In a world full of automatic coffee makers, there are still many who prefer manual brewing, as the devices needed for that are more affordable, easy to use, and don’t require expert cleaning and maintenance.
Aeropress and French Press are two of the most popular manual coffee makers and although their names sound a bit similar they use different brewing methods. Let’s have a look at how these devices work so you can decide which is best for you.
Despite its name, the French Press was actually invented by the Italian Attilo Calimani, back in 1929. The manual brewer consists of a glass carafe and a plunger. The principle it uses is called immersion which means steeping the coffee grounds before pressing the plunger. This motion pushes the grounds to the bottom of the tall beaker-like carafe, while the coffee rises through the filter.
The AeroPress is a fairly new device, invented by Aerobie president, Alan Adler in 2005. The AeroPress is a very simple device that looks like a syringe. It consists of two plastic cylinders and a plunger mechanism. The main advantage the AeroPress has over the French Press is speed, as the former uses pressure to force the coffee through the filter.
The traditional method of brewing with the AeroPress is pretty intuitive.
There is also the inverted method, which is a bit tricky and requires some practice. Some users prefer it as it allows the grounds to steep in the hot water, making the brew a bit similar to the one prepared with a French Press.
As you can well imagine, the flipping motion is the tricky part and you can make quite a mess in your kitchen. However, many say this technique will give you a darker smoother brew.
Tip: Whichever method you use just make sure the device is well-positioned over the cup and don’t push the plunger too hard to prevent accidental spills.
The basic method is of the “set-and-forget” type as you don’t have to worry about a thing. Once you put the water and the coffee grounds you can leave the carafe on the table or in the fridge and just let it brew. What you have to do is:
Tip: The best brewing ratio for the French Press is 15 parts water to one part coffee, but you can experiment with more or less coffee till you come up with the perfect brew for you.
Beginners can start with a 12 to 1 ratio, that would be around 1oz of coffee for 12 oz of water and work your way adding more beans till you reach the intensity you prefer.
The French Press carafe is just perfect to make cold brew because it comes equipped with a metal filter. Start by using an 8:1 ratio of water to coffee instead of 15:1. Cold brew is supposed to be more concentrated so you can drink it with ice. To make a traditional cold brew you must use water at room temperature and let the grounds steep for 12-16 hours. Cover the carafe with a lid and leave it on the kitchen counter, away from direct sunlight. When the time’s up, just push the plunger and your cold brew will be ready to serve. The stainless steel filter might allow more sediment into your cup, but the flavor will be delicious.
Aeropress uses a pressure-based extraction method, which makes the resulting brew more similar to espresso. Obviously, the resulting brew will not be as rich and smooth as espresso since the hand pump mechanism cannot possibly generate the 15-bar pressure an espresso machine uses.
As a general tip, it’s best to use coarser grounds with this device, as finer particles might make their way through the filter and into your coffee.
The French Press allows you to brew for a longer time which means a better extraction that results in a very bold and robust flavor. If you steep the grounds for a shorter period, the brew will be smoother and more subtle.
Experts say the French Press coffee is more aromatic and flavorful than the coffee you can make with an Aeropress and one of the reasons for this might be the different filtering mechanisms they use.
An AeroPress device is meant to be used with paper filters, although you can order a metal filter from a third party. Always remember to rinse the filter with hot water to get rid of any chemical aftertaste. Using paper filters will get you a smooth clean-tasting brew, but, unfortunately, filters also retain some of the coffee oils, so you will be missing out on flavor.
On the other hand, French Press devices use stainless steel mesh filters which let through both oils and the finer coffee grounds in your brew. This creates a full-bodied brew, although a bit muddy because of the coffee sediments.
So there are pros and cons to each filtering method.
As far as costs are concerned, in most cases, your AeroPress device will come with 350 filters so you won’t have to order new ones for a long time.
Brewing coffee manually gives you more control over the process, but you also have to learn how to make your coffee as good as possible. These tips apply to both AeroPress and French Press.
When you heat the water make sure to get it to the boiling point, but don’t use it immediately. Take the pot away from the heat source and let it cool down for one minute before pouring it into your device. Using boiling water will give your brew a bitter taste as the grounds get scorched.
Always use filtered water for your coffee as tap water might give your coffee a funny taste.
One other thing you will have to do for yourself is grinding the beans. If you don’t have a grinder, invest in a conical burr grinder as these are the best and produce coffee grounds that are consistent in size. If the grounds are not of the same size, some will be over or under-extracted which will affect the quality of your brew. For both machines, it is recommended you use a setting for coarse ground. As a general rule, it is preferable to use freshly-ground beans to make the most of their natural flavors. However, if you buy ground beans at the store try checking the label to see if it says anything about grind size.
Aeropress is a single-serving coffee maker so you will basically get one 9oz cup. You can stretch things a bit and add more water to get 12 oz, but your coffee will probably be weaker. This feature makes the AeroPress best suited for single people or college students who need a quick caffeine kick.
The French Press carafe can hold up to 28 and 35 ounces, so this device is the better option for larger families or even a small office.
Undoubtedly, AeroPress is the obvious choice if you want quick coffee. Once you have the hot water you can get a cup of coffee in less than a minute if you use the traditional method. If you prefer a more intense brew and use the inverted method the time needed to brew depends on how much you let the grounds steep.
For a French Press device, the recommended time to let the ground steep in hot water is four minutes for the best results. You can also let them steep for longer for a more intense brew.
Obviously, the Aeropress is easier to clean as it’s just a plastic syringe that only needs a bit of rinsing once you throw the filter away. For a thorough cleaning, you can use dishwasher liquid or even soap.
The French Press device requires a bit more care, but the good news is most models come with dishwasher safe components, but check the instructions manual, just to be sure.
Once a month you should do an in-depth cleaning to get rid of limescale deposits, especially if you live in an area with hard water. You can use special descaling liquids or a half-water, half-vinegar solution, which works just as well. Fill the carafe with the white vinegar solution and insert your plunger so that it’s fully submerged. Leave it for at least four minutes, then clean the device thoroughly with hot water to get rid of the nasty vinegar taste and aroma.
You can also use this solution to clean your AeroPress if you think it’s necessary.
The choice between an AeroPress or a French Press depends on your lifestyle. If you’re looking for a manual coffee maker for home use, then the French Press is the obvious choice.
However, if you’re a lover of the great outdoors you’re better off with an AeroPress. The plastic syringe device is slim and resistant so you can easily take it with you on a hiking trip. Actually, the AeroPress comes with a travel pouch as the manufacturers know you will need coffee even in the middle of the wilderness. AeroPress devices are perfect to make cowboy coffee.
Some newer French Press models come with a double-walled stainless steel carafe which might be sturdy enough for travel, but the device is still bulkier than the slim AeroPress. Also, the French Press is more complicated to clean.
If you don’t want to bother yourself much with the coffee-making process, AeroPress is the right tool for you. Coffee making doesn’t get easier than putting hot water and coffee grounds in and pushing the plunger. And, of course, AeroPress is ideal for travel, which is a big plus over French Press.
However, if the coffee-making process fascinates you and you’d like to experiment with brewing times and amount of coffee grounds, French Press is right up your alley.
French Press is the better option for a family who needs quick coffee at the same time and don’t forget it is the perfect device for cold brew. If you haven’t tried cold brew before, maybe you should as the taste is great and many people swear it is healthier than coffee brewed with hot water. Happy choosing!
French Press vs AeroPress: Which One is Better?