Leaving your trusty espresso machine behind and brewing by hand is a great way to learn more about coffee and what you do or don’t like.
You get up close and personal with your beans, and if you do things right, you discover your personal preferences while strengthening your understanding of coffee brewing principles.
Here we look at 2 popular methods of making coffee: the French Press and the Aeropress. Read on to learn more about which way is more suited to you!
Alan Adler created the Aerobie (Aeropress) coffee press in 2005. It was meant to be a manual brewing device made to reduce the bitterness in your cup of joe. A flavor that was all too loud in the usual drip and press set ups at the time.
- Perfect all rounder
- Easy to clean
- Not great if you want to brew more than 3 cups
How did he theorize reducing bitterness? The lever was to use pressure to reduce brew time, all while improving flavor. As you might imagine, it was met with skepticism at the start.
But now, there’s no doubting the unique flavor of Aeropress coffee because it has become ubiquitous. Nowadays, Aeropress competitions are held with the most detailed recipes. It’s a showcase for how water temperature, roast, and grind size can all impact your cup of coffee.
They’ve even released a gadget that allows you to make more espresso-like brews using your Aeropress. It’s possibly the most affordable espresso machine.
Aeropress kits consist of a filter cap, a seal, a chamber (which consists of 2 parts), a funnel, a filter holder, a stirring paddle, a scoop, and a tote bag.
Once you put them together, it feels like a complete kit for brewing that you can take with you anywhere. Just invest in a good hand grinder, digital scale, water heater, and thermometer, and you have yourself a coffee set-up fit for a full on home barista.
The coffee press was initially patented in 1929 by Attilio Calimani. Since the initial patent, the design has been iterated on until 1958 when Faliero Bondanini produced his final product in a French clarinet factory.
The classic French Press. If you love a fuller flavor, you need one of these in your brewing arsenal!
- Great with medium to dark roasts
- Perfect if you enjoy a fuller body
- Easy to use
- Not great if you enjoy acidity
It’s important to note that similar brewing methods have been documented to exist as early as the 1850s. While simple, this method has evolved into what it is today thanks to its ease of brewing and unique flavor.
One of the French Press’s origin stories claims that it was born out of a need to push the coffee grounds down into the coffee maker because the brewer forgot to put a filter in place. So that individual bought a fine metal screen from a passing merchant and pushed it down with a stick.
For those of us who brew daily, it’s not impossible to imagine reaching a point where we experiment with different methods of enjoying coffee…It seems many before us have been doing so for years too!
As a classic method of making coffee, it is basically an efficient immersion brewing technique. As you steep the coffee grounds for a set amount of time, you separate the coffee by pushing down on your press. Coffee from a French Press is nostalgic because of the body and flavor profile you achieve from making coffee with this method.
It makes brewing a cup or two easy, and it allows you to save on paper filters. Just an all-around well-loved way of making coffee.
Now, if that’s convinced you this method is for you check out our French Press reviews to find the one for you, otherwise keep reading!
Aeropress VS French Press
Now that we’ve discussed brief histories and summaries for the Aeropress and the French Press, let’s put these each brewing device head-to-head.
Below, we take a closer look at these options to help you decide what’s best for you.
Aeropress: It uses a combination of immersion and pushing the hot water through the coffee grounds to extract flavor quickly.
This design was deliberate to reduce the chance of over-extraction. This is the primary method of extracting via the Aeropress. However, the most detailed Aeropress recipes often create agitation by mixing the coffee grounds while steeping, which explains why Aero coffee press kits contain stir paddles.
French Press: This is mostly an immersion-style coffee maker. You leave the grounds to steep for a set period, and simply press down and pour when ready. While you may add an agitation element, this is entirely dependent on coffee drinkers and their preferences.
French Press coffee has withstood the test of time. This hints at the type of extraction that coffee lovers have evolved from, or towards when it comes to preparing their cups of coffee.
WINNER: French Press.
When it comes to simplicity of recipes, the French Press requires less effort and less movement. As you can imagine, this also makes it easier to achieve consistency in your daily cup of coffee.
Aeropress: The ideal total brew time for Aeropress coffee is 2-3 minutes. This starts as soon as the hot water touches the coffee grounds and ends when you press coffee down to the beginning of a hissing sound. This distinct sound means that you’ve pushed out all your hot water, taking away any further need to push past this point of brewing.
French Press: Your ideal brewing time is about 4-5 minutes depending on grind size and roast level for the French Press. Since it uses a coarser grind vs espresso, drip, and pour overs, you need more time to let heat and pressure extract pleasant flavors from your beans.
While there will be more movement and more attention required for this method of brewing, you also get your cup of coffee in half the time that it usually takes for most brewing methods. When it comes to coffee at home or in a cafe, the less you wait, the better. Always.
Ease of Brewing
To compare each brew method’s workflow, below are sample workflows for the Aeropress vs the French Press.
Here are the usual steps of an Aeropress routine:
- Grind your coffee beans, prepare your hot water simultaneously (make an allowance for “wetting” your paper filter
- Assemble your AeroPress (chamber and seal, paper filter, and filter cap) according to your method, whether the natural or inverted
- Rinse out your paper filter to get rid of the paper taste in your cup
- Add the grounds and water (at the appropriate amount and temperature). Let it steep according to your preference and/or recipe
- Keep a time allowance for a 30-45 second push down.
