French Press Vs Drip Coffee: Which Is Right For You?

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About This Guide

So, you’re trying to decide between buying a new automatic drip coffee maker or going the way of the French press and you just can’t decide. In many ways this is a case of apples and oranges; both brewing systems have their advantages and both have their drawbacks.

Overall, drip coffee is just easy, plain and simple. Fill up the reservoir, add your ground coffee, and press start. But at the same time, there is nothing quite like the smooth coffee we can brew in a French press. So, how do you evaluate these two different methods?

I’m going to take you through the pros and cons of drip coffee and of French press coffee, and afterwards you should have a good handle on what’s going to work best for your specific needs.

About French Press

With about a century in existence, the French press has the history behind it to give it a lot of credibility. The French press is a regular feature in homes not just in France but around the world. The rise in popularity in the United States in the last two or three decades attests to its appeal.

The design is simple. It is a beaker with a stainless steel mesh filter attached to a rod, with a lid attached at the top. The ground coffee goes in the bottom of the beaker, you add hot water and wait, then depress the filter mechanism. The French press is simple but there is some science and art to making coffee by this method. It will require attention.

If you’re looking for a more detailed overview of French press coffee, check out our guide on how to make French press coffee.

About Drip Coffee

The automatic drip coffee maker actually has almost a century of history also. These have been around for a long time and there have obviously been improvements and refinements over the decades. These machines are almost ubiquitous in offices and workplaces. They have been fixtures in American homes for years. And they are incredibly easy to use.

Ground coffee goes in the filter basket, water goes in the reservoir, and you hit the on button. It is hard to imagine anything more convenient and easy. However, the coffee we brew in a drip machine is fairly uniform in flavor. The drip machine does not allow you to manage water temperature and brewing times the way manual brewing methods can.

Differences To Consider

Brewing Times

The French press requires you to grind your beans, heat the water in a kettle, and wait the 2-3 minutes to allow the coffee to brew. About 10 minutes in total. However, this is all hands-on and you cannot leave this to just do its thing.

The drip method also requires you to grind your beans, but after that it just takes over. But the amount of time until you have coffee ready to drink is about the same. The decision here comes down to whether or not you want to just sit and wait (drip), or get involved with the process (French press).

The Grind

French press requires a coarse grind. The larger grind allows the water to properly extract the flavors and oils from the coffee bean. The drip method requires a medium grind.

Honestly, if you purchase a burr grinder (manual or automatic), either method is entirely workable on this score.

If you’re interested in more information about achieving the perfect coffee grind, check out our guide on grinding coffee at home.

Ease Of Use

The French press requires attention. This will demand some level of skill since you will need to pay close attention to water temperature. You also need to work with the ground coffee with a French press. In order to properly brew, you add hot water to about the half-way point, allow that to bloom and settle, then fill the beaker. After these initial steps, you allow another 2-3 minutes for brewing time.

This process will likely take a little experimentation to get the taste the way you like it. This will up the skill level, but your own skills will grow with the process.

The drip method demands only that you add the correct amount of ground coffee and water. The machine does all the work beyond these initial steps.

For ease of use, the drip machine is the winner.


The French press generally has a maximum capacity of 10 cups. It is just not possible to make them any larger than this because the brewing method will break down over a certain size. You will end up with bitter coffee if the amount of water and ground coffee becomes too large.

Drip machines usually have an average capacity of 12 cups. Some are even larger. The method of brewing is constant and makes it possible to brew larger amounts of coffee.

If one of your main concerns is making large amounts of coffee – if you need to brew for multiple people, for instance – the drip is the right way to go.

If you are brewing coffee just for yourself or you and a partner, the French press will work great.


This may come down to a subjective and individual taste test, but the French press makes a singularly delightful brew. It is rich and velvety. It makes coffee unlike any other method.

Drip machines make uniform coffee and that has a uniform taste. The flavors tend to be a little muted and flat. While it is satisfying, a drip machine cannot pull the nuances of flavor out of the coffee bean the way a French press can.


For most of us, the flavor is the main concern. We love good coffee, and we will go the extra steps to make good coffee. But we also know there are other considerations. Some of us do not have the time in the morning to work with a brewing method which requires our undivided attention.

Evaluate the ideas listed above. And if it comes to down to a question of how it tastes, see if you can compare cups at a local coffee house. Most places have both methods available now. Try both, think about your individual needs, and decide from there!