It’s hard to believe that most of our parents lived their whole lives with one single brew method. Day in and day they’d prepare the same drip coffee.
Nowadays we can experiment with a variety of techniques and technology to produce a fix to our waking caffeine headaches and send us out the door, ready for the day ahead.
Regardless of your preference, the only way you’ll better understand what you like is to experiment. That’s half the fun right?
Well, manual coffee brewing has become wildly popular over the last few years. That’s a term for a slew of different brewing methods, that like pour over or french press, and are probably foreign to our parents generation.
So the question then comes to us, what’s better, French Press or Pour Over? Let’s compare and contrast these two lovely styles so you can get on with your coffee making experience.
Pros and Cons of the French Press
If you’ve never experienced the bold taste of a French Press, I’d recommend quickly changing that. Also called a cafetiere or coffee press, this is a significant discovery in the science of coffee. Simply procure one tablespoon (or more if you’re looking for dark and bold) of medium to coarse grinds for every cup of coffee you want to brew. That usually equates to four cups of water, depending on the size of the press.
Heat water below boiling on a stovetop, or my preference is to quickly heat some water with my drip brewer. Your call.
What is going to instantly separate the french press from the pour over is that while the pour over filters and doesn’t come into contact with the finished brew, the french press and the grounds make contact for a full three-to-four sweet minutes.
As a result, pour over coffee isn’t typically as strong as a French Press brew will be. Still it has it’s own characteristic flavor. Many who have phobia of coffee grinds ending up in their cup will thus swear by their pour over.
It’s normal for the standard cup of French press coffee to have a bit of grit and be thicker, but pour over coffee has no grit and has a texture that’s more akin to what you’d get from an automatic drip machine: smooth and lighter.
Though pour over brew has a nice flavor it doesn’t have the strong hit that comes from French press coffee, which is why some people prefer using a pour over setup. Perhaps that’s their loss.
Since the French press traditionally brews a more robust, stronger tasting cup of coffee it comes down to preference on taste. The taste lends itself to the coarse metal mesh that steeps the grinds coffee rather than the filters in a pour over. Additionally, the ratio of water to grounds can be up for debate as a flavor improver as well.
Sometimes the seal between parts of the french press will lose their hold, of course, this means that coffee grounds can easily find their way to your coffee cup. However, we’re big fans of the lot of the oils and flavor properties that transfer to the beverage.
A good cup of coffee of course owes itself to those oils and most paper filters don’t treat those properties so kindly. It’s kind of a shame to let the suspended solids, as some call them, go to waste. This taste is hard to compare with the pour over, but many will take it over the french press if they are seeking a smooth draw from a fresh pour over.
So don’t think we’re biased just yet.
Quality and Quantity in the French Press
The French Press might seem compact, and to an extent it certainly is, but you’re going to get quite a few cups out of one pot, and that’s something to be celebrated.
The French Press continues to succeed in a world of Keurigs and fancy mocha pots because it’s capable of brewing a substantial amount of coffee of quality. A traditional french press brews enough coffee for four decent sized coffee cups. Some pots are even bigger. Some french presses are even more compact. The brewing time may be longer than say, an Aeropress, but the yield is much better.
Some reasons you’d prefer the french press also include the advanced control over practically every variable in the process. This can scare off the novice coffee maker.
However, if you’re here to experiment, add more or less grounds, and see how the flavor is affected. Ultimately, it can be really rewarding.
To try a french press brew yourself follow these simple but fundamental instructions:
- Place grounds in the bottom of the french press’s glass carafe with the filter press removed. Add pre-heated water and make sure to cover all the grounds equally as the water enters the vessel.
- Next, set the filter press and cover on top of the grounds, sealing the vessel, but don’t depress the plunger yet. Instead, set a timer for thirty seconds to one minute. Again, experimenting with this yields your personal preference.
- After the timers up, depress the plunger, pressing the grounds to the bottom of the french press.
- Now that the grinds are off the coffee product, you can serve or choose to wait. Some experts say to wait for four minute, again with the timer. If you’re not crazy about waiting for your brew than that’s fine! Give it a shot.
While a French press coffee maker has been the go-to brewing device for years, the pour over coffee maker is quickly gaining interest amongst the caffeine addicted.
Benefits of the Pour-Over Method
Pour over coffee making is perfect for anyone trying to control their caffeine intake. You’ll be able to brew slowly and fine tune it with ease, and there’s not a terrible amount that goes into the process.
The mouthfeel of pour over coffee is smoother and more refined. It’s certainly not the dark, bold, or often described as biting flavor that a French press coffee has.
Due to the nature of the process, the brew doesn’t sit on the grounds, so grittiness is eliminated. As we covered, french press coffee can get gritty if your grind size is too small or your press pot’s screen filter isn’t effective.
Regular sanitary maintenance is pretty easy with this contraption. And the pour over looks pretty charming all on it’s own. In fact some might think you’re conducting a science experiment before accusing you of brewing a tasty beverage. Cleaning a pour over coffee maker is eons easier than cleaning a French press, which needs to be dismantled and cleaned piece by piece. Though we know a trick or two about cleaning a french press.
Brewing slow is a comfort we often take for granted. The ritual is mundane when one fires up a drip brewer, but this is different, and we want to savor every moment of it. A pour-over coffee is the way to go for enjoying the process of brewing.
First heat up your water in a kettle on the stove. Next, prep some beans by grinding your coffee beans. Pre-infuse your grounds by slowly pour boiling water over your grounds, which sit in the filter above the cup. Pour water in a circular motion ensuring all the grounds get soaked.
