I cover a lot of pour over coffee-related things on this site (shocker!), but POC & Co. is not exclusive or snobs towards other methods. Coffee can be enjoyed in many different ways, the more you know the better you are in deciding which coffee brewing method is for you. In this article, I break down the main differences between Pour Over Coffee & French Press method of brewing. Both are extremely popular methods around the world and enjoyed by many people throughout the decades. The distinct differences between the two are purely functional, technique and solely based on your preferences, but it’s fun to compare anyway right?
[RELATED POST: Pour Over Coffee Maker Roundup]
Pour Over vs. French Press: Which one is better?
The main differences between pour over vs. french press: grind size & technique. Both methods have their pros and cons, but the flavor of your coffee, in the end, is what matters the most, right? French press coffee is a little different in that it requires a little less attention as you’re brewing you the cup and pour over method requires all your attention while brewing. I don’t consider one method to be better than the other, it’s purely preference and taste driven. I have plenty of friends that swear by their French Press maker and I’m a bit partial to pour over coffee. At the end of the day, methods are just a means to an end, which is to make a cup of coffee you enjoy the most.
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press Cost
This could be an important factor for some people and I think worth going over. Since I own both French Press & Pour over devices, I’ve been able to directly compare the starting cost, & monthly cost of each method. As coffee prices continue to rise the cost becomes an interesting factor to consider even if you’re not worried about it right now. Let’s dive in a little bit for the cost for each method. It’s worth noting that in the comparison charts below, we consider a ‘cup’ as 12 fluid oz, whereas most coffee manufacturers consider a cup of coffee being around 4-5 fl. oz. Most Americans drink coffee from a mug which is typically measured at 8-12 fl. oz., which makes the comparison between methods a bit more standardized. In a previous post, I calculated about $1.50 for a cup of pour over (~$0.85 on the cheap end) using local roasters. The serving ratio for a French Press is very similar to a pour over, as a matter of fact, you might save a little more since the bean grind sizes are larger. However, since we are basing the price of bean weight, then the price difference between the two is largely negligible and comparatively the same. 15 / 1 water to bean ratio for French press and a 16 / 1 water to bean ratio for pour over. The cost between the two is not worth fretting over.
Pour Over Coffee
I was initially going to put another ‘How-To’ on this section about pour over coffee, but we cover this topic extensively in other posts and decided to just link the blog posts already on this site. It doesn’t make sense to keep duplicating the content that already exists.
If you’re just landing on this page from a search engine (Thank you Google Overlord), I’ve covered how to make a great pour over cup extensively in other posts here if you’re a complete beginner or if you have even more burning questions about pour over coffee-making, check out this link. Still not convinced that pour over coffee is superior? Maybe read this other post from POC & Co. To make a great pour over coffee, it’s not much different than a French press, the technique and ground size are really the biggest difference between the two. Check out those other links on our site if you’re looking to learn more about pour over coffee. It’s a simple process that that has been making amazing cups of coffee for decades now, anyone considering trying out pour over at home to change things up a bit or just save a few bucks, pour over is a great way to make coffee shop level brew for less than $1.50 a cup. If you’re using a Keurig machine, I break down the cost in detail in this post, the result may shock you. If you’re on the fence about getting rid of your Keurig machine, please take the time to read the post, it may help you decide whether or not it’s worth keeping a Keurig, regardless of how convenient it is.
How to Choose The Right French Press
I wrote a French Press Roundup to help you choose the right French Press if you are in the market for one. You can find that article here.
If I’m to give only one piece of advice about getting a French press for your use, I would suggest choosing quality over price every time. Get the highest french press coffee maker that you can afford. There are a ton of options when it comes to french presses online, especially on Amazon and, they come in many different sizes and price ranges. Firstly, think about what your main use will be for a french press? The Coffee Gator that I have has a 34 oz capacity and can consistently make about 3 cups ( US. mugs are about 12 oz) of coffee. Since I primarily make french press coffee for myself or a couple of people (at work) I decided to only get a smaller capacity french press coffee maker. If you know you’re going to be making coffee for more than 3-4 people, then consider a large french press pot. Technically you could just make 2-3 pots of french press, it doesn’t take that long, so that’s also an option. There’s a Bodum French Press maker that goes up to 51 Ounces / 1.5L of coffee, it’s a big boy. Things to consider when choosing the right French Press Coffee Maker:
- Capacity: How many people will you be serving? For yourself or more than 4?
- Price: French Press coffee makers are relatively cheap compared to other manual methods, spend as much as you can on quality
- Quality: Bodum has been a brand name in French Press coffee makers for decades now. I personally use Coffee Gator 34oz French Press
How to Use a French Coffee Press
Since we don’t really cover the French Press method a whole lot on this site, I’ll definitely do a How-To in this section. You will certainly need a few pieces of coffee devices to make a good cup & learn a few tricks on how to use a French Press. If you’re coming from other brew methods and happen to land on this site, this will be a great guide for your first french press if you’re looking to get one. I’ve used a french press for years, cheap ones, expensive ones and the two that have lasted me the longest by far my ceramic french press (I can’t find anywhere anymore )and a cheaper Coffee Gator French Press Coffee Maker (check on Amazon). I also had a Bodum French Press for many years before it broke during one of my many moves (R.I.P old friend) and if you’re looking for a cheaper option than the Coffee Gator check that out on Amazon as well.
