Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Barry Gray
One of the things I love about coffee is the way you have so many options available to you. However, I understand it can get a bit confusing when comparing different methods.
So, I will attempt to make life that bit easier. In this instance, I will compare a French press and a pour-over.
A French press uses a combination of hot water and pressure in order to successfully extract the flavor from the ground coffee. A pour-over uses a combination of both time and gravity to pull out those flavors. Both have the ability to produce some amazing coffee, but only when you choose the correct beans.
That is, obviously, a simplistic explanation of the main difference between a French press and pour-over coffee. However, there’s more to it than just that.
So, let me take you through the main differences to help you choose which option you should go for.
One clear difference between these two methods is the equipment used to extract the coffee. There will be no mistaking which is which when you sit the two methods alongside one another.
The French press wins from the perspective of things being easy to use.
All you need to use a French press is some coarsely ground beans, hot water, and the press itself. That’s all, and you can see how it’s impossible to screw it up.
The pour-over method does require a bit more when it comes to materials, but it’s still not too much to think about.
Of course, you require the pour-over itself. This is larger than the French press, and you also then need to get your hands on some paper filters for the extraction process.
But apart from that, it’s all you need even though you obviously require different equipment for each option.
How They Extract the Coffee
The way that both the French press and pour-over methods extract the flavor from the beans is different.
A French press uses the pressure created by the press mechanism, pushing the water through the ground coffee to get as much flavor as possible.
This pressure approach does make a difference. I find coffee created via a French press to have just a bit more oil in the coffee than you get with the pour-over, and it’s all thanks to the pressure aspect.
The pour-over method uses a much easier method to get the coffee at the end.
Simply add ground coffee to the filter, and then pour hot water over it. The water seeps through, and you get coffee at the end.
There really is nothing fancy or elaborate about this method, and it’s also impossible for it to go wrong.
However, you do get two different end results when you compare the actual coffee you can produce.
A Problem with a French Press?
Even though the French press is easy to use, I do see it as coming with a bit of a problem.
The press comes with a mesh filter, and its aim is to catch as much of the granules of coffee as possible to stop it from getting into your drink. However, it’s not 100% effective at this.
That’s why you often see some amount of silt in the bottom of your cup when you use the French press. It’s not the best thing, so you always feel you are leaving some coffee at the bottom when you should be enjoying it.
Also, you cannot really control your brew, and that’s another problem.
Is the Pour Over Better?
From a control perspective, the pour-over is the better option. Also, you don’t get the same silt in the bottom of your cup, so that makes for a smoother drink as well.
The key with the pour-over is your ability to really maintain control over the water, thanks to you directing how it is poured over the coffee. This may sound as if it wouldn’t do much, but it does make a difference.
Also, I love how you have more options with the pour-over than you do with the French press.
Different pour-over makers will come in various shapes and sizes, but that’s not the only choice you need to make.
It’s also a case where you can choose from different numbers of holes and even the size of the holes in the pour-over. This will, in turn, control the flow rate and how long the water takes to work through the ground coffee, ultimately leading to a different coffee at the end.
Which Option is Easier to Use?
It sometimes feels as if different brewing options can be more difficult than others. However, I do think that both the French press and pour-over are very easy to use, and they do not require intimate knowledge of how to get the most out of coffee.
Honestly, you can set up either option in seconds and be enjoying coffee in no time at all. You don’t have to worry about timing or temperatures or how much pressure is coming through your Espresso machine.
Instead, you can simply boil some water, add the ground coffee, and then allow the coffee makers to do their thing.
Nothing could be easier, and I see little in the way of opportunities to mess it up.
The Taste Difference
I’m all about the taste and aroma of my coffee, and what I find is a noticeable difference in the coffee produced using these two methods. But when you think about how they work, it’s perhaps less of a surprise.
I’ve always understood how pressure makes a difference to coffee. It manages to extract more flavor in less time, thanks to the water being pushed through the ground beans.
With a French press, it may be unable to create as much pressure as you have with an Espresso machine, but that’s not required.
What I find with a French press is that I get a slightly stronger coffee. It has more of a smooth taste to it compared to pour-over coffee, and it’s only because the pressure has pulled out more oil from the ground coffee.
The flavor is a huge deal with coffee, and here’s something that will surprise some people: the pour-over method creates the coffee with the best flavor.
I know I was surprised at the difference when I compared both side by side. It’s amazing how you experience things differently when you taste them on their own.
So, when I made both and tried them simultaneously, this is what I discovered with the flavor.
First, French press coffee is certainly heavier in taste. It has a richness to it, which coincides with the smooth oily texture thanks to the pressure through the beans.
That is something clearly missing from pour-over coffee, but that’s not to say pour-over is worse.
Instead, what I noticed was that coffee made via the pour-over method had more flavorful notes to it. I could taste different things in the coffee that was missing from the French press.
I actually discovered you could have a different taste experience from the same beans thanks to the method you use to produce the coffee.
Just as the French press creates a heavy coffee, the pour-over method produces something much lighter.
How to Get the Most Out of the French Press
But to get the full flavor from the coffee, it helps to know how to get the most out of the French press, so I have a few tips.
- Always preheat the French press by pouring in some hot water
- Push the plunger down through the hot water
- Add your chosen ground coffee to the French press
- Add around 300ml of hot water to the coffee
- Give it a stir to ensure all the coffee has come into contact with the water
- Wait approximately three or four minutes before pushing down the plunger
- Enjoy your coffee
It’s really easy to do, but the key is in stirring the coffee to ensure you cover all the coffee with the water. It’s the only way to get the maximum flavor out of it.
How to Get the Most Out of Pour Over
In the interest of fairness, here’s my guide on how to get the most out of your pour-over coffee. As you will see, it’s also not too difficult.
- Heat up in the region of 400ml of water for your pour over
- Add the paper filter to your pour-over coffee maker
- Pour some water onto the filter to wet it
- Allow the hot water to pour through the filter, and heat up the maker
- Empty out the water and then add your coffee to the filter
- Go for more of a medium-ground coffee to get the best out of it
- Pour some hot water over all of the ground coffee, but limit it to about 50ml
- Wait 20 to 30 seconds to allow the initial water to penetrate the coffee
- Pour over another 300ml of coffee
- To get the best flavor, pour the water in a circular motion
- Allow the water to come through the coffee
- The entire process should take in the region of 3 minutes
I find there to be something quite therapeutic about a pour-over. The control you have over the water pouring does make a difference to the end result.
Which Option Do I Prefer?
Of the two, I admit I prefer the French press, but that’s because of the coffee I enjoy. However, I wouldn’t go out and avoid some pour-over.
But here’s a key point for me. I have options depending on what I’m after at that moment with my coffee, and that is why I feel any coffee lover should have the ability to move between different brewing methods at home.
There are a number of clear differences between a French press and a pour-over coffee. Which is best? That depends on your own personal preference.
It all depends on what you want from your coffee. If you want something heavy and rich, then the French press is the winner. If you want something lighter and more flavorful, the pour-over works best.
But that’s the beauty of coffee, as you have the option to play around with brewing methods. So, I suggest trying out both to then decide which one you prefer.