French press

French Press vs Espresso - Which One Suits You?

John
John Nygren
Barista

Today we are going to talk about my two favorite brewing methods; French Press and Espresso.

I have been making French press and espresso as a barista for almost ten years now.

I will talk about the most important aspects of every method to help you make an informed decision on which of the two methods suits you best.

So keep reading to find out more.

A Quick Overview

1) Beans

French press - Medium and dark roast
Espresso - Medium to medium dark (usually)

2) Grind

French press - Coarse
Espresso - Fine

3) Brewing time

French press - 3-5 minutes depending on the grind
Espresso - 2 minutes

4) Taste

French press - Rich and aromatic
Espresso - Strong, concentrated, and bold
 

5) Strength

French press - Medium to light
Espresso - Strong

6) Flexibility

French press - Very flexible 
Espresso - Somewhat flexible

7) Portability

French press - Very portable
Espresso - Not very portable

8) Brewing time

French press - 3-5 minutes depending on the grind
Espresso - 2 minutes

9) Caffeine

French press - 13.4 mg per ounce
Espresso - 64 mg per ounce

10) Ease of Use

French press - Very easy
Espresso - Slight learning curve

11) Price

French press - Cheap
Espresso - Expensive

13) Best for

French press - Those who like an enjoyable easy cup of coffee 
Espresso - Those who want to put in a bit more effort for a more customizable and intense coffee experience.

French Press vs Espresso - The Comparison

1. French Press - Easy & Delicious

The French press, also known as a press pot or plunger pot, is a classic and straightforward coffee brewing method.

It involves steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in hot water, resulting in a full-bodied, flavorful cup.

Here are some key aspects of French press coffee:

Beans

For the French press, you want to use medium to coarse ground beans. Typically the coarser the grind, the longer you need to steep the coffee.

The beans can be medium to dark roast depending on your taste. If you add milk to your coffee go for a darker roast since that will complement the deeper flavor of the dark roast.

Brewing process

In a French press, coffee grounds are mixed with hot water and left to steep for a few minutes.

The coarser the grind, the longer you want to let it sit. Between 3 and 5 minutes should be your go-to.

After steeping, you press down a metal or plastic plunger to separate the grounds from the liquid.

You want the water temperature to be somewhere between boiling and hot. A tip is to boil your water and let it cool down for about 30-60 seconds before steeping your coffee.

Coffee flavor

French press coffee tends to be rich, full-bodied, and slightly gritty due to the presence of coffee grounds.

It captures the full range of flavors and aromas, making it a favorite among those who appreciate a robust cup.

Some people complain about the bitter or acidic taste of French press coffee. This is usually due to over-extraction that happens when you steep your grind for too long.

To avoid this keep an eye on the time you let the coffee sit for. Try starting at a shorter time of about 3 minutes and work yourself up from there.

Flexibility

With French press, you have easier control over the brewing time and can adjust it to your taste. Longer steeping times result in a stronger brew, but as mentioned avoid letting the coffee get over-extracted.

You are also quite flexible when it comes to grind size. Depending on your taste preference you can use anything between a medium to a very coarse grind as long as you adjust the process.

You can even use your French press to make an acceptable cold brew by throwing it in the fridge overnight.

Portability

A sometimes overlooked aspect of the French press which I think is very important is how easy it is to travel with.

Whether you are an avid camper or just want a coffee maker in your office the French press makes it super easy.

As long as you have access to boiling water you can make a cup of joe anywhere!

Ease of use

The ease of use of the French press is unmatched, you basically just throw your coffee grind into the jar and pour boiled water over it. (a very simple explanation of course)

This makes it a great introduction to coffee making for a lot of people.

Affordability

In the world of affordable coffee makers (under 50 US dollars) the French press does deliver.

Whilst a decent espresso machine starts somewhere between 100-200 dollars you can get away with a decent French press for as low as 20 bucks.

Espresso - The Power Shot

Simply put espresso is a concentrated coffee brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

This method is known for its bold and intense flavor profile.

Let's explore some key aspects of espresso:

Beans

For espresso, you need very finely ground beans. Because the water passes through the grind so quickly in espresso you need a fine grind to ensure good extraction.

According to Italian tradition, the beans should be medium or medium dark.

The dark roast has also become popular lately for those who enjoy a slightly more bitter taste.

Brewing Process

Espresso machines force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure.

The process is quick and typically results in a small, potent shot of coffee.

Unless you go for a fully automatic espresso machine, there is somewhat of a learning curve to the espresso-making process.

I remember struggling a bit with that in the beginning.

The upside to this is that once you get the hang of it you can easily customize both the beans and the process to fit your needs and tastes.

(A side note is that no coffee maker delivers  the same feeling as using a high-end espresso machine)

Coffee Flavor

Espresso is known for its bold and intense flavor, often described as nutty, caramel-like, or even slightly bitter.

To be honest, though the flavor profile comes down to the choice of beans and grind size as well as the person making it.

But there is no getting around that compared to the French Press, the espresso will have a more intense taste.

Flexibility

The flexibility with espresso comes mostly from the choice of roast. As mentioned depending on how long you roast the beans the taste will differ greatly.

Portability

A traditional espresso requires a traditional espresso machine. Since they tend to be quite heavy the portability of espresso is usually low.

The exception to this rule would be products like the Wacaco Nanopress although you will have to decide for yourself how useful they are.

Coffee Recipes

Although you definitely can make coffee drinks with the French press the espresso is the unchallenged king of coffee drinks.

It's the base for various coffee beverages, like lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos.

So if you enjoy any of the popular coffee beverages then espresso is the way to go!

Concentration

Espresso is highly concentrated, containing less water than other brewing methods including the French press. It's served in small, 1-2 ounce servings due to its potent nature.

Ease of Use

As mentioned above there is a slight learning curve to making espresso.

The upside is that when you know the process it is very simple and requires little clean-up time.

After some experience, you will be able to make an espresso in under 2 min.

Affordability

This is where the main downside of the espresso is, the need for more expensive equipment.

As previously mentioned, making a French press barely requires any investment at all.

However, for brewing espresso, you need an espresso machine. However, if you are a beginner, you can find a manual espresso machine that will do the job.

I would also recommend getting a grinder when purchasing an espresso machine. Even though you can buy pre-ground beans you lose some of that customizability.

The downside to this is that the grinder will cost some money.

Final Thoughts

The main difference between French presses and espresso lies in the brewing method and the resulting flavor profile.

French press produces a full-bodied and rich coffee, while espresso is a concentrated and intense shot with a thick layer of crema.

French presses are best for people who like strong cups of regular coffee, and espresso is best for espresso-based drinks.

So enough reading, now it's time for you to pick your preferred method and get brewing.

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John Nygren

Team TAB
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Hey I'm John, I have been in the game of blending and brewing for many years. I have worked in coffee shops and smoothie bars all over the world and I now run a website called Blendbrewenjoy where I talk about everything related to coffee and smoothi ...