French Press or Pour Over Coffee: Which Brewing Method is Right for You?

french press or pour over coffee

French press or pour over coffee...which brewing method is right for you? I'll take a little risk here and state that both methods brew a darn tasty cup of coffee. No doubt about it.

One method involves infusion, the other, immersion. If those terms don't mean much to you it's okay, my friend. We'll get to those details shortly.

There is a little bit of practice involved, but anyone can learn how to brew with either method. It's probably more accurate to say a bit of experimentation along with a healthy dose of patience. But it's well worth the time spent, my friend.

french press vs pour over coffee - which is better for you

If you're not familiar with the similarities, differences, and unique taste to the pour over and French press methods, you'll find all of the information you need right here, along with some helpful resources to get you started.

Fortunately, both the French press and the pour over dripper are quite budget friendly, so they are on par where the wallet is concerned. Sure, you can spend more money on the latest and greatest version of the brewer, or throw some extra dollars into equipment that will make the process more automated. But the bottom line is, you can make a great cup of coffee on a tiny little budget using either method.

By the time you've read through this article you'll have a good idea of which method may fit your taste buds and lifestyle the best French press or pour over coffee. If not, it's fun to try both and see what works for you! (Or, like me, use both methods depending on the mood of the day).

If you happen to click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


French Press Coffee: Let's Delve Deeper

how to make espresso coffee with a french press

What is French Press  Coffee? The Facts

French press coffee is brewed using coarsely ground coffee beans and letting them soak in hot water in a French press for about 4 minutes. This brewing process is referred to as immersion. Pretty simple, right?

Interestingly, the French press was originally patented in Italy in the 1920s by Ugo Paolini, developed from his original idea of a tomato juice separator. The simple design has evolved over the years with both French  and US designers filing patents for their versions.

It is sometimes referred to as a coffee press or a cafetiere.

The French press itself is comprised of a narrow cylindrical carafe with a handle that is most often made of glass or plastic. It has a metal or plastic lid and plunger that fits tightly into the cylinder. There is also a filter that is typically made of stainless steel wire or nylon mesh.


How to Brew French Press: Step by Step

The process of brewing French press coffee is quite simple. Of course, most java lovers will tweak the process by adding more/less coffee, or increasing/decreasing the steeping time. This is something you'll decide as you go about brewing coffee with your French press. 

It's always helpful to note, literally, how much coffee / how much water / how long of a steep time for the brew, so write it down while you're experimenting. If you're like me, my little head just doesn't retain all the details until I've gotten the process down pat. Just sayin'.

Step 1

Your water should be at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just short of boiling. Pour a little bit of water into the press to warm it up, then discard.

Step 2

Grind fresh coffee beans to a coarse grind, kind of like sea salt. Remember the 'golden rule' of 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water as you decide how much coffee to use. Add the freshly ground coffee beans to the French press.

Step 3

Pour in the water slowly, making sure that all of the grounds are completely immersed. It's best to stir with a non-metal type spoon or stick...wood works really well.

Step 4

Place the plunger on the press and leave it at the top...don't let the filter touch the water and grounds. Steep for 4 minutes.

Step 5

Press the plunger down slowly and evenly. Now pour yourself a delicious cup of French press coffee. 


What French Press Coffee Tastes Like: The Result

Coffee brewed with a French press has a distinct flavor and body. It is rich and flavorful, with a heavier feel than a cup of coffee brewed with a drip method, because the coffee grounds remain in contact with the water throughout the brewing process.

Because there is no paper filter, the natural oils in the coffee grounds are retained, which is why the flavor is deep and rich. One of the distinct features of French press coffee is that you can see the coffee oils floating on top. It may look a little strange at first, but that is what makes this brew so rich, smooth, and tasty.

You'll also find a bit of sediment (the grounds) at the bottom of your cup when you're almost finished drinking it. Don't worry - that's normal and due to the way the coffee is steeped. Just discard that last little bit in the bottom of the cup.


French Press Coffee: the Pros and Cons

There is a lot to love about French press coffee. It's certainly a budget friendly brewing method, doesn't take up a lot of space on your kitchen counter, is easily portable, and gives you a rich, full bodied cup of coffee. You can even use the French press to make a pretty tasty cup of espresso coffee. It's not quite the same as using an espresso machine but gets you close. It's worth a try!

The brewing process itself is quite simple, and you can tweak it to your own personal perfection.

