AeroPress vs French Press: What’s the difference?
When you first saw an AeroPress Original, your first thought was probably, “This looks kind of like a French press.” There’s a reason for that! In many ways, an AeroPress coffee maker is French Press 2.0. Each one is a full immersion brewing process and each one involves pressing. But there are important differences between them.
So, what’s the difference between AeroPress and French press? It all comes down to a few major ones: grind size and filter type flexibility, versatility, portability, potential health benefits, and ease of cleanup. Read on for more details!
One of the biggest differences between AeroPress coffee makers and French presses is in the grind size they require for the coffee beans.
French press users trying AeroPress brewing for the first time will notice that they must set their grinder setting to be much coarser for French press than for AeroPress. The French press uses coarse ground coffee beans because of the size of the holes in its filter. These coarsely ground coffee particles have less surface area than finely ground coffee. Because of the lower surface area, they need a long brew time to extract full coffee flavor. Unfortunately, this results in a bitter, acidic cup of coffee, as the coffee grounds sit in hot water for too long and over-extract. It also means you need to wait around for your coffee to brew, which isn’t ideal on a busy morning.
AeroPress coffee makers use fine-drip grind coffee with a big surface area to quickly extract lots of tasty flavors without bitterness. Instead of sitting for many minutes in hot water, over-extracting, the coffee is brewed quickly for the best flavor extraction. You get the best coffee you've ever tasted every time, without the wait!
To get the French press to brew as quickly as an AeroPress coffee maker, you would have to use a fine grind which would probably clog the mesh screen. That would make plunging very difficult and the brewed coffee would likely be full of sediment. However, you can actually brew a French press style single cup of coffee using an AeroPress coffee maker. See the end of this post for a recipe!
Best of all, AeroPress can actually use any grind size of coffee, including coarse French press grind, as long as steep time and stirring are adjusted accordingly. For instance, if you want to brew pourover-style using your AeroPress, you’d use a medium grind – but you may only need to brew for half the time it takes a typical pourover brewer to get an equivalent cup of coffee.
As mentioned above, the French press uses a metal filter (usually stainless steel) that requires you to use a coarse grind of coffee. The coarsely ground coffee often includes some small particles which end up either clogging the metal mesh filter or passing through the large holes in the filter and into your cup. These particles continue to leach bitterness into your coffee, leading to a harsh, gritty brew. In this sense, French presses offer poor control over brewing time.
AeroPress paper filters keep those particles out of your cup for clean, grit-free coffee. Our paper filters allow you to control the brewing process, making sure your coffee stops brewing when you want it to.
For a very clean, silt-free cup of coffee, try using two or three filters with a more coarsely ground coffee. The extra absorption cleans up the cup, and fewer fine particles are produced when grinding more coarsely.
Maybe you’re tired of your usual coffee and want to try something different – espresso, a latte, even cold brew. With French press brewing, you’re out of luck, since they only brew one or two styles of coffee (French press and cold brew, if you don’t mind waiting 12-24 hours for the cold brew).
But the AeroPress coffee maker is possibly the most versatile of all brewing methods, like an espresso machine, a drip coffee maker, a pourover brewer, and a French press all rolled into one. You can make so many different types of coffee: an espresso style concentrate that can be used to make Americanos, lattes or cappuccinos, pourover style coffee, or French press style coffee, as mentioned above. You can even make cold brew coffee with the AeroPress coffee maker in just a couple of minutes!
With this versatile brewing device you can have the full coffee shop experience right in your home kitchen. Being your own barista means you can have fun getting creative with your coffee to make the perfect cup!
If you’re keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels, French press coffee may not be the best option for you.
All ground coffee contains the molecules cafestol and kahweol, two molecules which cause our bodies to increase the low density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) in our blood. The metal filters in French presses don’t filter out cafestol and kahweol, but paper filters (like those that come with AeroPress coffee makers) do.
So if you’re worried about cholesterol, stick with paper-filtered coffee. AeroPress paper-filter-brewed coffee is free of these harmful elements. We had this verified by an independent test lab for AeroPress brewed coffee made using AeroPress paper micro-filters.
AeroPress brewed coffee is also much gentler on your stomach due to its quick brewing process that minimizes acidity. It contains just one-ninth the acidity of French press coffee (and one-fifth the acidity of drip brew), without sacrificing rich, delicious flavor.
You don’t hear a lot about people traveling with their French presses, and there’s a good reason for that: they tend to break easily. Nothing puts a damper on a vacation faster than finding broken glass in your suitcase.
By contrast, AeroPress coffee makers are tough and durable (made of BPA-free polypropylene), so they can go wherever you do. We even have one that is optimized for travel: the AeroPress Go travel coffee maker. With AeroPress Go, everything packs up neatly in the included mug, making it easy to take with you for great coffee on every adventure.
Another benefit for travelers is that AeroPress coffee makers brew well with lower temperature water than the French press requires. The long steep time of French press means greater loss of heat over time (resulting in underextracted, sour, vegetal, and bitter flavors). To combat this, water needs be well over 200°F before touching the coffee. Most hotels have pod brewers in them, but these seldom heat above 195°, and when camping or hiking, it takes awhile to boil water on a camp stove. But if your AeroPress coffee maker can brew great tasting coffee with 185° or 190° water, why wait?
You can even prevent heat loss through the AeroPress coffee maker by slipping a soda or beer can koozie over the brew chamber. This was one of Ben Jones' secrets to winning the 2016 US AeroPress Championship!
People brew with AeroPress coffee makers on airplanes, on mountain tops, on road trips, on the trail, in hotel rooms…. Where would you brew with yours?
What’s your favorite thing to do? You probably didn’t answer “Clean a French press,” because French presses are notoriously difficult to clean.
You want “notoriously difficult” in your crossword puzzle, not in your sink on Sunday morning.
AeroPress coffee makers are essentially self-cleaning - a great bonus for frequent coffee drinkers. The seal is flush with the chamber walls, so they are wiped clean as you press. When you’re done brewing, the coffee grounds pop out in a neat puck right into the trash or compost bin. After just a quick rinse, you’re ready to make the next cup.
Even a deeper clean of your AeroPress coffee maker is fast and easy. However often you like, simply pop the seal off the end of the plunger and clean it. To put the seal back on the end of the plunger, just position the seal on the end of the plunger and then turn the seal while pressing it onto the plunger until it gets fully seated.
Already a French press owner?
We don’t mean to criticize the French press. After all, it’s one of the classic brewing methods for good reason! But we still suggest that coffee lovers give an AeroPress coffee maker a try – it’s an expansion of your love for coffee! It can give you the rich, robust, good coffee flavor you enjoy in your French press, but without the messy cleanup, bitterness or acidity.
If you prefer an extended brewing time, there are a couple of ways you can brew with AeroPress coffee makers:
- Inverted method: The inverted method halts the dripthrough, so you can let your coffee grounds brew for as long as you like. It gives you extra control over the water:coffee brew ratio and the steep time, and tends to be preferred by more technical users. Simply insert the plunger an inch or so into the chamber, then flip it upside down. Add ground coffee and water to the chamber and stir. Once you are ready to brew, place a filter inside the filter cap and screw it onto the chamber, then carefully flip it over onto your mug and press through. (If you try this method, be very careful – you run the risk of spilling hot water.)
- Vacuum: Our own recommendation for a longer brewing time is to brew by creating a vacuum. First, set up your AeroPress coffee maker the traditional way. After adding coffee and water to the chamber, insert the seal on the end of the plunger a half inch or so into the top of the chamber, then leave it there. This creates a vacuum that halts dripthrough, just like putting your finger on the top of a straw stops dripping out of the bottom of a straw. Now you can let the coffee brew for as long as you like before pressing through. No flipping, and no fussing!
The Bottom Line:
AeroPress coffee makers offer a number of benefits over the traditional French press. It brews several different kinds of rich, delicious coffee that’s low in bitterness and acidity, quickly and with very little cleanup. What’s more, it’s a great option for travel coffee, and it’s great for those who are watching their cholesterol.
We hope this has helped you understand the differences between AeroPress vs French presses. But maybe you’re not convinced yet and you’ve still got questions. Not to worry, we’ve got answers! You can visit the AeroPress FAQ or even ask the AeroPress coffee maker inventor Alan Adler a question!
Bonus: Brew French Press Style Coffee with the AeroPress Coffee Maker
By Ben Jones, 2016 US AeroPress Champion
Type and amount of coffee: Any coffee you like, coarse espresso/fine drip grind. Use 1 AeroPress scoop or 19g.
Filter: Metal (I prefer discs to mesh). A single paper filter will give a ‘clean French Press’ mouthfeel.
Orientation: Standard or Inverted (whichever is most comfortable).
1. Heat water to desired temperature (I recommend dark roasts 180°F-190°F, light roasts 205°F- 210°F, medium roasts in the middle).
2. In the brew chamber, combine ground coffee and hot water (approximately 200 grams or 7 ounces). Gently stir 15-20 times to ensure saturation.
For the Traditional method, this is water filled to the (4)
For Inverted method, this is with the plunger set to the base of the (4) and water to the top, insert the plunger to create the vacuum
Total brew time:
For dark roasts: 1:00
For medium roasts: 1:45
For light roasts: 2:15
3. Plunge with even, gentle pressure. Near the end of the press, accelerate the plunge through the hissing sound until the plunger compresses the coffee puck (this pushes fine particles and coffee oils into the cup, especially if using a paper filter).
4. Dilute with hot water to taste.
How is this different from a French Press or the original AeroPress instructions?
This is a much quicker brew time than a French press (4+ minutes steep time). AeroPress coffee makers allow us to get the best flavors out in an efficient manner without losing heat or over-brewing the coffee.
The original AeroPress instructions use less water to brew the concentrate, which is then diluted to strength. This dilution reduces the overall texture and body of the final cup. Also, the use of a metal filter (which allows all the texture to fall into the cup) is a detour from the instructions.
If you have a choice between conical or flat grinding burrs, conical will give more texture.