In the coffee-making game, AeroPress and French press are both giants with a loyal following. They are both budget-friendly, brew great coffee with ease, and use a similar mechanism for extracting your coffee. So what’s the difference?
Whilst they both have “press” in the name, there are some key differences that separate AeroPress vs French press. They brew different tasting coffee, fit different lifestyles, and excel in different areas.
So how do you know which is the best home coffee maker for you? Well, keep reading and we will help you determine the perfect fit for your needs:
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- Simple to use, set up, and clean
- Brews great tasting coffee
- Can brew different styles of coffee
- Well-made to last for years
- Can only brew one cup of coffee at a time
- Takes time to perfect
- Need to keep stock of paper filters
The AeroPress coffee maker is the creation of former Stanford engineering instructor, Alan Adler. It was released in 2005 by Aerobie, a company famous for making frisbees that go really, really far (like world record far.)
Since then, it has gained something of a cult status becoming one of the most popular coffee makers in the world. Now it is sold in 80 countries around the world and has even inspired an international brewing competition.
Basically, it’s a superstar in the coffee brewing world.
This unique coffee maker combines immersion and pressure brewing to create its own style of flavorful coffee that’s both full-bodied and clean tasting.
Plus, your AeroPress coffee is ready in under 1 minute and you can throw it in your bag for coffee on the go – what’s not to love? Whilst it is made of BPA plastic, there are no lingering aromas in the final brew.
Here are the easiest two methods for using an AeroPress: the Regular Method and the Inverted Method.
Using the inverted method makes a slightly stronger cup of coffee as no water escapes through the filter whilst the coffee grounds are immersed. It puts you fully in the driving seat.
The Regular Method
- Place a paper filter into the plastic cap and attach it to the AeroPress brewing chamber. Then, place the whole thing on top of a mug
- Add finely ground coffee (or medium-fine) to the AeroPress. For best results, we recommend freshly grinding your coffee beans over using pre-ground
- Pour hot water – just below boiling – over your grounds, ensuring to get the sides of the chamber too
- Stir for 10-20 seconds
- Place the plunger on top of the brewing chamber and slowly press down. It should take around 10 seconds
- Enjoy your small, strong, great tasting coffee shot – you can also dilute it with water or milk to taste
The Inverted Method
- Start by placing the plunger into the brewing chamber
- Add finely ground coffee (or medium-fine) to the brewing chamber. To make the best coffee, we recommend grinding directly before brewing
- Pour hot (not boiling) water over the coffee grounds and stir for 10 seconds
- Place a paper filter into the filter cap, then attach both to the top of the AeroPress
- Put your mug upside down on top of the brewer, then flip the whole AeroPress coffee maker up the right way alongside your mug
- Gently press down the plunger to extract your coffee. The result will be a strong coffee but, if you want to, you can dilute it with hot water or milk
These are just two of the most basic AeroPress recipes. But part of the reason many coffee fans adore this simple brewer so much is that it can be incredibly flexible, allowing you to experiment. AeroPress coffee lovers the world over have released their own favorite recipes. So have a play around and find the best one for you.
- Easy to use and set up
- Portable depending on size/material
- Brews rich, flavorful coffee
- Available in a range of sizes
- Messy to clean
- Sediment can get into your finished brew
- Can only brew one style of coffee
The French press (as we know it today) was patented by, you guessed it… two Italians – Attilo Calimani and Giulio Moneta.
You may also hear it referred to as a cafetiere, coffee press, or travel press (a portable version). But they all refer to the same simple design and great tasting coffee.
By using a much coarser grind size and a longer brewing time, you get a rich, flavorful coffee from the French Press. Due to the mesh sieve, you can’t grind too fine or you end up with lots of ground coffee sediment in your cup.
The French press is an immersion style of coffee brewer. It takes around 4 minutes to get the best extraction, and timing is key to brewing truly great coffee. This process means all the flavourful coffee oils from your beans end up in your final brew.
