French Press vs Pour Over – Which One Suits You?

Want to have more control over the quality of the coffee you brew at home?

Or perhaps you’re tired of the automatic coffee machine.

Well, the French press and pour over method is your answer.

Both the French press and the pour over are manual coffee brewing methods that allow you to control the brewing process and more importantly, the outcome. But that’s where their similarities end.

So, which one suits your needs?

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a French press and a pour over.

French Press vs Pour Over - A Side by Side Comparison

The table below gives you a high level summary of the differences between the French press and pour over from various angles.

French PressPour Over
Ease of UseVery easyNeeds some practice
Brew MethodManualManual
Brew Time3 to 4 minutes6 to 12 minutes
Brew Size10 oz to 50 oz4 to 12 cups
Expected ResultsStrong brewSmooth brew, but weaker
ReliabilityVery reliableVery reliable
Price Range$10 to $80+$10 to $100+
Best ForA bolder brewA lighter brew

Italians Get the Credits for Inventing the French Press

The French Press Design Patented by Attilio Calimani in 1929

Even though the very first version of the French press originated from France, the Italians are given the most credit for the modern version that we have today.

Ironic, isn’t it?

The first ever concept of French press emerged in 1852. Frenchmen Mayer and Delforge patented a type of coffee brewer which resembled a basic version of the modern day French press with one exception – there was no seal inside the carafe.

Subsequently, Italian designers Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta patented the version of French press we know today in 1929. This design then further underwent modifications by Faliero Bondanini, who also patented his own version in 1958.

From then onwards, the French press started to gain popularity when the British company Household Articles Ltd. and the Danish kitchenware company Bodum, started to promote them across Europe.

The Pour Over has German Roots

Before the concept of pour over coffee came about, everyone in Europe and the Mediterranean was brewing coffee by heating the coffee grounds in hot water. However, this style of brewing didn’t quite cut it. The resulting brew was bitter, with the overly extracted grounds the main culprit.

Out of frustration, German entrepreneur Melitta Bentz began experimenting with using a piece of blotting paper to use as a funnel and a brass vessel with a hole in it to hold the filtered liquid. 

This simple yet smart invention was the first ever coffee filter. Melitta proceeded to patent this design and formed her own company, Melitta in 1908.

Ever since then, there were various improvements and modifications done on Melitta’s design. The Hario V60 filter was developed in Tokyo in 1921, followed by the Chemex coffee maker by German Peter Schlumbohm in 1941.

Minimal Skills are Required to Use A French Press

Anatomy of a French Press

A French Press is made up of a few components:

  • Glass beaker or carafe
  • Metal base
  • Metal filter
  • A lid equipped with a plunger

So how does all these components work together in a French press? 

The French press works by steeping coffee grounds with hot water in the glass beaker for 4 minutes. Once this is done, the plunger is then pressed downwards slowly, using consistent pressure to allow the metal filter to separate the coffee grounds with the water.

Now that the grounds are effectively contained, you’re free to pour the coffee directly from the beaker into your mug.

The filter is a very important component as it’ll filter out the coffee grounds while allowing the natural oils from the beans and other very particles to pass through, giving you a rich flavored coffee.

It Takes Some Practice to Perfect the Pour Over

Different Types of Pour Over Coffee
Various Types of Pour Overs. From L-R : Bee House, Kalita Wave, V60 and Chemex

A glass brewer (it looks somewhat like a beaker but features a skinny neck) and paper filters are the main components of a pour over.

As the name implies, you simply pour hot water over the coffee grounds and allow some time for it to make its way through the grounds and the paper filter. 

The process where the hot water makes it way through is called blooming. Beneath the filter is a cup, where the final brew is.

Today, the pour overs come in different designs such as the Chemex, Kalita Wave, Kone, Bee House, Kalita Wave, Woodneck, Valkure and V60 just to name a few. Each one differs in the shape of the glass brewer and thickness of the paper filter, which greatly influence the final brew.

Minimal Skills are Required to Use A French Press

Using the French Press is fairly straightforward. There isn’t much room for things to go wrong.

To get the perfect French press, the beans have to be of medium to coarse grind. You can buy these ready-ground French press beans, or alternatively you can grind your own beans if you want more control over the process.

You then leave the grounds to brew for 4 minutes, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a pleasant final product. Even though the recommended duration is 4 minutes, you might want to experiment with a slightly longer or shorter duration to find the kind of brew that you’re looking for.

Overall, a French Press is easy to operate and is certainly doable for any home barista.

It Takes Some Practice to Perfect the Pour Over

Compared to the French press, the Pour over method requires slightly more hands-on involvement from you.

From the outside, it certainly looks very easy. Just pour the hot water over the grounds, right?

While that might be true, there’s actually much more to it. It takes some practice to get the perfect brew that you want.

The secret of perfecting the pour over lies in the water.

You’re required to carefully regulate the amount of water being poured. This is done by placing the pour over a scale and with that, you can know exactly how much to pour. You’ll then wait until the hot water seeps through before pouring again.

To make things a little more complicated, the way you pour the water will also affect the outcome. Practice makes perfect and the more pour overs you make, the more familiar you’ll become with it.

Which One Produces A Better Brew?

There are many similarities between the French press and pour over. You’d probably be asking, 

Which one produces a better brew? The French press or pour over?

Let’s take a closer look at the end results.

  • French Press. The brew you’ll get from a French Press will be strong and powerful. It’s a great option for those who enjoy a nice robust taste as this method allows as many oils as possible to be pulled from the beans.
  • Pour Over. The coffee produced from a pour over resembles coffee made from an automatic machine. The paper filter makes it impossible for coffee granules to get into your cup, resulting in a smooth final product. However, the fact that the grounds are not allowed to soak the way they are in a French Press means that a lighter, less punchy coffee is the result.

How Much Do They Cost?

Both the French press and pour over can range from as low as $10 to $100 or more. 

The average price for a decent quality would range around $30 to $50, depending on the brand and build quality.

It’s certainly worthwhile to pay a bit of premium to purchase a good quality one as they’re generally more durable and will last you a long time.

Pour overs on the higher end of the price range likes the ones from Mr Coffee may include a scale or a pot in which to heat your water. But if you already have them, these are just extras.

Final Verdict

Both the French press and pour over are considered a manual coffee brewing method, allowing you maximum control when it comes to customizing your end result.

Whichever unit you buy will depend on the end result you desire.

Strong Brew. The French press preserves the robust flavor of your coffee beans through the steeping method and ensures that no outside flavors enter your brew. 

Smooth Brew. This pour over results in a smooth, but weaker brew as the paper filter is designed to keep your coffee clear of stray grounds.

Ryan Hamilton

About Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton is in the process of opening his own roastery after working in a cafe for the past 5 years. He graduated with a degree in English literature and decided to combine his passion for writing with the knowledge he had gained about the coffee industry.