French Press Coffee vs Espresso: What are the Differences?

Personally, I enjoy homebrew coffee and I know I’m not the only one that has ever wondered what the difference between French Press coffee and Espresso coffee is.  French Press coffee is something many coffee drinkers have recently been switching to, while Espresso is more commonly had in cafes.

The Difference between these two types of coffee are quite staggering when you think about it and here at Gamble Bay Coffee, we are dedicated to giving you as much information about coffee as your heart can handle.

To start, I will say that French Press coffee has risen in popularity recently and many people are using it as their go-to homebrew.

Most people are content with drip coffee, which is fine, but there is nothing like the refined taste of fresh fine ground coffee that requires a mostly hands-on process.

Let’s look at how these methods make a difference shall we?

How are French Press Coffee and Espresso Different?

Difference Between French Press Coffee and Espresso
I’d like to go ahead and talk about what makes these two brewing methods different before we take a look at each of them individually.

  • french-press-with-coffeeEspresso is a more socialization focused coffee. Brewing Espresso requires special equipment and skill, hence why it is mostly made in cafes, whereas French Press coffee is easier to make at home.
  • French Press coffee does not come out as thick as Espresso does, with Espresso having a more syrup-like consistency. However, this is offset in that French Press coffee typically has more texture to it.
  • Although most Espresso machines and such have become automated and the process is much easier, French Press coffee is still very much hands-on and relies on careful attention and timing the steps to prepare it.
  • French Press coffee uses very coarsely ground coffee for a finer taste. It allows some of the grain to seep into the coffee without making it feel chunky or poorly made, while Espresso’s coffee grain is fine ground, it is not ground to the same fineness of French Press Coffee. More on the Espresso Process later.

Overall, both of these coffees take a bit of time to prepare. French Press Coffee requires patience to make it in the morning and, unless you have an espresso machine at home, like the Cuisinart EM-200, you’ll have to go to a cafe to get your daily Espresso.

Related – Check out the following posts to see my favorite insulated French presses and the largest French presses I’ve experimented with.

Is Espresso Coffee Better than French Press Coffee?

There are a lot of different things that can determine this, but for the greater population of coffee drinkers, I’d have to say yes. Espresso doesn’t require nearly as much babysitting – if you can call it that – as French Press does. Espresso coffee can also vary slightly depending on the barista making it or the extras added.

Espresso requires no specific roast level or bean blend, but some beans are a better choice than others: find the best ones here. Since the so-called “Third Wave” of coffee, there are many different ways it can be prepared. A great example of this would be big cafes like Starbucks. They can make an Espresso in almost any way you can imagine.

One key similarity between Espresso coffee and French Press coffee is that they do not use paper filters, allowing many of the oils and minerals from the coffee grounds to go into the drink rather than the filter, giving them much more taste than regular household Drip Coffee Makers.

I think for most people Espresso will be the more favorable coffee due to the time and attention it takes to make a cup of French Press coffee and how adversely that can affect your morning schedules.

Now, for the most part, properly made Espresso coffee will be easier to obtain than French Press; although to me, there is nothing like a properly handmade cup of French Press coffee.

Is French Press Coffee Better than Espresso Coffee?

In short, yes. French Press coffee is some of the best tasting coffee you can make. The sad part is that for most people it requires a lot of patience and careful watching to be made properly, something that most of us simply don’t have the time to do in the mornings.

As I said earlier, it retains many of the minerals and such that makes coffee so healthy. French Press coffee also has less caffeine per unit than Espresso does, so it is less of an overload to drink. The reason French Press retains so much of those key minerals is that of the way the grinds are filtered through.

The reason the process requires so much patience is that most grocery stores don’t sell the right kind of coffee grinds to make it. French Press requires the beans to be ground to a specific coarseness so that the coffee is still clean enough to drink while sill allowing the water to get the most out of the beans.

We know that spending a fortune on an automatic grinder and a fancy French Press is not feasible for everyone, so for most people a good manual grinder like this JavaPresse will work just fine. However, if you can spare the cash for an automatic grinder and you are looking for something different we have a page on grinders.

The grinds help give a bold taste and texture to the coffee while also giving it a natural “fresh coffee” fragrance that you just don’t get from regular brewing. The downside is that for some people this bold taste is a little too much.

Although it is somewhat time-consuming to brew it, the satisfaction you feel from having a properly brewed cup of hot French Press coffee is what makes it so worth it.

So Which is The Best?

