French Press and Aeropress are affordable tools that make great coffee using an immersion-brewing method. The similarities end there.
As an avid user of both, I wouldn’t consider one method or taste to be “superior” to the other. But they definitely fit different circumstances. My advice is to know the right tool for your situation.
In this article, I’ll provide a brief background on both standard coffee brewing methods. We’ll also walk through all of the qualities that make these coffee drinks different.
What is a French Press?
French press coffee has been a cornerstone of the morning routine since the 1850s. It’s a low-sophistication brew method that anybody can perform, with easily repeatable results.
The primary brew vessel for the french press is a tall glass carafe. The glass on the press gets very hot during brewing, so it is typically fashioned to nest inside a metal (or plastic) frame, which is adorned with a handle for safe handling and easy pouring.
Coarse ground coffee, about the diameter of sea salt, is placed in the bottom of the carafe, and nearly-boiling water is poured atop it.
It’s common practice to stir the coffee-water mixture briefly to ensure all of the grounds are in contact with the water for extraction. Then we wait.
The “steeping” process for French Press lasts 3-5 minutes. Then a plunger using fine wire mesh pushes the remaining coffee grounds to the bottom of the vessel, and it’s ready for serving.
A French press uses a 1:12 ratio of coffee-to-water (by weight), which produces coffee with a full body and a robust taste. And there’s usually plenty to share with a small crowd.
What is an Aeropress?
Aeropress doesn’t have the long history of a French Press, but it will still make a darn good cup of coffee. It was invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, the same guy who brought us the Aerobie frisbee, which broke a bunch of Guinness records.
His goal was to create a method for hand-brewing coffee that was affordable, lightweight and could make a great coffee in less-than-ideal conditions. And, boy, did he hit the target!
The Aeropress is a small brewing tube made from BPA-free plastic. It pairs with a plastic cap, a plunger with a rubber end, and a thin paper filter.
During brewing, fine ground coffee beans are placed in the cylinder and covered with near-boiling water. It uses a 1:16 coffee-to-water ratio (by weight).
Agitate the mixture and allow it to steep for 1-3 minutes, then plunge it through the filter and directly into a coffee cup.
Aeropress is often called “espresso-style” coffee, although it uses a significantly longer extraction time and 10x less pressure compared with a traditional espresso. The end result is a flavorful, clean cup.
Differences between Aeropress vs French Press
Bit of Cream is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
You’ll find some people who swear by French Press, and some people who pledge their allegiance to Aeropress. Sometimes they are the same people!
Which brew method is best? Aeropress or French Press?
For most folks, it depends on the situation.
Let me explain.
Even if you’re using the same coffee beans, French Press and Aeropress can offer very different brew flavors and body experiences.
One of the main points in the French Press debate is the bold and robust taste it creates. It’s muddy, meaning that you won’t necessarily be able to discern the unique flavor components of the cup. The French Press brew is powerful and, at the same time, balanced.
By contrast, Aeropress is known for making clean cups. You can expect the brew to be a bright, acidic taste that highlights the coffee’s fruity or citrusy qualities.
A typical French press is thick and sometimes even gritty brew because of how oil and sediment pass through and around the mesh filter. It will provide a “full body” brew to the drink; usually, there’s some sediment left in the cup.
Aeropress generally has a much lighter mouthfeel and thinner brew texture than French Press coffee.
With that said, it is possible to modify the body of Aeropress by switching up the grind size or filter type you’re using.
A metal filter, a sold-separately accessory for Aeropress, allows more natural oils from the coffee beans to pass through – enhancing the body of the brew in the cup.
Aeropress is a winner if you’re serving for one, but it can be less convenient if you’re serving a crowd. A single brew yields a single 8-ounce cup, or you can also prepare a half-cup or full-cup.
If you want to make more, then simply clean out the device and start over again.
On the other hand, a French Press typically prepares 3-4 unique 8-ounce cups in a single brew cycle. It’s a social device. Pass around the press at the table and allow guests to self-serve.
French presses come in various sizes, but most can produce 28-35 ounces of coffee in a brew cycle.
Coffee Brew Time
Not including time to heat the water, it takes 1-3 minutes to brew with an Aeropress and 3-5 minutes to brew with a French Press. Of course, you can modify the extraction time for either method.
Coffee extraction is the process of dissolving coffee sediment into the water. It doesn’t all happen at once. Some flavors “extract” before others so that a shorter extraction will create a different tasting cup than a longer one.
Whether you use French Press or Aeropress, it’s worth experimenting with your brew time. Start with the recommended duration, then adjust slightly for the next cup. Find what works for you!
When it comes to Aeropress vs French Press, if you’re using an Aeropress, try modifying the grind size and extraction time. You can also brew using an “inverted” method for a different result.
A French press is more limited in what it can do with hot coffee, but you can also use this gear to prepare cold brew coffee and loose-leaf tea.
The French press comes equipped with a micromesh filter attached to the plunger mechanism. The diameter of the mesh isn’t consistent from one maker to the next. The manufacturer often employs a layered approach – using a sandwich of 2, 3, or even 4 mesh layers.
The metal mesh French Press filter is very durable, but it is possible to bend or damage it during cleaning.
An Aeropress coffee maker comes equipped with thin round paper filters that fit snugly against the cap.
The paper-style filter absorbs a fair amount of oil in the brewing process, resulting in a cup with less body. They are affordable and easy to find on Amazon at a low cost, but if you run out unexpectedly, then it’s not the type of item that is carried by most local retailers. It’s good to have a backup plan.
