French Press vs Espresso: Which Method To Choose?

French Press vs Espresso

Both a French press and an espresso machine are tools used to give coffee lovers variations of their favorite morning drink. They are two vastly different products, and the one you use depends on what type of coffee beverage you’re trying to make. Outlined below are the major differences between the two to make choosing the right one for your at-home coffee brewing easy.

Which Beverage Do You Want?

As mentioned above, the main difference between these machines is the type of drink they produce. A French press makes full cups of coffee, typically a bulk batch. An espresso machine creates shots of espresso. You can enjoy espresso on its own or create an espresso drink such as an Americano or latte.

Taste and quantity are the primary differences between coffee and espresso. Coffee from a French press retains all the natural oils from the steeping process and makes anywhere from 8 oz to 48 oz. Espresso has a much more intense coffee flavor and each shot is only 1-2 oz.

Simple or Complex

A French press has a simpler process than an espresso machine. It has 4 steps, which includes basic measurements and pushing down the filter lid after the coffee steeps. Espresso machines have a few more steps and also a more complex brewing process. After you establish a steady routine, using the machine will take less time.

Another reason an espresso machine is more complex to use is that it requires maintenance. This includes cleaning all the parts and keeping the temperature and pressure calibrated. If it’s not cleaned and calibrated, the espresso machine can produce low-quality espresso. A French press is much easier to clean and does not require calibration.

Convenience Level

Both the French press and an espresso machine are convenient because they allow people to make coffee or espresso at home. However, when comparing the two, the French press seems to be the more convenient product. It’s easy to travel with, typically takes less time to use, and is easier to clean.

Timing

The French press takes about 6-8 minutes altogether, including measuring and the 4-5 minute steeping time. An espresso machine only takes 20-30 seconds to pull a shot of espresso. However, pre-heating the machine before use can take 15-20 minutes. In most cases, the espresso is ground fresh before brewing, so you also have to account for the time it takes to grind the beans. Preparation for pulling a shot includes measuring, tamping the espresso, and using the settings on the machine. These preparations might take only a few minutes once you’ve established your routine.

Another thing to consider with timing is not just how long the brewing method takes, but also the preparation of the rest of the drink. Coffee from a French press might receive cream and/or sugar which doesn’t take much time to add. Espresso, if not being enjoyed straight, often gets steamed milk and some flavor added to create our favorite lattes, cappuccinos, or mochas. The process of steaming milk at home will add a few extra minutes to the prep time. Unless you have a pre-heated espresso machine and you drink espresso straight, the French press will get you a yummy drink faster.

Which is Right for You?

The main difference between a French press and an espresso machine is what beverage you want to drink. A French press makes coffee and an espresso machine makes espresso. Beyond that, it depends on what you prefer for features. To give you a clear picture of all of this information to help you choose which is better for you, here is a pros/cons list below for each brewing method.

French Press: Pros & Cons

French press

Credit: Alper Çuğun, Flickr

Pros
  • Faster
  • Can travel
  • Easier to clean
  • Makes bulk batch
  • Long-Lasting
Cons
  • Makes one type of drink

Espresso Machine: Pros & Cons

An Espresso machine up-close

Pros
  • Learn a craft
  • Multiple drink options
  • Long-lasting
Cons
  • More maintenance
  • Learning curve
  • Slower (warm-up)