French Press Vs. Drip Coffee – What Is the Difference?

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Casual coffee drinkers might want to know the difference between French press and drip coffee. Both coffee brewing methods deliver delicious coffee, but they do it in different ways.

Difference Between French Press and Drip Coffee

There are many key differences between the French press and drip coffee. Just a few include the method of brewing, equipment involved, caffeine content, and overall taste of the beverage. Read on to find out how these factors may influence your decision.

Coffee Equipment – French Press vs. Drip Coffee Makers

The first thing to understand when you’re debating French press vs drip coffee makers is the equipment itself.

What Is a French Press Coffee Maker?

People first used the French press back in 1800, but no one patented it until 1852. Then, a Paris metalsmith devised a piston that would filter coffee through the perforated tin. 

This brewing method wasn’t popular until an Italian inventor adapted the patent by adding a spring to the coffee plunger.

The method was immediately popular in Europe but didn’t spread across the United States until the 1980s. 

The design changed over the years, making it easier to use and more affordable. You can buy beakers made of plastic, glass, or stainless steel. The plunger is easier to push, and the resulting coffee is purer, thanks to rubber grips that prevent stray grinds.

To make a French press coffee, you put coffee grounds in the brew chamber. Pour hot water into the vessel and stir it to saturate the grounds. Pull the plunger up and put the lid on top, then let the coffee steep for a certain time. Once your coffee is ready, push down the plunger. The coffee grounds stay filtered out, and you can pour a delicious cup.

Check out our favorite French press coffee makers here.

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Our Barista Warrior French Press

What Is a Drip Coffee Maker?

Drip coffee machines are more hands-off than a French press. However, the machines are bigger, bulkier, and require electricity. 

Brewing coffee with an automatic drip coffee machine is hassle-free. You put a paper or reusable filter in the machine and fill it with coffee grounds. The water goes into a separate reservoir, and the machine heats it as it travels to the ground coffee.

All you have to do after prepping the machine is turn it on. The hot water saturates the grounds, and the coffee drips through the filter into the coffee pot. You can pour a cup of coffee and put the pot back on the hotplate so the coffee stays warm for an hour or so.

Check out our favorite Drip coffee machines here.

drip coffee

It makes sense that the differences in equipment and general brewing method impact your coffee. However, there are other things to consider when choosing the French press or drip coffee.

Ease of Brewing

Making coffee with drip machines is the easiest because they do everything for you. Put the coffee grounds in the filter, add water, and turn the machine on. Then wait for a few minutes, and let the coffee drip into the carafe. Many models even have a timer so you can set your coffee to brew automatically before you get up in the morning.

This hands-off approach is great if you just need a jolt of caffeine to get going. But if you want a delicious cup of coffee, you’ll get better results from the French press. This is because you have more control over how long the coffee brewing process takes, impacting taste and caffeine content. However, you have to stir the ingredients together and let them sit before it’s ready. In addition, you can also use your French press to make cold brew coffee. Here is the detailed instruction and recipe for French press cold brew.

Coffee Quality

A cup of coffee from a French press has a rich coffee flavor and high caffeine content. In addition, the natural coffee oils from the coffee ground elevate the taste. However, if you brew or strain it incorrectly, you’re likely to get coffee grounds in your cup, which detract from the overall taste and experience.

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You’re highly unlikely to get any coffee grounds in your cup with a drip coffee maker. It can happen, though, if you accidentally fold down or rip the filter when you’re preparing the machine. The filter also absorbs the natural oils from the beans so that you won’t get as much mouthfeel but brighter flavors. And since the machine boils the water, it can make your coffee taste bitter or watered-down.

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If you have the budget, investing in an SCA-certified machine for home use is the way to go. These machines produce drip coffee but have options that rival what you find in a coffee shop, giving you better tasting coffee in each pot.

Brew Time – From Beans to Cup

Brewing time varies depending on your drip coffee machine or how strong you want your French press coffee. Most drip machines brew a full pot in five to 10 minutes, depending on how fast the machine heats the water. For example, some Bunn coffee makers only take 3 minutes to brew 10 cups of coffee.

