French Press vs. Drip Coffee: Which is Best?

french press near book

Let’s be honest: espresso machines are expensive and instant coffee isn’t fresh. And if you’re on a budget, that leaves you with two options: to get a french press or a drip coffee kit. Both are inexpensive and allow you to make fresh coffee without taking trips to your local coffee shop. But they are not alike.

French Press is better than drip coffee at giving you an intense, flavorful dose of caffeine, while drip coffee is better at producing less acidic coffee that doesn’t taste bitter. French Press coffee is ideal for the mornings, while drip coffee is perfect for the evenings.

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about how the two beverages compare against each other, including their respective pros and cons. After covering the advantages and the drawbacks, we will go over the situation or context in which each comes out ahead.

Benefits of French Press

French press coffee is relatively cheap and is a great entry-point into making your own coffee without resorting to instant coffee. In this section, we will look at the key benefits of using a french press to make your coffee.

French Press Coffee Has More Caffeine

The majority of people have coffee for its caffeine content, which is why the decaf version of the beverage is 12 times less popular. If caffeine is the main benefit one seeks from coffee, French Press coffee is far superior to its competitor with over 86 mg of caffeine per cup. This is mainly because the plunging motion produces pressure that removes every milligram of reasonably extractable caffeine out of the coffee grounds and pours it into the beverage.

In some instances, your standard espresso consumption doesn’t do the job, but a double shot can inject too much caffeine into your system. In such cases, French Press coffee is a great replacement for espresso or americano because it can increase your caffeine intake without doubling it. 

This isn’t an inherent benefit, though, because overstimulation and other problems are associated with having too much caffeine. It is a benefit only to the extent that having more caffeine works for you in a healthy way. All in all, this feature makes it an ideal candidate for morning coffee.

More Flavorful

Because of its efficient extraction mechanism, the French Press doesn’t just extract caffeine from the grounds. It also removes the coffee oils. Caffeine itself is tasteless, so the actual “taste” of coffee comes from the oils extracted in the brewing process. 

A part of the reason why you have coffee instead of an energy drink is its flavor. And if you have decaf coffee, then the taste is 100% of the reason for your consumption. In both those cases, French Press coffee comes out ahead.

It results in a more concentrated beverage that can be diluted to the extent that you want. You also have more control over the final beverage because you control the plunger, whereas, in drip coffee, everything is out of your control except the quantity of coffee grounds and the temperature of the water. So even if you want less flavor, you can engineer your brewing process to extract less flavor from the coffee.

More Antioxidants

Coffee is rich in antioxidants, and a properly made cup of french press coffee has more antioxidants than the average drip coffee. However, antioxidants are not the main reason behind people having coffee, which is why this benefit is not as well-stated or noticed.

Costs Less

Another major benefit of french coffee has little to do with health and alertness. It has to do with money. Because you get the most out of your coffee grounds, you technically pay less for your coffee compared to drip coffee. 

This difference is barely noticeable because you could use the same amount of ground coffee to get the same number of cups (albeit with less essence) via the drip method. But when you compare the cost of french Press with barista machines, espresso makers, and even a traditional coffee machine, you can see a much larger price difference.

Less Time Consuming

French Press takes less time to make than drip coffee, though this difference is only one minute. It takes 4 minutes to make french press coffee and around 5 to make the same cup with the drip method. This time adds up if you aggregate your coffeemaking across the year. Still, it is not that big of a difference.

Cons of French Press Coffee

Having examined the pros of french press coffee, let’s look at the drawbacks of this method so you can make an informed decision regarding its use. Please note how most of these drawbacks are directly tied to the benefits, which makes them harder to offset without erasing the corresponding advantages.

Not Consistent

One of the glaring faults in the french press method is something you’ll be able to taste. It is hard to make french press coffee that tastes the same every time. From the time you take before plunging to the degree to which you sink it, plenty of moving factors can affect the flavor of your coffee. Drip coffee is much more predictable because you’re controlling fewer factors.

Can be Bitter

If you dislike the bitter aftertaste of coffee, you’ll need to offset the french Press’s tendency to over-extract the bitter coffee oils. Aside from ordering a different roast or arabica and coarse-grinding it, there’s very little you can do about bitter french press coffee. Switching to drip coffee is advisable if you have a lower tolerance for bitterness.

Easier to Overdose

While lethal overdosing on coffee is nearly impossible, there have been double-digit deaths related to caffeine overdose. Most caffeine “overdose” results in much tamer consequences like a spike in one’s anxiety and frequent bathroom use. Still, those are definitely not benefits. If you don’t have as much caffeine, usually, then you should avoid french press coffee.

Can Cause Acidity

Finally, french press coffee can cause acidity because the bitter coffee oils referenced earlier are bitter mainly because of their acidic content. On the one hand, there are more antioxidants in french press coffee, but they also come with acidic soils. Ultimately, you have to decide whether the antioxidants are worth the acidity.

