What’s the Difference?
French Press and Drip coffee are both incredibly popular ways of making coffee. We are often asked: what is the difference in French press vs. drip coffee? Which one makes better coffee?
To answer those questions in detail, we first want to cover the fundamentals of each way to make coffee.
Table of Contents
- French Press
- Drip Coffee
French Press Coffee
The French press, sometimes called a coffee press or a coffee plunger, is one of the most iconic means of brewing coffee. If you’re interested in more information on the French Press, check out this post.
The design was first patented in 1929, making it a more recent development in the history of coffee.The picturesque brewer is often shown perched on hotel balconies and patio tables. French presses often feature sleek designs with trendy metals such as copper and stainless steel. The brewing chamber is usually made of glass, stainless steel, or plastic.
Inside of the brewing chamber, there is a plunger that is outfitted with a screen on one end. After the coffee is done brewing, you insert the plunger into the brewing chamber and press down on the plunger to filter the freshly brewed coffee from the coffee grounds.
French press coffee is a beautifully simple way of making coffee and the most novice coffee drinker can master it in little to no time at all.
French press brewers offer an incredibly easy way to make coffee. It tastes best if you grind the beans right before you brew it. We recommend a hand crank coffee grinder or an electric burr grinder. You’ll want to grind the coffee to a coarse consistency. Usually this means setting your grinder to the most coarse setting it has. The coffee should be very coarse.
If you don’t own or want to own a burr grinder, you can ask the staff at your local grocery store or coffee shop to grind their coffee to that coarseness for you.
Once you’ve ground your coffee, place it in the brewing chamber. Heat a kettle to approximately 205 F. With your water hot, pour some onto the grounds until they’re completely wet and look kind of like wet dirt.
At this point, you’ll want to gently agitate the grounds for around 30 seconds until all of the grounds are wet. Now pour in the remaining water from your kettle and start a timer for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Once the time has elapsed, insert the lid of the French press and press down on the plunger gently until it is no longer compressible. If you find the plunger ‘plunks’ to the bottom with little force, the grounds were probably too coarse. If you feel like you’re pushing the plunger into cement, you likely ground the coffee too fine.
After plunging the coffee, you’ll want to pour and serve it right away. If you let the brewed coffee sit in the press, it will continue to brew, which results in over-extraction. This will make your coffee taste bitter. If you want a more detailed explanation on how to brew French Press, check out our brewing guide.
The French press makes a really delicious cup of coffee. It can be used to serve large numbers of people (depends on the size of your brewer) with minimal prep time. On average, we spend around 5 minutes to make a full batch of French press coffee.
The resultant cup of coffee tends to taste fuller than most brewed coffees because it doesn’t use a paper filter to remove the coffee grounds from the freshly brewed coffee. Paper filters tend to remove many oils and other delicate coffee flavors from the cup. By removing the paper filter, you’ll be getting the real coffee experience. You’ll also eliminate the risk of a papery taste to the coffee due to the filter brewing along with your coffee.
One downside of French press coffee is that the cup is generally more ‘silty’ than an ordinary cup of coffee. This means there is a lot of fine coffee sediment at the bottom of the brewer that can escape through the filter and end up in your cup. Generally, we avoid the last sip of coffee so we don’t drink the sediment, but some people like it. In fact, Turkish coffee doesn’t even use a filter, so you end of drinking the coffee ground along with the cup of coffee!
Cleaning up a French press is a breeze. After you’ve emptied the brewer of the brewed coffee, you’ll want to remove the plunger and give it a good rinse. Disassemble the filter from the plunger, if your device allows.
After removing the plunger, turn the brewing chamber upside-down over a trashcan and give it a few good shakes. You’ll want to empty as much of the wet grounds out of the brewer as possible before rinsing it in the sink. Coffee has a tendency to clog drains. If you have a yard or garden, we recommend saving your used coffee grounds and dumping them outside. Your plants will love the acidity that comes with spent coffee grounds.
Wash the brewing chamber and plunger/filter in soapy water and leave it on a towel to dry. Most French presses are dishwasher safe, but be sure to check the instruction that come with your device before attempting to wash it in the dishwasher.
Drip coffee has been around in some way or another for quite some time. However, the electric drip coffee maker was invented in 1954 in Germany. It was sold under the brand name Wigomat and was named after the inventor of the device, Gottlob Widman (Widman Gottlob). Prior to the Wigomat, most people were drinking percolated coffee, which has its downsides. Once the Wigomat came out, the way people brewed coffee was changed over night.
