French Press vs. Aeropress Coffee – Are they the Same?

Whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran, chances are you already know that the coffee community is no short of debates.

Today, we’re discussing one that involves two manual coffee makers; the French press vs. Aeropress Coffee – are they the same? Keep reading to find out more and decide for yourself!

Comparing Coffee made with an Aeropress vs. French Press

What is the French Press? – How does it work?

The French press is a handy coffee brewing device that utilizes steep brew to produce coffee. It’s a manual method, which puts you in charge of completing all the steps of brewing, instead of having an electric coffee maker do all the work for you.

In the French press, you’ll need to measure the ingredients (water and coffee grounds), grind the coffee beans, add the water, time the brew, and work the plunger.

As you can tell, the French press method gives you total control over the different factors that affect your final brew. Such control can be a double-edged sword (more on this later).

The thing that makes the French press stand out among other manual brewing methods, however, is that the coffee grounds get totally immersed in the water through the entire duration of the brewing process – Can I use coffee grounds twice?.

In fact, the French press offers one of the longest contact times between coffee grounds and water compared to most manual coffee makers out there.

Yes, using the French press isn’t as easy as flipping a switch and calling it a day, but you’ll end up with a cup of coffee that’s richer and more flavorful than most automated machines.

Best coffee grind for a French Press

The French Press – Then and Now

The French press brewer was first introduced to the world in the 1800s by the hands of a Frenchman. But it was the Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta who patented the device in 1929 after tweaking it to the modern design we know.

Nowadays, the use of the French press isn’t very common in the United States, probably because of how inconvenient the manual mechanism of the brewer can be on busy mornings.

However, the French press is pretty popular in European countries such as Italy and Great Britain. It’s even called different names in these countries, for example: ‘caffettiera a stantuffo’  in Italy, ‘Stempelkanne’ (stamppot) in Germany, and “cafetière à piston” in France.

How a French Press Works

Now that you got a basic introduction to the French press, let’s take a closer look at how it works, starting with the different components of the device. While the name ‘French press’ may sound like you’re in for a complicated design, the construction of this coffee maker is actually rather simple.

The French press consists of a glass or stainless steel container (with a handle), a mesh stainless steel cylindrical filter near the top, as well as a steel cover fitted with a movable plunger.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to make coffee using a French press:

  1. Put some hot water and swirl it around the container to preheat the device before use. After about a minute or so of warming up, dump out the water and dry your French press all the way through.
  2. Measure your coffee grounds and add them to the container.
  3. Pour in just enough boiling water that it covers and soaks all the grounds.
  4. Stir the mixture and let it sit for around 30 seconds with the lid secured on. After that, remove the lid and add the rest of the water and stir the mixture again.
  5. Fasten the lid back on and pull the plunger upwards all the way. Leave the coffee to steep for approximately 3-5 minutes depending on how fine or coarse your grind is and how strong you want your coffee.
  6. Once the steeping is done, slowly push down the plunger until you can no longer feel resistance.
  7. Pour the coffee into your mug as quickly as possible to avoid the bitter taste caused by over-extraction.
AeroPress Brewing by a Barista

A common question that you may be wondering is “should I pour all the brewed coffee out of the French press?” The answer is: yes, you definitely should. The coffee grounds inside the French press will continue to interact with the water even after you push the plunger all the way down. In other words, the brewing will continue even if it’s at a very slow rate.

If you leave some coffee in your French press, it’ll be brewing until you pour it out of the container. So, the longer you let the coffee sit, the more bitter it’ll taste.

If you want, you can portion out the produced coffee after pouring out all the coffee once the brewing is complete and the plunger is down.

The French press is definitely a more hands-on experience than automatic coffee machines, but it’s not as difficult or time-consuming as most people think. Between grinding coffee beans, boiling water, and the brewing itself, the entire process takes about 6 to 8 minutes in total.

What is Aeropress Coffee?

Similar to the French press, the AeroPress is also a manual coffee maker that conducts steep brew to produce rich, strong coffee. We’ll dive deeper into how the Aeropress makes the coffee magic happen, but first, let’s briefly talk about the manufacturer.

The AeroPress brand is owned by a US company called Aerobie. Alan Alder, the president of Aerobie, is actually the person who invented the AeroPress device. Alan also happens to be the inventor of flying rings – an aerodynamic toy that has been used twice to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest throw of an object without any velocity-aiding features”.

Moving on, if you examine the AeroPress, you’ll probably notice that it looks like an oversized syringe. Yes, the one doctors and nurses use to stab patients with. Yet, this particular “syringe” is designed to give you coffee – so it’s all good!.

Inside an AeroPress machine, the coffee grounds are completely submerged in water during the brewing process. This is a key factor in the operation mechanism of the AeroPress and a feature it shares with the French press.