On the other side, here are a few things to think about when brewing with a French press. As mentioned earlier, this brewing method creates a cup of coffee with oils floating on top and a little sediment at the bottom of your cup. Both are unique to French press coffee and lovers of this brew have come to enjoy and accept the characteristics.

The French press needs to be cleaned well after each use. It has only three pieces, but each piece needs to be thoroughly rinsed. The coffee grounds in the bottom of the carafe can be a little messy when they are discarded. It is the end of the world? Of course not. But it's a little different than tossing coffee grounds that are in a filter, or pitching a used coffee pod.


Best Selling French Press Brewers

If you haven't yet purchased a French press, here are a few of the current best sellers to consider:

Bestseller No. 1
Mueller French Press Double Insulated 310 Stainless Steel Coffee Maker 4 Level Filtration System, No Coffee Grounds, Rust-Free, Dishwasher Safe
  • If you really care about your coffee – We tested enough mechanisms and filters to make your head spin to tweak and uniquely design our press with a triple layered filter structure to stop the sediment, but let the yummy coffee oils through for a full-bodied delicious brew that will make you a very happy camper. And to share the java love, we give you a bonus matching travel canister that holds enough beans or grounds for two full batches.
  • More thicker, More heavier, Build to last – Our huge capacity professional grade 310 18/10 double-layered stainless-steel baby will keep your coffee hot for 60 minutes longer than thinner steel and glass models. And it’s drop proof, rust proof, and probably bulletproof (be nice).
  • Multiple Uses - Besides using the french press as a coffee maker, it is also handy appliance to make tea, mct oil coffee, hot chocolate, cold brew, frothed milk, almond milk, cashew milk, fruit infusions, and plant and herbal drinks as it seals in their flavors and aromas
  • Perfect for any occasion - For house warmings, weddings, birthdays, holidays and all coffee/tea lovers & healthy foodies! Two bonus stainless steel screens and the matching travel container are included with every purchase while quantities last.
  • European Engineered - Our total satisfaction promise covers all our products. So choose Mueller with confidence and look forward to a lifetime of java pleasure.
Bestseller No. 2
Veken French Press Coffee Maker (34 oz), 304 Stainless Steel Coffee Press with 4 Filter Screens, Durable Easy Clean Heat Resistant Borosilicate Glass - 100% BPA Free, Copper
  • Why Veken? – The affordable, user-friendly and elegant design makes this French Press a great addition to your kitchen. It also makes a great gift for friends and family. 
  • Elevate your coffee-making experience – The glass beaker allows you to monitor the whole coffee-making process. Watch the hot water and coffee grounds separate as you press the stainless-steel filter arm. Allow coffee’s magical aroma blend to produce a range of sensory experiences and transport you to your happy place.
  • Enjoy the quiet - Our Veken French Press is made of borosilicate glass which reduces noise generated by traditional metal presses.
  • Powerful filtration technique – The double stainless-steel screen filters help minimize the amount of residual grounds in your coffee, giving you a cup of pure brewed coffee that tastes as though it’s from your favorite coffee shop.
  • Precise scale line – Our Veken French Coffee Press features an exact scale line so you can prepare exactly the right amount of coffee or tea to meet your needs.
Bestseller No. 3
Bodum 1928-16US4 Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, 1 Liter, 34 Ounce, Chrome
  • French press: Chambord French press brews a premium cup of Coffee in just 4 minutes, simply add course ground Coffee, hot water and press
  • Stainless steel: 3-part stainless steel plunger has a mesh filter that helps extract your coffee's aromatic oils and subtle flavors instead of being absorbed by a paper filter. Made of plastic
  • Durable design: Coffee press features Bodum Patented safety lid to keep contents from spilling and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
  • Maximum flavor: pressed Coffee extracts the perfect amount of essentials oils and acids from the Coffee bean for maximum flavor; the preferred method for brewing for Coffee enthusiasts everywhere
  • Servings: premium French press Coffee maker makes 8 cups of Coffee, 4 oz each

You Might Also Consider:

These tools can help make your coffee brewing experience more efficient and satisfying:

  • coffee grinder - a burr grinder will give you the most precise and even grind
  • electric kettle - set the exact temperature for your water so there is no guesswork
  • coffee scale - if you prefer to have precise measurements

Pour Over Coffee: Let's Delve Deeper

pour over coffee vs french press

What is Pour Over Coffee? The Facts

Pour over coffee is brewed by pouring hot (almost boiling) water slowly over ground coffee that is in a cone-shaped filter. The water seeps through to a receptacle below, going in circles around the grounds as it slowly flows through - usually your coffee cup - and within 2 to 3 minutes you have a fresh, hot cup of coffee.

