It’s face-off time between two of the most beloved coffee brewing devices.
In one corner, we present the French Press, hailing from Milan, Italy — weighing 17 ounces, with a height of 7.5 inches. This brewing machine is a coffee industry veteran; it’s been on the coffee scene for over 80 years.
And the challenger, the AeroPress, coming from Palo Alto, California. It weighs in at 6.3 ounces, 5.5 inches tall. Celebrating its 16th birthday in 2021, it’s a newbie on the coffee scene compared to the French Press.
And assuming the role of referee, we've got Nomad Coffee Club, backed by an exceptional love of coffee — their knowledge and experience are sure to bring a fresh perspective to the match.
Let's get ready to rumble!
AeroPress and French Press: A Showdown for the Ages
The Old Favorite: The French Press
Attilio Calimani created the French Press in 1929. Its popularity quickly spread across Europe, even reaching the US. The coffee maker was largely popularized thanks to British company Household Articles Ltd and Bodum, a Danish kitchenware company.
Why is it so popular?
Because of the simple mechanism, which has only two components:
The New Kid on the Block: The AeroPress
Alan Adler created the AeroPress in 2005. It quickly became one of the most popular brew methods across the world. It’s affordable, small, and most importantly — it makes great coffee.
It’s made of:
- Two concentric polypropylene cylinders
- A plunger assembly which functions like a syringe
From Bean to Brew
Let’s go over the brewing method of these presses.
The French Press
Did you know? You can “set and forget” this press.
What does this mean? You can simply leave the coffee maker on the counter while you wait for the brewing time to elapse.
This is why a French Press is an excellent option for making cold brews — it has incredible cold drink brewing versatility.
It’s easy to use. Just follow these simple steps:
- Take off the lid along with the plunger.
- Pour in the coffee grounds and add hot water. Start with a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio.
- Place the lid with the plunger back on.
- Wait for 4 to 5 minutes for coffee to steep.
- Push the plunger to the bottom, applying firm pressure.
- Your coffee is ready.
Note: Use coarse rather than fine coffee grounds. The French Press has a mesh filter with big pores, which means that finer grounds can go through it. This can leave unwanted sediment in your cup of joe.
The Traditional Method
- Insert the filter in the filter cap.
- Attach the cap to the AeroPress chamber.
- Place the AeroPress overtop of a cup.
- Lightly sprinkle hot water to saturate the paper filter, removing the paper taste.
- Add coffee grounds — one AeroPress spoonful (or about 2 ½ tablespoons).
- Add hot water.
- After about 30 seconds, a layer of grounds will form on the surface. Stir to immerse the grounds evenly.
- Insert the plunger (rubber seal first) into the brewing chamber.
- After 90 seconds, push down on the plunger firmly and steadily.
- Your total brew time should be approximately 2 minutes.
The Inverted Method
- Insert the plunger into the larger cylinder.
- Remove the filter top.
- Put in the coffee grounds and water.
- Steep for a couple of minutes.
- Lightly rinse the filter with hot water.
- Attach the filter cap onto the AeroPress chamber.
- Place a cup upside-down to cover the filter cap.
- In one motion, flip the entire set-up so the cup is righted.
- Press down on the plunger.
What’s the difference between the regular and inverted methods? The flavor is richer with the inverted method, as this provides full immersion. It resembles the taste you get when brewing with a French Press — the most popular full immersion method.
The inverted method is more complicated, but the taste can be worth it. It gives you steeping time as with a French Press, while still benefiting from a shorter brew-time, which the AeroPress provides.
However, the AeroPress has some downsides compared to the French Press:
- Not as many options for cold drinks.
- It’s easy to make a big mess.
Brewing Time and Capacity
A French Press can hold 28 to 35 oz of brewed coffee. You can buy up to an eight-cup carafe. It’s an excellent option if you're fueling multiple people, getting ready for a dinner party, or you’re a multi-cup kind of person.
Meanwhile, AeroPress can only hold 6 to 8 oz. This makes it a one-cup brewer, and it’s not a large cup. It’s great for singles and college students — not so much for a household of coffee addicts.
Note: AeroPress has a faster brew time, but if you’re brewing for several people, it’s useless. Why? Because after each cup, you’ll have to clean it out and repeat the process.
The Final Product
AeroPress and French Press use different filters. What does this mean for you? You’ll get different flavors from each press.
French Press comes with stainless steel mesh filters. This means oils and sediment can end up in your java cup.
Use darker roasts to create a rich, full mouthfeel.
- Heavy mouthfeel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or in this case — coffee).
- An abundance of messy cups to clean due to sediment.
- Oils add body to the coffee, but they can muddy the taste of some beans.
On the other side, the AeroPress comes with paper filters. You can get a metal filter from third-party vendors. Although the main selling point of metal filters is reusability, it’s not recommended.
Because the flavor paper filters will give you is:
AeroPress coffee is lighter, has no sediment, and you can detect the fruity flavors of the coffee beans you’re using.
There aren't any coffee oils in an AeroPress, which as discussed, give French Press coffee that signature rich taste.
Durability and Portability
Think about where you’ll be using your press
If your coffee brewer always stays at home and only experiences kitchen usage, go for a French Press.
If, however, you want to take your press along on your adventures, the French Press may not be the best option because it’s highly breakable. The borosilicate glass carafe and stainless steel combo can survive some bumps, but they aren’t an ideal portable companion.
However, there are some French Presses made of stainless steel, which are both portable and durable.
Take a look at this Bodum Columbia Thermal French Press. It’s sturdy and guaranteed to last you a long time. Even better, it can keep your brew warm for up to two hours.
On the other hand, AeroPress travels well. Feel free to take it camping or on a picnic, as the BPA-free plastic body makes it durable and it won’t add much weight for you to carry around.
AeroPress wins this round because it’s:
French Press makes excellent hot coffee.
It only does so in one way.
If your preference is cold rather than hot coffee, you’re in luck. French Press has great carafes for cold coffee making.
However, we could write a novel about the versatility of AeroPress. We’ve already discussed the two brewing methods. That’s not all. There are infinite varieties for you to try out within those two methods.
With AeroPress, you can make coffee that’s:
- Close to an espresso
- Heavy and bold
- Light and crisp
- Grind size
- Water ratio and temperature
- Brewing time
The AeroPress flexibility has even given rise to an army of devotees who like to share their recipes.
They even host championships!
Now that we’ve sung the praises of AeroPress, let’s get down to the disadvantage.
It’s not big enough to serve as a carafe for making pour-over coffee.
Head to Toe: the AeroPress vs French Press
|Capacity||Bigger 28-35 oz||Smaller 6-8 oz|
|Coffee flavor||Rich, heavy mouthfeel due to sediment and oils||Lighter, smoother, sediment-free|
|Durability and Portability||Made of glass — easily breakable Difficult to transport||Made of plastic — durable Easy to transport|
|Versatility||One kind of hot coffee, different types of cold brew||Many ways of manually brewing hot coffee Not many options for cold brew|
|Cleaning||Difficult to clean||Easy to clean|
Both the AeroPress and French Press threw some heavy punches in the battle of coffee brewers.
We can’t choose a winner.
The decision is ultimately yours. It all depends on your personality and taste preferences.
If you like to experiment, take your coffee brewer with you, and one cup at a time is sufficient — go for the AeroPress.
If you prefer a richer flavor, brew multiple cups at a time, and are the “set it and forget it” kind of person — go with the French Press.
One thing we’ve learned is that variety makes a world of difference in your coffee experiences.
Still on the fence about the right choice for your brew?