Manual coffee makers are certainly making a comeback these days. And why shouldn’t they? There are lots of reasons to choose a manual coffee maker over an automatic one: they tend to be cheaper (especially when compared to something like an espresso machine), they are easy to use, portable, and, perhaps most importantly, to those who fancy themselves, coffee connoisseurs, they allow for more freedom in crafting your perfect cup of coffee.
While some of the more expensive coffee machines out there may also allow for the ability to experiment and get creative with the brewing process, it is still not quite the same as the direct control you are given over your cup of coffee with a manual brewer.
Brewing ratio, temperature, and extraction time are all completely up to you, and you can easily make minor tweaks to any of these to improve and adjust your coffee brewing skills.
So, want to get in the manual coffee brewing game but do not know where to start? Today, we will be comparing two of the most popular types of manual coffee makers, pour over coffee vs French press, and helping you determine which is the best fit for your coffee brewing style and preferences.
But first, let us learn more about each method’s brewing process before we make comparisons.
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press: Brewing Process
Pour Over Coffee
Many people still confuse pour over with drip coffee but they are different. With the pour-over coffee method, you have complete manual control over the brewing process. The method involves pouring water at a constant rate over the coffee grounds, which sit in a filter inside a cylindrical shape. This makes it more of an infusion-type coffee brewer.
Should you write pour over or pour-over with or without a hyphen? We’ve previously discussed this but ultimately it is your choice! We will cater for both by writing pour over and pour-over throughout this article! Yes, we’ve just committed a grammatical sin by not being consistent!
How to Brew Pour Over Coffee
Step 1: Heat water
Use filtered water or water that has been treated to remove the hard water solubles. Ideally, your water temperature should be between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 90-96 degrees Celsius).
Step 2: Rinse filter and place maker over the mug
While you do not necessarily need to rinse the filter, the thought process behind it is that first, getting the filter wet will rid it of any loose paper fibers clinging to it and potentially keep them out of your coffee. Another reason for rinsing the filter is that it keeps the filter from absorbing components of the coffee’s flavor profile as the coffee brews through it.
You can rinse the filter before you position it in the maker over your mug or after. However, if you choose after, make sure you get rid of the water that drains into your cup before you officially start brewing your coffee.
Step 3: Grind coffee and add to filter
Try a medium-coarse grind. You can, of course, add as much coffee as you like, but the recommended ratio of coffee to water is about 1:16 grams. After adding the coffee to the filter, you can tap the side of your maker until the grounds flatten out.
Step 4: Allow grounds to bloom
Pour a small amount of water in a spiraling motion, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle of the coffee grounds in the filter. The goal is to get all the grounds wet, but not to the point where it starts dripping. This “blooming” allows excess CO2 to be removed from the coffee grounds. Wait at least 20 seconds.
Step 5: Slowly pour water into the coffee maker
Slowly pour the rest of the water into the maker. Try and pour consistently and evenly over all the grounds in the filter. This should take about 2-3 minutes in total.
Step 6: Enjoy!
Take the brewer off your mug and sit back with your fresh cup of coffee.
Instead of being an infusion brewer like the pour over coffee method, the French press is an immersion brewer. It comprises three parts: a stainless-steel mesh filter, a cylindrical glass carafe, and a plunger. The coffee is steeped in hot water for a few minutes to extract the coffee grounds’ flavor.
Step 1: Preheat
While this is not entirely necessary, you may choose to preheat your French press by pouring hot water into it, pushing the plunger into the hot water, and leaving it for about 30 seconds before dumping it out.
Step 2: Grind coffee
Try for a medium grind, and then put it into the brewing chamber of the press. Again, as for the amount of coffee grounds you should add, it depends on personal preference but recommended is a coffee to water ratio of 1:16 grams.
Step 3: Add water and stir
Boil water, leave it for at least 30 seconds, and pour it into the press. You can stir the grounds to make sure they are all evenly wet.
Step 4: Place lid and wait
When placing the lid, make sure the plunger is completely out of the water. Wait for about 4 minutes, letting the grounds steep and bloom.
