Let me start off by expressing just how much I love coffee: I would actually rather have coffee than food. On a rushed morning at home where I only have time for coffee OR breakfast, I always choose coffee. I also experience a disproportionate level of sadness if I let the coffee get cold before I can finish it. It’s like I’ve somehow failed it personally.
So I am coming to this discussion from a place of love. What we’re looking at today is an epic, timeless struggle of good versus evil, of form versus function, of quantity versus quality: drip machine versus French press.
For the uninitiated, a quick lesson. If you’re from the US, and especially if you work in an office, you probably are familiar with an electric drip machine. Making a pot of coffee is simple: you fill a measured carafe with cold water, which you pour into the coffeemaker. You put coffee grounds in the basket at the top, close everything up, and hit “go.” 5-ish minutes later, you’ve got some hot, delicious bean juice.
A French press is less common, but is found generally in homes and restaurants, so you have probably seen one at some point. To make coffee this way, you put the grounds in the bottom of the glass container first, then pour a measured amount of hot water directly onto the grounds. A French press does for coffee what you’re already used to doing for tea: it steeps the coffee grounds in hot water, and after a few minutes of steeping, you press a mesh filter down and it’s ready to drink.
A drip machine has its practical applications. There is a good reason why it’s the go-to coffeemaker for offices and families ““ it is better suited to both high-volume brewing and maintaining heat after brewing. The basket o’ grounds makes it much quicker and easier to clean the pot out and start over. And finally, you don’t need a secondary heat source, like a stove or hot plate, to get the water hot.
But ““ BUT! ““ the French press machine is completely superior when it comes to brewing a great cup of coffee. You may have noticed that drip brew machines have two kinds of filters: paper and metal. In addition to being more environmentally-friendly, metal mesh filters don’t absorb a vital part of the coffee beans: the oil. Coffee beans are naturally oily, and this oil is an important component of a well-rounded cup of coffee. French press machines metal filters, and steeping the grounds in the water (as opposed to quickly pushing hot water through them) allows the oils in the beans to really become a part of the coffee.
The other major benefit is control. Since French press brewing is all manual, you are in control of everything. While both methods let you choose the ratio of coffee to water, using a French press also lets you choose the temperature of the water and the strength of the brew. If you grind your own coffee beans, which involve almost no effort or mess, you can also have control over the coarseness of your grounds. The French press method lends itself to a coarser grind.
If you like coffee, and you’ve never owned or used a French press, do yourself a favor and try it out. If you’re not ready to commit, you can get a small press to supplement the drip machine you probably already own. Again, for coffee-loving families or office settings, the drip machine is a godsend. But if you want to take a few extra minutes to try a perfect cup of coffee, as with many things, Frenching is the way to go.