FTC Disclaimer - This page may contain special links to merchants which can result in compensation paid to the site owner.
French Press vs Drip Coffee: What’s the Difference Anyway?

Have you even wondered what the difference between French press and drip coffee is anyways? There are lots of people that swear by French press coffee – they make it seem so trendy and cool that you think you should just drink your coffee from a press pot every time.

If you have been a long time user of drip coffee you are probably curious what all the fuss is about and wondering if there is anything to this at all.

Well, here at the Gamble Bay Coffee Company we don’t care a whole lot about what brewing method you prefer. We just want you to find a brewing method or two that you love to make and drink.

For some people, no coffee will be better the regular coffee from a standard coffee maker, but for those that enjoy the process there is a lot of flavor you can get out of coffee beans with a French press that you may not be able to get out so easily with a drip machine.

Shall we explore the differences in greater depth?

The Main Differences Between French Press and Regular Drip Coffee

difference between french press and drip coffee
Before we look closely at either of these two methods, I want to first explain to you the main differences between French press coffee and regular drip coffee.

french press coffee

  • French Press coffee preserves the coffee oils in your cup, which add to the aromatics and enhance the flavor.
  • French press coffee leaves you with a coffee that has some texture to it. The smallest of grind particles enter your cup through the fine mesh plunger, leaving you with a coffee that feels full bodied and tastes full bodied.
  • French press coffee requires specially ground beans. Your beans must be ground coarsely and consistently to keep the coffee clean enough to drink from, enjoyably. Most people need to buy their own grinder for the French press because pre-ground coarse coffee can be hard to find in stores and grocery store grinders can be hit or miss. While we recommend people on a tight budget pick up a manual grinder for the French press, the best option is to pick up a good-quality, electric, burr grinder like the Baratza Virtuoso or the lower priced Breville Smart Grinder Pro, which are both excellent at making grind perfect for a French press.
  • The French press demands more babysitting – you need to actually manually do every step and timing is important. Conversely, an automatic drip coffee maker will heat the water, brew the coffee, and even turn itself off after a couple hours for you. It’s much easier to work, passively.

So, to summarize, French press coffee provides a lot of potential for great flavor and drink texture, but only if you have the patience to grind your own beans and make it every morning…and also only if you are ok with a little “body” in your cup.

There are some dual-filter French press pots that are better at filtering out the grind from your coffee than the single screen version, but you’ll have to spend a bit more to get one. The best is probably this one by Frieling, or the more affordable Espro Press P5, which utilizes a really fancy screen to eliminate nearly all sediment from getting into your cup.

Is French Press Better Than Regular Coffee?

do you get coffee oils from drip coffee
The simplest answer to this is yes – it is a lot better than regular drip coffee because it doesn’t filter away all the good coffee oils that you should want in your cup.

The oils from a good cup of coffee are like frosting on a cake, garlic in pasta, or like cinnamon on a roll. We cook with aromatics because they add subtle flavor to our food to take it to the next level and without them our coffee it is simply missing something special.

The main reason to make coffee from any device that doesn’t use a paper filter is to get these oils. Moka pots, espresso, percolators, and French presses all preserve the oils in the coffee and are all fundamentally better than drip coffee, or any other method that filters your coffee through paper.

Now, having said that, we understand that not everyone is able to buy a really expensive grinder and a fancy French press to get the full experience. We also know that the benefit of making top shelf French press coffee may not be worth the hassle every morning. It takes time and effort in the kitchen to brew French press coffee, which is why we expect even coffee snobs to make drip coffee from time to time.

However, there is a lot  you can do to get great coffee from an automatic machine, too, which we will now cover below.

Is Drip Coffee Better Than French Press?

automatic coffee maker vs french press
The answer to this is a resounding no. Automatic drip coffee (even from the best machine) is not as good as properly prepared French press coffee, but it is easier to make, for sure. You can even make it really well if you really want to.

Drip coffee makers on the high end can cost a lot of money, more so than even the most expensive French press pots, but to make the best possible coffee in them you still have to add a bit of a manual touch to your routine.

Although you don’t have to worry about buying a good grinder for coarse grounds, you still should own one anyway, because the freshness of the grind makes a big difference in the flavor of the coffee, even in a regular coffee maker. Grinding your beans minutes before brewing them makes a noticeable difference to even the average tongue.

Using filtered water can make a difference, too, as can preheating your coffee maker’s heating element, but that is fodder for another post.

Long story short, around here we believe that drip coffee has its place. Goodness, even I have a drip coffee maker on my countertop that I use it from time to time. We also believe that your automatic coffee maker shouldn’t be an all-in-one device either. Let your grinder be a stand alone device for goodness sake, all of the best coffee grinders are stand alone, anyway, and they can get you fresh grounds for all of your brewers too.

A favorite countertop drip coffee maker of mine is the BUNN GRB Velocity Brew, which does everything it can to give you great coffee despite the lack of oils. As an added perk, it’s probably the fastest possible way to getting a cup of coffee on-demand, save for owning a single serve pod coffee maker.

Which One is Best?

which one is best french press or regular coffee
By now it should be clear. At the Gamble Bay Coffee Company we believe the best coffee isn’t filtered through paper. Great coffee should preserve the natural oils that are both present and desirable in freshly ground coffee beans.

If you are thinking about getting your first ever French press then we wholeheartedly support you on that. There are, of course, a ton of inexpensive French presses out there to choose from, Bodum is well known, a best seller, and they make a number of French presses that are dishwasher safe but we do recommend you pick up a higher quality, insulated French press because they will make better coffee due to their better temperature regulation.

The best of the best is the Frieling or the Espro Vacuum Insulated Press, but any insulated model will do so long as you transfer your finished brew to a stand alone carafe after brewing. Again, though, that is fodder for another post.

Happy cupping!


James Lambert

Owner and proprietor of the Gamble Bay Coffee Company