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When it comes to brewing coffee, there’s no brew method that wins the top spot for me. They’re all so good and each has its own strengths that I really can’t choose! I love coffee in all forms and there’s nothing that can get between me and my morning cup of java.
In the spirit of celebrating fantastic brew methods, I’m going to focus on the French press vs the Aeropress. Both of these devices brew coffee using some form of immersion and a plunger so they sound similar on the surface.
If you’ve ever wondered what the pros and cons are of these brew methods and how they compare for coffee brewing then you’re in luck. Here’s all you need to know about the French press vs the Aeropress.
The French press uses immersion brewing before the coffee is filtered out with a mesh filter. The Aeropress combines immersion and pressure brewing before using a paper filter to remove all sediment. French press coffee is bold, thick, and dark and Aeropress coffee is smooth, sweet, and dancing with complex flavor notes.
What is the Aeropress
Invented by the American inventor Alan Adler, the Aeropress is a coffee maker that combines immersion brewing with a small amount of pressure before the coffee is filtered. The hot water used extracts most of the coffee flavors and aromas but the added pressure brings out a host of delicate flavors that really round off the Aeropress coffee.
The device is shaped a bit like a massive syringe where coffee and hot water are added to the middle chamber and the coffee brews for a couple of minutes before a large plunger is pressed which forces the coffee through a paper filter. The result is a single cup of coffee that’s rich and smooth in flavor, a bit like an espresso but less intense.
What is the French Press
A French press is a total immersion brew method that allows coffee to sit in the water for several minutes. The coffee slowly releases its flavor and when the brewing stage is up a plunger is pressed down to drive a mesh filter through the coffee to separate the grounds from the liquid.
The metal filter removes the larger coffee grounds but leaves the coffee oils and a fine layer of sediment in the brew. This gives the coffee a bold and dark flavor and thick mouthfeel. Most of these brewers feature a glass carafe but some are made from plastic or stainless steel.
Aeropress vs French Press Coffee
Choice of Coffee Beans
When brewing coffee, it’s always best to choose whole beans and grind them up at home. Pre-ground coffee loses a lot of flavor and aromas over time so to lock in all that taste, buy fresh beans and only grind up the amount you wish to use each time.
Aeropress brewing brings out a lot of subtle flavor notes and really enhances the delicate qualities. This makes it ideal for light to medium roast coffee, especially one rich in floral or fruity flavors.
French press brewing enhances the bolder flavor notes so is better suited to a darker roast coffee bean. Strong notes of burnt caramel, dark chocolate, and tobacco will stand out well when brewed in this way.
Once you’ve chosen your beans, the next consideration is how to grind them up. As with all brew methods, it’s best to use a burr grinder as these allow an even, consistent grind size.
The Aeropress requires a medium-fine grind setting so finer than those used for drip coffee but not as fine as espresso. Fine grounds allow a better diffusion of flavor in a shorter period of time so work well for the shorter brew time of this method.
The French press requires a longer brew time so a coarse grind setting is needed. Set your grinder to the coarsest level and this will allow optimal flavor without any bitterness.
To brew a delicious cup of coffee you need to know how much coffee and how much water to use for the best results. To brew a perfect cup using an Aeropress you need to use 17g of coffee (that’s a full scoop) and fill the water up to level 4 (or level one if using the inverted method). This equals about 270ml so is around a 1:15 or 1:16 ratio.
The french press coffee maker also takes a 1:15 ratio so if you’re brewing one cup (250ml) of coffee then use 16-17g of coffee. You can always adjust this ratio to suit your taste preferences if you find it too strong.
The french press vs Aeropress brew time is quite different between these two brewing processes. The Aeropress can brew great coffee in 2.5 minutes whereas the french press needs 4 minutes of steeping time.
The main difference is the grind size, so fine grounds will let the flavor infuse quicker and will turn the coffee bitter if left too long. They need very fine mesh or paper filters to remove the grounds so aren’t suitable for french press use. The coarse grounds for the french press need longer to let the flavors develop.
These two brewing devices don’t require barista training and most coffee lovers hone their skills in just a few practices. To brew great coffee it’s best to use a temperature-controlled kettle or a kettle with a built-in thermometer so you can make sure you don’t burn those beans. The ideal water temperature is between 195-205F.
Another piece of equipment that helps out a lot is a set of digital kitchen scales or coffee scales.
Coffee-making with a French press is an easier method so we will start with this one.
- Decide how much coffee you wish to brew and set that amount of water on to warm up
- Weigh out your coffee beans and grind them to a coarse grind
- Place the carafe on the digital scales, add the coffee and tare the scales to read zero
- Using water that’s heated to the optimal brew temperature, pour just enough water over the coffee to wet the grounds (this is the blooming stage)
- Start a timer
- After 30 seconds, add the rest of the water and give the mixture a stir.
- Let it brew for 4 minutes and then press the plunger
- Serve and Enjoy!
The Aeropress has two recognized brew methods but we will focus on the inverted method as most coffee enthusiasts agree it’s preferrable
- Put 270ml of water on to warm up and grind your coffee to a medium-fine grind setting
- Wet the paper filter with a little warm water and place it in the filter holder
- Assemble the brewing chamber by inserting the plunger until it’s secure and balance the device upside down
- Add your coffee to the brew chamber
- Add just enough hot water to cover the coffee and start the timer
- Let it bloom for 20 seconds
- Top the device up with hot water to reach the number one line and give it a stir
- When the timer reaches 1 minute 45 seconds, screw the filter cap in place
- Place your mug of choice, upside down over the top of the Aeropress
- At the 2 minute mark, using both hands, flip the whole device and mug so that they’re the correct way up, and press the plunger until you hear a hissing sound
- Serve and enjoy!
The Cup of Coffee
The Aeropress brews a low acid cup of joe that’s sweet and bursting with subtle flavor notes. It’s smooth in taste and similar in flavor to a less intense Italian espresso.
The French press coffee brewer produces a bold, dark cup of coffee that’s rich in single-note flavors. It’s thick in texture and complex in mouthfeel in a way that coffee drinkers either love or hate.
Other Coffee Brewing Methods
Pour-over coffee using a device like the Chemex is like a manual brewing version of drip coffee. They come in all shapes and sizes and can take paper filters or reusable stainless steel mesh filters. They brew a satisfyingly smooth cup of coffee that’s light and complex.
Cold Brew Coffee
This method is a way of brewing coffee that uses cold water to gently extract the coffee flavors over a long period of time. It brews a low acid cup of coffee that’s surprisingly sweet.
The Italian classic, espresso coffee uses high pressure to extract a greater profile of flavor from the coffee grounds. It extracts the coffee over a short period of only 25-30 seconds so requires very finely ground coffee. It makes an extremely concentrated, bold, and dark shot of coffee that’s syrupy in texture and explodes with flavor.
The french press wins when it comes to brewing large volumes of intensely flavored coffee. It wins for ease of use and versatility.
The Aeropress wins when it comes to brewing a truly exquisite single serving of good coffee with a smooth taste and texture.
In the end, the best one for you depends on the type of coffee you enjoy best along with your taste preferences. Give each of them a try and you may just find that they’re both so good, you can’t choose!
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