French Press vs Drip Coffee Machine – Which is Better?

Undecided between a French press or drip coffee machine?

Well, you’re at the right place.

On this page, you’ll learn the differences between a French press and a drip coffee machine. And hopefully when you’re done, you’ll be ready to make a better and informed decision as part of your research.

I’ll compare each of these from various angles, such as ease of use, how to use, expected results and their respective price range.

So, let’s jump straight in.

French Press vs Drip Coffee Machine - A Side by Side Comparison

The table below shows you a quick summary and side by side comparison between the French press and drip coffee machine.

French PressDripped Coffee Machine
Ease of UseMinimal skills requiredVery intuitive
Brew MethodManualAutomated
Brew Time3 to 4 minutes6 to 12 minutes
Brew Size10 oz to 50 oz4 to 12 cups
Expected ResultsStrong brew with flavorThinner brew
ReliabilityVery reliableVulnerable to mechanicals
Price Range$7 to $70+$10 to $100+
Best ForThose who are hands onThose who wants simplicity

History and Origins

Before we jump straight into comparing the French press with the drip coffee machine, let’s take a quick look into each of their history and origins. Doing so would allow you to better appreciate these 2 coffee brewing devices that are found in millions of households today.

The French Press has Italian Roots

French Press by Mayer and Delforge in 1852
The French Press by Mayer and Delforge in 1852. Photo by : Wikimedia Commons

The French press’ name might lead you to believe that it was invented in France. Technically, this is true. The concept of a French press was first developed by Frenchmen Mayer and Delforge in 1852. 

The first cup of French press coffee was an accident when he forgot to add grounds to the water he’d put on for coffee, so he dumped them straight in. In order to separate the liquid and the grounds, he used a metal filter and chose a stick for the purpose of plunging the filter to the bottom of the container, trapping the grounds.

However, Italy receives most of the credit today because the improvements and modifications made by an Italian inventor, Paolini Ugo. The French press we’ve today is based on Ugo’s modified version. 

Subsequently, Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta patented it in 1929.

Fun Fact :The French press is also known by other names around the world such caffettiera a stantuffoas in Italy, coffee plunger in Australia and New Zealand, Stempelkanne in Germany and cafetière à piston in France.

The Drip Coffee Machine Dates back to the 1800's

Melitta and Hugo Bentz. Photo by : Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1800’s, the Turks produced the world’s first coffee percolator. However, the design was flawed such that the percolators were unreliable. Not only were they over-brewing the coffee, but they tend to leave the coffee ground in drink, resulting in a bad brew.

It wasn’t until 1908 that German entrepreneur Melitta Bentz came up with the idea of a coffee filter out of frustration that she couldn’t get a good cup of coffee. She used a humble piece of blotting paper to separate the water from the coffee grounds.

Over the next 100 years, many companies have taken Bentz’ initial concept and further improved into what we know as a drip coffee machine today. Currently, there are dozens of drip coffee machines from leading brands such as Ninja, Breville, Bonavita and OXO available for purchase.

Ease of Use

As you’ll soon find out, neither the French press nor the drip coffee machine are particularly complicated to use. 

Neither requires any special skills and both are ideal for the average person to use at home, which makes them very popular.

Minimal Skills are Required to Use A French Press

Bodum Brazil 8 Cup French Press
A Bodum Brazil 8 Cup French Press

The skill level required in order to make French press coffee is minimal. All you need to do is observe the following details:

  • Grind consistency
  • Water temperature (just make sure it’s not yet boiling)
  • Seeping time
  • Plunging

The only way to mess up when using this method is if you don’t follow these simple steps or clean the French press thoroughly. 

Leaving coffee grounds stuck in the filter or coffee residue in the beaker will result in the bitter bite of old coffee creeping into your next cup.

As long as these simple procedures are followed, even a beginner should have little difficulty making coffee with a French press.

It's Gets Even Simpler with the Drip Coffee Machine

Ninja Coffee Bar Glass Carafe Coffee System - CF091
Ninja Coffee Bar Glass Carafe Coffee System - CF091

A drip coffee machine is by far one of the most intuitive coffee-brewing methods and perfect for those with little to no coffee-making skills. It’s even simpler to use than the French press which involves a couple of additional steps.

Unlike the French press, the drip coffee machine even monitors the brewing time and water temperature for you. All you need to do is to pay attention to the water to coffee ratios you are using. 

That’s about it! 

Drip coffee machines also make it possible for you to produce a larger amount of coffee in one sitting than even the largest French press. So it’s ideal if you are serving more than one person. 

You can also prepare the grounds and coffee filter ahead of time and set a timer so that you don’t even have to be present when you want brewing to begin.

A drip coffee machine is great for those whose goal is coffee without the fuss!

