It seems like just about every coffee drinker has an opinion about how to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Some think that there are few things better than a coffee made with a good quality automatic drip brewer, while others swear that a manual coffee-making method like the French press reigns supreme.
So, which side are you on? It comes down to what you are looking for in a brewing method and the resulting cup of coffee. Are you looking for a certain kind of flavor and feel? Do you want to have a lot of control over the brewing process? Are you just looking for whichever brewing method is quickest and easiest?
We will answer these questions and more as we help you decide your stance on French press vs drip – which brewing method is best for you?
Let us begin by reviewing the brewing processes for an automatic drip coffee maker and a French press.
Automatic Drip Coffee Maker
Arguably, just about everyone who drinks coffee has had one from an automatic drip machine at some point in their lives, especially in this part of the world. This kind of coffee maker can be found in households across the country – it is almost surprising if you do not have one!
The brewing process works something like this:
- Fill the reservoir with water.
- Put ground coffee into the filter basket.
- Turn it on. The heating element heats the water and forces it upward.
- Water goes up and through the showerhead and is dripped onto the grounds sitting in the filter basket.
- The brewed coffee passes through the filter basket and into the carafe. Serve.
As you can see, an automatic drip machine is pretty easy to use, which is one of the reasons why they are so popular.
The French press is probably one of the most popular manual coffee-making methods around. If you do not know it by name, you may recognize it from its characteristic plunger that sticks out on top of the carafe.
Here is how a French press works:
- Heat your water. Preheat the press by adding hot water until it feels warm, then dump it out.
- Add the desired amount of coffee grounds to the press, take your hot water and carefully pour over coffee, then stir and cover with the lid.
- Let the mixture steep in the press for about 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your coffee.
- Push the plunger down slowly, forcing the coffee grounds to the bottom while keeping the coffee on top. Serve immediately.
There is certainly more work involved for you when using the French press brewing method, but it is not a difficult process to learn.
French Press vs Drip
Now that we have gone over how each coffee maker works, let us compare to help you figure out which brewing method aligns with your personal preferences.
Which is Quicker?
- French press: 5-8 minutes
- Drip machine: 5-10 minutes
For the French press, the 5-8 minutes cover both the time taken to prepare the hot water and the time to brew the coffee. For the drip machine, the 5-10 minutes allow for the time it takes the machine to heat up, brew, and drip coffee into the carafe.
Though the timing is close here, when it comes to which is quicker the French press manages to take it by a hair.
Winner: French press
Which is Easier to Use?
- French press: may require patience and practice to get things right
- Drip machine: set and forget
While there is not much to a French press, there are a lot of variables that you have total control over during the process. The water temperature and amount, brew time, and plunge rate are all completely up to you, so it may take some time and practice to figure out how to make your ideal cup of coffee.
With a drip machine, on the other hand, you just put in the grounds and water, turn it on, and let the machine do the rest. You can go do whatever you want while it is brewing, and your coffee is ready and waiting for you when you return.
Winner: Drip machine
Which Allows for a Better Coffee Bean and/or Coffee Grind Selection?
- French press: coarse grind
- Drip machine: medium grind
If you grind your own beans, then both brewing methods allow you to choose whichever kinds of beans you like – just make sure you grind them to the right consistency. The different filter designs of each brewer require a certain type of grind to extract the best flavor from the coffee grounds.
If you use the wrong grind when you make your coffee using either brewing method, then you will likely either oversaturate or under-saturate the grounds, resulting in a bitter or sour-tasting coffee, respectively.
Check out our list of the best grinders for the French press.
Winner for Bean Selection: Tie
Which Makes More Coffee at a Time?
- French press: up to about 9 cups
- Drip machine: up to about 14 cups
Both types of brewers come in various sizes, but typically the French press maxes out at about 9 cups and the drip machine at around 14 cups.
Not only does the drip machine potentially brew more coffee at one time, but it also has a hot plate for the carafe to sit on, so it stays warm between servings. The drip machine has an even further advantage if you are brewing coffee for a get-together in that you do not have to spend time controlling all the variables. You can continue to socialize with guests or tend to other matters while the drip machine makes the coffee.
Winner: Drip machine
Which is More Reliable?
- French press: no mechanical parts, does not require power.
- Drip machine: mechanical parts, requires power.
The French press has great reliability in that it has no mechanical parts so it cannot break down. You can drop it and break it, but even then, it is pretty cheap to replace.
The French press is even more reliable in that it does not require a power supply. If your power goes out, you do not have to go without coffee (shudder at the thought!) as long as you have a hot water source. The lack of power supply also means that the French press is portable, so you can bring it camping, to hotel rooms, the beach, etc.
To their credit, drip machines, even though they have mechanical parts, do not break down too often and can be relatively inexpensive to replace if necessary. They do require a power supply and are not easily portable, so the French press does have the overall advantage here.
Winner: French Press
Which Makes a Better Cup of Coffee?
- French press: full-bodied, rich coffee taste
- Drip machine: light, milder coffee taste
The main thing that differentiates the flavor of the coffee between the two brewing methods is the coffee bean oils. A French press allows most of the flavorful oils from the coffee grounds to get into your cup, while the paper filter used in most drip machines absorbs a lot of those oils.
Another factor that affects the taste is that drip machines continually heat the coffee while it sits in the carafe on the heating plate. If you let your coffee sit there long enough, it will start to taste burned and maybe even bitter. Your coffee may get cold if you let it sit in a French press, but it should maintain its taste for a longer time.
Ultimately, there is no clear winner here. It all depends on your personal preference. Some people prefer a lighter-tasting coffee over a rich one.
Winner for full-bodied, rich flavor: French press
Winner for a lighter flavor: Drip machine
French Press vs Drip – The Verdict
Hopefully, by now you have been able to determine which brewing method is best for you and your personal preferences.
To sum up, if you are looking for a method that is quick, reliable, and produces a rich-tasting, full-bodied coffee, then the French press may be worth a try.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something easy-to-use, has a large brewing capacity, and gives you a light-tasting cup of coffee, then go with the drip machine.
If you consider how inexpensive each brewer can be, why not have one of each? You may find that each works better for different occasions.
Besides, a coffee lover can never have too much coffee!