Duel of The Classics: French Press vs Espresso vs Drip
Coffee may be simple in its ingredients, which are just coffee grounds and water. However, there are numerous ways to combine the two which is the exact reason that makes coffee brewing such an art. The goal is to extract as much flavor as possible as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
The most common ways are with a French press, an espresso machine or via a drip brewing machine. Drip brewing is the most common way of making coffee with automatic coffee pots adorning many kitchen counters in the western world; French press and espresso are also popular, and are widely sold in coffee shops and restaurants.
The three methods are very different and will provide different results. Which you choose depends on your own personal taste as well as your budget.
What you need:
- A French press coffee-maker
- Medium-coarse ground coffee
To make 32 oz of French press coffee, you will need about seven scoops of ground coffee. Grinding coffee is important for releasing the essential oils of the coffee bean and thus its flavors; the more finely ground it is, the more flavor you will get.
Keep in mind that your grinder selection is also crucial to ensure minimal damage is done to the beans during the grinding process. Burr-type of coffee grinders are most recommended but a good burr coffee grinder is expensive. (Click here for in-depth discussions on the grinding process)
Medium-coarse is ideal for a French press because if the beans are too coarsely ground, you will wind up with
To make French press coffee, you place your coffee in the bottom of the French Press and heat your water. It is important that you do not add boiling water to the grounds as this may result in the coffee being scorched. Scorched grounds result in bitter coffee.
Let the water boil then remove it from the heat about 30 seconds before pouring it into the French press. Remember that the ideal water temperature for coffee brewing is 195-205 Farenheit.
After pouring the water onto the grounds, place the plunger onto the French press and let it sit for about three minutes. Depress the plunger slowly and then wait about 30 seconds more for the sediment to settle.
Pour into a cup and enjoy.
What you need:
- An espresso maker
- Finely ground coffee, or espresso pods
- Milk (optional)
As with French press coffee, the grind for espresso is very important. Espresso is finely ground to ensure maximum flavor extraction.
You start your espresso by grinding the beans. You then place the ground coffee into a stovetop espresso maker or an espresso machine. Stovetop espresso makers resemble stovetop coffeepots and are considered by many coffee connoisseurs to be somewhat inferior to espresso machines.
Stovetop espresso makers use steam pressure to force very hot water through grounds that you pack tightly into a compartment in the middle of the device. The resulting coffee is sent to a receptacle in the upper part of the espresso maker from which it may be poured.
Espresso machines on the other hand, inject hot water directly through the ground coffee, which is then dispensed into your cup. You place the grounds into a receptacle with a filter called a “portafilter” and tamp it down into a puck shape. You then attach the portafilter to the espresso machine and start it.
A shot of espresso will typically take between 20 and 30 seconds and will come out dark at first and progress to a lighter yellow stage. The brewing process causes essential oils from within the coffee bean to emulsify, which creates crema – crema is the term for the thick, frothy coffee that comes out as the early part of the brew.
Once the espresso is in the cup, milk may be added. If the espresso machine comes with a steam wand, this may be used to froth the milk so that it has a thicker texture.
Drip Brewed Coffee
What you need:
- A drip brewing machine
- Medium-coarse ground coffee
Drip brewing is both the simplest method and the most popular, though connoisseurs claim that it produces coffee that is relatively bland and weak. There are numerous device designs and filtration methods but the process is similar in all cases.
You place the coffee grounds into a basket and turn the machine on or set a timer. Very hot water is poured through the coffee grounds and filtered before it drips into a tank or a carafe.
The coarseness of the grind, the amount of water and the length of time for which the coffee is brewed are all important factors in how your coffee turns out.
French Press vs. Drip Coffee
One of the big differences between these two is that with a French Press, the coffee is immersed in water, whereas with a drip coffee maker the water passes through the coffee grounds.
Immersion allows you to control just how much time your coffee spends in contact with the water. You can let it brew for longer to produce stronger coffee or you can reduce the time for a milder cup.
Because there are no filters used with French press, it has a richer and more full-bodied flavor than other types of brews. The drawbacks of French press include the fact that it is not as hassle-free as an automatic drip coffeepot. There is no way to set it to brew before you wake up.
Espresso vs. French Press
One benefit of the French press over espresso is quantity. Espresso machines brew strong and rich coffee in small amounts while a French press can put out a liter of coffee at once. It would take a lot longer for an espresso machine to produce the same amount of coffee.
Another benefit of French press over espresso is the fact that espresso machines require high-maintenance. One complain you’d commonly find in many coffee maker reviews is the extensive cleaning required after each use.
For French press, it is a relatively low-maintenance device. The choice cannot be clearer between the two.
Espresso vs. Drip Coffee
The beans used for drip brewing coffee are coarser than those used for espresso. The brewed coffee is also sometimes kept on a warmer plate.
One of the problems with this is the fact that applying heat to brewed coffee can destroy its flavors. With espresso, this is not a problem since the water is injected at high pressure through fine coffee grounds to ensure maximum flavor extraction. There is no heat applied to it once it has been brewed so there is less danger of the flavor being destroyed.
Like a French press, a drip coffeepot produces a lot more coffee at one when compared to an espresso machine.
Which are you?
There are definite benefits to all three. Your own personal taste and lifestyle will determine the one you use most often. All three methods are capable of producing quality cups of coffee, albeit under different definition of what constitutes best.
So which brewing method do you like best? If you are a French Press guy and looking for the best brewer, check out our pick for the best Frech Press maker. If you are more of an Espresso guy, do check out our pick for the best Espresso machines.
We’ve got you covered too if you prefer the classic drip brewing. Check out our curated list of the best drip coffee makers and find out which drip brewer is the award-winning model.