In the half century that followed, we have seen continuous improvements on the original electric drip coffee maker design. Today, there are thousands of different makes and models on the market.
Most electric drip coffee makers have a water reservoir located inside of the machine and an area that contains a filter basket for ground coffee. When activated, the machine pulls water from the reservoir, heats it up, and spritzes it over the coffee grounds in the filter basket. As the coffee brews, gravity pulls it down through the filter where it drips into a carafe sitting on a hot plate below.
Most economical drip coffee makers are made of plastic and glass, but some of the higher-end models sport sophisticated copper or stainless steel housing.
Brewing coffee in a drip coffee maker is very simple and a great way to make large quantities of piping hot coffee. With the water reservoir full, insert a paper filter into the filter basket in the machine. You’ll want to fill the basket with medium ground coffee. Drip coffee is best when the beans are fresh ground directly before brewing.
After you’ve measured out the necessary ground coffee, most drip coffee makers can be activated at the touch of a single button. One nice thing about drip coffee makers is that many are automated so that they can turn on and begin brewing at a specific time of day. A downside to this is that you’ll have to pre-grind your coffee and fill the filter basket the night before.
Drip coffee can taste pretty delicious if you’re using the right coffee ground consistency and coffee-to-water ratio. Some of the lower-end drip coffee makers heat the water well above the recommended temperature for coffee, resulting in a scalded taste to the coffee, so you’ll want to check the manual to see if you can dial in the temperature.
Additionally, you can over-extract the coffee pretty easily in a drip coffee maker due to the water hitting the same location in the coffee grounds throughout the brewing process. Some manufacturers have taken note of this and now offer brewers that oscillate where the water is spritzed onto the coffee so that you don’t over-extract and end up with a really bitter cup of coffee.
Another quality watch-out with drip coffee makers is the hot plate that the carafe sits on. The hot plate is designed to keep your coffee warm, since most people don’t finish an entire pot of coffee before it cools. However, exposing brewed coffee to continuous heat causes the molecular structure of the coffee to break down, resulting in stale flavors in the cups that follow. We recommend investing in a thermally-insulated carafe so that you can disable the hot plate and keep your coffee tasting fresh.
Cleaning up after brewing in a drip coffee maker is pretty simple. Be sure to remove the filter basket from the machine and dispose of the filter and coffee grounds. Again, we recommend you use the coffee in your yard to make your plants happy.
After ditching the spent coffee grounds, give your carafe a good wash with soapy water. You’ll want to avoid harsh chemicals so that you don’t damage the carafe.
Your brewer will then be ready for the next morning’s coffee ritual.
- Design – Glass, metal, plastic
- Brew – full bodied with sediment
- Grind – Coarse
- Ease of use – Medium
- Prep time – 5 minutes
- Design – Metal, plastic
- Brew – Machine dependent
- Grind – Medium
- Ease of use – Easy
- Prep time – 5-10 minutes
Overall, we prefer the French press to drip coffee. The aesthetics of the French press are the first thing going for it. Even some of the least expensive French press brewers still look like they belong on your kitchen counter or patio table. With so many designs to choose from, you can find the perfect French press to fit your personal style. The same can’t be said of all drip coffee makers.
While there are some great drip coffee machines, most over-heat the beans and result in baked, harsh-flavored coffee. We like the flavor of the French press coffee more than drip, but be sure to watch out for those last few sips where the sediment tends to collect.
The coarse grind required for the French press will likely require you to invest in a coffee grinder or purchase beans from a place that can grind to order. Drip coffee, on the other hand, works best with a medium grind, which is the most common consistency for pre-ground coffee. For this reason, it’s a bit easier to get up and going with a drip coffee maker than a French press.
French press is a bit more difficult to learn than drip, but once you’ve figured out the flow, it’s a breeze. Most of the time, you can brew a full pot of French press within 5 minutes. This doesn’t account for grinding or cleaning time, though. Drip coffee is machine- and quantity-dependent, but generally it will take 4-10 minutes from start to finish.
We prefer the French press when we’re in a rush, but drip coffee wins when it comes to volume of coffee produced. If we’re planning to serve a large group of people quickly, we stick with drip.