French Press vs. Drip Coffee — Which Brewing Method is Best?
French press coffee and drip coffee may seem very different, but they have one important common denominator: they’re both quintessential coffee styles and therefore popular in kitchens worldwide.
If we had to choose between the two coffee maker types, which one would come out on top? Place your bets and read on because we’re pitting the classics against each other.
But before we settle the french press vs. drip coffee debate, let’s get to know each device a little bit better.
What’s the Difference Between French Press and Drip Coffee?
French press coffee and drip coffee have very little in common. Though both styles are respected (and delicious) forms of coffee, this matter isn’t as simple as comparing lattes to cappuccinos — two types of coffee that are created differently but similar in concept.
To better compare the French press to the drip coffee maker, let’s take a look at each in more detail.
French Press Coffee Explained
Also known as a press pot, coffee press, cafetière, or plunger, the French press is a versatile coffee maker and one of the easiest ways to brew coffee. When using one, all you do is add your ground beans and hot water, leave it to steep for a few minutes, and then press the plunger down to filter your joe.
According to the New York Times, the first French press appeared in 1800, but it was only patented and popularized in the 1920s. In the years that followed, the French press’ design was perfected into what we know and love today.
It took a while for the French press to become a staple in the USA, but today it’s a favorite among connoisseurs and ordinary civilians alike. French press coffee is praised for its potency and is often described as pouring everything except the grounds. It’s also a favorite because it’s affordable and easy to use.
View our favorite French press coffee makers here.
Drip Coffee Explained
Don’t confuse drip coffee with pour-over coffee. Although similar these terms and the brews are not interchangeable. When speaking of drip coffee, coffee experts mean drip coffee machines.
A German invention, drip coffee makers entered the mainstream in 1954, roughly 30 years after the French press became a hit. It was revolutionary, as for the first time, electric coffee makers — and therefore, the beginnings of automatic brewing — were possible domestically.
Rather than craft coffee, one could push a button and have coffee made at home. It’s safe to say that the novelty and hype of electric coffee makers were justified by their convenience. In the US, drip coffee makers became the standard, to such a degree that they are synonymous with ‘coffee machines’ even today.
But how do drip machines work? In layman’s terms, the machine heats water to optimal temperatures and then disperses it through coffee grounds. The grounds are soaked, and the coffee drips down into a carafe, ready to drink.
View our favorite drip coffee machines here.
How are French Press Makers and Drip Machines Different?
There’s almost nothing, except status, that connects these two. The French press is an immersion brewer, while drip machines are drip brewers. In addition, the French press is a manual brewing style, drip machines are largely automatic (at least where it matters).
French press makers are small and make potent brews, while drip machines can make batches of 12 to 14 servings of what’s typically considered ‘regular’ coffee.
French press makers and drip machines are different because their mechanics are worlds apart. Though you still get filtered coffee out of both, the experience and result is entirely different.
But which is the superior method? Let’s get to the main event.
French Press Vs. Drip Machine Coffee: A Comparison
They may be apples and oranges, but we can determine which is the better brewer by looking at a few key considerations.
French Press Vs. Drip Coffee: Popularity
Even though the French press had a head start, the drip machine dominates in terms of popularity. Statista shows that in 2020, only 4% of American coffee drinkers owned or used a French press, compared to 41% of American coffee drinkers who prefer the drip machine.
However, it’s interesting to note that the French press saw a 2% increase in usage in America between 2010 and 2020, while the drip machine has decreased in popularity by 46% in the same time frame.
So, which do you think is more popular? The drip machine is a staple, with far more people using these coffee makers, but they’re losing their value, it seems. The French press, on the other hand, is far more niche but its popularity is rising.
For the sake of this drip coffee maker vs. french press battle, I’ll give the point to drip machines. Their numbers are too high to disregard.
Drip Vs. French Press: Brewing Method
There is no way to determine which brewing method is better because this is entirely subjective, and it will depend on your preferences. That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Drip brewing wins in convenience and ease of use because most machines are built with the tech unsavvy in mind. All you have to do is add your water and grinds and hit the button to brew. French press coffee is one of the easier methods, but if you’d like to do it well, there is a lot of setup and chemistry involved.
On the other hand, French presses are easier to maintain. Rinse your carafe and filters, and you’re done. Machines have parts that need to be dismantled, you have to descale them occasionally and their lifespan is limited.
But we have to consider that French presses are immersion brewers, which means more control of your coffee. They also create stronger, more concentrated joe. Drip machines are optimized, so you get an even, balanced brew.