AeroPress vs French Press

Now, if you’re a true coffee aficionado, you’re probably thinking: “isn’t that the same principle of French press?” Well, yes and no.

The main difference between the two brewing methods is that the French press uses metal filters while the AeroPress uses paper filters (bleached or unbleached coffee filters?). But what difference does this mean for coffee drinkers?

The use of paper filters allows you to use finely ground coffee, which means a bigger surface area of the coffee will be exposed to the water during brewing. As a result, you’ll end up with a cup of coffee that’s smoother, more flavorful, and less bitter.

All this takes place in a shorter time compared to the longer brewing duration of a French press that often causes over-extraction on the surface of the coffee grounds, producing coffee with a rich yet bitter taste.

Enjoying coffee made in a french press

How an Aeropress Works

Now that you understand the difference between an Aeropress and a French press, it’s time to break down how an Aeropress works.

Starting with its design, the Aeropress consists of two nesting cylinders – a cylinder with a flexible airtight seal that fits inside a larger one. You could say that an AeroPress is essentially a plastic plunger.

While the AeroPress does look far from sexy, it comes with a bunch of handy accessories to help you on your coffee brewing mission. These include:

  • A cap to close the end of the plunger
  • A coffee scoop to measure the grounds
  • A paddle to stir the contents
  • A funnel to neatly load coffee grounds into the designed compartment
  • Some filters to place in the cap

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to make coffee using an Aeropress:

  1. Separate the chamber and the plunger then insert a filter paper into the plastic cap.
  2. Heat some water (around 200°F) and use a little bit to rinse the filter along with the cap.
  3. Remove the water, dry the unit, then assemble the Aeropress.
  4. Add your coffee grounds into the chamber with its top open.
  5. Pour just enough hot water to saturate the grounds (Level 1), wait 10 seconds, then add the rest of the water (Level 4).
  6. Place the plunger back on the chamber and pull it up slightly to create a pressure seal. Don’t plunge yet.
  7. Let the mixture steep for 1 minute, remove the plunger, and stir again.
  8. Fasten the plunger again then slowly press down on it until you reach the bottom, stopping whenever you hear a hissing sound or feel resistance.

The produced coffee will drip right into your mug, so you can drink it straight up or add some sweetener and milk. The entire brewing process of the AeroPress should take no more than 2 minutes.

Which is Easier to Brew?

Both the French press and the Aeropress are manual coffee makers, so as far as effort goes, it’s pretty much a tie since you’ll need to plunge either way. This leaves us with the brew time as a deciding factor.

Timing is a crucial aspect of both methods. However, given the long time that the French press takes, it’s probably more tricky to nail down.

The brew time in the French press is about 3-5 minutes depending on the grind size of your coffee. But the Aeropress takes about 1 minute to brew since the grounds are fine.

What Kind of Grind do You Need? Fine? Coarse?

Comparion of Aeropress and French Press Coffee

When it comes to the French press, grinding your own beans is your best, and probably only, option. This is because the French press requires a coarse grind whereas nearly all pre-ground coffee on the market is too fine to use – Which type of grinder to use for a French Press: Burr Grinder or Blade Grinder?

With a grind that’s too fine, the small grounds will clog the filter or may even slip through. This will make it harder for you to press down the plunger and it’ll create lots of sludge in your mug.

As for the Aeropress, you’ll need about 3 or 4 tablespoons (2 rounded Aeropress scoops or 18 grams) to make 1 cup of coffee. Once you weigh your beans, grind them until you get a texture as fine as table salt (or just a bit finer).

What Type of Roast Produces Better Coffee? Dark? Light?

Whether you choose the French press or the Aeropress, a medium roast or a medium-dark roast is the way to go.

Not only do these roast types deliver smoky, dark brew that better suits the nature of the manual press method, but they also have more oil on the surface of the bean and a stronger flavor. Also, you won’t need to worry too much about the bitterness of a darker roast as long as you time the brewing correctly.

Is French Press Basically the Same as Aeropress?

While both methods share some aspects such as being manually operated with a plunge and having water completely submerge the coffee grounds throughout the brewing process, there are a few major differences.

For one, the brewing time of the French press is at least 3x that of the Aeropress. Also, the French press requires a coarse grind size whole the Aeropress uses a fine grind size.

Is a French Press Cheaper than an Aeropress?

Taking a look at the price tags of both coffee makers, you can probably tell that neither one is particularly cheaper than the other. A French press or an Aeropress will cost you about $30, give or take a couple of bucks.

Some high-end models of the French press, however, can cost you a couple of hundred dollars.

Final Thoughts

The French press vs. Aeropress Coffee – are they the same?

Some think so because you use a plunger in both methods, others argue that the difference in brewing time and grind size makes for two totally unique outcomes.

After reading this article, what do you think?

Comparing Coffee made with an Aeropress vs. French Press
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