Updated: December 13, 2021 by Owen Richardson
If you’re trying to decide between a French press vs a drip machine, then you’re probably very discerning about coffee. Anyone who truly loves this beverage knows it’s all about the way it’s brewed.
After all, the brewing process is what extracts that gorgeous flavor from your ground beans. These two great coffee-making machines each have their benefits and drawbacks and serve best in certain circumstances.
Even though this decision comes down to a matter of personal choice, it is still important to consider the reasons for these choices. Nobody wants to end up with a product that does not make coffee to our taste, or even worse, a coffee maker that is incompatible with the coffee we already have.
If you’re not sure which coffee maker to purchase, then keep reading so I can help you make an informed decision based on my research and experiences with both.
Main Differences Between French Press vs Drip Coffee Maker
The main differences between a French press vs a drip are:
- A French press has a bit of a learning curve to operate properly, whereas a drip coffee maker just requires you to follow basic instructions from the manual.
- A French press takes a bit longer to brew the coffee, whereas a drip can brew coffee much faster.
- The French press is more reliable long-term, whereas the drip machine is more prone to occasional mechanical problems.
- When it comes to taste, the French press creates coffee with more flavor, whereas some flavor may be lost with the drip machine
- The French press typically has a smaller capacity for coffee, whereas drip machines usually have a larger capacity
If you have a large crowd of coffee addicts in the morning, then a drip machine may better suit your needs, since it can brew more coffee at one time. It can also get the job done faster than a French press. However, you may have to sacrifice taste, because a French press can provide a more flavorful brew. If you are just interested in making coffee for yourself and a few others, it is probably more worth it to learn how to use a French press.
If you’re still on the fence about the right coffee maker for you, then read on for crucial information about the features of each.
French Press vs Drip Machine: Overview
You can get quality coffee from both the French press and drip machine, but one of them will likely suit your lifestyle better than the other. Let me share an overview of each machine’s features.
The French Press
A French press is known by many other names, such as a coffee press, coffee plunger, press pot, cafeteria, and cafetière. There is some debate about the origin of the French press, but what is certain is that the designer was an Italian man by the name of Attilio Calimani. He put forth his patent for the machine in Milan in 1929.
Many kitchen cupboards and hotel rooms adopted this method of brewing coffee soon after, and it has remained a popular option today, albeit with a few improvements to the design. Aside from these minor changes, though, the design remains simple with a cylindrical beaker where you can add your favorite ground coffee. To get the most out of a French press, the coffee used must be coarsely ground.
After grinding your coffee, you can then add hot (never boiling) water and briefly stir the grounds. Next, the coffee must steep. When you are satisfied that the coffee is strong enough, all you need to do is slowly push down the plunger filter. This action causes the coffee grounds to move to the bottom of the cylinder while the flavorful liquid is free to be poured out.
This simple method manages to give a tasty result, which causes coffee lovers to choose it over many others. The French press’ affordability is also very attractive to both coffee newbies and experts alike. Some of the best and most popular French press makers are Bodum, Veken, and Mueller.
Here are three of the best and most affordable French presses on the market sold by the aforementioned brands:
- Veken French Press Coffee & Tea Maker, 304 Stainless Steel Heat Resistant Borosilicate Glass Coffee Press with 4 Filter Screens, Durable Easy Clean 100% BPA Free, 34oz, Copper
- Mueller French Press Double Insulated 304 Stainless Steel Coffee Maker 4 Level Filtration System, No Coffee Grounds, Rust-Free, Dishwasher Safe
- Bodum 1928-16US4 Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, 1 Liter, 34 Ounce, Chrome
Drip Coffee Maker
Drip coffee machines, on the other hand, are fully automated and can be found virtually everywhere from restaurants to offices and homes. They are the perfect device if you just want a quick cup of Joe as you’re headed out. It is quite convenient if you don’t have the time to wait for the coffee to brew every single time you’re craving a cup.
These convenient machines work by using medium ground coffee and a paper filter, as well as filling a water reservoir in the machine. There is typically a switch that you must press to heat the element that boils the water, which makes contact with the ground coffee and filters it through the paper in drips. A coffee pot is placed beneath to collect the delicious liquid as it drips down (hence the name).
Drip makers are usually more expensive than French presses, but they have gotten more sophisticated and affordable over the years. The obvious advantage of drip makers is that they can keep brewed coffee hot for long periods. Some machines also come with a timer that allows you to wake up to hot coffee by preparing the machine the night before.
Here are some great drip machine options:
- Breville BDC450BSS Precision Brewer Thermal, Coffee Maker, Brushed Stainless Steel
- Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System, Auto-iQ Tea and Coffee Maker with 6 Brew Sizes, 5 Brew Styles, Frother, Coffee & Tea Baskets with Glass Carafe (CP301)
- Cuisinart DCC-3200P1 Perfectemp Coffee Maker, 14 Cup Programmable with Glass Carafe, Stainless Steel
Now that you know the basics of each machine and how they work, let’s compare their main features to help you decide which is best for your lifestyle and preferences.
Ease of Use
Most of us (especially coffee lovers) have a habit of drinking our favorite brew every morning. With the French press, you can undoubtedly learn how to make your favorite coffee just the way you like it. However, due to its slight learning curve, many people do not get this right on the first try.
For example, the coffee may be too weak if not brewed long enough in the French press or over-brewed because it sat there too long. It’s a simple process, but the brew time needs to be just right for best results.
