When it comes to which side of the AeroPress vs French Press debate we’re on here at Coffee Hex, just know that both brewing methods are iconic in the coffee industry for good reason. You can’t go wrong with either!
But as far as your personal perfect cup of coffee goes, there are critical differences between the French press and AeroPress that’ll sway which coffee brewer is best for you.
Both yield rich, flavorful, damn good coffee. But they have distinct distinctions in terms of grind size, filters, versatility, health benefits, portability, and cleanup.
In this article, I’ll explore the key factors that set these two brewing methods apart and help you decide which one is best suited for your coffee preferences.
What is a French Press and How Does it Work?
The French Press: A Classic Brew Method
Let’s start our journey into the world of coffee with the classic French press. The French press, also known as a press pot or plunger pot, is a simple and elegant way to brew coffee. It consists of a cylindrical glass or stainless steel container with a plunger and a metal or nylon mesh filter.
How to Make Coffee with the French Press
I think the French press is the best method for a small group. It allows for a full-bodied and flavorful coffee experience, making it a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts. A French Press is often made for a small brunch gathering at my house.
It’s a simple brewing method that just requires coarse ground coffee and water but is still sophisticated and fun to entertain with.
Plus, when it comes down to the coffee itself, brewing with a French Press yields rich tasting coffee that’s always a crowd-pleaser.
To make coffee with a French Press:
- Start by heating water to just below boiling point.
- Meanwhile, use a coarse grind on whole coffee beans. The ideal ratio is one tablespoon of coffee to every 8 ounces of water, but you can adjust according to personal preference.
- Once the water is heated, pour a small amount into the French Press to warm it up.
- Then, put in the coffee grounds. A glass French Press makes it easier to see your ratios.
- Slowly pour the remaining hot water over the coffee grounds. Be sure to saturate all of them so the coffee grounds sit submerged in the water.
- Set the plunger on top of the French Press but don’t press down yet.
- Let the coffee steep for 4-5 minutes.
- Slowly press down on the plunger to separate the used coffee grounds from the liquid.
- Pour into a cup and enjoy your freshly brewed coffee.
Aeropress: A Modern Approach to Coffee
Aeropress Coffee: The New Kid on the Block
Now, let’s turn our attention to our contender. The Aeropress is a relative newcomer to the coffee scene. Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, the Aeropress has gained a dedicated following for its simplicity and versatility. Here’s how it works:
- Setup: The Aeropress consists of two cylindrical chambers, one fitted inside the other. Start by placing a paper filter in the filter cap and attaching it to the bottom chamber.
- Fine Grind Coffee: Unlike the French press, the Aeropress requires finely ground coffee. This finer grind allows for a shorter brewing time and a smoother cup of coffee.
- Add Coffee Grounds: Add the coffee grounds to the bottom chamber. The standard ratio is one scoop of coffee to one scoop of water.
- Brewing Time: Heat water to around 175°F (80°C). Pour the hot water into the bottom chamber over the coffee grounds, stirring gently to ensure even saturation. Attach the top chamber.
- Press and Serve: After a brief steeping time (usually 30 seconds to a minute), press down on the top chamber. The air pressure forces the brewed coffee through the filter and into your cup.
How to Brew Espresso Style Coffee with the AeroPress
An AeroPress can be used to make multiple cups of coffee one after the other. But methods like the AeroPress are really designed for individual coffee drinkers making one cup at a time.
To brew espresso-style coffee with the AeroPress, start by assembling the equipment. You will need an AeroPress, freshly roasted coffee beans, a burr grinder, a kettle, a timer, and a scale.
- Begin by heating the water to around 175-185°F.
- While the water is heating, grind the coffee to a medium-fine consistency.
- Once the water is ready, place a paper filter into the AeroPress cap and pre-wet it with hot water to remove any paper taste.
- Then, attach the filter cap to the chamber and place the AeroPress on top of your mug.
- Add the coffee grounds to the chamber and level them.
- Slowly pour water into the chamber, saturating all the coffee grounds.
- Stir the mixture gently for about 10 seconds, ensuring the grounds are fully immersed.
- After 1 minute, insert the plunger into the chamber and apply gentle pressure to extract the coffee. The entire brewing process should take around 1-2 minutes.
- Enjoy your rich and flavorful espresso-style coffee made with the AeroPress.
Biggest Differences in AeroPress vs Espresso Machine
The biggest differences between an AeroPress and an espresso machine lie in their brewing methods, cost, and convenience.
The AeroPress is a manual brewing device that uses air pressure to extract flavors, resulting in a smoother and less bitter cup of coffee.
On the other hand, espresso machines generate a high pressure of 9 bars or more to produce the concentrated and intense flavor characteristic of espresso.