If you can spend the money on it and have the time to spare every morning, I’d argue that French Press coffee would be the best way to go. The French Press keeps in all the best minerals and oils from the coffee to help the coffee taste its best and invigorate your mind. Granted, Espressos largely do this as well, but it is typically drowned out by the milk and other stuff that is put in them.

If you are considering buying a French Press and the materials for it, I’d say it is most certainly worth the buy. The attention and care put into French Press coffee make it taste that much better. That being said, there are many different kinds of French Presses you can buy to suit your needs. There are presses that have a dual filter to keep the smaller grinds from gathering in your coffee and keep most of the texture out such as the Frieling Press or a regular press such as the SterlingPro for the true French Press Experience.

Espresso machines can be costly, more so than French Presses in some cases, but saving the time it takes to go to a cafe can be worth it to some people. In the end, you can’t really go wrong either way.

Q&A – Can You Make Espresso With A French Press?

Can You Make Espresso With A French Press Since I started working on this website not too long ago I’ve come across question after question relating to espresso and fine coffee making.

One such question has I’ve seen in many variations and it has to do with the preparation of espresso at home – you know, without going out to a store or buying a thousand dollar machine.

In this variant of the question the goal is home made espresso and often times the confusion has to do with the espresso roast coffee beans and grind found in the store.

To be brief I’ll say this:

You cannot make espresso in a french press although you can use espresso roast grind in the preparation of french press coffee.

To be long winded I’ll elaborate.

Espresso roasts are typically very dark. They are similar to French roasts and Italian roasts and in some cases they are simply charred beyond belief.

I personally don’t usually like using espresso roasts. I find they are often times over roasted and simply not tasty. In my opinion they are meant to provide a strong “espresso-like” flavor in drip machines which typically under-extract flavor compared to other high brow coffee brewing techniques.

An espresso is actually not a kind of roast but a coffee product made under high pressure. The grind is fine and the final product is rich and has a creme much like a good beer might have head.

French press coffee makers almost always make a highly exceptional cup of coffee – much better than drip coffee makers. The product might be better and more rich than a drip machine but it is not espresso; it’s merely really good coffee.

Now to answer the fundamental and unsaid question at hand. Ohh yeah, I did that already. It’s through the following link.

Can you make espresso at home without a fancy machine? Yep (kinda).

Feel free to click through for the whole post or simply read this. Espresso machines require fine coffee grind (the opposite of a french press) and they produce roughly 10 bars of pressure. Drip coffee or french press brews coffee with no extra pressure at all.

The only other way to make espresso at home without a wildly expensive machine is to use a stovetop espresso maker otherwise known as a Moka Pot. These produce coffee that is as close to espresso as you can get. They brew at around 2 bars of pressure and can slightly produce crema although not enough usually to make it all the way tot he cup.

I actually just posted instructions for using a moka pot in case you missed it.

Luckily these moka pots are very inexpensive so if you are in the market for DIY espresso and you are sophisticated enough to own a french press then maybe consider adding to your coffee making collection by buying a budget oriented Moka pot for all the espresso drinks you’d like to make at home on a moment’s notice.

But Can You Make Something Similar to Espresso in a French Press?

I am almost tempted to say plainly no, for the quickest answer. But hear me out and let’s dissect the question a little bit to see where we are going with this inquiry.

First, it is important to fully understand what an espresso is. Is it different from coffee?

What is espresso?

Espresso is also coffee. It comes from the coffee beans. However, not all coffee is espresso. The difference lies in the process of extracting espresso brew from the coffee beans.

When preparing espresso, three requirements are needed: the roast, grind and, pressure. The combination of these three elements allow for the extraction of that creamy, just-right-hot shot of espresso that coffee aficionados love

According to eHow, an espresso machine is needed to achieve this perfect balance.

Espresso is coffee that’s brewed by forcing a small amount of very hot pressurized water through finely ground espresso beans. This method creates a crema on top (a creamy, thick foam). It’s impossible to recreate that without an espresso machine.

What is a French press?

The French press came to existence in 1929 and was designed by an Italian named Attilio Calimani. Later, the design was enhanced and popularized by Faliero Bondanini in 1958.

The simplicity of the French press is undeniable and it allows for different kinds of brew, depending on one’s preference.

The type of coffee ground is essential in achieving the type of brew that you love.

To quote

The coffee grind should be adjusted to medium-coarse for a clear cup, or more fine for bolder, and denser brews.

Isn’t Espresso Just Super Strong Coffee?