There is very little trial and error needed, maybe just on getting the precise grind size needed. So, by following these simple steps, you should be sipping greatness in no time at all:
- Coarsely grind your coffee and put it in your French press. Not all grinders perform well at the coarser end of the spectrum, so choose well (our grinder guide for French press will help) as freshly grinding will make all the difference over regular ground coffee
- Pour a small amount of just off boiling water over the grounds and leave for 30 seconds, allowing the grounds to bloom
- Add the remaining water
- Steep your coffee by placing the lid on top but don’t press the plunger. Using a timer, wait 3 minutes 30 seconds (so a total of 4 minutes including the bloom time)
- Press the plunger, pour, and enjoy
The result will be delicious French press style coffee which is a very specific style that doesn’t necessarily suit everyone. The texture is oily and it leaves a small amount of sediment in your coffee cup.
Here we assess the comparative merits of the Aeropress and French Press coffee makers to see which one is ideal for you:
Ease of Use
Neither the AeroPress nor French press brew methods are complicated. You could pick up either of these coffee makers and be drinking good coffee within the hour.
But, whilst it would be ridiculous to call the AeroPress complex, you can make it as complicated as you want to.
The two AeroPress recipes we outlined in this article are a mere drop in the ocean of possibilities for brewing coffee in the little coffee maker. You can alter grind size, immersion time, coffee brew ratio, or the pressure you exert. Being a manual coffee brewing device you really are in the driver’s seat. So you can play around, experiment, and use a little trial and error to find the best recipe for you as there’s no ‘right’ way of brewing.
This does take a bit of time and patience, but when you brew that perfect AeroPress coffee, it will taste all the better.
On the other hand, you have the French press – one of the most simple ways you can brew coffee.
The only thing you have to get right is the grind size, which might take a little practice. Just remember this golden rule:
If your brew is too bitter after 4 minutes of steeping, use a coarser grind.
If it is too thin and acidic after 4 minutes, you need a finer grind.
The amount of coffee and water you use will be set depending on how strong you like your cup of joe, and the timing is always the same. (For perfect results every time, use our French press ratio calculator.) So, it really won’t take much more than 3 or 4 attempts to get it perfect.
If like the White Rabbit, you’re constantly late then the time to make your coffee is critical. Both AeroPress and French Press require you to heat water and freshly grind coffee beans, so it all comes down to the brewing time.
The AeroPress takes less than 1 minute to brew making it an ideal coffee maker for busy mornings. As you use pressure as part of the coffee brewing process, extraction is much faster meaning you have great coffee in lightning time.
The French press is a more sedate brewing method: it’s going to take 4 minutes to brew.
As long as you don’t want poorly extracted coffee, which no one wants, then you’re going to have to wait 4 minutes. Whilst it’s not exactly a long time, it’s long enough when time is tight.
AeroPress is the darling of the third wave coffee movement for a reason: the coffee it produces is outstanding.
It’s rich and clean tasting with very little bitterness in the final cup thanks to the even pressure extraction. This super bright and clean style is a joy to drink, though fans of very dark roast coffee may lament the lack of bitterness present.
Using a French press also results in a superb cup. The rich, oily, earthy style is quite unique, and not to everyone’s taste. Keeping those flavorsome coffee oils in the brew can add extra depth, but it can also mean a slightly more bitter style. Plus the sediment will put off quite a few people.
Both brewers can make cold brew coffee but the AeroPress is far more flexible to different styles of coffee depending on your mood or tastes.
Compared to other coffee brewing methods, both the French press and AeroPress are kind on the wallet. This makes them ideal coffee makers for first-time users or occasional coffee drinkers all the way up to full-blown coffee aficionados.
AeroPress is a very cheap option for any coffee lover. It costs under $40 for something that can consistently deliver great coffee and is basically indestructible.
The only annoyance is that you have to use paper filters, which means ongoing expenses. The filters are very cheap, but it’s still something you need to pay for and keep a good stock of.
For a French Press, depending on size, you’re looking at anywhere from $10-60. But it’s a one-time expense. Once you’ve bought it you don’t need to do anything else as it has a reusable wire mesh filtering the coffee.
