In recent years, many coffee drinkers have set aside the standard coffee machine in favor of manual coffee brewing methods. Specifically, the French press and pour-over methods have replaced their electric counterparts in many kitchens.
But which method actually makes better coffee? If you’re interested in giving a manual method a try, here’s a crash course in brewing with a French press and a pour-over coffee dripper.
The pour-over brewing method is just what it sounds like: hot water poured over coffee grounds. Although it might take some trial and error to get the strength and flavor right, brewing coffee with pour over is not complicated.
To brew a cup of pour-over coffee, you’ll need your filter, dripper, hot water, and medium-ground coffee. Then, do the following:
1. Measure and grind coffee beans into medium grind size, aiming for a 1:15 to 1:18 coffee to water ratio. For example, 15 grams of beans for 225 grams of water is a good starting point.
2. Place your filter in your dripper over your coffee mug or carafe.
3. Add the coffee grounds to the filter, then pour some fresh hot water over them to bloom them. Let it rest for about 30 seconds.
4. Pour the remaining water over in slow, circular motions.
Pour-over coffee is the best way to quickly brew a single cup of coffee. Since the only equipment you need is a dripper and filter, it’s an excellent choice for traveling, camping, or in the office if you don’t like your workplace’s offerings.
However, if you’re looking for a more robust flavor, you might be better off with the French press. For lighter coffee drinkers, though, the pour-over method should suit you fine.
French Press Overview
Brewing coffee with the French press method consists of a carafe, a plunger, and a filter. The first French press, also known as the cafetière, came about in the early 1800s. However, it didn’t see widespread popularity until it was patented in the late 1920s. Then, after several more design changes, the world ended up with the press that now resides in so many kitchens.
To brew French press coffee, you’ll need your coffee press, hot water (preferable around 200 degrees Fahrenheit), and coarse-ground coffee. Then, follow these steps:
1. Measure out three tablespoons of coffee for every 8 ounces of water. If you have a scale, use 1:15 coffee to water ratio.
2. Place your grounds in the brew chamber and pour your water in.
3. After pouring hot water in, allow the coffee to steep to your desired strength, between 4 to 8 minutes.
4. Lower the plunger to “press” the grounds to the bottom. The mesh stainless steel filter will blocks the grounds when you pour the coffee out.
French press coffee is ideal for anyone who enjoys a daily cup of strong, flavor-rich coffee. Since you’ll extract more of the coffee oils in a French press, you’ll get a finished brew that tastes far richer than a standard drip coffee machine or pour-over.
There are two main downsides to a French press. First, it’s pretty common to get gritty coffee. This is especially true with lower-quality presses. Second, it can be a hassle to clean since you’ll need to dismantle it to clean each component.
Differences Between Pour Over and French Press
There are a few differences between pour-over and French press worth noting. But, ultimately, which you prefer will primarily come down to ease of use, control and the coffee flavor you are looking for.
Coffee Equipment – Pour Over Vs French Press
The equipment you’ll need to brew pour-over and French press vary quite a bit in terms of material, options, and sizes. However, for both options, consider using a scale, thermometer, and timer to be able to control every step in the brewing process.
Pour Over Coffee Makers
You’ll need four things for pour-over coffee:
- Kettle (A gooseneck kettle offers more control)
- Dripper (Cone shape, flat bottom, or one-piece)
- Filter (Paper or reusable metal filter)
- Mug or carafe
The main thing you’ll need to remember with a pour-over coffee maker is that different drippers use different filters. For example, the Hario V60 uses a #2 cone-shaped filter, while the Kalita Wave uses a flat-bottom filter. You can also find stainless steel options and one-piece drippers like the Chemex that uses its proprietary filter.
Check out our best pour-over coffee brewers for more options.
French Press Coffee Makers
To make a cup of French press coffee, you’ll need the following:
- French Press coffee maker
- Measuring spoon
Most French press coffee makers work in a similar way. Each consists of a chamber, plunger, and filter. They differ in materials, capacity, and filter design. You can find French presses made of glass or stainless steel, although glass is the most common.
Brewing Control – Ease of Use
There’s a bit of a learning curve to both French press and pour-over methods. You’ll need to figure out the right brew time, temperature, and ground size for your tastes. You might get it right on the first try, but it’s more likely you’ll need to have a few cups first.
The key to a good cup of pour-over coffee is your pouring technique. Your best bet is a gooseneck kettle that’ll let you have precision control over your pour. A precise pour is critical in the pour-over method, so getting a good kettle is key. You can also play around with brew temperature and flow rate to improve your coffee.