Step 5: Take off the lid, stir, and remove the foam
Take off the lid and stir any grounds that are floating on top of the water. If there is any foam, remove it with a spoon and throw it away.
Step 6: Replace lid and press down the plunger
Try and exert constant pressure when pressing down the plunger to the bottom of the press.
Step 7: Pour and enjoy
Pour the freshly made coffee out of the French press and into a mug. Enjoy!
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Timing
As we can see from the brewing processes above, the timing it takes to brew one cup of coffee is comparable – about 2-3 minutes for the pour over and about 4 minutes for the French press.
However, if we look at the entire method from start to finish, it may be quicker to use a French press by just a few minutes, as it could take up to 8 minutes in total, while the pour over method could take up to 10 minutes.
Winner: French Press
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Flavor
This really depends on personal preference, as these brewing methods can provide very different flavors of coffee. If you prefer a strong, bold, and rich flavor, you will want to go with the French press method.
However, if you are looking for a smoother, cleaner taste that may more closely resemble something you would get from an automatic drip coffee maker, then you should seriously consider the pour over method.
If you are a real coffee lover, the cleaner flavor does allow you to experience some of the more subtle notes in your coffee if you are really into experimenting with different tastes.
Winner: French press for bold, strong flavors, and pour over for clean, smooth flavors.
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Texture
If finding grounds in your coffee is something that can really ruin a cup for you, then there is a clear winner here. Since the French press uses a mesh filter and coffee grounds can come in all shapes and sizes, there is a chance that you will find at least some grounds in your cup of coffee.
On the other hand, since you can use paper filters, you will likely not have to deal with any grounds in your coffee using the pour over method. You can drink your coffee to the very end without any of that gritty texture.
Winner: Pour Over
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Cost
Since both the pour over and French press coffee makers do not have many components, both are quite affordable upfront. However, you may end up spending more money in the long run with the pour over method.
While you can get reusable mesh filters to use with your pour-over, you may choose to purchase and use paper filters regularly instead if you want to ensure no coffee grounds get into your cup.
Also, if you want to ensure a slow, even pour of the water over the grounds, you may want to consider buying a kettle with a thin spout, especially for that purpose. You do not really need to consider any extra add-ons with a French press.
Winner: French Press
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Health
When it comes to which coffee brewing method provides the healthiest cup of coffee, the answer largely comes down to the type of filter used by each method. Since the French press uses the mesh filter, it tends to allow some of the rich coffee oils into your cup that may contribute to negatively influencing your cholesterol levels.
On the other hand, the pour-over process tends to involve using paper filters which will help absorb those oils before they can get into your cup.
Winner: Pour Over
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Cleanup
While both coffee-making methods are not terrible to clean as neither have many components, cleanup is typically easier when you use the pour over method – just throw out the paper filter and then clean that cylindrical maker on top with soap and water.
The main issue with cleaning the French press is the mesh filter, as you need to make sure that the coffee grounds are not clogging any of the holes in the filter to achieve that perfect cup of French pressed coffee.
Winner: Pour Over
Pour Over Coffee vs French Press – Verdict
Overall, the verdict here does depend on personal preference.
If you are looking for a manual coffee-making method that will not cost you a lot, is relatively quick, and allows for bold, strong flavors, you cannot go wrong with a French press coffee maker.
If, on the other hand, you prefer your coffee to be grounds-less, easy to clean up, a bit healthier, and have smoother, cleaner flavors, then a pour over coffee maker is your ideal choice.
Now, all this being said, if the main reason that you want to get into the manual coffee-making game is that you are a real coffee connoisseur who wants to be able to experiment and control nearly every aspect of the brewing process, then the pour-over brew method is probably your best option.
The cleaner taste allows you to notice the subtle differences in flavor, and the pouring method allows you to experiment with your pouring techniques to see how it affects your cup.
Ultimately, whether you choose to go with a French press or a pour over coffee maker, you are definitely going to end up with a great cup of coffee! And really, since they are so affordable, why not try both?
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