Let’s not forget the cardinal sin of using a French press: pushing the plunger filter down too fast, which can also affect the taste of your coffee significantly.
There are still other factors to consider, like using the right coffee grinds and making sure the water is at the correct temperature. Fortunately, these skills can be learned over time, and a lot of us, including myself, have mastered this art through trial and error.
On the other hand, with a drip machine, you simply need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the correct coffee grounds. Just add the water at the correct, designated level, and you can program the machine for the exact type of coffee you want and come back when it’s ready.
There is also the issue of clean-up afterward, which is about the same for both the French press and the drip maker.
Winner: Drip makers win this one because they are very easy to use compared to the French press, which has a bit of a learning curve to master. You simply need to measure out your coffee and press the correct button when using a drip machine.
You need your coffee, and you need it now!
If you’re anything like me, then you live a busy lifestyle, so you need that steaming cup of java ASAP. Therefore, you might be wondering which of these machines gives you a faster brew time. From my experience, the French press takes longer than the drip maker to brew coffee.
With a French press, you can expect to have your coffee in about 5 to 8 minutes, along with the time that is needed for the liquid to steep properly, which is around 3 to 4 minutes. It’s also worth mentioning that you need to boil your water separately and then add it to the carafe. All in all, you can expect your coffee to be ready in around 15 minutes when using a French press.
However, with a drip maker, you can have your coffee ready in only about 5 to 10 minutes total. Some more advanced drip coffee makers can even give you coffee in as little as 3 minutes! This will be even faster if you have a drip coffee maker that can be programmed to automatically make the coffee at a certain time. Because of these features, drip coffee makers have the advantage.
Winner: Drip machines are faster overall.
What could be worse than a malfunctioning coffee machine when you need your morning cup? Imagine having your favorite beans and no way to make it. Just tragic!
A French press does not have a plug or any mechanical parts. You can think of it as a jug that can filter your coffee. As far as reliability goes, this actually is an advantage. Of course, you need to keep in mind that the French press’ carafe can shatter and ruin the entire thing if you aren’t careful, but thankfully, it is not dependent on electricity to work.
Still, even if the glass does break, replacing it isn’t very expensive. Some models do not have glass but are made from stainless steel, making them even more durable.
You can also carry your French press with you wherever you go. The typical French press can easily fit in most handbags, and you simply need hot water and your favorite coffee to use it on the go.
Alternatively, a drip maker has mechanical parts, and you need to plug it in to use it. This can be disappointing when there is no electricity. On days like that, you will probably wish you had a French press. Drip makers are also less portable than a French press, though, so it will be quite cumbersome to take yours with you if you’re in a hurry. In addition to this, drip makers have a heating element that can go bad over time.
Overall, the French press is more reliable long-term, whereas the drip machine may have mechanical problems from time to time. Not just that, but the drip machine and its parts are quite expensive to replace when something goes bad.
Winner: The French Press wins this category because it does not depend on electricity.
If you are a coffee connoisseur, you may find a drip maker to be laughable when it comes to taste. This is because with a French press you can have greater control over the variables that help to create the perfect cup of coffee. A good French press can give you coffee that will make your taste buds sing.
Even the harshest critics agree that the French press will beat most other brewing methods when it comes to flavor. Remember, the coffee’s flavor comes primarily from the coffee beans’ oils, which are filtered out in the paper filter of a drip maker. The French press is different because there is no paper filter, which will result in a richer, tastier cup of coffee.
You also cannot ignore the fact that drip coffee makers keep the coffee hot, but after a while, the coffee begins to taste burned. This is a turn-off for most coffee lovers. However, I should mention that taste is subjective, and some people like this unique taste that comes with drip makers. If you do, I won’t yuck your yum.
Winner: The French Press takes the win here, too, as it produces coffee that tastes richer and more full-bodied.
This feature mostly depends on your lifestyle. If you have a large family or an office full of people who are ravenous for coffee in the morning, then the French press probably won’t be enough to meet your needs, although some French presses can give you as many as 10 cups of coffee at one time. Drip makers usually come in much larger sizes. Some drip makers can serve about 14 cups at a time.
Drip makers are better suited for situations like large offices where a lot of people depend on this vital brew, while French presses are best for making coffee for one or two people at a time. This means the drip maker has the upper hand in this category.
Winner: Drip makers tend to produce and hold more coffee at a time.
Drip vs French Press: The Winner
The moment of truth has come! Which machine is the winner? As you might have guessed by now, this is a rather nuanced and complicated question. Now that we’ve covered the differences between a French press and a drip machine, you’ve probably determined that some of these features are more important to you than others.
For example, you may just be big on taste, so the other features don’t concern you. In that case, The French press is your best option. Of course, that is not to say drip makers can’t provide great-tasting coffee. Plus, other features may be more important to you, like the machine’s brew time and capacity, in which case, drip machines are the winner.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which of these options suits you better. If taste and reliability are what you are after, then you should definitely choose the French press, but be prepared to spend some time learning how to use it properly in the beginning.
If you don’t have the patience to learn, then you can always just treat yourself to a drip maker that is programmable to make your life easier.
Finally, there is also the issue of affordability to consider. If you’re on a budget, then the French press is the way to go, as drip machines tend to be a bit more costly. In any case, make sure you have the correct coffee grounds so you can make the best coffee to suit your taste.