Taking the Plunge: A Comparison of Coffee Brewing Methods
For some people, coffee is just coffee. For others, all coffee is not interchangeable. Instead, “coffee” serves as an overarching category with dozens of subcategories, fine-tuned to provide a unique drinking experience. For the casual, at-home brewer, questions about which method produces the best morning cup can feel overwhelming. While the choice ultimately boils down to taste preferences, one must know their options before making a decision on which type of coffee brewing system they should invest in. Drip coffee makers and French presses both provide user-friendly experiences and delicious coffee, but they have vast differences that a coffee lover should explore in order to determine the best system for them.
For those who love coffee, flavor determines which method makes the best brew. Drip coffee makers work through a filtration system in which water goes in cold, the machine heats the water and distributes it over the grounds which sit in a filter, and then gravity causes the water, now coffee, to drip into the carafe underneath. This exposes the water to the coffee grounds for a minimal amount of time, resulting in a less bitter, and often weaker, brew. Drinkers adjust the strength by adding more or less grounds, though the size of the brewing basket determines the ultimate limit. For someone who enjoys a smooth, but not strong, brew, drip makers produce a pretty good cup.
A French press, which consists of a beaker, plunger, and filter, works manually. To brew a cup, mix grounds with near-boiling water (yes, that means you have to have a separate device to heat water) inside the beaker. Drinkers adjust the flavor by changing the amount of grounds, the temperature of the water, and/or the amount of time the grounds soak. Because of this full exposure, a French press provides a full-bodied flavor experience, but only if the brewer calculates the proportion of grounds – to water – to temperature – to time perfectly. This makes a cup brewed with a French press entirely customizable, but also risky, as each cup might taste different. For the committed coffee connoisseur, this method produces delicious results, but it may be too much work for a more casual drinker.
For both methods, costs vary depending on quality and company, but in general, a good French press costs much less than a good drip maker. A drip maker uses electricity and counts as an appliance, running anywhere from a modest $25 to a more advanced $200 and beyond. A mid-ranged drip maker will perform well and consistently without all of the features of a more expensive model. Drip makers also require filters, though, so that additional monthly cost should be considered.
Bonavita BV1900TS 8-Cup Carafe Coffee Brewer
Certified by SCA ( Specialty Coffee Association )
French presses generally cost a fraction of a drip maker, but a higher-end one proves worth the investment. With so many tiny metal parts exposed to water, a buyer should find one that won’t rust. Cheap ones break more easily, too, since the filters are comprised of several different pieces. A French press user may need to purchase a kettle or teapot along with it to boil the water, but other than that, few additional costs accompany this brewing method.
Kona French Press Coffee Maker with Reusable Stainless Steel Filter
Large Comfortable Handle & Glass Protecting Durable Black Shell
Brewing Time and Effort
To brew a pot with a drip coffee maker, the user puts a filter in the basket, puts in the coffee grounds, adds water to the tank and turns the maker on — the machine finishes the rest. Brew time takes around ten to fifteen minutes for the whole pot, and less time when the brewer uses less water. To clean up, toss the grounds into the trash and rinse the carafe and you’re done. A drip coffee maker brews coffee quickly and with little effort on the part of the brewer.
As mentioned above, a French press works by pouring near-boiling water over the grounds within the beaker. Since the brewer must heat the water first, this constitutes an additional ten to fifteen minutes. The soaking time depends on the taste preference and grind size, which should range from three minutes for a weak brew to ten minutes for a stronger flavor. Most French press advocates recommend a good stir thirty seconds into the brew time. Once finished, the brewer then uses the plunger and filter to push the grounds to the bottom. Pouring the coffee immediately after results in less acidity as well. Cleanup requires dumping the grounds and giving the press a good rinse or wash. The plunger proves more difficult because of all the small filters that grounds may stick in. With everything done, the French press takes slightly more time and effort than the drip maker, but the brewer controls the final product.
Drip coffee makers and French presses both produce good coffee, depending on the needs of the drinker. After reviewing all of the differences, a prospective buyer can make an informed decision about which method they prefer. It all boils down to how much control over flavor they want, how much they want to spend, and what kind of time and effort they can commit to brewing their perfect cup.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Philip Butcher, a writer for Dream Kitchen Solutions.