Espresso VS French Press (How Are They Different?)

Espresso is a kind of coffee that is made by a coffee machine using water and coffee grounds. Whereas, a French press is a brewing machine that is used to brew coffee.

Whenever you go to a coffee shop and see all the equipment and items kept, there is a certain wave of confusion, right? You say to yourself looking at the coffee machines kept, how do the baristas make a delicious cup of coffee for every customer?  Well, I know that feeling.

It can get intimidating watching them brew fresh cuppa for every order and each order had its own list of ingredients and ways that it’s made. But the barista just makes it right every single time.

With that being said, espresso & French press are two of those words that you might have heard from coffee aficionados’ mouths time and time again.

But if you’re a novice and don’t know much, this article is for you. Here we are comparing both of these together and diving deep into each of them.

Let’s begin.

What Is Espresso?

an espresso

An espresso is a potent form of coffee that is not more than 1.5 oz. The way it is made is unlike any other coffee that’s why it can be considered as a brewing method too.

Espresso is a very strong and potent coffee that is available in all coffee shops. It is made by passing hot water through ground coffee beans and adding pressure through the hot steam.

This makes the water absorb a concentrated amount of coffee soluble compounds. Why do I say this? That’s because even though the volume of the espresso is 1 oz but it contains almost all coffee compounds that were dissolved in water from the coffee grounds in high amounts.

Other methods of brewing do not do that. That’s the reason an espresso shot is used as a base for many coffees like frappes and mochas. Plus, espresso is only made by using hot water and a coffee machine.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America says, Espresso is a 25–35ml (.85–1.2 ounce [×2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7–9 grams (14–18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195°–205°F (90.5°–96.1°C) has been forced at 9–10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20–30 seconds. While brewing, the flow of espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick, dark golden crema. Espresso should be prepared specifically for and immediately served to its intended consumer.”  

How Is Espresso Brewed?

A batch of dark coffee beans is ground freshly and finely. Then these dark-roasted coffee grounds are loaded up on the coffee machine. They are tapped to make them even and flat.

The reservoir is loaded with water and gets heated by the heating element. Then the water is passed through in the form of steam through the beans for less than 30 seconds. Then the brewed coffee drips into the espresso cup. If you’re interested in knowing more about brewing coffee, you can check out my detailed post here.

What Is French Press?

A French press is a manual coffee brewing machine. It’s a machine that uses the steep method to brew coffee.

The French press has many names like cafetière à piston, cafetière, press pot, coffee plunger, coffee press, or cafeteria. It’s the most common way to brew coffee at home.

It’s the perfect thing for a beginner who has just started getting into the whole brewing coffee at home thing. It’s a small machine that uses nothing but the manpower to brew coffee.

There is a vessel (beaker) that holds the water and other parts like the filter where the coffee grounds go, a plunger that extracts the coffee, and a carafe that pours the coffee out from the Press. This is the simple anatomy of a French press. Nothing too fancy.  

a opened french press with freshly brewed coffee

But in order to brew a coffee in a French press, you need:

  • Something that can heat the water
  • A coffee grinder
  • A scale to measure

You see, you add the coffee grounds below the filter and then add the hot water. The coffee steeps in the hot water for around whatever kind of brew you’re looking for.

Then you pull the plunger to separate the beans and water. The brewed coffee is then poured out from the carafe. Quick and easy.

How Is Coffee Brewed In French Press?

When brewing coffee in a French press, you can control so many factors. Like the quantity of water, the temperature of the water, the ratios of coffee and water,  the type of roast, and the time for steeping.

Each tweaking done to these factors will produce a bit of varied coffee. But for a standard coffee made by a French press here’s what they do.

The fresh batch of coffee beans is ground coarsely. The general rule for French press coffee to water ratios is 1:12. But depending on how many servings you are making, for 8 oz coffee you need about 2 tablespoons of grounds and 8 oz of water. The coffee grounds are loaded underneath the filter inside the beaker.

Then hot water is poured inside the beaker. The submerged coffee grounds steep in the hot water for 4 minutes. Then, the plunger is slowly pulled and the brewed coffee is separated from the used grounds. Through the carafe then the freshly brewed coffee is poured.

You can watch this fantastic video that I found out on French Press.

a superb video on French Press

Can I Make Espresso With A French Press?

Espresso shots cannot be made in a French press. They are both very different ways of brewing coffee grounds but produce strong coffees.

French press and espresso are two different coffee methods that make different kinds of coffee. But if we talk about espresso in the sense of drinkable coffee, it cannot be made in a French press.  That is due to reasons like:

Coffee Grind

In the French press, a coarser grind of coffee beans is used. The mesh inside of it and the filter would be get clogged and the brew would get polluted if the finer groud is used. And espresso is made by fine coffee grounds that are brewed shortly but efficiently. This gives the espresso its notorious strength and potency overall.

Method

Espresso is made by using hot steam from the water which is about 200-degree Fahrenheit or 93 degrees Celsius. This steam is passed through the fine espresso coffee grounds quickly thus almost everything gets extracted instantly. But in a French press, coarser coffee grounds are steep in the water.

The coffee ground gets fully submerged in the water and then plunged out. This makes a strong coffee but not as potent as Espresso.

Volume

The volume in which espresso is brewed is only 1 oz shot. But you know its strength. A French press is a mechanism in which such small amounts of coffee can’t be brewed.

Plus, if brew one 8 oz cup of coffee which is very strong, it will be strong black coffee and not concentrated coffee like Espresso.

Check out this table in which I’ve made summarized the difference between French Press and Espresso.

ContentsFrench Press (8oz)Espresso (1oz)
Caffeine85 – 135 mg63 mg
Acidity10% – 20%60% – 70%
Bitterness30%75% – 85%
Sweetness25%1% – 5%
StrengthStrongVery Strong

Is French Press Coffee Unhealthy?

A French press uses a metal filter that allows the unwanted coffee oils to get into the cup. This oil contains diterpenes which are related to increasing bad cholesterol and heart diseases. But you sure can enjoy French press coffee once in a while.

As coffee consumption is increasing day by day, the French press has gained massive popularity in just a few years. It produces some of the delicious coffee’s out there which can also be enjoyed by adding other ingredients like creamers and milk etc.

It has a very intense yet balanced coffee taste, unlike other coffees. But there is a problem. French press coffee isn’t as healthy as it might seem.

a espresso is dripping in the cup

The metal filter is not as permeable as it should be. Why? Because we use coarser coffee ground and don’t need a paper filter here. Plus, the only job of the metal filter here is to hold down the coffee ground as the coffee gets poured out. Nothing else.

But what this does is, that it allows the unwanted diterpenes to pass through as well. And diterpenes are not good for your body. In a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, they noted whether the participants drank filtered, unfiltered, or both types of coffee. Compared with drinking filtered coffee, drinking unfiltered coffee had a higher risk of heart disease and death.

Moreover, the oils and diterpenes also serve as evidence that they may increase your heart disease risk. According to a review published in Food Research International in 2020, diterpenes may increase cholesterol levels.

Therefore, a French press can be unhealthy if consumed on a regular basis.

My Two Cents

Espresso and French press are two different ways to produce coffee. Both coffee methods produce coffees with varying intensities.

Espresso as we know by now is a stronger shot of cuppa that is also used as a base for other coffees. Whereas, a French press is a brewing machine that makes strong and tasty coffee in no time.

But if we compare these two, they each have their own content levels of caffeine and acidity. Plus, if you try to make espresso in a French press, you will fail miserably.

The difference comes from the fact that how each is brewed. And lastly, though French press coffee is considered unhealthy, you can enjoy it every once in a while.

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Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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