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The Difference Between French Press vs Espresso

Dave Carter

November 30, 2020

As an up and coming barista or a coffee lover that's tired of standard dripped coffee, you may want to change things up a bit and opt for French press and espresso coffee makers to get better quality brews. Both brewing methods are known for brewing dark and robust brews that make a perfect shot or cup of coffee to start the day right. Although the two can provide some great coffees, they still have their distinct differences. To help you with this caffeine-fueled predicament, here's a thorough guide between French Press vs. Espresso.

Understanding the differences between French press and espresso brewers can help you appreciate the art of brewing better and see which one is the best for you.

Choosing Between French Press vs. Espresso​

Difference Between French Press vs Espresso

If you are having a hard time choosing between the classic French press or fully automated espresso machine to add to your coffee-making arsenal at home, consider their differences and see which one works the best for your specific coffee needs. For instance, if you want to make larger batches of coffee per session, a French press can provide you with full cups of coffee in a bulk quantity. At the same time, espresso machines create smaller shots of espresso.

Brewing Method​

The most notable difference between the popular brewing methods is their coffee preparation process. The French press, cafetière à piston, or press pot is a manual coffee maker, while espresso brewers can either come in manual or automatic models. Below is the coffee preparation for each brew method.

How To Make A Espresso​

There are several ways you can make an espresso shot or specialty espresso for coffee drinks since there are different types of espresso machines out there. Below is how you can make espresso with coffee beverages on a standard espresso machine, typically semi or fully automatic.

  1. Grind your favorite coffee beans finely and place them in the espresso machine's portafilter.
  2. Tamp the coffee grounds to create a coffee puck.
  3. Turn on the espresso machine and wait for it to heat up.
  4. Add the portafilter into the brewer and put a cup on its dispenser.
  5. Push the start button and pull a shot.

How To Make French Press Coffee​

A French press coffee maker is a more manual approach to brew preparation, and it typically consists of a glass or stainless steel beaker that comes in different sizes, a mesh filter, and a plunger. Here are the simple steps when it comes to brewing a fresh cup of cafetière à piston coffee.

  1. Heat water according to the capacity of your cafetière à piston around 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place ready-made or fresh coarse coffee grounds inside its beaker and pour in hot water.
  3. Allow the coffee grounds to bloom (dampening your coffee bed to provoke the release of carbon dioxide) for a minute and stir thoroughly.
  4. Leave the brew for 5 minutes to steep and soak in all the flavors.
  5. Slowly push down the plunger to filter the grounds.
  6. Pour the freshly brewed coffee in a cup or mug.

Brew Time​

If you want to whip out coffee fast, brewing time is a vital consideration to make. An espresso machine can take around 20 to 30 seconds to pull a vibrant espresso shot, while press pots can take up to 5 to 8 minutes. When making French press coffee, you need to heat the water first, add hot water to the coffee grounds inside the beaker, and give it a couple of minutes to bloom and steep.

Brew Capacity ​

An espresso machine can produce one to two 1-ounce espresso shots at a time, while a press pot brewer can produce around 8 to 32 ounces at a time, depending on its beaker's size. However, with an espresso machine, the time intervals between each shot are shorter than when making several French press coffee batches.

Maintenance of Each Coffee Maker ​

A cafetière à piston is a low maintenance device because it doesn't contain any electronic components. All you need to clean it is take it apart into its three distinct parts, discard the grounds inside its mesh filter and run water through it. In contrast, espresso machines are more complex and require more effort to maintain and clean.

Portability​

If you want to carry your brewer around for camping trips and other outdoor activities, the best one to bring is the French press coffee maker. It's smaller and compact and doesn't feature any delicate parts, and you can easily pack it and bring it anywhere. In contrast, espresso machines tend to be bulky as they're meant for commercial applications or home use. Even the smallest home espresso machine can be bulky, heavy, and fragile. And carrying these devices around exposes it to the risk of damaging one of its many electrical components and movable parts.

Caffeine Quantity​

One of the few similarities between press pot and espresso brewers is that they don't use paper filters that most drip machines do. The lack of these filters means that most of the natural flavor and oils from the beans end up in your coffee, enhancing the boldness and taste of each brew. However, without these paper filters, this also means that besides the delicious flavors of the coffee grounds, more caffeine will also find its way into your morning cup. A one-ounce espresso shot contains 50 mg of caffeine, while a standard 8-ounce serving of a French press coffee contains 107.5 mg of caffeine.

The Flavor of the Brews​

French press brewers tend to produce rich-tasting and more robust coffees as they undergo an intricate steeping process that extracts every bit of flavor the grounds have to offer. However, it's best not to over-extract the brews as it can provide you with extremely bitter cups. On the other hand, espressos provide smoother and a bittersweet taste with a beautiful crema on the top. It's the base for most popular caffeinated milk-based drinks, including cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and more.

Other Factors​

Besides the quantity of each coffee brewing method produces, here are the other differences that you can base on for your decision.

Costs​

If budget is a concern for you, it's best to choose the classic French press than your modern espresso brewers. The latter is more expensive, and it can quickly rack up to several hundreds of dollars. In contrast, a typical cafetière à piston can only cost between $15 to $30. However, whatever brewer you choose, you can guarantee barista-quality drinks at home with ease.