Should You Have French Press Coffee?

French press coffee is for you if:

  • You have fewer cups – If you have one cup a day and usually take it in the morning, then French Press coffee can add an oomph into your morning energy levels.
     
  • You want to make your own coffee inexpensively – French Press and drip coffee costs the same in the medium term, but french Press is cheaper over the long run because it doesn’t require purchasing filters.
     
  • You like intense coffee – Above all, French press coffee is for you if its taste and aroma please you. 

Benefits of Drip Coffee

Now that we have covered all you need to know about the French Press let’s look at the pros of having drip coffee. While not all advantages of drip coffee are absent from french press coffee, many of the benefits that have to do with applying less physical pressure to the brewing process are exclusive to drip coffee.

It Is Less Bitter

Since drip coffee is brewed by applying physical pressure to coffee grounds, it doesn’t contain

More consistent, a bulk of the acidic oils are found in coffee made with a french press. Moreover, drip coffee goes through a filter that prevents the extracted oils from getting into the coffee. If you prefer mellower-tasting coffee, then you should opt for the drip variety. 

In case you’re extracting coffee for use in a chocolate or cake recipe, the mellow beverage made with a pour-over will not work. Here are some instances where the drip coffee’s low bitterness can be a liability.

  • Making frappuccino – Frappe and similar milkshake-coffee beverages taste like coffee only because the espresso used is bitter. Drip coffee’s taste can be overpowered by milk and sugar, making it a poor additive to cold coffee drinks.
     
  • Baking a cake – Coffee cake made with drip coffee will taste more like chocolate cake.
     
  • Serving an avid coffee consumer – Most coffee lovers are accustomed to a medium-roast arabica espresso and its derivates. Drip coffee will taste unusual to them, to say the least.

Is Not as Acidic

Again, the lack of physical pressure on the coffee grounds and the presence of a filter prevents the drip coffee from being acidic. This is because the acidic contents that get extracted towards the end are kept from leaving the coffee grounds, and what gets removed from the grounds is held back by the drip coffee’s filter. 

There is no caveat to this advantage, but it doesn’t appeal to anyone who doesn’t suffer from acidity after having a french press coffee. Even people interested in less acidic coffee try the average espresso machine beverage and find it balanced enough.

It Has a Consistent Taste

Coffee made using the drip method is consistent, provided you keep the ground size and quantity constant. In contrast, the french press results in inconsistent coffee that is sometimes too strong and at other times acceptably mellow. Because you don’t control the physics of brewing with drip coffee, it is easier to get good results once you understand proper portioning.

Is Not as Expensive

Drip coffee has the advantage that it is one of the cheapest methods of making coffee right away. If you don’t use appropriate utensils and simply take a coffee filter and a cup to make it, drip coffee costs a few dollars per cup. However, because you need to keep buying paper filters, the overall cost evens out with a french press in the medium-term and exceeds it in the long run.

Drawbacks of Drip Coffee

With the pros of drip coffee covered, let’s look at the main drawbacks you must keep in mind before getting a drip coffee kit.

Coffee Is Not as Strong

Since drip coffee isn’t extracted with plunger pressure, it contains less coffee essence and is weaker. If you have never had coffee before, it is actually healthier to get used to drip coffee, which contains around 20 mg less caffeine per cup. But if you’ve been having coffee for a while, then you might find drip coffee slightly weaker. To get the same amount of caffeine as a barista-made beverage, you’ll need 1.5 cups of drip coffee.

It Costs 25% To 50% More

Because you need more drip coffee, you end up using more coffee grounds, and not all of their contents get used. That’s why drip coffee costs more if you use it while maintaining your caffeine intake. But if you have the same number of cups as before, it will not cost more than a french press. You can use a finer grind to make sure you get more caffeine out with your drip coffee, so this drawback is applicable to a limited extent.

You Need to Keep Buying Filters

The drawback that one cannot escape when opting for drip coffee is the need for a filter. Because you have to keep getting new filters, there’s an added expense to every cup of drip coffee in perpetuity. For french press coffee, there is no cost except that of the coffee grounds and water, which makes it more lucrative in the long run.

Should You Have Drip Coffee?

You should have drip coffee if you like to have coffee in the evenings or if you’re not used to the high caffeine content of retail coffee beverages or a french press. It is also ideal if regular coffee gives you heartburn. Having 1.5 cups of drip coffee instead of a cup of french press coffee will allow you to get the caffeine you want without the acidic soils.

Final Thoughts

French Press coffee is better if you need a strong coffee to wake up. If the bitterness or the flavor of coffee is what you like, then you should get yourself a french press. Drip coffee is perfect for those who like a balanced beverage that isn’t too bitter or strong. If you do not mind using more coffee grounds and regularly buying filter sheets, then you should get a drip coffee kit.

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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