This is an infusion method, which means that the flavors are extracted as the hot water swirls through and past the grounds, but the natural oils are trapped by the filter.

Another, perhaps less well-known name for this brewing method is the Melitta process, named after Melitta Bentz, a German woman who originated it in 1908. She also founded The Melitta Company, and she is believed to have done more than anyone else to popularize this method.

The pour over dripper itself is cone-shaped and typically made from ceramic or stainless steel. You can use a cone-shaped paper filter along with it, or if you prefer, use a coffee dripper with a built-in filter. A permanent, stainless steel mesh filter can help extract your coffee's aromatic oils and subtle flavors instead of being absorbed by a paper filter, so you get a brew that more closely resembles French press brew. It's your choice.


How to Brew Pour Over: Step by Step

Brewing a cup of coffee using the pour over dripper is my preferred method. Why? The taste, my friend, the clear, clean taste of the java. 

These are my personal instructions for brewing a pour over coffee without using a scale. The method is not as precise and scientific as some; no coffee scale required; but if you have some patience and are willing to experiment a bit, these instructions will get you off to a good start!

Step 1

First, grind your coffee beans (unless you are using pre-ground coffee). Measure out 4 tablespoons - not heaping - of coffee beans and grind them to a medium - medium/fine level.

If you have a grinder with settings, you're all set. If your coffee grinder is like mine and doesn't have settings, it's a timing thing. You might have to experiment a little bit, but for me, it's a 12 second count to the perfect grind. 

Like I said, this is a simple and unscientific method, my friend.

Step 2

Place a filter in your coffee dripper and put the ground coffee in the filter. Some folks say that if you wet the filter before adding the coffee it helps to keep it in place. Give that a go if you like.

Tap the dripper a time or two, to even out the grounds.

Place the dripper over your coffee cup or mug.

Step 3

Now, heat your water. It's best to use filtered water because you'll most likely get the truest, cleanest coffee taste. Again, experiment and see what type of water gives you the best result.

If you're using an electric kettle, set it to 195 or 200 degrees and wait for it to heat. You can heat up to 205 degrees but don't go higher than that for optimal taste and extraction.

Are you heating water on the stove? No worries. Let it just come to a boil, take the water off the heat and let it sit for 30-45 seconds, then go to the next step.

If you want to be certain that you're using the right amount of water, pour 10 ounces into a measuring cup. Once you become accustomed to brewing with the pour over method you'll be able to eyeball it and can skip the measuring cup.

Step 4

Now we are going to let the coffee 'bloom'. Pour just enough water over the grounds to cover them, then wait for the water to drip through. It will take about 30 seconds or so.

A lovely benefit of the blooming process is that you get to enjoy the aroma of the coffee as the carbon dioxide is being released. 

Step 5

Pour more of the water in the dripper, starting from the outside edge and going in a circular motion toward the middle. Stop when the dripper is getting full, and wait for the coffee to drip through to the cup.

One more pour should use up the remaining water. The entire pour over process will take about 3 minutes.

And yes, it's a bit of a ritual once you get the hang of it. I really enjoy the process, and somehow it makes the coffee taste that much better!

how to make pour over coffee without a scale video

What Pour Over Coffee Tastes Like: The Result

Coffee brewed with a pour over has a clean, smooth taste, and of course, as fresh as can be. For me, there is nothing that compares to the taste and mouth feel of a pour over brew.

The strength of the brew will depend on your choice of coffee roast as well as how much coffee you use, but you'll be able to taste the unique notes of the roast, which is very satisfying!


Pour Over Coffee: The Pros and Cons

There is a lot to love about pour over coffee. If you're preparing one cup of coffee, maybe two, the pour over can be a wonderful and economical method of brewing. The investment is minimal, and your pour over dripper can easily be put away until its next use, so no need for any counter space, a real plus if space is at a premium.

You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to brew using the pour over method. There are some helpful tools that will make your experience the best it can be, but none are required. If you prefer, you can use pre-ground coffee, although the result will not be as clean and fresh as when you grind the beans just prior to brewing.

Pour over coffee has a taste that is similar to coffee brewed with a drip coffeemaker. So if that is your goal, you'll like using a pour over dripper.

Clean up is pretty simple, too, with a quick disposal of the used filter and grounds, or a good rinse of the permanent coffee dripper filter.