In terms of cost, AeroPress is significantly cheaper than espresso machines, making it an affordable option for those on a budget. Moreover, the AeroPress is portable and easy to clean, making it suitable for travelers or individuals with limited space.
Conversely, espresso machines are larger, more complex, and require a certain level of skill to operate. While both methods have their own merits, many coffee drinkers prefer the AeroPress for its simplicity, affordability, and the ability to produce great coffee with minimal effort.
Let’s Dive Deeper
Now that we’ve covered the basics of both brewing methods, let’s dive deeper into the key differences between the French press and the Aeropress.
AeroPress vs French Press Grind Size
Let’s start with one of the main differences between AeroPress vs French Press, which is grind size per brewing method.
In a French press, coarse is recommended. The coffee grounds should be larger in size, resembling coarse sea salt. This is because the French press requires a longer brew time, and the larger size helps prevent over-extraction, which can result in a bitter taste.
The AeroPress, on the other hand, calls for a finer grind, similar to that of espresso. The smaller particles allow for a quicker extraction in the shorter brew time. This results in a concentrated, full-bodied cup of coffee.
AeroPress and Grind Size Flexibility
One of the advantages of the AeroPress is its flexibility in terms of grind size. While a finer one is recommended, you can experiment with different sizes to achieve your desired flavor profile. This gives you more control over the extraction process and allows you to tailor your cup of coffee to your specific taste preferences.
On the contrary, the French Press is less flexible, as using too fine of a grind can result in a cloudy and bitter coffee. This is due to the metal mesh filter not being able to effectively separate the coffee sludge from the brewed coffee. Therefore, coarser is generally recommended for this brewing method.
Overall, both AeroPress and French Press cater to different styles of brewing. While both can deliver delicious coffee, the AeroPress allows for a greater range of customization in your brewing process with adjustable factors such as grind size, steep time, agitation, and temperature. This makes the AeroPress a better option for those who like to experiment with their coffee preparation.
On the contrary, the French Press offers consistency and simplicity, ideal for those who prefer a minimalist and fuss-free approach to brewing coffee. It is also best suited for those who appreciate the rich, robust flavor, and thicker body typical of French Press coffee.
Winner: AeroPress, thanks to its flexibility.
Comparing the AeroPress and French Press Filters
Another notable difference between the two is the type of filters they call for.
The French Press uses a metal mesh filter, which allows more oils and sediment to pass through, resulting in a fuller-bodied coffee with more body and texture.
On the other hand, you brew AeroPress coffee through a thin paper filter, which provides a cleaner cup of coffee that’s mostly free from sediment and oils. This can be preferable for those who prefer a smoother, lighter brew.
However, both types of presses offer the option for customized filtration. For instance, you can use a finer metal filter with your AeroPress to allow more oils to pass, or you could use a coarser metal filter with your French press to reduce the amount of sediment.
The advantage of paper filters in the AeroPress is that they can be easily replaced, ensuring a fresh taste with every brew. It also makes the clean-up process considerably quicker and easier.
The metal filters in the French press, while more durable, tend to retain residues of previous brews if not thoroughly cleaned, which could affect the taste of future cups.
I think the filter you prefer greatly depends on your taste preference and the amount of effort you are willing to put into cleaning. Whether it’s the full-bodied coffee from a French press or the clean, smooth cup from an AeroPress, both presses have a unique appeal depending on the coffee drinker’s preferences.
Winner: Tied, depending on how much you hate to clean!
AeroPress vs French Press Versatility
The AeroPress shines in terms of versatility. It allows you to explore various brewing techniques and experiment with different parameters such as water temperature, brew time, and grind.
This makes it a favorite amongst coffee enthusiasts who enjoy the creative aspect of brewing and want to tailor their cup of coffee to perfection.
The French press, while it offers some level of customization, is more straightforward in its brewing method.
Be Your Own Barista
With the AeroPress, you can unleash your inner barista and have fun experimenting with different brew methods.
From the classic AeroPress recipe to the inverted method or even trying your hand at espresso-style shots, this brewing device offers endless possibilities to satisfy your coffee cravings.
Size and Portability Differences
If you’re a coffee lover on the go, the AeroPress is the perfect travel companion. It is lightweight, compact, and easy to transport. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or staying in a hotel room, you can enjoy a great cup of coffee wherever you are.
On the other hand, the French press is bulkier and more fragile, making it less ideal for travel and best suited for stationary use.
Winner: Tied, depending on whether you travel with your brewer or not.
Comparing Coffee Flavor Extraction
The AeroPress uses a paper filter which means that it removes most of the coffee’s oils and fine sediment that can contribute to a bitter or over-extracted taste. This results in a smoother, more clean-tasting cup of coffee.
