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French Press Vs Drip Coffee Maker: Which One Is Better?

Want to make black coffee at home?

Both French press and drip coffee maker are good options.

But which one is better?

Well, that’s entirely up to you.

But I’ll share with you everything there is to know to make a choice.

After hours of research and testing, I’ve compared these two brewers in different categories.

Here are the results of the French press vs drip coffee maker rundown!

French Press: A Closer Look

Coffee plunger, cafetière, press pot… This brewer is known under many names, the most popular being – the French press.

And interestingly enough, it’s not even a French invention.

In fact, the original design of the French press coffee maker was patented by two Italian guys, Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta, in 1929. 

And then, the French press design we know today was patented by a Swiss Faliero Bondanini in 1958. 

Why is it called a French press, then, you might ask?

Merely because it became such a loved brewer in this country. 

Okay, so what’s the catch with the French press, anyway?

It’s a rather simple brewer, actually. It uses the immersion brewing method, which means steeping the coffee ground in hot water. It features a cylindrical container where you add coffee grounds. Then, you pour hot water, stir and let it rest for a bit.

When ready, you simply push down the plunger, separating the grounds and coffee. This will allow you to pour coffee without any residue.

The reason why the French press is so popular is that it makes a very rich and delicious cup of coffee. 

But not just that. The whole process is manual, and it allows you to control different variables in the brewing process, such as:

  • Water temperature
  • Brew time
  • Grind size

And that allows you to finetune your drink. You can really make the best of your coffee bean.

Drip Coffee Maker: A Closer Look

drip coffee maker

A French press might be popular, but nothing beats a good ol’ drip coffee maker.

This brewer has been around for a while, yet the basic principle behind the design didn’t change over time. 

The first drip coffee, named Wigomat, was invented in Germany in 1954. And by 1970, it replaced the percolator as the brewer of choice in homes. The percolator was too unreliable, as it easily over-extracts coffee and makes a bitter drink.

But drip… The drip machine eliminates the bitterness of over-brewed coffee. It does most part of the job itself. You just place the coffee grounds into the filter and turn on the machine. Then, you just wait for it to make you a cup of coffee.

Yes, the main reason why drip machines took over is that they made brewing simple and effortless.

But it’s also because it makes a clean, bold but rounded cup of filtered coffee. It’s kind of like a pour over coffee but from an automated coffee maker.

NOTE
With drip machines, you have a bit of flexibility. By controlling the amount of water and coffee grounds used, you can control the strength of your coffee. But that’s pretty much it.

French Press vs Drip Coffee Maker: The Big Difference

Clearly, these two coffee makers look nothing alike. But aside from that, what else do or don’t they have in common? Let’s break down all of their differences.

How does the brew taste?

cup of coffee

French press is known for making a rich but delicate cup of coffee

Because it doesn’t use paper filters, the French press lets coffee oils into your brew. Coffee oil is responsible for giving the coffee the aroma and flavor. In fact, the oil gives coffee the nuances that let you distinguish between varieties and origins.

Now, that also means that some coffee particles can get in your cup. This, you either mind or you don’t. And that will mainly affect whether you like this type of coffee.

But given that this is a manual coffee brewing method, you have ultimate control over the entire process. What that means is that you can adjust the parameters to tailor the brew just how you like it. These are:

  • Water temperature
  • Grind size
  • Immersion time

As for drip coffee, it’s made with paper filters. And this type of filter prevents coffee particles and oils from getting into your cup. Because of that, you get a very clean drink. 

But that also means that you’re leaving some flavor compounds behind as well. So the coffee you get is less intense and complex compared to French press coffee.

Which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Of course, you can adjust your brew strength by changing the coffee-to-water ratio. But you don’t have that much influence over the brewing process. And therefore, your result won’t be that different. 

Obviously, the classic mild flavor of drip coffee is something that suits most people’s tastebuds. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be that popular.

Also, warmth is an important factor in taste. Cold coffee never tastes as good – unless it’s cold brew or iced coffee.

Most drip coffee makers have a warming plate, which keeps the carafe warm for a few hours. With that being said, you don’t want to drink coffee that’s been on a warming plate for too long, as it can scorch it. But an hour-old coffee will do.

IN A NUTSHELL
Both brews have unique flavors and bodies, so it depends on your preference. For those who prefer a bolder coffee and don’t mind residue, the French press is a way to go. Drip coffee is for those who prefer a cleaner and milder drink. 

How long is the brewing time?

No one likes to wait long for their coffee. So naturally, this is an important factor to consider.

There isn’t a big difference between the brewing time of these two methods.

Brewing coffee with a French press takes anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the roast you’re using.

For light roast, you want to wait 4 to 5 minutes for delicate notes to get extracted. For a dark roast, 3 to 4 minutes is more than enough. Any longer, and you risk your coffee turning bitter.

Finally, 4 minutes is just right for a medium roast.

Now, keep in mind that it takes 3 to 5 minutes to brew. But, you also need to heat up water as well. This, depending on how fast your kettle or stove is, can take a few minutes. 

All in all, it takes anywhere between 6 and 8 minutes to make coffee using a French press.

