When it comes to brewing coffee, one thing is sure – there’s no shortage in methods. Today, we’re breaking down two of the most popular ways to make coffee: Keurig and the French press.
Some prefer the automated convenience of Keurig, while others root for the manual essence of the French press. The question is, which one will you choose? It’s time for us to settle the Keurig vs. French press coffee debate.
What is a Keurig Coffee Maker? – How does it Work?
A Keurig coffee maker is a handy machine that brews coffee one cup at a time. As you can probably tell from their name, these automated brewers are manufactured by Keurig – an established brand in the world of coffee machine manufacturing.
The company first developed its signature coffee maker in the early 1990s and launched it only for office use. It wasn’t until 2004 that Keurig had a prototype that was for home use.
Today, the company has branched out with a vast range of models and colors to suit all requirements and budgets. Keurig machines are now a staple in many US kitchens, hotels, dorms, and more.
Keurig Coffee Makers’ Growing Popularity
The reason behind the overwhelming popularity of Keurig units is the fact that they offer users hot coffee in a very short time without sacrificing too much flavor, unlike other automated coffee machines that downright butcher the taste of your coffee.
Keurig machines won’t give you the same precise control over your brew that a French press can provide. However, you’ll get superior convenience, consistency, and speed like no other method can deliver.
Not to mention, you’ll have a selection of more than 160 flavors of coffee to choose from – some of which are bound to entertain your palate.
The Two Pillars of a Keurig Machine
The operation of a Keurig coffee maker requires the presence of a K-Cup, also known as a Keurig pod. Beyond that, the machines themselves are efficiently engineered with a bunch of convenient features to make your brewing life even easier.
So let’s talk about each part of this remarkable collaboration.
K-Cups are small pre-packaged coffee pounds that contain freshly ground coffee. Keurig patented these cups. They also manufacture them (hence the ‘K’ part), and they’re available in just about any type of coffee you can think of, no matter the origin, blend, flavoring, or roast.
K-Cups are specially designed to let your Keurig machine brew perfect coffee every time with almost no fuss.
You should also note that Keurig coffee makers are exclusively compatible with K-Cups, which means you won’t have much luck venturing into pods from other brands.
Keurig Brewing Machines
Keurig coffee makers are built to withstand high temperatures and pressures to deliver great-tasting coffee with every use.
They come in a variety of models, but you can expect to find the following features in any Keurig machine you end up purchasing:
- A water reservoir: all Keurig units come with a removable water reservoir.
While they do differ in size, these reservoirs can usually store large quantities of water, allowing users to brew coffee fast with a simple press of a button.
- A removable drip tray: besides providing extra space for your mug, if needed, this tray makes your cleaning job more straightforward since you can just remove it and throw it in the dishwasher.
- Auto-off: all automated coffee makers carry a heating element to boil the water and keep your brew warm. If you leave your machine switched on for a long time, the device will be at risk of overheating, and you’ll be at risk of a crazy power bill.
The auto-off feature can prevent both events from happening as ut turn off the machine after a pre-set time interval from the last use. The extent of programmability differs across Keurig machine models, starting from 1 minute to 2 hours.
- One-minute brew time: even though Keurig coffee makers take varying time to heat up, the actual brew time of all models is approximately 1 minute
How a Keurig Coffee Maker Operates
All Keurig coffee makers work pretty much the same way. You fill up the water reservoir (not very frequently because of the large tank capacity). Next, you pop in your favorite K-Cup, place your preferred cup size under the dispenser, press the ‘ON’ button, and come back when the brew is ready.
However, if you’re interested in knowing how the magic happens, here’s a step by step guide through the operation of a Keurig machine:
- As soon as you choose a brew size, the machine pumps water through pressurized tubes into the heating compartments. This is where the water is heated to reach the optimal temperature needed for producing delicious coffee.