Things to consider with a pour over brew? If you prefer a heavier, bolder coffee brew, you might find a pour over coffee to be a little light. Having said that, though, I enjoy a bold cup of coffee and love using my pour over. It comes down to the ratio of coffee to water, as I explained above in the step-by-step.


Best Selling Pour Over Coffee Drippers

If you haven't yet purchased a pour over coffee dripper, here are a few of the current best sellers to consider:

SaleBestseller No. 1
Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper, Size 02, White
  • Durable, ceramic body retains heat to help ensure a constant temperature throughout the brewing cycle.
  • Cone shape helps to better accentuate coffees with floral or fruit flavor notes.
  • Spiral ribs allows for maximum coffee expansion.
  • Large single hole can change coffee taste according to the speed of water flow.
  • Designed and manufactured in Japan
SaleBestseller No. 2
Bodum 11571-109 Pour Over Coffee Maker with Permanent Filter, Glass, 34 Ounce, 1 Liter, Cork Band
  • Pour over Coffee: manual pour over Coffee maker allows you to brew an excellent cup of Coffee in minutes
  • Stainless steel: includes a Permanent, stainless steel mesh filter that helps extract your coffee's aromatic oils and subtle flavors instead of being absorbed by a paper filter
  • Coffee carafe: made of durable, heat-resistant borosilicate glass with Cork Band detailing that is both functional and elegant
  • Quick and easy: simply add coarse ground Coffee to filter, pour a small amount of water in a circular motion over ground Coffee until soaked then add the remaining water and let drip
  • Servings: pour over Coffee maker makes 8 cups of Coffee, 4 oz each; dishwasher safe
SaleBestseller No. 3
Pour Over Coffee Dripper Stainless Steel LHS Slow Drip Coffee Filter Metal Cone Paperless Reusable Single Cup Coffee Maker 1-2 Cup With Non-slip Cup Stand and Cleaning Brush
  • 【TOP QUALITY】Our fine mesh stainless steel coffee filter is made of the highest quality stainless steel without using paper filters; the bottom base will stay on and not break; the extra fine wire mesh at the lower part of the filter ensure no grounds end up in your cup.
  • 【SIMPLE TO USE】Simply heat the pour over coffee filter with hot water and rinse out, add coffee grounds, slowly pour in the hot water, let the coffee maker drip out the water through the fine pour over filter, and remove the coffee dripper when done, ready to enjoy your drink.
  • 【WIDE​ ​CUP​ ​STAND】​A​ ​wide​ ​metal​ ​cup​ ​stand​ ​makes​ ​our​ ​over​ ​coffee​ ​filter​ ​strong,​ ​stable​ ​and​ ​safe to​ ​use​ ​while​ ​you​ ​pour​ ​the​ ​water;​ ​It’s​ ​sized​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​over​ ​most​ ​single​ ​cup​ ​mugs​ ​and​ ​smaller​ ​travel canteens.
  • 【PORTABLE】Compact and lightweight, the coffee dripper works great at home or work or while traveling or camping.
  • 【EASY​ ​TO​ ​CLEAN】You​ ​can​ ​easily​ ​clean​ ​our ​coffee​ filter, just​ ​rinse​ ​and​ ​wipe​ ​it​ ​dry​ ​or​ ​place​ ​it​ ​inside your dishwasher, and small brush is a gift for you.

French Press or Pour Over: The Bottom Line

french press or pour over

When you're considering French press or pour over brewing methods, think about:

  • how much preparation and brewing time you want to devote to a cup of coffee
  • how many cups of coffee you typically brew at one time (i.e. how many people are drinking coffee)
  • what type of strength, taste, and depth of flavor you prefer
  • how committed you will be to the proper cleaning of the brewing equipment

Based on your responses, here's what the bottom line could look like:

French Press Coffee

  • Prep time + brew time = 10 minutes plus 
  • Best for 4 cups max per brew 
  • Rich brew with oily surface; grounds in bottom of cup
  • Must take apart and clean after each use 

Pour Over Coffee

  • Prep time + brew time = 6 minutes plus  
  • Best for 2 cups max per brew  
  • Clean and crisp brew, can work well for lighter roasts  
  • Easy to clean 

Which Will You Prefer?

So, French press or pour over brewing method...what do you think? It really isn't a matter of one brewing method being better than the other. They're both easy to learn and they produce a very satisfying cup of coffee.

It is really all about YOU and what tastes better...which type of brew is more satisfying. My advice? Try them both, more than one time. Experiment with the ratio of coffee to water as well as the brewing time for French press. You'll discover what you love the most!


Resources:

Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You'll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions!