You've been listening to your friends talk about how great making coffee at home is, and you've finally decided to try it? You don't want to get just an ordinary coffee maker, but would rather make it yourself? Well, we tested pour over and French press coffee, two of the most widely spread manual brewing methods and are here to help you decide. Let's get cracking.
What Is a French Press?
A French press is a manual device used to manually make coffee that resembles the drip coffee maker. You brew coffee in it by suspending coarsely ground beans in hot water, letting them steep for a few minutes, and pressing it all down into the brewing vessel. After you do this, you are left with a delicious cup of homemade brew.
Despite the name, its origin is unsure. The first mention of the French press was in the 1850s when a Frenchman made a cup of coffee using that method. Nevertheless, the device was first patented in 1928 by an Italian.
No matter the origin, the French press is an easy way to make delicious coffee at home. All you need are coffee grounds and hot water. However, even though today the French press is very widely spread, it is by far not the only way to make coffee manually at home.
How Do You Brew Coffee in a French Press?
As we already mentioned, brewing a cup of coffee in a French press is very simple.
- Before you start you will need to make sure you have enough hot water and coarsely ground coffee.
- Once you have all that, you should put the coffee in the French press and pour in the water. Then give it a little stir.
- Let the coffee and water steep for around 4 minutes.
- When they pass, you're ready to brew your coffee. To do that you will have to push the plunger down on the French press.
- And voilà! You're all set and can enjoy your manually made cup of coffee.
Pros of French Press Coffee
You can probably already see some of the advantages the French press has. It is very easy to use and requires little to know preparation before you're ready to press yourself out a delicious cup of coffee. There's more, though:
- As the French press doesn't have a filter, your coffee will keep more of its taste. Yes, French press coffee is absolutely delicious and that's partly due to the fact that it's unfiltered. The lack of a finer filter lets the coffee keep its natural oils.
- You can brew a bulk batch of coffee. This is very useful if you're making coffee for more people than yourself or are looking to brew a few consecutive rounds.
- French press coffee takes very little time. The whole process should take little over the 4 minutes that your coffee is going to steep in the press. This is great if you're in a hurry in the morning or are just dying for a delicious cup of coffee.
Cons of French Press Coffee
Just like with any other coffee maker, the French press has its disadvantages. Even though they won't be a deal breaker for most of you, they're still worth mentioning so you're not unpleasantly surprised after the first cup of coffee in your new French press.
- The biggest disadvantage of the French press coffee is that you might have some coffee grounds in your brew. This is due to the lack of a finer filter. While you're pressing your coffee, some of the coffee grounds will probably end up in your drink. Don't worry about it, though. You're barely going to notice them.
- The time of immersion of the coffee in water can drastically change the taste of your brew. Even though brewing a cup of French press coffee only takes a few minutes, it can still be too long if you're in a hurry. This means that if you don't leave your grounds in water long enough, your coffee will be bland. On the other hand, if you leave them for too long, your coffee will be too strong and probably even bitter.
- French press coffee can be unhealthy. As the coffee made in a French press is not properly filtered, this can potentially be dangerous for you. A study by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that drinking unfiltered coffee can increase both total and LDL cholesterol levels. The study was conducted in multiple trials over 7 years with trial groups of between 12 and 120 participants, averaging 47. If you still want to enjoy your French press coffee, though, you can get a paper filter and pour your coffee in it before drinking.
What Is Pour Over Brew?
There are many reasons why you should try pour over coffee. It is basically the simplest way of brewing coffee. Even though there's a steeper learning curve compared to the French press, it's definitely worth putting in the effort as the coffee is delicious and brewing it yourself is very rewarding.
What makes it different from other brewing methods, is that it's made by pouring water manually over your coffee grounds. This is why it's also called hand brewing.
This method has been used in South America for a very long time, even before it was discovered by Europeans. In Europe, it's been used since the early 1900s and was recently rediscovered by coffee enthusiasts.
Pour over gives your coffee a more intricate flavor compared to other brewing methods. This is the main reason why so many coffee drinkers choose it.
As the coffee is filtered, some of the oils are kept in the filter but despite that, the coffee is delicious. For the same reason the coffee is clean and clear, and you're left with a clean cup after drinking it.
What Equipment Do You Need for Pour Over?
Even though making coffee using the pour over method is very simple, you still need some equipment. The best thing is that you can get all the equipment you need for under $40.
You need three pieces of equipment. These are the kettle, the pot and the dripper (filter). You can usually find the dripper and the pot as a package and they go for around $15-20 on Amazon. They are all basically the same, with the only difference being the capacity. As pour over can take a little longer to prepare than other types of coffee, if you're planning to make coffee for more people at once you should get a bigger pot.
The kettle is arguably the most important piece of equipment. As you need your water to be around 190-200° F (87-93°C), we recommend you to get a kettle with a thermometer. The best option is the LuxHaus Pour Over Kettle as it has a thermometer that shows the perfect water temperature for pour over coffee. Additionally it's a goose neck model, which makes it perfect for making pour over coffee.
How Do You Make Pour Over Coffee?
Making coffee using the pour over method can be a little tricky at first but we have some tips for you.
- You start by heating up some water in a kettle. It's important that your water is at the right temperature. This will help you extract the best taste out of your coffee grounds.
- You put your filter on the glass carafe and add some coffee. As the pour over method highlights the subtle flavor notes and aromas of the coffee, you might want to choose a light roast. These beans are the brightest and have the most acidic flavors.
When it comes to the grind size, it's important to note that pour over is an infusion brewing method, which means that the coffee and water are in contact for significantly less time than when making coffee in a French press.
This means you will want a grind that gives you more surface area for the water to come in contact with. For this reason it's best to start with medium grind coffee and then adapt. If your coffee seems watery or sour, you should try a finer grind. If it's bitter, go for coarser grounds.
- You slowly start pouring water into the coffee. There are a few techniques here.
- The bloom. This is the bubbling up of water when you first pour the water. This happens because of the degassing of the coffee of carbon dioxide. It is built up during the roasting process. If the gas is not released, your coffee will be unevenly extracted, giving a bad taste. To avoid this from happening, pour twice the amount of water that you have coffee and wait for 30-45 seconds. Then repeat.
- Pulse pouring. This is the method of pouring specific amounts of water multiple times. We recommend you to experiment with the amount as it mainly depends on your taste. This technique helps stop your coffee from channeling or grounds rising up inside the filter.
- Continuous pouring. This is the method of pouring water into the coffee at a constant flow rate without stopping. This aims to keep the flow and saturation as even as possible, giving you the best taste.
- Agitation. This is simply a gentle shake of the coffee grounds during the brew process. This can be done through stirring or swirling and aims to prevent your coffee from channeling.
- Wait for the coffee to pour into the glass carafe.
- Enjoy! You have just made your cup of completely manually brewed coffee using the pour over method.
Pros of Pour Over Coffee
Just like the coffee made in a French press, pour over is delicious. There are plenty of reasons why so many coffee enthusiasts decide to go for pour over as their daily cup of coffee. Here are some of the pros this coffee brewing method has.
- The coffee has a very smooth taste. Similar to drip coffee, pour over is made with virtually no water pressure so it has a smooth taste.
- Easy to clean. When you're done with your coffee, it only takes a quick rinse to be ready for the next cup. This is significantly easier than French press and most other brewing methods.
- It's simple. Even though there is a learning curve to it, once you've made a few cups of coffee, you will get the grasp of it. Then it's all straightforward.
- You have all the control. Pour over gives you the freedom of having your coffee just the way you like it as there are plenty of variables you can change. These are the coffee ground size, the type of coffee, the amount of coffee, water temperature, pouring style and more.
Cons of Pour Over Coffee
Just like the French press, pour over has a few disadvantages. While these are something you should consider before you make a purchase, they are by no means something that would ruin the experience.
- The coffee flavor is not as intense. This is arguably the biggest con pour over. As it's not an immersion brewing method, the water doesn't extract as much flavor. This can only be an issue if you like stronger coffee like Moka pot coffee or espresso.
- Pour over takes longer. A cup of pour over can take a few more minutes than coffee made in a French press. This is because, additionally to heating up the water, you will need to slowly pour it into the coffee and wait for it to drip through.
- Pour over soaks up natural oils. This is the reason why the flavor of pour over is not as intense. In addition to that the coffee is going to have a higher acidity which might not be to everyone's taste.
French Press vs Pour Over
We've already gone through the biggest strengths and weaknesses of each brewing method but there's more you should know before buying either. Let's look into the most important things you should consider.
The brewing time can be very important when choosing a brewing method for home. This can save you time in the morning and we all know how valuable this can be.
Brewing a round of coffee in a French press usually takes around 4-5 minutes. This depends mainly on the amount of coffee you're making and for how strong you want it. If you want a stronger cup of coffee, you should let it steep longer but this way you risk making it bitter.
Pour over takes roughly 5-6 minutes. While this is only a minor difference, you should still take it into consideration. If you're usually in a hurry when making coffee, these one or two extra minutes can make a big difference.
How Easy Is It to Brew a Cup of Coffee?
If you consider yourself a coffee enthusiast, you will probably be down for some trial and error before you make your perfect cup of coffee. If you just want to make your own cup of coffee without too much hassle you should know that while the French press is easier, both brewing methods require some getting used to.
There are few things you should get right to get the best taste out of your coffee with pour over. You should get the temperature right and pour water with the right motion and the right speed. We already went through the different ways you can pour water into the dripper but they each require some practice.
French press is significantly easier as you should only be careful with the steeping time. If you time it right and then push the plunger, your coffee should be great.
Taste of Coffee
There is no universal understanding of what makes good coffee. If you prefer a smoother and slightly acidic brew, you should go for pour over. If you like your coffee with a bit of texture and unfiltered, French press is the way to go.
There are more than a few French press models on Amazon. If you're unsure how big you need your coffee maker to be, you should get one of the models that have markings on the side, showing you the amount of water you've poured in. This way you can adapt and always have the right amount.
Pour over coffee makers come in a few different sizes that usually are 17, 34 or 51 ounces. If you're planning to make a lot of coffee, you should consider getting a model with a higher capacity.
A French press is only going to set you back around $20. This is considerably cheaper than pour over but the whole brewing process is not as rewarding.
A pour over brewing kit will cost you around $40 which is still a bargain for the fantastic coffee you're going to be brewing in it. If you prefer the smoother taste, you shouldn't hesitate and go for a pour over.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Coffee to Water Ratio in a French Press?
The best water to coffee ratio for a French press is 12:1. This should get the most flavor out of your coffee.
What Is the Difference Between Pour Over and Drip?
While the brewing method is basically the same, by pour over most people mean the manual way of brewing coffee. Drip is usually referred to coffee made in a drip coffee maker.
So What Is the Best Coffee Making Device?
There is no best coffee making device for everyone. This depends on your coffee taste, your lifestyle and how much of a coffee enthusiast you are. If you're a die hard coffee drinker, you should probably go for pour over as it's the most personal way to make coffee at home. Check out the LuxHaus pour over kettle in our store.