I like the Fellow Prismo reusable filter attachment for Aeropress. It is a stainless steel micromesh filter that you can add in place of paper.
The Prismo also comes with a replacement cap that includes a pressure-actuated valve for a higher-pressure extraction similar to espresso. Another benefit of this attachment is that the seal doesn’t drip, which makes it easier when you’re brewing with the inverted style.
Aeropress is the ultimate travel companion, especially if you add the Prismo Filter to it. The device is anti-fragile and packs down to an incredibly small footprint.
The French Press will also travel, which makes it easy when you’re brewing on the go, but there are some disadvantages. It tends to take up twice the space of an Aeropress and is harder to clean on the go.
While a glass french press carafe isn’t exactly “fragile,” it doesn’t take abuse in the same way an Aeropress might. Personally, I broke 2 of them on camping expeditions before I stopped carrying them out.
Cleaning glass out of your pack isn’t the best use of time away!
Both Aeropress and French Press are “lifetime use” devices…sort of.
In reality, it depends on how you use them.
When it comes down to an Aeropress vs French Press, an Aeropress is harder to destroy, but the seal between the cap and cylinder can become less snug over time. The same thing can happen between the plunger and cylinder. If these seals become loose, the device just doesn’t work as it should.
With a French Press, the glass carafe can chip or shatter. It’s also possible to ruin the plunger by bending it or losing a piece during cleaning.
Between the Aeropress vs French Press, I’d expect both gadgets to last 5-10 years in my home with regular use and periodic abuse.
In my experience, when it comes to brewers, an Aeropress is messier to use than French Press.
With a narrow top opening, it’s easy to miss the mark with some coffee grounds and spill them on the counter. I tend to overfill my Aeropress machine, which sometimes results in foam splatter during plunging.
Well, I suppose I could avoid both of these situations by being more careful. But who is at their best pre-coffee?
Cleanup after you’ve made your perfect brew is simple. I recommend backing up the plunger about ½” before opening the cap. This simple step makes it easier to open the cap. And less likely to spill when you do.
Plunge out the ground coffee beans and give it a quick rinse. Then you’re ready to go for the next cup. Periodically it’s helpful to do a more thorough wipe-down to remove oil buildup from the cylinder filter.
A French press is less messy during use but can be challenging to clean. Oil seems to build up on the plunger and carafe quickly, and ground coffee can also get wedged between layers of the mesh filter.
For some French presses, it’s necessary to disassemble and reassemble the filter at every cleaning. Keeping the filter clean ensures you have have the best cup of coffee each time.
Between the Aeropress vs French press, both coffee devices are incredibly affordable. Depending on the brand and material construction of a French Press, you can spend more money. You can usually expect to spend $20-40 on either option.
If you’re looking for high aesthetic quality to add to your morning ritual, when you’re comparing the Aeropress vs French Press, the French press is the way to go. Few elements of a morning ritual are more romantic than a glass carafe catching sunlight while you flip a few pages.
The look is so feel-good that it’s become iconic in film and culture.
There is no romance to the Aeropress, but it is a wonder of science. It isn’t exactly beautiful, but you might feel like every cup of coffee is an experiment. For some people, that’s the thing.
Either way, both devices are a hop and skip more aesthetically pleasing than a drip pot.
When hand-brewing coffee, a gooseneck kettle is key.
This is especially true for Aeropress, where directional spout control is a matter of both convenience and safety.
The aim is a big deal because even water distribution makes for good coffee extraction. The gooseneck spout also helps ensure that you don’t miss the brew vessel. Without it, I’ve sent boiling water onto my body more than once.
Better safe than sorry!
Aeropress and French Press are both methods of immersion coffee brewing, meaning that coffee grounds are soaked in water until ready to consume. Both methods also use a plunger device to prepare for serving.
The similarities end there. Coffee resulting from one method has a very different flavor, and mouth feel than the other method.
Aeropress is often described as making “espresso-like” coffee because of the flavor of the cup and the process used during the brewing process is somewhat similar to what an espresso machine does, but it does not make actual espresso. Espresso machines use 10x the pressure of Aeropress, resulting in a shorter cup with more concentration and intensity.
While espresso is more caffeine-concentrated than French press, one full cup of French press coffee has about 40% more caffeine than one shot of espresso.
Coffee brewed from a French Press is especially powerful. Coffee beans contain methylpyridinium, a powerful anticancer compound that has been shown to reduce the chances of certain cancers. French Press Coffee is rich in this compound and can help lower your chances of oral, pharyngeal and esophageal cancers.
When Is Aeropress The Best Choice?
Aeropress is an awesome choice for anybody making their coffee in single servings. It brews a fast and delicious cup of coffee with a light body.
It’s less suited if you’re making multiple cups of coffee. And I wouldn’t call it a “workout,” but it can be physically challenging to press the plunger down.
Top-class durability and compact size make Aeropress my go-to choice for travel. And you can expect the flavor of the coffee to be exceptionally clean.
When Is French Press Coffee The Best Choice?
Well, a French Press is beautiful and simple to use. The perfect tool to just set it and forget it.
Clean-up can be more challenging, but it’s far from inconvenient. And the drink’s body will be heavier than most other brew methods. This could be a plus or minus, depending on your coffee preferences.
Try French press for multi-cup hand brewing. Expect the flavors to be a bit muddy but balanced and consistent. It is the ultimate way to make the best coffee if you’re feeling a bit lazy.
Looking for more coffee fun? Head over to one of these posts!