Now wait about thirty seconds. If you’ve not added enough water for a full cup, then add more and watch it filter through. Now you’ve for a pour-over coffee. We hope it is well-balanced, full-bodied, and nuanced.
You might notice that it’s different from many other kinds of coffee you’ve tried. The benefits aren’t just in the cup either:
- One and Done: If you’re trying to cut down on caffeine then there’s nothing easier to inhibit you than brewing one cup at a time. Don’t wait for a full pot of coffee to brew, go for one at a time, and it’ll likely taste better this way too. Once your water reaches the proper temperature, you can enjoy your cup of coffee in less than a minute.
- The Traditional Approach: If you want to take an early 1900s hundreds coffee tour then you’ll likely prefer the pour-over. The idea and design was invented in 1908 by Melitta Bentz. According to legend, Ms. Bentz invented the first coffee filter out of boredom with previous practices. Using some household paper she created a quick and now vastly popular way to prepare coffee.
- Keeping It Tidy: If there was an award for the cleanliest preparation method then the pour-over is a shoe in. This is a simple way to keep grounds in one container and easily dispose of them, and the filter, with ease. There’s simply no other method with less stress involved.
If you’ve never had a cup of pour-over coffee before, you’re missing out on a great cup. More marvelous than machine-drip coffee, brighter and cleaner than French press brew, and less dangerous than a stove-top percolator.
Though it might have a connotation of it’s own, Pour-over coffee is often seen as purely the realm of coffee snobs and “cuppers”. We like to think there’s nothing negative about this though.
More Benefits to the Pour Over
Modern day versions of the Pour Over have been altered to make them super efficient and easy to use, plus they’re also fairly inexpensive, and come in a wide variety of styles to match whatever you’re into. Like we said before, some might even get you accused of hosting a science fair.
The Pour over is also disputed for varying greatness by the use of filters. There’s bleached filters and unbleached filters. This is where coffee fanatics really start to get picky and call each other names. The dispute between bleached and unbleached coffee filters rages on. And some pour over apparatuses come stock with a metal filter implement. Lovely.
Like the French press, pour over coffee involves manually boiling water, letting it cool a bit, and then pouring it over coffee grounds. The biggest difference is the contact of the grounds to the final product. These two are about as far away from each other as one could get, in that regard.
They are both widely recognized as sone of the easiest methods of coffee brewing.
If you need a single cup of coffee, pour over is one the best cups of coffee you can make. Both are long lasting and durable for long periods of time (in or outdoors). One could easily pack either apparatus in a cluttered kitchen or take them out camping for brewing on the trail.
For medium to lighter roasts, the pour-over is great because if the coffee has less body and more floral and fruit notes, the pour-over will not only highlight those flavors, it will also give depth to those flavors. This makes for a more balanced cup of coffee if that’s what you’re looking for. The manual aspect of making a pour-over makes it easier to adjust variables.
Pour Over Vs Chemex?
So you might be wondering what the deal is with all the science fair talk. Well that’s where the Chemex comes in. Maybe you’ve seen the iconic glass beaker with the wooden collar and thought it must be some exotic piece of coffee making gear, unattainable by normal folk. Well, they’re actually quite attainable, but you might have been living in your parents coffee gadget-less world.
This is actually a type of pour over unit that that some purists will say is totally and completely different from the traditional pour over. Why would they blaspheme such?
First, the Chemex is both the filter and vessel, not just the cone that sits on a cup. It’s actually referred to as bonded filters. It’s this aspect which gives the Chemex it’s signature taste, and not just that of a pour over. The filtration here is actually much thicker than the filters of bleached or unbleached yore.
These cups take a little bit longer to make than the pour over method too. So if you’re really in need of a caffeine fix, this is going to be like watching paint dry. Well, not that slow, but you get the idea.
Preparing a Chemex, one can follow the same steps as listed above for pour overs, with a few simple alterations.
- Unfold the filter provided with the Chemex. They come packaged flat and you’ll have to fold it into the cone shape. You should take notice that one side is made up of three layers and the other is only one layer. Put the three layered side, the thickest side, facing toward spout.
- Grind some fresh coffee but go for a slightly coarser grind than you typically would do for a pour over. Grind about eight grams of beans per cup. As always, adjust and find what you like.
- After heating your water to just under a boil, then you can pour over the grinds, covering evenly. This will take slightly longer than the typical pour over method but that’s okay, just sit back and watch the science of brewing take place.
- Remove the filter and discard the spent grounds. This should be an easy cleanup, just make sure to wash the filter as per the instructions.
Now enjoy that fresh Chemex brew. Why don’t you post a picture of it on Instagram to confuse all the non-coffee initiates out there.
If you’re wondering whether to go with a French press or pour over coffee maker, it comes down to your lifestyle and personal taste preferences. Maybe both. If waking up in the morning and choosing a method off the top of your dreamy eyed mind suits you best then go for it. That’s one part of your day that you can definitely choose.
The main difference to consider here is that the coffee grounds sit in a filter and don’t come into contact with the finished brew when preparing a pour over. Thus a pour over coffee isn’t typically as strong as French press brew, although it has a great flavor.
Those who want coffee that’s strong, rich and bold, don’t mind coffee with a thicker texture, and want more flexibility with the types of grounds they can use should go with a French press. Some even say that making cold brew with a french press is better than ever. Try it out!
Coffee lovers who prefer java with a more subtle flavor, don’t need to brew much at a time, can’t stand gritty coffee, or want a coffee maker that cleans up in a snap will be better off with the pour over method.
Since both types of coffee makers are so affordable, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the best of both worlds and get one of each. If you’re looking to contrast the French Press with other kinds of coffee makers, check out our review of the Stovetop Espresso Vs. French Press here.