11 Major Differences Between French Press vs Espresso

French Press and Espresso are two of the most popular ways to drink coffee.  Most people know espresso is a strong, dark, concentrated coffee, but not everyone knows what French Press coffee is. Is it a type of coffee roast?  Or a type of espresso?  

What’s the Difference Between French Press and Espresso?

In general, the main difference between French Press and espresso is in how they are brewed but, there are other things that make these two coffees different including, coffee roast and grind used, caffeine level, cost of making it, serving size, crema produced, consistency and flavor. 

The way these two coffees are brewed is the main difference between them, but a few other things set them apart. If you’ve only had French Press coffee or espresso at a coffee shop, you might not understand the difference between the two. They both taste like a strong cup of coffee, but they are made using completely different brewing methods.  I am going to explain the brewing methods and go into more detail about what makes them so different.

1. French Press is Steeped.  Espresso is Brewed Quickly.

Some people mistakenly believe that French Press is a form of espresso, but French Press and espresso are two separate coffees brewed using entirely different brewing methods. Let’s discuss how each is brewed. French Press coffee is a slow immersion method of brewing.  Espresso uses a fast high-pressurized brewing method,

2. A Dark Roast is Best for Espresso. French Press can use Lighter Roasts.

Choosing the best coffee beans for the type of coffee you are making is critical to getting the best flavor.  Espresso is a strong, full-bodied, concentrated coffee.  A dark roast works best for espresso.  French Press, on the other hand, is a steeped coffee.  The steeping process allows it to release more of the natural flavor of the coffee beans.  It’s a more versatile coffee brewing method. You can use a dark roast for French Press if you prefer a stronger flavor, but medium and light roast coffees work well too.

What is the best coffee roast for espresso?

You can use Arabica or Robusta beans for espresso, which you prefer depends on whether you prefer a strong, earthy flavor, or a more delicate, sweeter flavor.  There are pros and cons to either bean.  Arabica is often preferred because it is generally a higher quality bean with rich, sweet, floral flavors.  However, Robusta beans are great too.  One of the reasons people like using Robusta beans for espresso is because it’s easier to produce crema from Robusta beans. Crema is the brown foam that sits on top of an espresso shot.

In general, you can use either bean for espresso, but when it comes to roast, it’s best to go with a darker roast when making espresso.  Although you can use any roast to make espresso, because of its fast extraction rate, using a lighter roast is usually not recommended.  

What is the best coffee roast for French Press?

A French Press really brings out the flavor in your coffee so selecting the best beans is important.  This brewing method really makes the bean’s natural flavors shine.  If you want to try a new and exotic coffee, try making it in a French Press.  Like espresso, you can use Arabica or Robusta beans, which you prefer is up to you.

Typically, French Press coffees taste stronger than coffee brewed in a coffee maker, which is why a medium to dark rest is usually preferred However, which roast you choose is really a matter of preference. You can use any roast you’d like with this coffee.

3. Espresso Beans Need to be Ground Fine. French Roast Uses Coarse Ground Coffee.

When it comes to espresso the grind matters. Select the best beans and grind the beans to a very fine consistency.  Espresso machines force hot, pressurized water through the coffee grinds.  They need to be compacted so that the water has some resistance when it passes through the coffee, otherwise the extraction time will be too short to bring out all the flavor.

A French press uses a much slower extraction process, so the opposite is true.  Use a medium to coarse grind for French Press. If you use a smaller grind size, you will end up with small particles in your coffee.

4. Espresso has More Caffeine Per Volume 

The question always comes up, which has more caffeine espresso or French Press?  It’s not a fair question. When you’re comparing the two you are comparing caffeine by volume. While technically an espresso has more caffeine by volume, a French Press coffee has more caffeine in total.  

How much caffeine is in a shot of espresso?

The caffeine level can vary depending on what type of bean and roast you use, but on average a shot of espresso contains about 65 mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine is in French Press Coffee?

A standard 8 oz cup of French Press coffee can have anywhere from 80-120 mg of caffeine. How much caffeine it contains really depends on the type of roast and beans you use.

5. French Press is an Dveryday Coffee. Espresso is a Specialized Coffee.

Most people, even coffee connoisseurs, don’t drink espresso every day.  It’s more of a social coffee that people drink on special occasions. It’s also not served as a cup of coffee. Espresso only comes in a shot.  You can add a shot of espresso to other coffee drinks, but if you drink a cup of coffee every day, espresso won’t replace your morning cup of joe.  French Press uses a brewing method you could use every day.

6. French Press is Easy to Make. Espresso Requires an Expensive Machine.

French Press is one of the easiest types of coffee to make. A French Press isn’t difficult to use. All you need is a French Press and some boiling water. You don’t even have to have a coffee grinder to make it. Although I wouldn’t recommend using a grocery store brand of coffee for French Press, you could. To make a true espresso, you have to invest in an espresso machine and learn how to use it. Espresso machines aren’t generally complicated, but getting an espresso right will take more practice than making a French Press coffee.

7. Espresso Costs Much More to Make than French Press

In order to make a true espresso, you need an espresso machine.  Even a low-end espresso machine costs around $100. For a higher-end machine, you’re looking at as much as $500.  Not everyone makes espresso often enough to invest in one.  However, if you plan to buy an espresso machine, you don’t want to scrimp on price. A good espresso machine makes all the difference in how your espresso turns out.

A French Press is much more affordable.  You can usually find a French Press for $20-30.  Most French Presses are made of glass and are inexpensive. A stainless steel French Press costs a little more but is still less expensive than an espresso machine.

8. You can Make More Than one Cup with a French Press.  Espresso Makes One Small Shot.

Over the years, everyone told me you need to invest in an espresso machine. If you love espresso, it is totally worth it. But, an espresso machine only makes a small shot of coffee.  It’s a single serving. You can’t whip up a whole batch of espresso for friends. You have to make it one shot at a time.

