French Press vs Espresso Machine: Which Brewing Method Is for You?

Updated: December 14, 2021 by Owen Richardson

french press vs espresso

We all have choices to make in life, and the way we brew our coffee is one of those choices. Many of us see this as a big deal because we want coffee that tastes good, and brewing it the right way can give us the taste we want. As two of the most influential ways of making coffee, we can look no further than the French press vs espresso maker.

The French press and the espresso maker are two distinct ways of creating flavorful coffee. They are both frequently used in coffee shops and can create a rich, powerful coffee that both hipsters and busy business people crave. However, they have a few distinct differences that can be highlighted.

Information on any one of these methods can help you avoid making purchases that do not suit your needs. I have experience with both of these methods; I will share them with you so you can make up your mind between the two.

Main Differences Between French Press vs Espresso Machine

The main differences between a French press vs an espresso maker are:

  • A French press is a bit easier to use, whereas an espresso machine takes a bit of skill.
  • The French press is less expensive, whereas an espresso machine may cost a whole lot more.
  • The French press gives a more full-bodied flavor, whereas an espresso machine gives you strong, bold flavor with crema.
  • The French press has a larger capacity for coffee, whereas an espresso machine produces 1-2 shots at a time.

Understand that espresso machines give you shots of flavorful coffee, but a large French press can give a large family about 14 cups of coffee in one brew. They also create different flavors of coffee, so it depends on what type of flavor you prefer. The espresso maker is obviously more expensive, but many people enjoy the dense richness it can produce.

I go in depth as I describe each of these brewing processes so that you can have a greater understanding when making your choice.

French Press vs Espresso Machine: Overview

Aromatic, flavorful coffee can be had from both a French press and an espresso maker. They both have a lot to offer, so let’s find out a bit more about them.

Espresso Machine

espresso machine

Espressos are made using finely ground coffee and very hot, almost-boiling water passing through it. This is essentially what gives an espresso that rich, bold taste. You can get more out of the coffee grounds because they are finely ground. However, this also gives a more bitter taste.

With espresso makers, the fats in the finely ground coffee beans react with the steaming hot water to produce a crema that is sought after by many. Many espresso makers come with a coffee grinder that is built-in, as well as a water source, so there is no need to add water as you are making your espresso.

With some high-tech espresso makers, the user just needs to set the machine up and press a button. These are quite expensive, but other more affordable options have detachable filter cups that need to be cleaned.

The benefit of having a built-in coffee grinder means that the coffee will be fresher because they have just been ground up. To use an espresso maker, there is a bit of a learning curve as there are certain steps to follow that even baristas must learn.

With some espresso machines, you need to preheat for at least 25 minutes, then measure and grind your beans. This is assuming you are working with one of the machines that come with its own grinder. You then need to ensure that the grounds are evenly distributed before you tamp them. You can then pull the first shots of espresso.

Here are some great espresso machine options:

  1. Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine, Brushed Stainless Steel
  2. Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine, Solid, Brushed Stainless Steel
  3. De’Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine with Sensor Grinder, Dual Heating System, Advanced Latte System & Hot Water Spout for Americano Coffee or Tea, Stainless Steel, EC9335M.

View our other espresso maker picks here.

The French Press

French presses have been a staple of kitchens since its creation in 1929 Milan. Its creator was Attilio Calimani, an Italian man. There has been much debate about the origin; however, most would agree that it can produce great-tasting coffee.

French Press vs Espresso Maker: Overview

French presses have seen a few improvements on its design, which is a cylindrical beaker with a coffee plunger in the middle. Your favorite ground coffee is added along with hot water. You need coffee grounds that are coarse in a French press.

You stir the rounds and the hot water together and then place the lid on the coffee so that it can steep for the desired amount of time. When you feel like it has steeped enough (usually for about four minutes), you then press the coffee plunger filter so that the grounds go to the bottom, leaving a tasty brew that can now be poured into as many as 14 cups for some French presses.

This method works, which is why it has been around so long. It is also an affordable option. A few manufacturers that make French presses are Bodum, Veken, and Mueller.

Check out a few of the better options out there:

  1. 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
  2. Mueller French Press Double Insulated 304 Stainless Steel Coffee Maker 4 Level Filtration System, No Coffee Grounds, Rust-Free, Dishwasher Safe
  3. Bodum 1928-16US4 Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, 1 Liter, 34 Ounce, Chrome

Check out the rest of our French press picks.