Winner : The drip coffee machine wins in this category because it’s so easy to operate, requiring little engagement or skills from you.

How to Use

The same ingredients are used during the operation of both the French press and the classic coffee machine. However, the manner in which those ingredients are treated is what sets these two coffee brewing methods apart from one another.

Let’s take a closer look at how a French press and drip coffee machine work.

French Press

French Press Coffee to Water Ratio
Photo by Batdor Coffee

The French press consists of a glass beaker (no, we’re not going to blow anything up like in chemistry class), removable metal base with a handle, metal filter, and plunger which is attached to the lid.

The first step in using a French press is to put some hot water on the stove. 

You’ll then measure 17 to 19 grams of coffee into the beaker per 10oz of water you intend to use. If you want to make more or less coffee, just size up or down!

These measurements are flexible and customizable according to your preferences as is the case with much of the wonderous world of coffee.

Coffee Grind Chart

For French press coffee, you’ll want your beans ground just shy of coarse. If you try to use grounds that are too coarse, like the type you might use for cold brew, the filter will become plugged and the coffee won’t steep correctly. 

If you go too fine, using grounds that are best suited for pulling espresso, a grainy texture will creep into your end product. You don’t want to feel like you’re drinking sand!

You’ll want to remove the water from the stove just before it reaches the boiling point (about 195 degrees). Pour the water directly over the coffee grounds, stir, and set a timer for 3-4 minutes, depending on how strong you like your morning cup.

Now it’s time to plunge. You’ll want to do this gently, keeping the pressure consistent throughout this process.

Your coffee is ready to pour!

Make sure to clean your beaker, filter, and plunger after each use.

Drip Coffee Machine

The items you’ll need in order to make drip coffee are coffee filters, coffee ground medium fine, and, of course, a coffee machine.

Place a coffee filter in your machine’s filter basket which is often located directly under the brew head. Measure 5 grams of coffee into the filter per 177mls of water. These measurements will yield about 6oz of coffee. Once again, these measurements can be altered to your liking.

Pour the cold, filtered water into the reservoir of the coffee machine. 

From here, your coffee can be obtained at the touch of a button. Simply press start to begin the brew cycle and enjoy the aroma as you wait. Wait time can range anywhere from 6 minutes to 12.

Getting your morning dose of caffeine in the comfort of your own home has never been so simple!

Resulting Coffee Brew

The French press and drip coffee machine yield different end results due to the way the coffee is being prepared. Let’s take a closer look at the results yielded by each.

The French Press Produces A Strong Brew

Because the French Press method requires the coffee grounds to sit for an extended period of time directly in the hot water, maximum flavor is extracted from the beans. 

As a result, a strong, robust brew is produced. 

The absence of any outside flavors from a paper filter also allow the fantastic flavors of the beans to shine through without hinderance.

A Drip Coffee Machine Produces A Thinner, Weaker Brew

Great coffee can be produced from a drip coffee machine. However, there are a few factors involved which affect the quality of your drip coffee.

The presence of a paper coffee filter within the coffee machine has been known to affect the taste of the final product as some of the flavor is lost when the water is forced through the filter even if you use excellent beans.

You also don’t have as much control over extraction rate and water temperature meaning that a thinner brew is the result, giving it a weaker taste.

Verdict : Everyone wants their coffee to taste fantastic and that is why the French press comes out the winner in this category. It provides depth of flavor and allows you the freedom to make adjustments according to your preferences.

Price Range

Purchasing either a French press or a drip coffee machine can save you a great deal of money in the long-run as opposed to going to a café each day.

These days, they are very affordable if you look around.

Both French presses and drip coffee machine start as low as $10. On the higher end, they can go up to around $100, or more especially for drip coffee machines.

Obviously, this means a variety of quality standards are represented within this range. More expensive models will certainly hold up better in the long-run as they feature more durable pieces that are built to stand the test of time.

Coffee machines on the high end are more expensive than the most expensive French press. However, the fact that you’re essentially paying for the convenience and intuitive nature of this machine accounts for the additional cost.

Verdict : The winner when it comes to pricing is the French Press. You can buy a high-quality French Press for an extremely reasonable price. Additionally, you’ll never run into mechanical issues with the French Press as a result of it’s manual nature.

Final Verdict

There are pros and cons to both the French press and the drip coffee machine. 

So, it begs the question,

Which is better, the French press or the drip coffee machine?

Simplicity. If simplicity is at the top of your priority list, the drip coffee machine fits the bill. No need to boil water or set any timers. Essentially just press a button and wait. However, you do risk sacrificing both quality and taste when you surrender all control.

More Hands-on. The French press requires slightly more hands-on engagement from you. Still, control of a few simple yet vital factors affect your end result and can make a huge difference when it comes to the quality of your coffee. If awesome-tasting brew is your end goal, the French press is your best bet.