If you get a machine with a pause option, you can pour a cup while the rest of the pot is still brewing, which is an excellent option.

For French press coffee, you have to wait until the whole pot brews. It takes about five to eight minutes, depending on how strong you want it to taste. A longer brew gives you a rich coffee taste with higher caffeine content.

Grind Size

A French press requires a coarse grind, so they don’t slip through the mesh stainless steel filter. You can use medium-coarse coffee grounds for a higher caffeine content and most likely won’t get any grounds in your finished cup. Still, many French press coffee lovers prefer coarser grinds.

coarse grind

Drip coffee requires a medium grind size. The paper filters won’t allow coffee grounds to escape so you can use medium grind or even finer. If you have both a French press and a drip machine, buying medium-coarse coffee will give you a quality brew from both.

medium coarse grind

Brewing Capacity

Most people who brew coffee for several people or pour several cups from the same pot of coffee prefer a drip coffee machine. The average drip coffee maker brews 4 to 12 cups at once, and some models have an even larger capacity. You can also get smaller machines if you prefer to brew just four or eight cups at a time.

Manufacturers have worked on the French press design to offer different capacities as well. The most common sizes are three or four cups. However, it’s possible to find models that brew 8 or 12 cups, just like standard drip coffee maker sizes.

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e.g. BW French press has 34 oz capacity, can brew four 8oz cups of coffee

When you think about size, you also need to think of how hot the coffee will stay and for how long. Many drip coffee machines have a hot plate to keep the coffee hot for up to two hours and warm for up to four hours, depending on the carafe. Some come with an insulated thermos carafe. If you like hot coffee, this is a bonus.

A French press starts losing heat as soon as you add the hot water to the grounds, so you’d have to warm your coffee in the microwave if you brew a large batch of coffee.

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Budget

French press coffee makers are affordable because you’re buying a simple vessel, filter, and piston. Larger French presses are more expensive, but they’re worth the investment to brew more coffee at once. Stainless steel French presses generally are more expensive than glass models.

The price of drip coffee makers can vary widely. For example, you can get a basic 12-cup coffee maker at the same cost as a French press. But if you want special options, you’ll pay more.

Some machines can brew a single cup or have space for a travel mug. You’ll have to pay more for the timer option to set your coffee to brew each morning. There are drip machines with built-in grinders as well, which cost even more.

To level up your coffee game, you can invest in an SCA-certified brewer to guarantee a fantastic cup of coffee. They follow the golden cup standard of SCAA and mimic the manual pour-over process to deliver the best coffee quality. For example, the Ninja coffee machines, and Technivorm Moccamaster coffee makers are SCA-certified.

You also have to factor in the cost of beans and, for a drip coffee pot, filters. 

Caffeine in French Press and Drip Coffee

Eight ounces of brewed coffee contains anywhere from 60 to 100 mg of caffeine, with an average of 96 mg. French press coffee has a slightly higher caffeine content due to the brewing method so it can range from 80 to 100 mg.

Several factors influence the caffeine content of your cup of coffee. The type of bean and quantity that you use are the most important. Using more ground coffee that are stronger gives you a higher caffeine content. You can also check the specific caffeine content of your preferred brand of grounds.

The brewing method also impacts the caffeine. Smaller grounds have more surface area for the water to touch, resulting in higher caffeine content. Likewise, hotter water extracts more caffeine. 

These factors might make it seem like drip coffee has higher caffeine content, but the length of time you immerse the ground coffee in water makes a difference. That means the French press delivers the strongest cup.

Indeed, the overall caffeine content depends on many factors. However, both drip coffee and the French press method can boost you in the morning.

The Verdict

It’s hard to select a clear winner in the battle of French press vs. drip coffee because they both have pros and cons. If you want a strong cup of coffee with a slightly high caffeine content, a French press is the way to go. But for people who prefer to press a button or set a timer and have a larger pot of coffee, a drip coffee machine does all the work for you.