Feature Comparisons

Ease of Use

It can be a pain to have appliances that are difficult to use, especially when we are trying to do something important. Coffee machines are the same way. We want a coffee maker that can make our favorite coffee without all the hassle. You may be wondering if the French press or the espresso maker can fulfill these requirements.

At first glance, an espresso maker may be quite easy to use because all you are doing is pressing a button and placing your cup for that shot of coffee that you want. But the truth is, even though an espresso can have all this fancy equipment, it may take some getting used to.

With an espresso maker, you need to heat your machine before starting. Some machines have built-in grinders, but if not, you simply need to add your finely ground beans into the portafilter.

You then need to tamp the grounds and add the portafilter to the machine. You pull the shot next, and remember to remove the cup as soon as you notice the liquid becomes clear. After all, we’re here for that strong dark brew. Stir the creamer and indulge in that aromatic flavor.

If you’ve never done this before, it may seem a bit complicated. On the other hand, a French press follows a simple series of steps that include coarsely ground beans in hot water that is mixed for a short period and left to steep.

After about four minutes, you push the plunger filter and enjoy your coffee. In this way, a French press follows a tea-making principle which many can relate to whether they drink coffee or not. This is what gives the French press the advantage of being easier to use. It is also easier to clean.

Winner: French press

Brew Time

If you need your coffee to be brewed as quickly as I do, then I’m sure you would like to know which of these options can deliver. There is no easy answer to this question. This is because different makes and models can provide coffee at different speeds.

Espresso Machine

With a French press, you can expect to have your coffee in about six minutes at the least. But remember that there is also the additional time that it takes to bring the water to the right temperature before it is placed into the cylindrical beaker.

However, some espresso machines require that it be preheated for at least 25 minutes. After this pre-heating, you can get a steaming cup of espresso in about five minutes. The act of pulling the shot takes around 30 seconds, but the prep time will be much longer. Of course, this depends on the type of espresso machine that you have.

In this case, there is no clear winner because it depends on the type of espresso machine. If you have an espresso machine that can give you coffee in five minutes, then this is undoubtedly faster than a French press, but for machines that require 25 minutes to preheat, a French press will have the upper hand.

Winner: Either could win, depending on the espresso machine model, and whether or not it has been preheated.

Cost

French press

We can’t deny the fact that coffee costs! This is especially true if you purchase coffee from your favorite coffee shop every day. One of the main appeals of buying a coffee maker is all the money you can save. So which of these options are more cost-efficient?

The clear winner here is the French press which has a small initial investment, all the while providing tasty coffee. It also works out better long-term because French presses can last a long time and are not subject to mechanical failure. You can get a good quality French press for about $30.00.

On the other hand, an espresso maker requires larger initial Investments. If you want an espresso maker that is geared toward making yourself a coffee at home, then paying more may not be a good idea. Many of the industrial versions are created with the idea that within a business, the machine will pay for itself. You can get an espresso maker for between $100 and $1,500. You need to decide how much you are willing to spend.

Winner: French press

Taste

It’s all about the taste! There’s no denying it. It doesn’t matter how easy the brewing process is if the coffee tastes like garbage when you’re done. A great-tasting cup of coffee drives many people to ignore the other features of a coffee maker.

French presses use a steeping method that creates a rich, full-bodied brew. It is thick and bursting with flavor. Espresso machines have a bittersweet, smooth consistency with a bit of crema at the top. People come from far and wide to taste a good cup of espresso. No winner can be decided because the choice is yours.

Winner: both

Capacity

“Brewing coffee over and over is my favorite,” said no one ever! Having a coffee maker that can produce large amounts in one brew is a clear advantage.

The French press has a clear advantage in this case because most of them can produce about ten to 12 cups of coffee at one time. Espresso makers, on the other hand, only provide one to two shots of espressos. You can always brew more coffee, but if you have a large family who all wants coffee at the same time, an espresso maker can be a hindrance.

Winner: French press

Espresso Machine vs French Press: The Winner

So which one is better? If you were keeping score, you would choose the French press as the clear better option because they won in most of the categories. However, some of these features may be more important to you than others.

For example, if espresso is your beverage of choice, then a French press can’t really cover that — you need the espresso machine and nothing else will do. Additionally, if you want good coffee brewed quick, easy, and cheaply, then you should choose the French press and not the espresso maker.

Both the French press and espresso maker are popular equipment for coffee lovers, but they deliver the coffee in different ways, giving you different experiences. Whatever you decide to do, I am sure you will enjoy every cup!

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