- Once the water reaches coffee-brewing temperature, it travels into a hose located at the top of the brewer. Here, there’s also an opening piece in which K-Cups are placed.
- Once you insert the K-Cup in position, the opening piece is lowered and shut.
- Upon this closure, small pins pierce the K-Cup on both sides to deliver the water and eject the brew.
One pin punctures a hole through the top foil lid to allow the heated water to reach the coffee grounds, while the other pin pierces the bottom plastic layer, so the just-brewed coffee falls straight into your mug.
What is the French Press? – How does it Work?
The French press is a coffee brewing device that conducts steep brew to produce coffee. It’s a manual method, so it’s your job to perform all the brewing steps, instead of having some electric machine do all the work for you.
This means you’ll have to measure the ingredients (water and coffee grounds), grind the coffee beans, add the water, time the brew, and press the plunger. As a result, the French press method offers total control over the many factors that affect your final drink.
However, the thing that makes the French press special is the total immersion of coffee grounds in the water during the whole length of the brewing process.
Actually, among all the manual brewing methods out there, the French press involves one of the most extended contact times between water and coffee grounds.
While the French press does seem like a hassle (it’s not as easy as popping in a K-Cup, flipping the ON switch, and calling it a day), but true coffee aficionados know how rewarding the process is.
Not only do you get the satisfaction of being in control of all the aspects of brewing, but you also end up with a coffee that’s notably richer and more flavor-packed than most automated brewers.
History of the French Press
Many people wonder how the French press got its name, and most of them guess that it must be because someone from France invented it. If you think so as well, then you’re not wrong – but there’s a twist to the story.
The French press brewer made its first appearance in the 1800s by the hands of a Frenchman. It was the Italians Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta who patented the device in 1929 after they fine-tuned it to its modern-day design.
The French Press Nowadays
In the United States, the use of the French press isn’t all that common nowadays, especially so many people who have yet to lay eyes on one of these devices. This may be due to the brewer’s manual mechanism that’s not very convenient for busy mornings.
On the other side, the French press is widely used in Europe, for example, in Italy and Great Britain. It even has different names in these countries such as ‘caffettiera a stantuffo’ in Italy, ‘Stempelkanne’ (stamppot) in Germany, and “cafetière à piston” in France.
Inside a French Press
Now that you have a general understanding of the French press, it’s time to take a closer look at the mechanism of its operation. So, let’s start by explaining the different components of the device.
Although the name ‘French press’ sounds like it’s going to be a complicated design, this gadget is pretty simple. It consists of a glass or stainless-steel container with handle, a mesh stainless steel cylindrical filter near the top, as well as a steel cover fitted with a movable plunger.
How to Use a French Press
The following is a simple step-by-step guide to making coffee using a French press:
- Add some hot water and swirl it around the container to warm-up the unit before use. After a minute or so of preheating, dump out the water and make sure your French press is completely dry.
- Measure your coffee grounds and add them to the container. Then, pour in just enough boiling water to cover and soak all the grounds.
- Stir the mixture and allow it to sit for approximately 30 seconds with the lid secured on. After that, remove the cover and pour in the rest of the water then stir the mixture again.
- Put the lid back on and pull the plunger upwards all the way. Allow the coffee to steep for about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how fine or coarse your grind is.
- Once the steeping is complete, push the plunger down slowly until you can no longer feel resistance.
- Pour the coffee into your cup as quickly as possible to avoid the bitter taste resulting from over-extraction.
One particularly common question that people ask at this point is, “should I pour all the brewed coffee out of the French press?” The answer is: yes, you absolutely should.
See, coffee grounds inside the French press will still interact with the water even after you push the plunger down. This means that the brewing will continue, no matter at a prolonged rate.
So, if you leave some coffee in your French press, it’ll stay brewing until you pour it out of the container. The longer you let the coffee sit, the more bitter it’ll taste.
This is why you should pour out all the coffee once the brewing is complete, and the plunger is down. Feel free to portion out the produced coffee then.
The French press is a more hands-on experience than Keurig coffee, but it’s not as difficult or time-consuming as some portray it to be.
Between grinding coffee beans, boiling water, and the brewing itself, the entire process takes about 6 to 8 minutes, not a bad deal.
Which is Easier to Brew?
The Keurig machine is superior when it comes to consistency, while the French press excels in brew control. So how can you decide which one is best? Well, for many, it all boils down to the ease of use.
In other words, which coffee is more comfortable to brew?
Most people wouldn’t hesitate to choose the automated convenience of a Keurig coffee maker over the manual fuss of the French press.
But if labor is no longer part of the equation, several other aspects can affect your final decision, such as brew time and programmability.
In the French press method, timing your brew couldn’t be more crucial. If you leave it for too long, your coffee will be over-extracted and bitter. If you end it too soon, you’ll be dealing with seriously weak coffee.
As a result, you should first approach the French press as a trial and error process. Then, once you’ve figured out what works best for your taste, you’ll just follow the same steps for the same duration.
As for Keurig machines, you’re guaranteed a successful brew with every use. After all, not much could go wrong when all you need to do is add water, insert a K-Cup, press the ‘power’ button, and wait.
We should acknowledge, however, that not everybody is comfortable using high-tech machines.
Keurig coffee makers do require you to push several buttons and make a bunch of adjustments (such as brew size, strength, and temperature control), which may come off as confusing for folks who like it simple.
The bottom line is, Keurig machines are incredibly simple to use compared to the French press – given you can swiftly navigate its settings.
What Kind of Coffee can you Make? Use your grinds? Fine? Coarse?
As we discussed above, Keurig machines require K-Cups to make coffee. There’s just no way around it. But this doesn’t mean you can’t use your ground coffee!
See, you do need the structure of a K-Cup for your Keurig machine to function correctly, but no one said anything about the contents.
This is why Keurig came up with the My K-Cup Universal Reusable Filter. It’s a simple and convenient way to brew your coffee grounds. You want to achieve a coarse grind (similar to a French press), load the coffee ground into the K-Cup, and proceed as usual.
As for the French press, it also requires a coarse grind. Nearly all pre-ground coffee is too fine, so grinding your beans is your best (and only) option.
The small grounds will clog the filter or even slip through if the grind is too fine. This will make it harder to press down the plunger, which will create lots of sludge in your cup.
What Type of Roast Produces Better Coffee? Dark? Light?
For a French press, your best bet is a medium roast or a medium-dark roast. Not only do they deliver smoky, dark brew that better suits the nature of the press method, but these types of roast have more oil on the surface of the bean and more robust flavor.
Not to mention, the French press method can effectively reduce the bitterness of a darker roast.
As for Keurig coffee makers, you can choose your preferred roast level from the wide selection of K-Cups available.
If you’re grinding your beans, most baristas recommend medium roast beans. The automated machine will slightly take away from the flavor. In this case, a light roast will be too weak, and a dark roast may be too strong.
Is a Keurig Cheaper than a French Press?
A Keurig can never be cheaper than an average French press. That’s just how it is when comparing an electronic machine with a manual tool.
The price of a standard French press is less than $50, while high-end models can cost you around $200.
But for Keurig coffee makers, you won’t pay less than $70 to $80. The more advanced the model, the more expensive it gets. Some models can get close to the $1000 mark.
That’s just the initial cost of the machine though, don’t forget to factor in the additional ongoing cost of K-Cups!
If your goal is to pick a winner in the Keurig vs. French press, it’s safe to say that both methods come out pretty much even when you weigh their pros and cons.
On the one hand, Keurig coffee makers are a lifesaver if you’re always on a tight schedule and just can’t waste time making a fresh brew every time you need a cup of coffee.
On the other hand, the French press gives you more control over the variables involved in the brewing process, and it produces much richer coffee.