Are Coffee Brewers Better than a French Press?

If you thought filter coffee was boring, think again. Much like pulling the perfect espresso shot, pour-over coffee is an art, and getting the perfect cup takes precision, practice – and the right coffee brewer.

Pour-over coffee and French presses are both popular ways to prepare an excellent cup of coffee, and specialty coffee shops have used both for decades. But as more of us embrace coffee making at home, you may be curious to learn more about these techniques, the coffee, and which is best.

Both pour-over and French press techniques brew great coffee, and which is best will depend on individual preference. If you really want to test out the difference in taste, you can buy coffee brewers online for under $100 and try each.

With any coffee brewers, the quality of your coffee will depend on three things: the coffee to water ratio, the grind, and water purity and temperature. The goal is to get each element precisely right to ensure optimal extraction – the process of pulling the flavour compounds from the coffee bean granules into the brewing water. Under-extracted coffee will be sour, over-extracted coffee will taste bitter.

The Ratio of Coffee to Water

The National Coffee Association – yes, there is such a thing – says that the optimal or “Golden Ratio” of coffee to water is two tablespoons of grind for every 6 ounces of water, roughly one cup of coffee. This ratio isn't set in stone but instead meant as a starting point. Some people may like a more intense coffee while others prefer milder; the ratio can be adjusted until the desired flavour is achieved.

Grind Size

Aside from getting the water to coffee ratio correct, the size of the grind is the most important element to a perfect cup of coffee. If you grind your own beans, which is highly recommended for freshness, most decent quality grinders will have several adjustable grind options.

The right grind depends on which coffee brewing technique you are using; espresso requires a very fine grind, where a French press typically calls for a coarser grind. Pour-over coffee brewers work best with a medium-course grind.

Water Quality and Temperature

Considering that water makes up about 99% of a cup of coffee, water quality is clearly an essential factor in achieving your best brew. Filtered water or bottled water is best; tap water often contains chemicals that are safe to drink but can negatively impact the taste of your coffee.

The water temperature should be hot enough to extract the full flavour from the coffee grind but not so hot as to burn the coffee. Stay away from boiling water; temperatures should be between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius for optimal brewing.