Espresso is obviously a much smaller serving size than French Press coffee.  If you are a true coffee lover, you need more than just a shot of espresso in the morning.  With a French Press, you can’t make large quantities like a drip coffee maker, but you can make more than one cup. 

9. Espresso has an Intense Bold Flavor. French Press has a More Intricate, Gentle Flavor.

Espresso is known for its strong, concentrated taste.  People who like espresso like the convenience of drinking an intensely flavored coffee in one small powerful shot.  Because of its powerful flavor, many people prefer to drink it in a late or add a shot of it to their favorite coffee.

People who love French Press will tell you it’s the best way to make coffee.  A French Press isn’t run through a filter. This allows the water to soak up all of the flavors in the coffee grounds. As the grounds mix around in the water and steep, the flavor becomes more pronounced. The way a French Press tastes really depends on the beans you use. Since you can make French Press coffee with just about any bean or roast, how it tastes will largely depend on the bean you go with.

10. Espresso Produces Crema. A French Press Does Not.

Crema is the brown froth that you see on the top of an espresso.  It can only be produced with an espresso machine. An espresso machine forces very hot water through compressed finely ground coffee. The pressurized water creates air bubbles or foam.  Crema is what gives espresso its rich full-bodied flavor.  A French Press cannot do this. 

11. French Press has the Consistency of Regular Coffee. Espresso is Concentrated and Thicker.

If you want to try a different style of your standard coffee, French Press is the way to go. French Press coffee may be stronger than drip-brewed coffee, but it’s still about the same consistency.  Espresso is an extremely concentrated coffee. Think of it is a coffee condensed down to a single shot. Not only does it create a smaller portion size, but the consistency is also thicker.

How to make French Press Coffee

Making French Press coffee is easy. You just need a French Press, hot water, and coffee. If you don’t know what a French Press is, it’s basically a container that stores water and a plunger.  It’s one of the simplest coffees to make.  Just follow the steps below.

  • Step 1: Grind the coffee
    For French Press, you want to use a coarse or medium-coarse grind.  Because this type of coffee is steeped, a finer grind is not recommended.  Fine grinds get through the plunger and end up floating in your coffee.  
  • Step 2: Boil Water
    The easiest way to do this is to use a tea kettle, but if you don’t have a tea kettle, you can boil water on the stove.  Using hot boiling water is essential for making French Press coffee. You don’t want to use water that’s cooled down.
  • Step 3: Add ground coffee
    Next, you add the coffee grounds directly into the French Press.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per cup of water, depending on how strong you like your coffee.  
  • Step 4: Add boiling water
    Pour a small amount of boiling water into the carafe in a spiraling motion. This is called blooming. As the water meets the coffee, the grounds will swell and start to release their flavor into the water. Make sure that all of the coffee grounds are covered by water.  Let the water and coffee sit for about thirty seconds before adding the remaining water.  
  • Step 5: Stir and cover
    Stir the coffee gently.  This will help the water to absorb more of the coffee flavor. Cover the carafe with the plunger, but don’t press.  The carafe needs to be covered to keep the coffee hot during the extraction process.  
  • Step 6: Let the coffee steep
    French Press coffee uses a slow immersion extraction process. The coffee grounds slowly release their flavor and aroma into the coffee.  Timing is everything with this brewing method. Set a timer and steep the coffee for exactly 4 minutes.
  • Step 7: Press the plunger
    It’s called a French Press because the coffee is pressed into the water. Gently push down on the plunger. This will move the water through the sides of the plunger and push the coffee down to the bottom of the carafe. 
  • Step 8: Pour the coffee
    Don’t retract the plunger, otherwise, you will end up with grinds in your coffee.  It’s best to make the exact amount of French Press coffee you plan to drink or serve. If the coffee continues to steep in the carafe it can become bitter tasting. 

How to make Espresso

To make espresso at home you need an espresso machine. There are other ways to make espresso at home if you don’t have a machine, but it won’t be a true espresso or taste like what you get at a coffee shop. This is because an espresso machine cuts the extraction time down to 20 or 30 seconds.  There are just a few steps to making espresso.

  • Step 1: Turn the espresso machine on
    Some espresso machines heat up really quickly, but it’s best to allow your machine to heat up for around 30 minutes for the best extraction.
  • Step 2: Grind the beans
    For espressos, you want to use fine ground coffee.  This is necessary because the extraction process is so fast. A finer grind allows the water to take in more of the flavor of the coffee beans.  
  • Step 3: Measure the ground coffee
    It’s best to weigh the coffee. Use around 7 grams for a single shot and 15 grams for a double shot.  If you don’t have a scale, a tablespoon is about 7 grams.
  • Step 4: Add the coffee to the portafilter and tamp
    Scoop the ground coffee beans into the portafilter, distributing them evenly.  Use a tamper to compress the coffee in the portafilter.  Tamping is an important step, as the beans need to be even, level, and compressed.  
  • Step 5: Clean the brew head of any old grounds
    Before you place the portafilter in the brew head, rinse the brew head or run the machine for a few seconds to remove any old espresso from the machine.
  • Step 6: Place the portafilter in the brew head and brew
    Insert the brew head into the portafilter and place your cup underneath. Press brew right away so the grounds don’t get exposed to heat for too long. This should take about 30 seconds.

As you can see French Press and espresso are brewed using very different methods. The extraction rate is much faster with espresso.  Espresso is also brewed at a much hotter temperature.  

Because of how each is brewed, the flavor of each coffee may be similar in some ways, but there are a lot of differences between these two coffees.  Now that I’ve explained the way French Press and Espresso are brewed, let’s discuss the other differences between French Press and espresso. 

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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