Is a French Press Worth It? (vs. Drip & Keurig)

I love coffee, and I’ve owned lots of different kinds of coffee makers. But when I was first starting to get serious about coffee, I remember wondering is a French press worth it?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

French press coffee makers are well worth the small investment given they make very pure coffee quickly & easily with no environmental waste from filters or pods. This is especially true given how much less expensive they are compared to other types of coffee makers. 

But there’s a lot more to know about French press coffee makers.

So we’ll not only get into cost and durability. But we’ll also look at how they compare to other types of coffee makers. That way you can make the best choice for you and your house.

Let’s jump in!

Check out all my coffee product recommendations (click to see my list) with additional features and direct links to Amazon for easy purchase.

I always hand-select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

What is a French Press coffee maker?

A French press coffee maker is simple. Put coffee ground in it, pour in hot water.  Then, put the lid on, which has a built-in strainer, and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Then, press the plunger down on the strainer. This keeps the coffee grounds down & allows you to pour coffee without grounds getting into your cup.

It’s very pure; no paper filters to cloud your flavor. Unlike other coffee makers, it doesn’t sit on the counter with a water reservoir possibly attracting bugs or mildew.

Most typically, the entire thing is dishwasher safe, and the carafe part is usually made of glass with a metal and plastic lid, plunger, and filter screen.

Despite the name, the French press is actually Italian in origin, developed by Paolini Ugo in 1929. But in truth, the name French press is only really used in the US and Canada. In it’s native Italy, they call it caffettiera a stantuffo. But I’ll probably stick with a French press for now.

The pluses of a French press:

  • Very pure coffee
  • Easy to vary the strength of the coffee, both with grounds and how long it steeps
  • Inexpensive
  • Can also be used to make cold brew coffee (just use cold water and let sit for 24 hours)

The minuses of a French press

  • The glass walls cause the coffee to cool somewhat quickly
  • The glass can break easily if you aren’t careful
  • The lack of a paper filter prevents it from filtering out the substance cafestol which has been known to raise LDL (bad cholesterol)

How much do French Press Coffee Makers cost?

On average, the best-selling French press coffee makers range in price from about $10 up to $65. But $25-40 is more the average price for a French press coffee maker.

What makes the prices vary so much?

Well, mostly it’s the size and what it’s made of. The least expensive ones are about 12 oz, so arguably only enough coffee for 1 person without having to make more.

The largest capacity French press coffee makers are about 34-50 oz in size, so plenty of coffee for 2-4 (or more) people. Do be aware that some manufacturers advertise theirs as “8 cups”.

They are referring to coffee cups and NOT measuring cups. These are still generally about 34 oz as they consider 1 “cup” to be about 4 oz and not 8 oz.

I don’t know about you, but if someone hands me a 4 oz. cup of coffee, I’m going to a different coffee shop!

Some French presses are a combination of glass, metal, and plastic. Others have fancy wooden handles and lids. Personally, I’d rather not have wood and just toss it in the dishwasher, but the wood does look nice.

Others are marketed as shatterproof which basically just means it’s plastic instead of glass. Now they do typically say BPA-free, but personally, I just think the glass ones make better-tasting coffee than plastic.

Is a French press better than a drip coffee maker?

Yes, a French press is better than a drip coffee maker as it produces the purest form of coffee as there is no paper filter to alter the flavor. You can also steep it longer for a stronger cup of coffee. And with stainless steel and glass being what most are made of, there are no concerns with plastic or BPA.

Personally, the drip coffee maker is my least favorite kind of coffee maker.

For pure convenience, I love our Keurig. I can make a cup inside a minute or 2 and that’s using refillable K-cups and grinding my coffee fresh. If you’re using pre-bought K-cups, they are even faster.

Then for pure coffee flavor, I think the French press is best.

To me, drip coffee makers have always been problematic. For starters, they are often more complicated than they need to be, with alarms, timers, clocks, etc.

But I also don’t like how coffee tastes sitting in the carafe on a heating pad; it basically cooks your coffee. It’s fine for a few minutes, but if I go to someone’s house where the coffee was made a couple of hours ago and is just sitting on the warmer, you can bet I’m going to pass on the coffee.

The other big problem with drip coffee makers (and Keurig’s too) is that leaving water sitting in the coffee maker reservoir and lines can attract bugs and mildew. This is not only incredibly gross but also makes some pretty bad tasting coffee.

So if you do have either type of coffee maker, make sure you’re on a regular cleaning schedule.

Is French press coffee better than a Keurig?

