- Cost: $20-$40
- Brew Time: 4 minutes
- Serving Size: 1-4 servings
- Crema: Yes
- Taste: Rich, smooth, bold, intense
- Caffeine: 64 mg per shot
- Cost: $50-$600
- Brew Time: 30 seconds
- Serving Size: 1
- Crema: Yes
While they are both bold coffees, the French Press and Espresso have their differences.
French Press coffee is bold but it can also be gritty due to the mesh strainer. It can also have an oily mouthfeel as no filter blocks the natural oils of the coffee.
It has a higher caffeine content between 80 mg and 134 mg and depending on the size of the maker you can brew between 1 and 4 servings. Some French Press coffees will have a thin crema on top, though not always.
The cost will vary depending on size and brand, but on average you can get a decent French Press for between $20 and $40.
Espresso is far smoother than French Press and more intense in flavor. Espresso also often has a slightly sweet finish at the end. It has 64 mg per shot and most espresso machines can brew 1-2 shots at a time.
It takes about 30 seconds to “pull” or brew a shot of espresso and the shot will have a thicker crema on top.
The cost of espresso machines will vary, and there is an extremely wide range. Machines start at $50 but can go as high as $600 for at-home machines and even higher for restaurant-quality machines.
How To Drink French Press vs Espresso
French Press coffee is flavorful and can be consumed as is, but many people choose to add a sweetener such as sugar, and a milk or milk alternative.
French Press coffee can also be enjoyed over ice by allowing it to come to room temperature, or even by using the French Press to make a cold brew. If you are looking for a true twist on your daily coffee, try an Iced Coconut Mocha
Iced Coconut Mocha
- 6 oz French Press coffee
- 2 oz Coconut Milk
- ½ oz Chocolate Syrup
- Chocolate Sauce to taste
In a tall glass with ice, first, add ½ oz of chocolate syrup, and then add your French Press coffee cooled to room temperature.
Next, pour your coconut milk over the top and you’re ready to enjoy it! If you want a little something extra add chocolate sauce to the top.
Espresso can be enjoyed in many ways. You can drink it as is, or add a bit of cream to the top to make a Macchiato. Espresso also forms the basis of many latte and coffee house drinks.
If you are looking for something truly unique, consider an Espresso Margarita.
- 1.5 oz tequila
- 1 oz triple sec
- ½ oz coffee liqueur
- 1 shot of espresso
In a shaker over ice, combine all of the ingredients and shake until chilled. Strain into a margarita or rocks glass to serve.
The French Press is perfect for making an individual serving of coffee. If you are looking for the same bold-tasting coffee and an individual serving, a pour-over coffee maker is a great choice.
Although it uses a different brewing method, it will produce a personalized small cup similar to the French Press.
The Aeropress is another great alternative that uses the same plunger concept, but is much quicker, producing coffee in as quickly as 30 seconds.
There are also great alternatives to Espresso. Percolators may feel a bit old-fashioned, but they actually can produce a nice strong cup of coffee if the cycle is allowed to run through a few times.
Additionally, a high-quality instant espresso powder can be a great way to get a quick shot of Espresso if you don’t have a machine at home. You simply need to add water to the concentrated powder.
French Press Vs Espresso – FAQs
Which came first?
The French Press and Espresso both emerged in the early 1900s with Espresso being slightly earlier in 1901 and the French Press as we know it today being patented in the 1920s.
Which is stronger?
Both of these drinks have strong profiles, however, Espresso is more intense and bold than French Press. Espresso also has more caffeine as most drinks contain 2 shots equaling about 140 mg of caffeine.
Which is the most popular?
While the French Press is more common in homes, Espresso still reigns at the coffee shop. The French Press is offered in many places, but Espresso is the basis of a myriad of lattes, cappuccinos, and other craft beverages. Therefore it is more popular worldwide.