If you buy one that is all metal it’s basically unbreakable too. Tremendous brewing value.
Ease of Cleaning
Once you’ve finished brewing, the AeroPress ejects a very clean puck of used coffee grounds. This is easy to compost, chuck in the garden, turn into facial scrub, or whatever else you want to do with it.
The rest of the brewer just needs a quick rinse and you’re finished cleaning.
Unfortunately, the French press doesn’t make cleaning quite so easy.
Wet coffee grounds stick to the sides as you tip them out of the carafe. Plus, if you pour them down the sink after rinsing, you can clog your drain. That said, it’s still not a long or difficult task but the French press is messier than the very clean AeroPress.
How much coffee you want to make is one of the biggest factors that separates the French press vs AeroPress.
The AeroPress is a coffee maker for one, maximum two, people. Even saying it’s possible to brew for two is a bit of a stretch really – it’s perfectly formed for the single coffee drinker. You don’t want to be making coffee for 5 or 6 people with an AeroPress as you’ll just spend extra time brewing coffee whilst yours is going cold.
The benefit of being a coffee brewer for one is that it is very compact and suitable for life on the road. You can buy the AeroPress with a handy travel case or opt for the even smaller AeroPress Go travel coffee press where the coffee maker fits inside the integrated travel cup.
The French Press comes in a wide array of sizes, so if you need something for one person or for the whole family, there is a size to suit.
When shopping for a French press, you will notice they are sold in a number of cups. The “cup” measurement used is for 4 oz cups which is way smaller than what most people drink in one sitting. So always check the size in ounces before deciding what size you need.
But if you’re making coffee for 4-6 people, the French Press is much faster and easier.
Choose AeroPress if you want to:
- Drink a single cup of coffee at a time
- Take your coffee brewer traveling with you
- Experiment with different recipes and brewing methods
- Enjoy sediment-free, strong coffee
As long as you’re happy with a little recipe tinkering then our winner of AeroPress vs French Press is the little plastic brewer that could.
This is not a clear winner as the French Press is also cheap, brews excellent coffee, and is ridiculously easy to use. So, if you’re making coffee for more than 2 people then the French press is probably the better option.
That said, they’re so cheap that you could always get both of course.
Psst… Want to see how the two ‘press’ coffee makers stack up against other coffee brewing methods? Check out these articles:
To make the best coffee possible, you should follow AeroPress’ recommendation for medium-fine grind size. Somewhere between drip grind and espresso grind is ideal for brewing with AeroPress.
We recommend finding the espresso settings on your grinder and starting at the coarsest within this range. From there, you can adjust finer to suit.
Typical French press coffee is very powerful-tasting coffee but it isn’t necessarily stronger. As French press brewing retains all of the oils from the coarse ground coffee beans, it can give a feeling of tasting stronger than java from a drip coffee maker or other filtered brewing methods.
However, the strength of your coffee depends on your coffee-to-water ratio, which can vary hugely between different brewing methods.
The amount of caffeine in the final coffee is a result of the type of coffee beans you’ve used and your coffee-to-water ratio. The actual brew method makes little to no difference in the final caffeine content.
If you’re worried about having too much caffeine then you can always try some delicious decaf coffee beans instead. All the taste, none of the being up all night.
The best roast always comes down to one thing: what do you enjoy drinking? Brewing coffee in either a French press or AeroPress is flexible to whatever roast you love most.
Brewing light roast coffee will show off the nuanced flavor of the beans whilst dark roasts will be bold and powerful thanks to the extra coffee oils retained in your cup.
If you like milk and/or sugar in your coffee, dark roasts in a French press are great as the dairy complements the deep, earthy, and chocolatey flavors. Whereas, the clean and bright flavor profile of AeroPress brewing removes some of the bitterness that dark roast coffee lovers are looking for.
Depending on how much coffee you make at a time, and your personal coffee style preference, either could be perfect. They both certainly make incredible coffee.
So why not be greedy and get both?
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