When it comes to drip machines, they usually take between 5 and 10 minutes to fill up a carafe. Of course, it takes longer to brew a larger carafe. But those models also have the option to make a small batch instead of the whole thing. 

IN A NUTSHELL
For the same amount of time, a drip machine makes a larger batch of coffee. And since it’s automatic, you don’t have to stop the brew manually. With a French press, you need to stop the brew at the right time to prevent it from under or over-extracting.

What grind size do they use?

coffee ground and coffee beans

These two brewers use coffee grounds of different sizes.

The French press uses coarse ground coffee with particles similar to bread crumbs or sea salts. 

You really need to hit the right grind size for a French press. If the coffee grind is too coarse, your coffee will be under-extracted and acidic. If the grind is too fine, it will be over-extracted and bitter. 

As for the drip machine, it uses medium-coarse to medium grind. The particles are roughly the same size as coarse sand.

Compared to the French press, the drip brewer is ever-so-slightly more forgiving when it comes to the grind size. Still, going too coarse or too fine will also yield disappointing results.

IN A NUTSHELL
The French press requires coarse grind, while the drip coffee uses medium-coarse to medium grind. Between the two, the drip machine is slightly more forgiving when it comes to the grind size.

What’s their capacity?

This is also one of the biggest differences between the two brewers.

Drip coffee makers come in different sizes, ranging from single-serving to as many as 20-cup brewers. But the majority of models on the market can make a batch of coffee at a time. 

So no matter how large your coffee-drinking household might be, there’s a machine that’s big enough. 

As for the French press, there are fewer sizes available:

  • 3-cup
  • 4-cup
  • 8-cup
  • 12-cup

But the first two are the most common ones. In any case, the French press makes less coffee.

Also, we can’t forget the fact that a drip coffee maker features a warming plate.

Making a larger batch makes sense with a warming plate. Without it, the coffee will get cold rather fast and won’t taste that good anymore.

So, in reality, a 12-cup French press doesn’t make sense unless you’re making coffee for a group.

But given that drip coffee remains warm for a while, you have enough time to grab a warm refill.

IN A NUTSHELL
The drip coffee maker is a clear winner when it comes to capacity. No matter how large of a batch you want to make, there’s a big enough machine for that. French press comes in fewer sizes.

How easy are they to use?

The drip coffee maker is mostly automatic. Aside from adding ground coffee to a filter, filling the water tank, and pressing the button, there’s not much for you to do.

It’s really hard to mess something up with a drip coffee machine. Maybe you’ll add too much or too few coffee grounds to the filter, resulting in a bad-tasting drink. 

But once you press the button, you just have to wait for the brew to be done.

A French press requires way more involvement on your part. 

In theory, using a French press is simple. But in practice, you need to put your time and attention into it. 

Every step matters. You need to:

  • Add the right amount of grounds
  • Pour water that’s at the right temperature
  • Let it steep for a specific amount of time
  • Press the plunger with the proper force

And every single mistake will be clearly apparent in your brew. So you need to be very meticulous when using a French press.

IN A NUTSHELL
Since it’s automatic, the drip coffee maker is much easier to use. French press is completely manual, so it requires your full attention.

What’s cleaning and maintenance like?

french press on the sink

Both brewers have similar maintenance requirements.

You should rinse the French press after each use. Nothing special, just a bit of soap and warm water.

When it comes to the drip machine, this means changing the filter after each use and rinsing the pot. 

For more thorough cleaning, you can add a bit of warm water and soap to your French press. Then, pump the plunger vigorously until the mixture becomes foamy. Finally, rinse the French press thoroughly to get rid of the soap.

As for the drip maker, this means adding vinegar and running a brew cycle. After that, you should run a few water-only cycles to rinse the machine.

Removable parts such as filter holder and carafe can be washed in the sink with some warm water and soap or in a dishwasher (if the material is dishwasher-safe). 

IN A NUTSHELL
Both brewers are fairly easy to clean. With regular rinsing, maintenance is minimal.

FAQ

Have other questions related to these two brewers? Here’s a quick FAQ containing questions most people have.

Does French press have more caffeine than drip?

They’re pretty close in terms of caffeine content. An 8-ounce cup of drip coffee has about 60 to 100 mg of caffeine, while French press coffee of the same size has 80 to 100 mg.

What’s better than French press coffee?

That depends on your preference. But if you like the flavor of the French press but don’t like sediment, AeroPress or Chemex can be great alternatives.

Why is my French press so bitter?

You let it steep for too long. The brewing time depends on your roast, with dark roast requiring 3 and light roast needing about 5 minutes to brew.

To Sum Things Up

French press and drip coffee might look similar in the cup, but they’re far from it.

A French press makes a more bodied and concentrated cup of coffee. It’s very complex and delicate, with some sediment. Drip coffee, on the other hand, is cleaner but also more mellow in flavor.

If you like to be involved in the entire coffee-making process, the French press is for you. It requires your full attention and input. Drip maker, on the other hand, does everything automatically.

So which one sounds more like your type of brewer?

Decided on a drip coffee maker? Check our top picks of the best drip coffee machines with thermal carafes that will keep your coffee nice and warm.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.