There are countless ways to prepare coffee that have been developed over hundreds of years, and two of the more common brewing methods are French press and Keurig machines. While the fundamental idea is the same — introduce hot water to coffee grounds — the specifics and the final product vary quite a bit.
If you’re deciding between brewing with a French press and a single-serve coffee maker like the Keurig machine, there are a handful of key differences you’ll want to think about before committing to one. Below, we’re discussing how these two preparation methods differ and the pros and cons of each so that you can make an educated decision about which suits your coffee needs better.
French Press Overview
The French press is an ancient method of “immersion brewing” that involves mixing hot or boiling water with coarse coffee grounds, letting it sit, and then straining the grounds out of the finished product. The French press itself usually includes a glass cylinder to hold the coffee and water, as well as a steel mesh plunger to strain the grounds out once brewing has completed. A cup of French press coffee is often strong and bold.
What It’s Good for/When to Choose
A French press makes a full-flavor cup of coffee no matter what grounds you choose, but it excels at highlighting notes of chocolate, toffee, nuts, and roasted flavors. Coffee made with a French press will be far more flavorful than anything you would be able to brew with a Keurig simply because the coffee is left to soak in hot water for several minutes. Additionally, you’ll have control over your brewing process and will be able to change your recipe to suit your taste.
Most French presses can make three or four cups of coffee at a time, making them suitable for small gatherings or when you have company over. Some are even larger and can make six to eight, and all French presses will outperform a Keurig machine in terms of volume.
A French press is a simple brewing apparatus that doesn’t have any moving or electric parts, so there isn’t much that can go wrong. They’re very affordable given their simplicity, and maintenance consists only of regular cleaning.
The French press does require a kettle or pot to boil water, and it will also need some input from you, as you’ll have to pay attention while brewing and follow a recipe. Most French press users will quickly memorize the simple steps to brew coffee, but brewing will still require some attention.
Ready to buy? Here are our favorite French presses!
- Makes full-flavor coffee
- Offers control over taste
- Can make several cups at once
- Very affordable
- No maintenance required
- Easy to clean
- Requires external water boiling
- Must pay attention while brewing
Keurig Machine Overview
A Keurig machine is a single-serve brewing machine that can only make one cup at a time. These machines require that you purchase K-cups, which are plastic cups containing a single serving of coffee grounds. Once fed the cup, the machine will pierce the top and bottom and begin pumping hot water through the coffee inside. A small filter at the bottom of the K-cup keeps the grounds out of your finished product.
What It’s Good for/When to Choose
Keurigs are more or less miniature versions of the standard drip coffee machine, which, like their larger counterparts, don’t produce very flavorful coffee. If you’re interested in specialty coffee or want to taste the nuanced flavors in coffee from different countries, a Keurig won’t suit you well. There’s also no way to change how the coffee is brewed, so you’ll have no control over the taste.
However, they are excellent options for making a single cup at a time. These machines excel at expediency and convenience, as serving size and heated water are built-in for you. They won’t be able to make multiple cups quickly, so they’re not as good for serving a crowd as a French press. Still, you can’t beat the convenience of a Keurig machine for a single cup of coffee, especially since many of them can be set to brew on timers.
Keurig machines are certainly more expensive than even the most premium French presses, and the ongoing cost of K-cups will quickly add up and ultimately costs more than whole bean or pre-ground coffee purchased by the pound. In addition to the price, K-cups also use quite a bit of plastic, so your carbon footprint will be significantly increased. Keurig does make reusable K-cups that you can purchase separately if this is a concern for you.
Keurigs are very convenient for making a single cup in the morning or for families with staggered schedules and will be drinking coffee at different times throughout the day.
Ready to buy? Choose from these great Keurig models.
- Very convenient and easy to use
- Brews one cup very quickly
- No measuring required
- Can be set to brew on a timer
- Great for families with staggered schedules
- Produces less flavorful coffee
- Takes control away from the barista
- Not suitable for larger batches
- More expensive
- Increases carbon footprint
Quality and Flavor
The most significant difference between these two brewing methods is the quality of coffee they produce, so this should be the first thing you consider when deciding between them.
A French press makes very rich coffee that will allow you to taste more of your coffee’s flavors. If you’ve ever read tasting notes on a coffee bag and wondered how to get your coffee to taste as it should, a French press is an excellent place to start! Even better news, a French press will let you change your recipe and serving sizes so you can find a combination that suits you best.
On the other hand, a Keurig machine makes regular coffee that doesn’t have as much flavor. The serving size, water temperature, and brewing time are all fixed as well, so you’ll have no control over how the coffee tastes. If you’re all about convenience, the Keurig machine is perfect, but if you want genuinely delicious and customizable coffee, you won’t find it in a K-cup.
Next, you’ll want to consider what you want to use your coffee maker for, and especially how much coffee you’ll want to make regularly.
The French press can typically make between three and eight cups at a time depending on the apparatus’s size, which makes them ideal for larger families or for when you have company over. With the same amount of time and work it takes to make two cups, you could make coffee for a small party or a family breakfast.
On the other hand, the Keurig machine is a single-serve brewer, which means it only makes one cup at a time. Brewing time is speedy, so you could make several cups in quick succession if you have company over, but it will undoubtedly take longer. If you mostly have coffee solo or with one or two other people, the Keurig machine may be perfect for you.
Lastly, you’ll want to consider how involved in your brewing you want to be each morning and when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Do you want one-touch brewing or a little effort?
A French press does require you to pay attention while brewing, and they’re best used with some kind of external timer so you can limit the brewing time. French presses are, however, very easy to clean and require no regular maintenance whatsoever. A quick rinse and wash after each use, and you’re ready for the next day’s brewing.
A Keurig is far more convenient when it comes to brewing, and it will only require you to load a cup and press the start button. Many Keurigs can even be set on timers, so you can schedule your coffee to greet you when you wake up. Because they have mechanical and electrical parts, however, they do need more involved cleaning, and you’ll have to carry out regular maintenance like replacing the needles that pierce the cups and descaling the brewer from time to time.
French Press vs Keurig: Which is Right for You?
Ultimately, both brewing methods are excellent in their own ways, so neither is better than the other; it all depends on which suits you and your needs more effectively.
A French press will produce delicious and flavorful coffee, it’ll offer some control over the brewing process, it’s easy to clean, and requires no maintenance. The French press does require some attention while brewing, whereas the Keurig machine is set-it-and-forget-it in terms of brewing. The latter produces less flavorful coffee, takes away all control over the taste, and requires some ongoing maintenance.
The French press offers quality and control, while the Keurig machine provides convenience and ease of use. Quality and convenience in coffee brewing come in exchange for the other, so you’ll need to decide for yourself which is best for you. Hopefully, this information and the pros and cons can help you decide!