Isn’t it lovely if you can make an espresso at the comforts of your own home? To achieve real, perfect espresso shot, you need an espresso machine. But that will surely break the bank since espresso machines cost hundreds of dollars. Not really an economical kitchen equipment if you think of practicality. But if you have money to spare, it’s really up to you to get one.

Now, if you want an espresso-like brew that is stronger, bolder and richer than regular brew, the French press can help you recreate that espresso feel.

How to recreate espresso brew with a French press?

Please note that this procedure will not taste exactly as your favorite espresso shot. But, it will give you a satisfying, almost-but-not-quite espresso drink.

Coffee experts seem to agree that a French press is a must-have at home if you love brewing a good cup of Joe. And if you have the time to spend, having a French press can help you achieve that homemade espresso drink.

Here are the things you will need, aside from your French press:

  • Freshly roasted coffee bean
  • Coffee grinder
  • Scale for coffee measuring (or a tablespoon)
  • Electric gooseneck kettle or stovetop kettle

Follow these steps to ensure a better-tasting shot of espresso.

  1. Grind your coffee very fine, using very dark roast beans or espresso beans. Two tablespoons of beans for every cup of water.
  2. Fill your kettle with water. Heat the water to boil and let it cool down for 30 seconds to achieve the perfect temperature before brewing.
  3. Add the coffee grounds to the French press. This amount is almost double the of what you normally use for French press. This allows you to create a darker and bolder brew, similar to the espresso, but without that creamy final note.
  4. Add some hot water from the kettle. Let it rest for a few seconds. This will help make the coffee bloom to release its oils and aroma.
  5. Add the remaining water. Avoid stirring. This will cause the grounds to fall out of suspension and potentially ruin the extraction of tasty coffee flavors and richness.
  6. Close the lid but don’t press yet. Let the coffee steep for about 4 minutes. If you prefer a stronger flavor, add a couple of minutes more.
  7. After steeping, press down the plunger halfway, with slow, steady and even pressure.
  8. Raise the plunger atop, then give it a good final plunge all the way down to finish the process.
  9. Transfer the pressed coffee in a serving pot to preserve the coffee flavor.
  10. Enjoy your “French press-o”

3 Important elements to create an espresso coffee

The key to a perfect espresso shot requires three elements: roast, grind and, pressure.

  • Espresso roast – There is a special way of preparing coffee beans for espresso. Often, these beans are roasted to a darker finish to create a stronger and bolder coffee taste than regular drip or brewed coffee. If you are planning to make espresso at home, opt for espresso beans and grind them on demand.
  • Espresso grind – Regular brew is coarse. But espresso beans need to be gronded to a fine powdery texture. This kind of grind slows down water penetration and requires pressure to extract the perfect espresso shot. It will be a good investment to have a burr grinder for your homemade espresso.
  • Espresso pressure – This is the third and most important element because pressure is what makes espresso so creamy and flavorful.

Espresso machines work by forcing extremely hot water through finely ground coffee at enormous pressure—ideally, nine times atmospheric pressure, or nine bars. That’s about 130 pounds of pressure per square inch, or roughly twice the pressure in your average truck tire.

No wonder, it is impossible to perfect an espresso shot without an espresso machine. But if you love the challenge, nothing should stop you from experimenting and exploring the capabilities of your French press to brew a homemade espresso.

French Press vs Espresso: What’s Different? Whats Better?

french press vs espressoMany lovers of coffee often find that their tastes require something darker and bolder as their palates change.

It’s true, the taste change over time as the palate adapts. Remember when you were a kid and coffee seemed like a strange thing for anyone to want to drink. Now you’re finding that the bitter brew is not only palatable but is an art form all it’s own.

So when it comes to moving on to darker brews, which way to go on the forked road? French press is an age-old technique of brewing as is espresso, and they’ve each got their own merits as brewing processes. So let’s break down the two and discuss what makes them tick.

Matching up the French Press Vs. Espresso

These are two of the most common and fundamental of all brewing processes. It’s pretty common for one to have a  primitive version of both in their kitchen as they delve into coffee (or maybe that’s just my inner caffeine addict speaking). Regardless, these are fairly simple brewing processes and each has their own merits, though they are certainly different in their own rights.

It’s worth mentioning that both of these features affordable and not-so-affordable version of their brewing equipment. One can make espresso in their home for relatively cheap, but in the world of the coffee-obsessive, there are near-commercial grade espresso machines for domestic use as well.

The French press is slightly different in this rite, however, it’s far easier to afford a french press and the main factor that determines the cost for them is the material and the size of the main chamber which allows one to prepare the beverage for one or many partakers.

