Last time we compared the AeroPress and the French Press. Today, the contenders are the French press and the pour over.
Aside from the trendy new K-cups and the trusty old drip machine, these are two of the most popular brewing methods. Both have their drawbacks, and both have their perks. No pun intended.
Depending on your preferences, one may suit you better than the other. This guide will help you make the right choice if the thought of using a new method has been brewing in your mind for a while.
Ok, that pun was intended. Let’s get started!
Intro To the Pour Over
The pour over is about as simple as it sounds. It involves a filter and an apparatus that sits above or atop a coffee cup or carafe.
You put a filter in the apparatus, add your beans, pour over the hot water and enjoy the finished result.
There are a few variations. You’ve probably seen the ones that look like a large teacup from your grandma’s old white swirl-pattern Fire King dish set, but they have a hole in the bottom.
A popular coffee chain that sells merchandise makes a similar design, which is plastic instead. It has another plastic drip reservoir that sits on top and has ounce markings, and there’s a lid to make sure everything stays hot during brewing.
There’s another design that became popular years ago. It looks almost like an hourglass with a brace around the thinnest part.
Most devices are glass, ceramic or plastic.
The new kid on the block for trendy pour over designs is the filter rack. It fits around the coffee cup and suspends an apparatus or a hard filter as the magic liquid result drips into the cup below.
Intro To the French Press
In case you missed the comparison of the French press and AeroPress, a French press includes a carafe, a plunger, metal filters and a lid. There’s a brace with a handle on the outside to prevent burns.
You pour the water and ground beans into the carafe, let them brew and then press down the plunger to filter out the grounds.
French presses have the same internal design, with the main variations being material and externally aesthetic. Every device has a plunger and at least one filter. Some have three filters or a special filter that’s supposed to keep out grit.
Carafe material choices mainly include stainless steel, ceramic and glass. For handles, some popular choices are plastic, wood, polymer and steel.
Using immersion, a French press produces a full-bodied, robust and strong flavor. It has a heavy mouthfeel.
The pour over produces a cup of coffee that’s crisper with a smooth flavor and a lighter mouthfeel. It still brings out the aromas and flavors of the beans you choose.
If you find yourself frequently disappointed by bitter coffee shop drip coffee or the abominable mud water at gas stations, a pour over may be just what you need.
Grind Level and Filters
Coffee quality is tied to the right grind size and good filters with both methods.
Like Mondays, French press coffee that’s improperly brewed is bitter and disappointing, even for people who love strong coffee. It’s very gritty with too fine of a grind, broken filters or poor-quality filters.
Also, the device has metal mesh filters instead of paper, so the oil from the beans stays in your coffee. If you prefer a cup of coffee without the heaviness of the oil, a pour over may be better.
Now, there’s actually a way you can still get some oil in your coffee if you prefer a little bolder coffee and don’t want to deal with cleaning a French press. The secret? A metal mesh reusable filter for your pour over.
The most common pour over filters are paper ones, which absorb almost all the oil. That’s what gives you a smoother cup of coffee.
A medium grind is better for a flat-bottom pour over, and medium-fine is suitable for a cone-shaped pour over. With a French press, you definitely want a coarse grind unless you like gritty swamp sludge.
So, if you really want to use pre-ground coffee, which is usually medium-fine or fine, a pour over is better.
It’s always best to grind your own beans. Please look into buying a grinder if you don’t have one. It’ll change your life!
Bottom line? The winner in this category depends on your taste preference and whether you want to deal with reusable or disposable filters.
For brewing time, it’s so close we’ll call it a tie.
It usually takes between three and four minutes to brew your coffee using a pour over. It takes about three to five minutes with a French press, depending on how bold you like your strong coffee.
The best advice? Think about your taste preference and how enthusiastic you are about cleanup.
With both methods, it’s better to clean them up right away. Yes, Disappointment City. It’s not a must, but it’s better than soaking or scrubbing them later.
The pour over is definitely the winner here. You can dump your filter and spent grounds into the trash or into a can if you save them for your garden.
There are different recommendations everywhere for daily care. Some people say to wash your apparatus daily with dish soap and water, and others say simply rinse it out.
To get all the oily residue from the beans off the apparatus quicker, it’s easier to just use some dish soap and water to clean it off quickly. Residue can make your coffee bitter, so if you detest any hint of bitterness, plan on washing it daily.
With the French press, it’s good to add a little dish soap and hot water to remove the oil from the mesh filters. You must gently wipe the surfaces and rinse thoroughly.
If coffee grounds stick in the filters, you’ll have to clean those too. This whole process takes longer.
A French press also has more surfaces and angles than a pour over. If you find one with a non-flexible brace that the carafe easily slides into, your cussing jar won’t fill up as fast.
Durability and Portability
Both factors depend on the design you choose. For example, a plastic pour over is light, easy to transport and easy to clean. If you’re traveling, just remember your filters or you’re out of luck!
If you’re planning to travel with a French press, a stainless steel unit may be better. It’s durable, but it may not be as light. It may also be more expensive, and French presses are always harder to clean.
If you can find a plastic pour over, that’s definitely the winner in this category.
A French press typically wins in this category. There are multiple carafe sizes, usually producing between two to four cups of coffee.
Most pour overs are designed for one to two cups of coffee. If you try to brew more, you risk the grounds overflowing around the edges and getting into your cup. Some of the hourglass all-in-one carafe and apparatus devices can brew more than two cups.
The pour over wins again. You can find a simple pour over that’s decent quality for about $10.
A decent French press costs at least $15. Cheaper ones tend to have poorer filters or ill-fitting plungers. If you want a high-quality French press with triple filtration, you may have to fork over a little more cash.
Pros and Cons: Which Method Is Better for You?
Whew! All that information is a lot to process. So, lets quickly recap the pros and cons on how these methods compare.
Pros and Cons of the French Press
Here’s a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the French press.
- More brewing capacity
- Reusable filters
- Better for bolder, heavier coffee
- Harder to clean
- Delicate filters may crack
- Often leaves grit in coffee
Pros and Cons of the Pour Over
Now, it’s the pour over’s turn.
- Fast, easy cleanup
- Makes smooth and crisp coffee
- Brewing is quick
- Need to buy filters frequently
- Pouring water correctly takes practice
- Smaller brewing capacity
Keep in mind that the biggest difference that affects most decision-making processes is taste. The French press uses immersion brewing, and a pour does not, meaning the resulting taste differences are distinct.
So, there you go. Now that you know what to expect with each one, you can decide which suits your preferences and needs. Happy coffee drinking!