The French press, on the other hand, lets more of the coffee oils into the brew, leading to a robust and strong flavor which some people may prefer.
Winner: Tied, depending on how bold you want your coffee.
AeroPress vs French Press Costs
In terms of cost, the AeroPress is generally cheaper than most French presses with the added benefit of longer durability due to its plastic composition.
The basic AeroPress kit usually ranges from $20 to $40, depending on where you’re shopping. This kit often comes with the press itself, a filter holder, a scoop, a stirrer, and a pack of disposable microfilters. Therefore, it provides all the necessary elements you need to start making coffee.
Replacement filters for AeroPress are also relatively inexpensive, with a pack of 350 paper filters costing typically less than $5. Although it’s recommended to use a new filter every time you brew a cup, some users rinse and reuse the filters a few times to lower the cost even further. There’s also an option to purchase a reusable metal filter.
On the other hand, a decent French press usually costs anywhere from $20 to over $100, depending on the brand, material, and size. The French press doesn’t require filters, but over time, you might need to replace the mesh plunger if it becomes damaged or worn out. This can cost somewhere between $5 and $20.
So, while both coffee makers are relatively affordable, the AeroPress tends to be less expensive both initially and in terms of long-term maintenance.
However, it’s important to consider quality and personal preference too. People may prefer the rich, full-bodied coffee from a French press and be willing to pay a little extra for it, while others might enjoy the quick, strong coffee from an AeroPress without needing to worry about breaking a glass carafe.
AeroPress vs French Press Comparison of Health Benefits
Both coffee brewing methods allow you to enjoy the full flavor of the beans.
However, the paper filter used in the AeroPress traps a significant amount of coffee oils and sediment, which are potential sources of cholesterol-raising compounds.
Therefore, if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, the AeroPress might be a better option for you.
Additionally, the French press allows microscopic coffee grounds to pass through the plunger and into your coffee. These can lead to a gritty texture and, over time, may increase your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, the AeroPress uses a finer filter to clean up your brew, making it a healthier option.
Furthermore, the AeroPress brews coffee at lower temperatures than the French press. High-temperature brewing methods can encourage the formation of acids, which can lead to stomach discomfort for some people. By brewing at lower temperatures, the AeroPress can produce smoother, less acidic coffee, which is better for your teeth and stomach.
Also, it is believed by some that the AeroPress method of brewing coffee could reduce the amount of caffeine per cup, potentially making it a better choice for those who are caffeine-sensitive or looking to restrict their caffeine intake.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the AeroPress’s brewing process is faster than the French press. This quick process reduces the time that water is in contact with coffee grounds, thereby minimizing the extraction of bitter compounds and creating a smoother-tasting cup of coffee.
Which Brew Method is Easier to Clean Up?
In terms of cleanup, the AeroPress takes the crown.
With the AeroPress, all you need to do is pop out the used grounds and filter into the trash, give it a quick rinse, and it’s ready for the next brew. This simplicity is particularly appreciated by those who drink coffee multiple times a day or for those who don’t like to spend a lot of time on cleaning.
The entire brewing process takes place in a single chamber, and once you’re done brewing, you simply need to eject the coffee puck and give the AeroPress a quick rinse.
The French press, on the other hand, requires more effort to clean. The metal mesh filter needs to be thoroughly rinsed, and the plunger and glass carafe need to be washed separately.
AeroPress, French Press Style
What if you prefer the rich, full-bodied coffee produced by a French Press but love the convenience of the AeroPress? You can actually imitate the French press style using the AeroPress.
Simply use coarser grounds, increase the brew time, and press the plunger more slowly to allow for a more sediment-rich cup of coffee. This gives you the best of both worlds!
French Press Coffee Brewing Using an AeroPress Coffee Maker
If you’re craving the traditional French press coffee experience but only need a single cup of coffee, the AeroPress can deliver.
By using the inverted method and coarsely ground coffee, you can simulate the flavors and body of a French press brew using the AeroPress.
Simply pour in the coffee grounds and hot water, let it steep for a few minutes, and then press the plunger slowly to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds. The result is a rich and satisfying French press-style coffee in a single serving.
The Bottom Line on the AeroPress vs French Press: Which is Best?
Ultimately, the choice between the AeroPress vs French Press comes down to personal preference.
If you appreciate the creative aspect of brewing, want more control over your cup of coffee, and prioritize portability and easy cleanup, AeroPress is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you enjoy a robust, full-bodied coffee with more texture and are willing to put in a little more effort for cleaning, the French Press may be your go-to brewing method.
Personally, I like my morning cup in a French Press at home because I drink so much coffee while I write, and prefer my AeroPress on road trips. But whichever you choose, both brew styles offer excellent ways to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee!