At a basic level, if you like dark roasts and simple brewing, you’ll prefer the french press. If you enjoy trying to bring out the subtle flavors of lighter roasts, you’ll prefer pour over coffee. However, both have the potential to bring out the best of any coffee when done right.
So, if you just want a simple explanation of who should choose one over the other, that’s that’s my quick answer. If you’re ready to go deeper into what makes them different, we’ll explore that next. I’ll explain how they brew, why they taste different and help you choose the right one.
(Disclaimer: I DID NOT receive any of the recommended brewers for free. I bought those I’ve personally used and the others are recommended based on research. However, the links in this post are affiliate links so if you buy through the links I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
French press vs pour-over? A quick overview:
- Choose a french press if you like to brew dark roasted coffee with minimal effort.
- For more brewing advice, check my earlier french press article.
- I recommend the Bodum Chambord since it’s reliable with a high quality filter.
- Choose a pour-over brewer if you want to bring out the subtleties of lighter roasted coffees and don’t mind extra effort.
- For more, check out my detailed article about pour over coffee.
- I recommend this one because it’s a good starter kit.
French press vs pour over: What’s the difference?
The french press is an immersion brewer, which means that coffee and water are together throughout the whole brewer process. Pour over brewing involves slowly pouring fresh water over coffee throughout the brewing process. You could tweak your technique to get similar results with either, but each has natural strengths.
Another important distinction is the filter. While it’s possible to use either paper or metal for either brewer, generally speaking, the french press uses a metal filter and pour overs use paper filters. Paper removes most of the oils and small particles from coffee, resulting in more flavor clarity. Since the french press filters less you get a deeper flavor and more body, but less clarity.
Here’s how they work:
A french press is a glass or steel beaker with a plunger that fits on top of it. You combine coarsely ground coffee and hot water, let it sit for a few minutes, press down the plunger, and pour your coffee. The filter holds the ground coffee at the bottom so it doesn’t pour out into your cup.
A pour-over coffee brewer sits atop your mug or a carafe while you slowly pour hot water over ground coffee. Inside the brewer will be either a paper or metal filter to keep the grounds out of your cup. After you pour the water, you just wait for it to drain through the filter.
Which type of coffee is best?
I’ve found that the french press works best with medium to dark roast coffees. The darker roasts have a distinct flavor that’s strong, but doesn’t have the complexity of many lighter roasts. This is a perfect match for the french press, since it’s better at bringing out strong flavors than subtle ones. You’ll get a strong, full-bodied coffee with the distinctive bitterness of a dark roast.
A pour-over is the total opposite. It works best for lighter roasted coffees that have a lot of complex flavors. You’ll be amazed by the subtle flavors that will come out of good beans. If you’re using a paper filter, it will sift out the oils and sediment to create a smooth, well-balanced flavor with a lot of complex flavors. If you’ve ever read all the flavor notes on a bag of good coffee, a pour over is the best way to taste them.
Which french press is the best?
If you’ve decided the french press is the brewer of your dreams, you’ve still got to decide which one to get…
There are tons of options out there, but I’ll help you choose the perfect one.
Glass or stainless steel
Your main decision is which material you want. The most common choice is glass, but this has the disadvantages of being easy to break and losing heat quickly.
Stainless steel is better at holding in heat, but it can absorb coffee flavors over time which affects the taste. Some people find it leaves behind a metallic taste in the coffee, too.
I used to recommend this brewer by Bodum because it holds heat well. The extra layer around the glass holds in heat better and adds an extra layer of protection for the glass. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find these days, which is why I switched my main recommendation to the classic Bodum shown below.
If you can’t get your hands on the one above, the Chambord is the classic french press. This one is beautiful and comes in a wide range of colors. It is easy to break though…
I recommend the glass ones I mentioned, but if you prefer stainless steel, this is one of the highest rated options I’ve found.
What’s the best pour-over coffee brewer?
Unfortunately, choosing a pour-over brewer isn’t any easier than choosing a french press. There are even more options to choose from and each has its own advantages…
How much effort?
The main consideration when choosing a pour-over brewer is how much effort you want to put into it. At the top, I recommended the Hario V60 kit. I like this kit because it has a brewer, carafe, filter and scoop.
But, like I said in my pour-over article, the V60 has more of a learning curve and it’s difficult without a good kettle.
Another great choice is the Kalita Wave. The Wave is easier to use, but doesn’t have a good starter kit and the filters are harder to get. But, if you’re good about getting filters in advance and don’t care about the stuff in the kit, the Wave is a great brewer.
French press vs pour over: The choice is yours
I know that all the coffee equipment can be overwhelming when you’re just starting out. There seem to be new options coming out every week.
I’ve tried to simplify the choice as much as possible by narrowing it down to the essential differences between the two brewers. Both can get fantastic results and are easy to experiment with. Whichever method you choose, with a little practice you’ll get fantastic coffee!