French Press Tools: How to Use
Once you’ve chosen the right french press maker, it’s time to use it! Hooray! You’re only a few minutes away from an outstanding cup of coffee, or not if you don’t know what you’re doing. But have no fear, we’re finally getting to that point. There are a lot of similarities to pour over coffee compared to the French Press, as an example, the water temperature blooming and extraction are all phases of the making coffee that are similar, the technique on how to get a cup is largely different. Things you’ll need to get started:
- Burr Grinder
- Hot Water Heater / Kettle
- French Press Pot / Maker
- Scale (optional)
Simple enough? If you bought a coffee press, you’re already winning at this. However, if you’re completely new to manual home coffee making, then you may not have some of the gear. In a post on this site, I go over and recommend some coffee making devices, specifically burr grinders and kettle. If you’re wondering which ones to get, there’s a good list of recommended items on that post, take the time to read it. I only ever recommend items I’ve personally used or currently use. Follow the steps below to continue with the instructions on making French Press Coffee.
Step 1: Measure the Beans & Water
If you can get the ratio of whole beans to water, you can make a decent pot of French Press, every time. As you get better at making french press coffee at home, you’ll eventually be pro at just eyeballing measurements. At the start, you may need a scale to get the ratios just right. This is fairly important, too many beans can render bitter tasting coffee, not enough will probably yield something bland/sour. I recommend as a starting point of around ~30-32 grams of whole coffee per cup and 12 oz of water per cup. You’ll need a scale to get those exact amounts, but ~60 – 65 grams of coffee is around 5 tablespoon of coffee. I have a post on how to make coffee without a scale, check it out here.
Step 2: French Press Ground Size & Pre-Heat The French Press
The French press is a ground coffee bean immersion method, all your coffee grinds will be submerged in hot water for a few minutes while it extracts the oils, soluble, and flavor from the coffee. Because of this, you want the coffee grinds to be as chuck as possible. Always grind you french press beans to a coarse, NEVER FINE, you’ll end up with sludge and so much sediment in your cup, you’ll never want to touch your French Press coffee maker again.
Once your water has come to a rolling boil, pour a small portion of the water into the french press pot. If you’re new to manual coffee making, then this step will ensure the whole french press coffee maker stays warm during the entire brew process — coffee extraction is easier when a consistent temperature is maintained during brewing. If you’re an old veteran coffee maker, then this process should be familiar to you. Even in pour over coffee, you still have to wash the filter and warm the pour over carafe to ensure the best pot of coffee as possible.
Step 3: Add your coffee
Your choice of coffee is largely up to you, the only recommendation I have at this stage is trying to get high-quality coffee beans. The first place to start is your local roaster, they will usually give the coffee bean the love and attention it deserves, not to mention you’ll be helping out a local business, more than likely. The right coffee to water ratio is one of the keys to a good, consistent cup, no matter the brew method. I like to use a 15 / 1 coffee to water ration with my french press method. That means for every gram of coffee, I boil 15 grams of water. This ratio will change based on your taste and preference, also bean roast to some degree.
Step 4: Bloom, let it bloom
This step is important, pour hot water into your french press pot, as even as possible. The patter is completely up to you, as long as all the beans are evenly soaked. I usually do a circular pattern for this, starting from the outside and working my way out to soak as much surface area of the beans as possible. Blooming your coffee beans is an important step to most manual methods and is often overlooked. This process releases carbon dioxide from the coffee bean that’s been trapped inside the bean from the roasting process. This will extract as much flavor as possible from your bean, and can’t be underestimated. The blooming process usually takes about 30 – 45 seconds and you’re ready to pour the rest of the water into the french press pot.
Step 5: Pour the rest of the hot water
If you followed the water to bean ratio, just pour the rest of the hot water into your french press pot. Once you’ve poured all the water into the pot, give it a gentle stir. Just a slow lazy stir right into the french press pot, not too hard. The goal is to extract flavors and mix all the solubles that have floated to the top of the pot. By stirring gently, you’ll be mixing all the flavors in, mix too strong or too much, and you’ll over-extract the coffee and end up with something completely bitter. Stir gently for 30-45 seconds and stop. Place the french press plunger in the pot, press it slightly, NOT ALL THE WAY, just the tip. Leave it for a few minutes.
Step 6: The Wait…
Four minutes is all it takes. After that, you can press the french press plunger all the way down until all the coffee particles/grounds are at the bottom of the pot, compacted from the press. Just remember this process isn’t a show of hard or fast you can press coffee, this requires a gentle consistent pressure to get the coffee all the way down to the bottom without upsetting as much sediment as possible. Press too fast, you’ll have a pot full of sludge, then you need to wait longer, making you coffee colder, way to go Arnold. Once you’ve done this plunging motion as perfectly as I’ve instructed you to, it’s time to pour the coffee into your favorite Hello Kitty cup. Enjoy!
Here’s the deal, if you’re only making french press coffee for a lonely cup of one (no worries, I do all the time), any coffee left inside the pot after you’ve filled your mug becomes bitter over time. It over extracts the coffee and essentially becomes undrinkable unless you love bitter sad coffee. So make as much as you can drink, waste less, drink more.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
My rule of thumb for French Press is to use a 15 / 1 ratio, that means 1 gram of coffee, use 1 gram of water on a scale. Again, if you’re new to making manual coffee, these numbers are a mere starting point or guidelines. As you start to develop your own flavors and taste preference, you’ll end up adjusting accordingly, anyway. I think the French Press coffee is a great alternative to pour over, I own both and you’ll probably eventually own both if you don’t already, it just gives your daily coffee routine variation. If you’re new to both, I suggest to try the pour over method first, as a purist, you can go to your local coffee shop, grow a beard and talk shop even if you’re not sure what you’re talking about. I suggest dropping words like extraction, bloom….coffee. Those terms will get you coffee street creds right away.