Simple in its ingredients, which are just coffee grounds and water the french press may have been made in France and was the modern coffee press in its rudimentary form which has now evolved into NASA-era contraptions like the Aeropress. By simply pressing ground coffee into a pot of boiling water with a metal filter or cheesecloth one could achieve a strong brew with relative ease back in the day.

Since there are numerous ways to combine the two common ingredients coffee brewing has become one part art and one part science. The goal is easy to speak of but difficult to attain. Coffee purists seek to extract as much flavor as possible as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

Since their inception, French press and espresso became wildly popular and sold in coffee shops and restaurants around the world. Today, we are fortunate enough to be able to experiment and perfect the two brews in our own homes.

The two methods are very different and will provide different results. Which you choose depends on your own personal taste as well as your budget.

French Press Brewing Method

French Press HistoryThe French coffee press is composed of a narrow cylindrical cup made of glass or clear plastic which is fitted with a metal or plastic lid and plunger that fits tightly in the cylinder. There is also a fine wire or nylon mesh filter to prevent grounds getting into the coffee. The higher-end French presses do this extremely well, and as you can imagine some of the lower tier version don’t perform particularly well. However, if you don’t mind a few grounds in your brew this isn’t much to fret about.

One benefit of the French press over espresso is quantity.

Espresso machines brew strong and rich coffee in small amounts while a French press can put out a liter of coffee all at once. It would take a lot longer for an espresso machine to produce the same amount of coffee, but the caffeine concentration might make you rethink drinking a liter of espresso.

In terms of flavor, oils tend to come through quite strong with a french press. This comes down to the argument of which paper filters are better, bleached vs unbleached. Paper filters do a better job at keeping oils out, as in drip coffee you won’t find many of the deep flavors that a french press can produce. This is a completely different cup of coffee with a French press. While an automatic brewer or espresso machine delivers a promising brew as well, it’s simply a different animal altogether.

This boils down to several factors.

First, because a French press requires a coarser grind (finer grounds will run through the press filter and into the coffee) you’re getting a different flavor profile from the bean itself. The extraction rate of coffee grounds increases with a larger surface area, so finer grounds mean more exposure to water and a more bitter brew. The grind size here helps mediate the bitter flavors in what might be considered to some an over-extraction. The French press grind can even be performed in some manual coffee grinders if that’s what you’re equipped with.

Coffee is then brewed by placing it in hot water, stirring it and leaving to brew for a few minutes, then pressing the plunger to trap the coffee grounds at the bottom of the beaker. French pressed coffee can be brewed to any strength by adjusting the amount of ground coffee that is brewed. The French Press Maker is past the days when bitterness was considered as an acquired taste. Water can be prepared easily in a coffee maker as well, that’s my go-to for French press preparation.

The French Coffee Press has undergone a remarkable transition. It has been handled by dedicated designers since the time it was first patented in 1930. There have been major improvements to the design aspect which has in turn improved the overall brew quality for the better.

French press coffee today is very enjoyable and sought after way to brew. The whole process is remarkably easy for anyone to learn with ease.


coffee cremaEspresso is essentially just strong black coffee. No more additions, just coffee beans and water with a special brewing process. Espresso is made by forcing steam through very finely ground coffee beans. Like regular drip coffee, it can be made from any type of coffee bean, though generally a blend is used to create optimal flavors.

As the steam penetrates the tamped down coffee, the high temperature is typically around 200 degrees Fahrenheit and is the factor that is responsible for extracting coffee flavors quickly and effectively.

Despite the two components needed to make this drink, it’s widely critiqued and disputed as to what makes the perfect espresso, and many have gone crazy simply trying to dissect the drink itself.

The jury is out on what makes espresso the optimum, but the consensus can agree that an espresso is a concentrated, often thick coffee beverage with a layer of dense foam whose ingredients are exclusively coffee and water, “Espresso” is also the blanket term for the process that creates this beverage.

Espresso is using nine bars of atmospheric pressure and a highly calibrated piece of equipment to force water over 24-27 grams of coffee to yield a concentrated beverage that can taste really good and effectively delivers caffeine in a quick dose.

The use of a grinder that can provide one with a grind that is super fine and consistent becomes a must for the espresso enthusiast as well. Some of these grinders can become quite expensive as well. It’s worth noting that any and all price points for espresso grinders exist though.