This one is a toss-up because neither is inferior. French presses give you stronger coffee, but with a lot more room for error. Drip machines are optimized but sacrifice craft.
All things considered, with setup and preparation, drip machines are a little faster and, depending on the model, could come with a ton of cool and automated functions. French presses are excellent, but you have to find your sweet spot with them.
If you prefer convenience, get a drip machine. If you’d rather go for control, pick the French press.
French Press Vs. Coffee Maker: Quality
I have to give this one to the French press, but it was a close call. Drip machines make great coffee — there’s a reason why they dominate the home coffee maker industry — but they’re nowhere near as nuanced as the French press, and some models make mediocre joe at best.
Either way, the quality of your coffee depends on the beans you use. If you brew premium beans with a machine, you’ll get premium coffee. Likewise, if you brew dirt in a French press, then that’s precisely what you’ll serve!
But (and this is a big but) most people who use drip machines are looking for convenience and don’t want to manually grind beans or check the water temperature every time they want a cup. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t buy pre-grounds for their drip machine, and in general, these are inferior across the board.
Grind your beans fresh for a French press and quality is guaranteed. Since it’s a craft brewer, you can also control your ratio and temperature for better, stronger, tailor-made coffee.
French Press vs. Drip Coffee: Taste
Another subjective one that’s a draw by default. Only you can determine which type of coffee tastes better. I like both, but I’m not fussy so long as it’s caffeinated!
French press coffee is bound to be more concentrated, so you get a more robust flavor. Drip machines don’t extract as much flavor, but because of the drip method and brew optimization, your coffee will be smoother albeit less pungent.
Remember that your beans (and roast) matter as well. A dark, extra-strength bean in a drip machine will be bolder than a light roast in a french press.
Neither device will change (or enhance) the caffeine content of your ground beans. Caffeine is one of the first things to extract, whether it’s instant coffee or premium craft beans. However, French press coffee will have a higher concentration of caffeine because the coffee-to-water ratio is denser.
French Press Vs. Drip Coffee: Health
And finally the big one: which one is better for your body?
French press brewers have a bad rap and are regularly accused of making the unhealthiest coffee you can drink. But is there any truth to this?
Unfortunately, yes. Coffee contains a chemical called cafestol, which interferes with how your body metabolizes cholesterol. French presses don’t filter cafestol, so your coffee will have a much higher concentration of this compound.
Standard drip machines don’t have this problem, so they win in terms of nutrition.
However, it must be said that many factors determine how healthy your coffee is, for example, how much sugar you’re adding to it.
Is French Press Coffee Better?
The French press coffee maker has been hyped up in recent years. Since they’re quaint, considered a craft brewing device, and are seen as a step above instant coffee, many enthusiasts recommend them because they brew real coffee.
But let’s tally everything up. French presses and drip machines tied in taste and brewing method. The french press came out on top in quality, and drip machines won in popularity and health.
By our count, French presses — though they have their charm — are not better than drip machines, at least, not objectively. This is not to say that they are inferior, just that drip machines are slightly more balanced and make healthier coffee.
And so ends our french press vs. drip coffee battle. I won’t lie, I am a little bit surprised that drip machines won. It seems we have all underestimated their value.
That said, if you prefer French press coffee, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Both of these brewers have stood the test of time and proven themselves as top-notch coffee makers.
The real winner is whichever one you deem such. French presses are for craft and quality, while drip machines are convenient, balanced, and better for your body. If you’re looking to invest in a new coffee maker, choose the brewer that best appeals to you.
French Press Coffee vs. Drip Coffee FAQs
Does French Press Coffee Have More Caffeine Than Drip Coffee?
French press coffee does not necessarily contain more caffeine than drip coffee. Caffeine content mainly depends on the beans you use. However, your coffee-to-water ratio plays a role. French presses use more coffee to water volume than drip coffee makers.
Can You Use Drip Coffee in a French Press?
You can use some types of drip coffee in a French press. The only consideration that matters is the grind size. Most drip coffee is finely ground for machine filters. Your French press filter may be too large to contain the grounds, so you could find loose grounds floating in your joe.
Are French Presses Cheaper Than Drip Machines?
Generally speaking, yes, French presses are cheaper than drip machines. French presses are simple brewers consisting of a carafe, handle, and plunger. Drip coffee makers are machines, and therefore more expensive to produce and maintain. Keep in mind that your coffee maker’s brand, quality, and size affect the price too, so this may not hold true.