A French press does produce better coffee than a Keurig. The primary benefit a Keurig has is convenience. There’s no waiting, no steeping, and easy cleanup. A French press, however, allows you to customize both the amount of coffee grounds and how long you steep, resulting in a better cup of coffee.

But, I do think this is debatable.

Both produce coffee that is very fresh and hot with minimal processing between grounds and cup; water in, coffee out.

The enemy of the Keurig in my opinion, are the pre-made K-cups. 

Why? Because the coffee is ground probably months in advance which can promote it going stale. Then it’s packaged inside a plastic cup where it sits inside a box in a warehouse or grocery store shelf, for weeks or months again.

A MUCH better cup of coffee can be had in your Keurig by buying refillable K-cups (click to see my favorite ones on Amazon) It’s also a lot better for the environment too. I ground my coffee to order for maximum freshness.

The Keurig also wins because it delivers consistently hot water to make your coffee.

Coffee tastes best when it’s brewed at a temperature between 197.6° and 204.8°. Now to be fair, most Keurig’s clock in closer to 192°, but that’s still fairly hot.

By comparison, Starbucks brews their coffee at 190° and serves it at 165°. So you’re in good company with the temps of a Keurig.

But for a French press, if you’re just heating water on a stovetop like most of us do unless you have a high-temp thermometer handy, it’s very hard to know if it’s hot enough, and more often than not, we go too high (bringing it to a boil), or too low.

Either way makes an inferior cup of coffee.

Want to know more about coffee brewing and serving temperatures and which coffee makers make the hottest coffee? I have a recent article that goes into that topic.

What really surprised me was how much temperature variation there is between the most popular brands of coffee makers.

What’s better a percolator or a French press?

A French press will produce a much better cup of coffee than a percolator. The reason is a percolator relies on water reaching a boiling point & then mixing with the ground coffee, whereas a French press allows the coffee to steep in hot, but not boiling, water. This results in a smoother, less bitter, cup of coffee.

A percolator is an old-school device like your great-grandmother probably had.

It’s not entirely dissimilar though from a French press. But the big difference is that it essentially cooks the coffee as the grounds remain dry in a top compartment above water. As the water heats up, it begins to blend into the compartment where the coffee grounds are.

In and of itself, that’s fine, but most people let that go on for too long which results if the coffee essentially being boiled, resulting in a really bitter cup of coffee.

While there are more modern percolators, I would still choose a French press over a percolator every time.

I just think they both take the same amount of time and effort, but the French press results in a more consistent, less bitter, cup of coffee.

How long do you leave coffee in a French press?

You should allow coffee in a French press to steep for 4-7 minutes depending on how strong you want it. Leaving it longer can result in a lukewarm cup of coffee as the walls of the French press are typically glass and not insulated.

Now, personally, when I use my French press, I tend to set my timer for 7 minutes. Then I press the plunger down and pour.

But the experts tend to say more like 4 minutes.

While there’s a lot of coffee blogs on the internet, and thus a lot of supposed experts, I turned to my favorite brand of coffee for help; Peet’s.

If you don’t know Peet’s, founder Alfred Peet is actually the person who taught Starbucks founders Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker how to roast coffee beans. And for the first year they were open, Starbucks even bought their beans from Peet.

But rather than grow to hundreds of stores nationwide, Alfred Peet preferred to stick mostly in California where he was from.

Here’s what Peet’s has to say about making the perfect cup of French press coffee:

  • Bring water to a boil on the stovetop
  • Let it sit on the stovetop for 30 seconds after turning off the burner
  • Pour some of the water into the empty French press to preheat it
  • Measure 11 tablespoons of coffee beans into a coffee grinder
  • Grind the coffee to a very coarse grind, like coarse sea salt
  • Dump out the water in your French press
  • Add the ground coffee to the french press
  • Add just enough water to cover the coffee
  • Give the coffee and water a quick swirl and let sit for 30 seconds
  • Continue to add the hot water until it gets about 1 inch below the rim
  • In general, you want a 1-16 ratio of coffee to water. So if you have a 34 oz French press, and filled it most of the way, you would use about a 1/4 cup (measuring cup) of ground coffee
  • Put the lid on the French press and press it halfway down and then pull back up
  • Wait an additional 4 minutes and press it all the way down and it’s ready to serve

Now that was arguably a lot of steps.

There have been plenty of times where I just eyeballed the coffee ratio and didn’t take the extra step of letting it bloom before adding the remaining water. I also, as I mentioned, tended to let it sit a little longer, and I still got a great cup of coffee every time.