- Once your immersion time is reached, immediately push down at a slow pace until you hear a hissing sound at the end
- Enjoy your cup of coffee!
Here are the usual steps of a French Press routine:
- Grind your coffee beans, prepare your water simultaneously
- Add the grounds and water to your French Press. Gently place the plunger on top, just below the surface to fully immerse all your grounds
- Wait until full immersion time and immediately press down slowly
- Enjoy your cup of coffee!
WINNER: French Press. As you can see from the sample workflows, the French Press requires fewer steps to make a cup of coffee. Aside from that, you don’t need to use a paper filter each time you brew.
However, you have the option of running your French Press brew through a paper filter if you want to make your coffee lighter and more similar to a pour over.
Aeropress: As I mentioned above, the Aeropress has a few parts that go with each kit. What’s great is that it also comes with a tote bag that can fit all the bits mentioned above and pieces. It’s made of food-grade plastic, so you don’t have to worry too much about breaking it.
French Press: Since the French Press has been around for quite some time, it already comes in lots of different formats and finishes. You can choose from glass, plastic and stainless steel to name a few. For as long as you properly store the plunger with the body, you won’t have to worry about damaging it in transit.
Not a lot of coffee brewing equipment can match the simplicity and durability of the Aeropress. From top to bottom, it’s made of plastic or rubber. This makes it way more drop-resistant than most materials while maintaining the lightweight quality about it.
Ease of Cleaning
Aeropress: One of the biggest claims of the Aeropress is that it’s self-cleaning. I initially couldn’t understand this until I got deeper into my professional coffee career.
Brewing equipment doesn’t need the use of soap if it’s cleaned right after brewing. All you’ll need is warm water and a good thorough rinse. The Aeropress isn’t very different, and you have the added function of the seal to virtually push out a lot of the grounds and oils as you brew your coffee.
French Press: The body of the French Press is pretty easy to clean. Give it a good rinse with warm water, and you should clean it well enough for the next use. The plunger can also be cleaned from any coffee debris with a rinse; however, sometimes taking it apart can be tedious for some. There is also the issue with putting it back together exactly how it was manufactured for those who aren’t used to it.
If we’re talking about ease of cleaning, just the material that the Aeropress is made of puts less pressure on cleaning. The “self-cleaning” effect also works by just chucking the used filter out with the grounds. Unless it’s a self-cleaning espresso machine, you’d be hard-pressed to find other brewing methods with the same capability.
Coffee Grind Required
Aeropress: Medium to medium-fine. The Aeropress is a hand brewing method that uses hand-operated pressure to increase the extraction rate while reducing brewing time. It extracts faster than the pour over, and longer than an espresso. This is why a medium-fine grind works best. The coffee grounds are big enough to allow you to press through the resistance and fine enough to become fully extracted within 2-3 minutes.
With this grind setting range, try a ratio of 1:12 coffee-to-water. The ratio for Aeropress coffee is a bit tighter because the paper filter already makes your resulting brew a bit lighter vs French Press.
French Press: Medium-coarse. A lot of people confuse the French Press grind sizes with Cold Brew grind sizes. While both are coarser than the usual grinds, cold brew has much coarser settings.
So the French Press needs a coarse grind setting, with a coffee-to-water ratio of about 1:12-1:15. Mix and match the coffee grind settings and the water ratio until you end up with a recipe that you can enjoy every day.
WINNER: It depends.
On your preference. If you like light, bright coffees, then the Aeropress coffee grind is for you. If you want a thick, straightforward brew, then French Press coffee is a better pick. When it comes to brewing, it’s always ideal to know your preferences to understand brewing principles better!
Aeropress: Aeropress coffee tastes light and bright, even with a tighter ratio of 1:12 coffee-to-water. It’s mainly because of the quicker brew time and the presence of a filter made of paper. The faster brew time results in lower TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), and the filter absorbs the oils, preventing them from ending up in your cup.
French Press: The immersion-style of brewing you get from the French Press gives you a full-bodied, straightforward cup. It’s an easy coffee to like because of how clean but heavy it is. The absence of paper to filter out the oils from your coffee extraction also adds to your cup’s body. For these reasons, French Press coffee is liked by many. It’s simple yet flavorful if you use the right beans.
If you ask me to compare the French Press vs Aeropress on taste alone, I will pick the Aeropress for my personal preferences. This is because I like a light cup for my morning coffee.
But, if you’re one to prefer body every time and enjoy darker roasts the French Press will work wonders for you.
The Final Verdict
Let’s take a look at the final score for the Aeropress VS the French Press head-to-head:
French Press: 2
For my coffee tastes, the battle of Aeropress VS French Press is won by the Aeropress.
I like my coffee light, and I only prepare one cup at a time. The clean up suits my personal style of cleaning right after brewing. I have a hand grinder that can still grind precisely at the medium-fine setting.
While I crave for French Press coffee every now and then, Aeropress brews are a better fit in terms of what I find satisfying on a daily basis.
With that, I hope you get to decide for yourself on which coffee brew method is better for you and your personal coffee preferences!
Either way, you’re sure to have a lot of fun using the Aeropress and the French Press.