Ease of Use​

A French press boasts a more straightforward process than your modern espresso machine. It consists of 4 steps that include necessary measurements of ground coffee and pushing down its plunger. In contrast, although an espresso machine consists of fewer steps, it undergoes a more complex brewing process. If you are looking for a quicker brewing method, it's best to go for an espresso machine as you can pull a shot in seconds while making brews with a cafetière à piston take several minutes.

Caffeine Content ​

Espressos and coffees you get from these popular brewing methods are some of the strongest you can whip up at home. Both brewers don't use paper filters that typically absorb most of the oils, natural flavor, and caffeine of your favorite grounds. If you are looking for a caffeine-rich drink to start your day with a kick in your step, it's best to opt for French press coffee as one cup contains more caffeine than double-shot espressos.

Convenience​

The two famous brewers are convenient because they allow coffee fanatics to create their favorite drinks at home. However, if you are looking for a device that you can bring around for emergency coffee brews, a French press is a better choice as it's compact and easier to clean. Although an espresso maker can provide you with caffeinated drinks faster, you can't bring it with you for travels, and maintaining it can be a hassle for most.

Timing​

Using a French press can take around 5 to 8 minutes to create a fresh batch of coffee, while your modern espresso machines can only take 20 to 30 seconds to whip out espresso shots. If you are looking for a brewing method that can give you your favorite caffeinated drinks faster for hectic mornings, it's best to opt for the latter.

However, the most notable difference between the two that you should consider is the brew and flavor they produce. If you are looking for potent or rich caffeinated drinks, you should go for a French press, and if you are looking for a more versatile beverage that packs a punch, an espresso machine is the best choice.

Is French Press like Espresso?​

Is French Press like Espresso Facts

The brews you get from a press pot, and espresso makers are quite similar in terms of strength, giving individuals delicious and robust caffeinated drinks that even professional baristas would praise. Still, they differ in their caffeine content and coffee preparation processes. You can make espressos by forcing steam under high pressure through sand-like coffee grounds, giving you smooth and bittersweet brews, and you can make your favorite espresso shots or milk-based drink with the standard or the best espresso machine under 1000.

If you want to make a cup of French press coffee, you need to follow a stringent coffee process that can result in varying brews. So, even if the two brewing methods have their similarities, French press coffee is still very different from your standard espresso drink at the end of the day.

Why French Press Coffee is Bad for You?​

Coffees you get from a classic French press provides you with more vibrant and delicious brews. However, experts suggest that having too much-unfiltered coffee can raise your LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol. That's because the lack of paper filters allow the oily substances of coffee grounds to slip through your drink. If you're suffering from heart-related diseases or conditions, it's best to avoid unfiltered brews and get the best commercial espresso machine for your daily caffeine fix.

Can You Make Espresso Coffee in a French Press?​

If your espresso maker broke down and you don't want to waste your alternative Nespresso pods, you can use a French press to make classic espresso shots or trendy espresso-based drinks. Brewing espresso grounds using the device can give you similar flavor and consistency with the one you get with modern espresso makers. The method involves grinding fresh beans correctly and using your cafetière à piston to get the desired taste and texture.

The following are the steps to making espresso using a French press.

  1. Boil water using a kettle, and as it begins to heat up, warm the cup you're going to use by swirling some hot water inside it. Doing this will prevent your cup from cracking from the sudden temperature rise when you add boiling water later.
  2. Grind the beans of your choice and ensure it's fine or sand-like because it'll make your brew taste better and resemble classic espresso.
  3. Pour the fresh grounds to the device around 36 grams or 1.3 ounces.
  4. Pour a bit of near-boiling water over the grounds inside the beaker. Then after several seconds, add the remaining water.
  5. Give the brew a quick stir using a long-handled spoon. Doing this prevents clumps in the drink and adds a frothy and creamy consistency.
  6. Let the drink steep around 3 to 4 minutes or when the coffee becomes very dark.
  7. Slowly push the plunger down in a steady and even matter until it stops.
  8. Let the drink sit for a few seconds before pouring yourself a cup.

If you want more than just classic espresso and whip out intricate milk-based coffee beverages such as lattes, macchiatos, flat whites, or cappuccinos, you can add milk foam or whipped cream on top for more flavor and fun.

Which is Better French Press or Espresso?​

After learning how to make espresso and how to use a French press, you may be confused about which method is better. Don't worry because you're not alone as many coffee lovers and casual drinkers are torn between the two popular brewing methods or brewers as they have their particular set of pros and cons. However, determining which one is the best for you will depend on your specific taste and needs.

But both brewers can work for any home or kitchen, and make great additions to your coffee-making arsenal. You can make your favorite brews with either machine, from a classic espresso coffee to robust unfiltered coffee.

Caffeine in French Press​

How Much Caffeine in French Press

Although espressos are known to be potent drinks that can give anyone the much-needed caffeine boost to start their day right, French press coffee still contains more caffeine than an espresso shot. That's because a typical 1-ounce serving of espresso can provide 60.1 mg of caffeine while a standard 8-ounce cup of a press pot brew can contain a jitter-inducing 107.5 mg caffeine. If you're looking for a drink that can give you that much-needed caffeinated buzz to help you get through the day, choose French press coffee.

Regarding the intense caffeine-fueled battle between French Press vs. Espresso, the better method will boil down to your specific taste and coffee preference. However, if you are looking for a cheaper brewing method that produces more robust and full-bodied coffee, a French press is the best option. In contrast, if you want to make your favorite trendy milk-based coffee beverages such as lattes, macchiatos, and cappuccinos, investing in an espresso machine is the way to go.

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