The French press pot is more straightforward to use than a pour-over dripper. However, with that ease of use comes less control. You’ll still maintain control of steeping time, temperature, and so forth, but you won’t have the same control of the water as you do with a pour-over coffee maker.
Although both produce a delicious cup of coffee, pour-over and French press brews have some differences in quality.
Most pour-over drippers with paper filters produce a much cleaner cup of coffee. You won’t find any small particles at the bottom of your carafe. It’s the best way to bring out the coffee’s original flavor notes and characteristics. That’s why coffee lovers like brewing their premium single-origin beans with a pour-over brewer. It’s also suitable for brewing lighter roasted beans for a brighter and more vibrant flavor.
In comparison, an immersion brewing method tends to produce a full-bodied coffee with more robust flavors. Indeed, there will be some fine particles in your French press brew, but those particles contribute to a bolder flavor. And there’s no paper filter, so the coffee’s natural oils can get into your brewed coffee, providing a much creamier mouthfeel. Overall, it’s suitable for brewing medium to darker roasted beans. If you like stronger tasting cups of coffee, French press is the way to go. Additionally, you can also use a French press coffee maker to make cold brew coffee.
Brew Time – From Beans to Cup
There are three main stages in the brewing process:
- Boil water
- Grind coffee
How long it takes to boil water will depend on your kettle. Your beans will take about 1-2 minutes to prepare between measuring and grinding. Then, all you’re left with is the brewing process.
Pour-overs take about 3 minutes to brew. Once you load up your coffee grounds, it’s just a matter of pouring your water over. Normally it’s recommended to finish the pouring between 2 to 3 minutes.
French press coffee can take anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes, depending on how strong you want your final cup.
The optimal grind size for coffee depends on your method. Grind size affects how the coffee tastes, but it also determines how “muddy” your coffee ends up.
For a French press, you want to go with a medium to coarse coffee grinds. The larger size will minimize how much coffee sediment filters into your brew. However, the coarser the grinds, the harder to extract the flavor. We usually grind the beans to slightly coarser to pour-over for brewing French press coffee.
For a pour-over, aim for a medium grind size that’s the consistency of table salt. Somewhat coarse, but not overly so. You don’t have to worry as much about sediment since the filter in a dripper is usually more efficient than a press. However, if you grind too fine, the fine particles at the bottom may clog the filter and increase brew time.
Both French presses and pour-over drippers come in different sizes. French presses range from single-serve to 51 oz capacity, while drippers offer more flexibility. For example, some drippers such as V60 01 only let you brew a single cup at a time. In contrast, others, such as Chemex, has a 13-cup capacity option that allows you to brew larger batch.
If you’re shopping on a budget, a pour-over dripper is the best option. You can find drippers ranging from as little as five dollars to more than six hundred dollars.
French press options are available starting at around twenty dollars, but, as with drippers, you can also find high-end options that cost a few hundred dollars. So regardless of which method you choose, you’ll have a range of price choices available.
Caffeine in Pour Over and French Press Coffee
A few factors affect how much caffeine ends up in your morning cup of coffee. Specifically, grind size, temperature, and brew method.
The key rule of thumb with coffee grounds is, the bigger the ground, the less the surface area. Less surface area equates to lower extraction points for your water. In other words, a finer ground gives your hot water more places to extract caffeine.
Water temperature also plays a role in extracting caffeine from your coffee. Higher temperatures are more effective at brewing a more highly-caffeinated cup. So, if you want to get the most out of your coffee grounds, use hotter water.
Your brew method is also a factor in how much caffeine you get from your coffee. When you use a French press, you’re fully immersing your coffee in water and letting it soak. This helps get the most out of a method that doesn’t typically yield a high amount of caffeine.
Which Has More Caffeine?
Between the French press and the pour-over, the pour-over is where you’ll get the most caffeine. A French press will provide about 80-135 mg of caffeine, depending on how long you let it steep. On the other hand, a pour-over cup offers a whopping 175 mg per cup.
Although you can get a lot from the French press since you’re immersing in the grounds, the size of the grounds makes the pour-over the winner. Smaller grounds yield more caffeine, even if they aren’t immersed.
The French press and pour-over methods will both give you a great cup of coffee. However, if you want one that gives you a solid boost of caffeine and is unlikely to leave sediment in your cup, pour-over is the way to go.