But if you want perfection in coffee, I trust Peet’s!

How much ground coffee do you use in a French press?

The ideal ratio for a French press is 1 part coffee to 16 parts water. So for a 34 oz. French press, that would be 1/4 cup of ground coffee and then fill the French press up with hot water.

But, of course, if you wanted a weaker cup of coffee, not only can you steep for a shorter amount of time, you could also use less coffee.

Can you use regular ground coffee in a French press?

Yes. You can use any kind of ground coffee in a French press coffee maker. However, you will get the best results from using freshly ground coffee that is made from 100% Arabica coffee beans. 

But ultimately, it depends on what you mean by “regular”.

French press coffee makers work best with a coarse grind of coffee. It should look a little more ground that quick rolled oats, but not as ground as sand. 

Coarse sea salt is a good comparison.

While some prefer the convenience of an electric coffee grinder, nothing gives you a better grind than a manual burr grinder.

They are easy to dial in just how coarse or fine you want the grind and they grind at much slower speeds resulting in less friction giving you more flavor and aroma from your beans.

Plus, my FAVORITE burr grinder from Capresso is not only a great value, but it has a convenient compartment for the ground beans and 16 levels of fineness control.

Hundreds of reviews, a great star rating, an Amazon’s Choice product, and free Prime shipping are some of the other plusses!

Check it out on Amazon.

How do I keep my French press coffee hot?

Keep your French press coffee hot by making 1 cup on demand each time, or transferring the brewed coffee to an insulated container. French press coffee that sits in the French press after steeping will quickly start to lose heat due to the non-insulated glass or plastic walls of the French press. 

This is a great question as most are made of thin-walled glass or plastic. So they cool down quickly.

Luckily, I have a great solution to the problem of luke-warm French press coffee! When my wife and I still had our old Cuisinart drip coffee maker, rather than keep the carafe on the hot plate, we bought and Cuisinart insulated steel carafe with a sealable lid.

While I wouldn’t let it sit that long, this thing would literally keep your coffee very hot for an hour or more.

It’s also at a great price on Amazon Prime and is an Amazon’s Choice product.

Hundreds of reviews and near-five stars too.

But trust me; this thing is your best friend when you make coffee with a French press.

Check it out on Amazon.

What is the best French Press coffee maker?

The best French press coffee maker for 1 person is the Bodum Chambord 12 oz. French press. But for families or large groups of people, the Secura 50-Ounce Stainless Steel French press is the best product available.

Bodum is probably the name everyone is used to seeing.

But the reality is that just because a company has a bigger marketing budget doesn’t mean they are the best product. A quick check of their items on Amazon shows several products with 2-star ratings.

While there may be exceptions, I’m never going to recommend anything under 4 stars unless it’s something I have in my house and I know it’s great despite the reviews (but I’ll still tell you what those reviews say).

To be fair, they have some 4-star products too, but we’re going to dig a little deeper and find the best of the best, which may, or may not be Bodum.

So to start with, I looked at all the top-selling French press coffee makers on Amazon.

Then I eliminated any under 4 stars. Then I looked to see how the one I have compares. For me, it not only needs to have great reviews but since my wife and I both like 2 cups in the morning, it can’t be a 10oz that maybe delivers 1 1/2 cups.

Now if you live alone, the 12 oz. Bodum Chambord actually is a great buy. Over 4,000 reviews, top star ratings and it’s an Amazon’s choice product to boot and well under 25 bucks. Just click the link to check the current price on Amazon Prime.

But for me, I’m going for the Secura 50-Ounce Stainless Steel French press.

It has the highest star rating of any coffee maker I’ve seen out of almost 1,000 reviews. It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product, free Prime Shipping, and currently under $40 bucks.

Because it’s all stainless steel, there’s no glass breakage to worry about. And 50 oz means you can make enough coffee to serve even the largest group of under-caffeinated friends and family.

And yes, the ENTIRE THING is dishwasher safe!

Cool-touch handle and knob round out the list of what makes this the Best French Press Coffee Maker!

Check it out on Amazon.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about whether French Press coffee makers were worth it?

In this article, we took a quick look at the world of French press coffee makers.

We examine their history (hint, they are actually Italian, despite the name), and cost. We explored what makes some 10 bucks and others 60. Then we compared their performance to drip coffee makers and Keurigs.

But ultimately, we answered the question of is a French press worth it, with the answer of yes for most people.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee maker?

Check out all my coffee product recommendations (click to see my list) with additional features and direct links to Amazon for easy purchase.

I always hand-select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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