Caffeine levels

coffee and caffeineOne key similarity between these two styles of coffee is that they do not use paper filters. When you make drip coffee, one uses a bleached or unbleached filter. The absence of a filter allows many of the oils and minerals from the coffee grounds to go into the drink rather than the filter. This has a huge benefit in the taste department but there’s some debate as to the health effects and caffeine levels of this practice.

You’d probably think that coffee extracted at such a high temperature would be the most potent, as it’s thick and tastes strong. That’s espresso I’m talking about by the way, but what’s interesting here is the fact that espresso is found to have the lowest caffeine content at 100 mg per 2 ounces. Next was coffee brewed in the French press with 107.5 mg per 7 ounces. Drip brewed coffee came in last with 145 mg of caffeine per 7 ounce cup.

Espresso has more caffeine per unit volume than most coffee beverages, but because the usual serving size is much smaller, the total caffeine content is less than a mug of standard brewed coffee, contrary to a common belief.

Moving on to the French Press, which has been in the news for a while as an unhealthy way to brew coffee because it’s filter doesn’t filter out the cafestol. Cafestol is a substance that causes the body’s LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, levels to rise.

Espresso, most likely because of the higher amount of suspended solids than typical coffee which is absent of essential nutrients (due to the filtering process), has significant contents of the dietary mineral magnesium, the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin, and 212 mg of caffeine per 100 grams of liquid brewed coffee.

Cleaning and Maintenance

French press partsFor French press, it is a relatively low-maintenance device. The difference couldn’t be easier to clean. Taking it apart reveals three basic components and simply running some water through the filter, discarding spent grounds, and even the dishwasher-safe carafe makes cleaning mundane and simple.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of French press over espresso is the fact that espresso machines require high-maintenance. I’m not just saying the larger commercial style ones, even the domestic, kitchen countertop espresso makers tend to create a mess. This is all just by virtue of the process. A plethora of moving parts, hot water, and the beautiful black remnants of coffee and grounds make it a precarious mess.

One complaint you’d commonly find in many coffee maker reviews is the extensive cleaning required after each use. The French press truly rises above in this round. That being said, the more simple espresso machines simple require a good wash of the portafilter and its removable pieces. The espresso product tends to stay pretty clean in of itself but requires some regular cleaning or you’ll find that liquid builds up underneath if the drip tray doesn’t get much attention. There are plenty of good descalers and cleaners on the market when the time comes. This is all happenstance, but if you’re looking for something fast and free of much cleaning, then the French press should be your go-to.


Although there are many who would prefer the conveniences of dragging an espresso machine on their backpacking trip, it’s simply not feasible.

So it’s advised to find a better way to make your favorite drink on the go with portable gear. If you’re going camping then it’s best to plan ahead and make arrangements. A french press can be easily stuffed in a backpack for a safe hike that’s also caffeinated. This can prepare up to a liter of coffee in a flash and the only other things you’ll need are a heat source and clean water. Then you’re off an running.

French Press Coffee CampingPerhaps it’s even more surprising that espresso can be made conveniently and in the midst of the great outdoors too.

That leads us into the territory of the AeroPress and the mini espresso press. Both of these pieces of gear can and should be the mainstay of coffee lovers that enjoy the outdoors too. Though these are not exactly the same brews as the two contenders we’ve been dissecting, it’s interesting the brewing processes themselves can be altered enough to become portable. What’s stopping you from using those gadgets in your home as well?

Cost Effective Brew Methods

The French press is a simple contraption that allows for a complex brew in terms of flavors. While the espresso machines can become car payment-like investments, one might not consider them to be cost effective for single doses of espresso. However, it comes down to the quality of equipment one ends up purchasing and practicing their barista skills with.

Obviously, there are cheap ways to make espresso. The cheapest option being the stovetop espresso maker, but many critics will argue that stovetop espresso is not the same as true espresso. This is likely due to the little amount of pressure that the stovetop units are able to deliver. Whereas true espresso requires a proper extraction. Still, it’s worth experimenting with stovetop units as a matter of convenience and coffee-centric research.

The French Press remains moderately priced. The more expensive the french press typically means that there will be more durable or insulated materials present. For instance, the Frieling French press comes in at a large 44 oz, and upwards of one hundred dollars, this is likely due to the supreme quality of the build.

There are some cons to the affordability here, whereas with espresso machines the sky is the limit in terms of technology. You’re sure to find something that either fits your price range or is fun to dream and aspire to.

espresso machineRegardless of which beverage you prefer, maybe it’s both, feel free to check out our related coffee gear and take your coffee game to its limit!

For further reading, consider our matchup of the French press against the pour-over brewing method.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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