French Press vs Nespresso: The Surprising Similarities & Differences Compared

There are so many ways to brew a delicious cup of coffee, it’s hard to keep up and know which one should be used for your daily cup.

The French press and Nespresso are two popular methods of brewing coffee that each have their own unique sets of advantages and drawbacks.

Coffee brewed from Nespresso pods will probably never taste as good as a properly brewed cup of French press, but it sure takes less preparation and precision to make.

When it comes down to making a choice between the two brewing methods, the choices can become overwhelming.

French presses require more supplies than a Nespresso machine which typically packs everything in one place. There are options out there bundling French press supplies, and those often come down to being cheaper than a Nespresso.

French press and Nespresso brewing methods are often compared because they are quick and easy ways to make a bold and delicious cup of joe. Nespressos that brew full cups can create a coffee comparable to French press, but the flavor just can not compete with a properly prepared batch of French press coffee.

While French press coffee is often regarded as the top method for brewing, it takes a little more precision and knowledge than other methods, which can result in a bad cup of coffee if done improperly. If you overgrind the beans, they will become overexposed in the hot water and the taste will be dreadful. Immersion could also be done for too long or too short of time, making for a cup of coffee that is way too strong or weak.

The biggest French press pots will usually require a separate carafe to prevent over-brew but because they brew hotter for longer periods of time you can get coffee nearly as strong as A Nespresso when using one right off the boil.

That’s where the Nespresso comes in. The room for error is small, as you can’t even use the wrong amount of water because the machine will pull exactly as much is necessary before brewing. The coffee will come out the same each time, which can add consistency to your morning routine and save you time.

Related – I’ve already compared all the best Nespresso machines sold today to help you choose which is right for you. Check it out!

It’s easy to add variety to your Nespresso brew with different flavors, which is something that cannot be done automatically with a French press.

The two brewing methods have a lot in common, with some key differences. Let’s look at the Nespresso and French press in-depth to decide which brewing method is better.

FYI – Both Nespresso capsules and French press will leave sediment in your cup but there will be less with a Nespresso unit. If you don’t want a lot of sediment in your coffee then a dual filtration French press will go a long way to keeping the coffee sludge out of your cup when you go to drink it.

The Differences Between Nespresso and French Press

Before deciding which method produces better coffee, it is important to understand what sets the two apart in the first place. The most obvious difference between the two is in the look and preparation method.

Nespressos are single-serve espresso machines, which can produce a single shot or a cup of coffee (a long black or Americano).

A prepacked coffee pod or capsule will be inserted in the machine, and the desired drink option gets pushed. The machine will pull as much water necessary for the drink, so using the Nespresso really only requires a couple of steps.

A long black will still be smaller in size than a single serve French press but because the latter will use more coffee grind the resulting drink can be nearly as strong if not more strong.

French presses work by steeping coffee grounds in hot water for a few minutes, a method of immersion brewing that produces a rich, aromatic cup. The beans are ground into a coarse consistency, placed in the bottom of the beaker, and immersed with hot water for about four minutes. After immersion, the plunger is pushed down on the layer of beans and the coffee is ready to go.

Clearly French presses are not the same as Nespressos. They’re both methods of brewing a solid cup of coffee in a short amount of time and in a convenient manner, though, so it’s certainly worth examining the differences between the two.

Let’s begin with Nespresso.

Is the French press better than Nespresso?

It’s a tough call, but I have to say no, Nespresso is not better than French press.

I can see why some would argue the convenience aspect of the Nespresso, but I find there are plenty of options for a small and convenient French press, like the Clever Chef. To be fair though, you can’t just press “brew” on a French press and have a delicious cup of coffee at your disposal.

If you’d rather make coffee in larger quantities, don’t count the French press out. There are a variety of sizes, and many can make a decent sized portion of coffee, like the Aztecus French Press which can make a liter of coffee at a time.

When making French press coffee, the grounds are immersed in hot water and stay there for a few minutes. Immersion brewing produces a much different flavor than methods that simply run water through the coffee, as the coarser grounds and submersion in hot water cause all of . The taste tends to have more body without any overpowering elements.

The thing about the French press is it takes a bit more knowledge and skill with coffee than the Nespresso. The process itself is simple, but there are a few important things users must keep in mind.

If you want to make a good pot of French press coffee, you’re going to need a good, consistent coffee grinder to get the perfect texture for brewing. If you aren’t willing to grind before each brew, you probably shouldn’t use a French press. Grinding right before making the coffee is essential to getting the most out of your beans.

If you’ve ever tried to make a French press with normal ground coffee, you’ll know why grinding a coarse batch of beans before brewing is so important.

There is no timer on a French press either, meaning you will need to be paying attention when making your coffee. If you leave the coffee immersed in hot water for too long, you will end up with an overexposed cup that is difficult to drink. If you leave it in too shortly, you’ll end up with a very muted cup of coffee.

There are some French presses with a timer, but it’s never just one button to brew and done.

Is the Nespresso better than the French press?

In short, no. But if you’re not interested in learning the ways of the French press, and just want a delicious cup of coffee at the push of a button, you might want to go for the Nespresso. This will produce a consistent, accurately measured batch of coffee every single time.

It’s true that the Nespresso takes less time, and leaves little room for error. There will never be an issue with measuring the wrong amount, or leaving it brewing for too long. You just can’t get that same bold, delicious taste from a pod though.

The Nespresso works in such a way that hot water runs through the pods until a full brew is completed. For a full cup of coffee, this water is pulled through the compact block of grounds at the bottom of the pack for an even longer time.

Nespresso machines take a little more set up than a French press. The Nespresso machines have a nice, sophisticated look to them when sitting on the countertop.

The type of Nespresso machine is important too, as only some can brew full cups of coffee as opposed to espresso shots. For someone who is not super skilled at pulling espresso shots or making coffee, the Nespresso can help make a delicious variety of coffees.

Once set up, making a fresh cup of coffee can take less time in a Nespresso, and the taste is still delicious.

So French Press or Nespresso?

French press will remain my top choice for brewing methods, but that’s not to say the Nespresso brewing method is not a better fit for certain lifestyles.

See this post for my favorite small French press coffee makers as these will be the most similar to making Americano’s from a Nespresso unit.

It’s important to consider the reasons why one would select the French press over the Nespresso or vice versa. Cost is a huge factor, and buying a French press may be more inexpensive than a Nespresso, even with the extra equipment for French press coffee makers, like a grinder.

If you can’t afford a Nespresso machine, a small French press is probably the best choice as it will produce a bold, vibrant cup of coffee. But it’s important to keep in mind that even though the cost may be lower than even a personal Nespresso, more work will need to be put into each cup.

Immersion brewing for French press means that careful attention to grinding even-sized beans and the time spent immersed will need to be taken. If either of these are messed up, the coffee will turn out with an unpleasant taste.

Nespresso however leave little room for error. It may be worth the extra cost to not have to worry about being precise when it comes to measurements or timing. The coffee is measured out perfectly for each use, packed into a compact pod. You’re basically guaranteed to have a delicious and consistent cup of coffee each time you brew.

When it comes down to it, it’s pretty hard to beat the taste and comfort of a fresh French press coffee. Nespresso is a great alternative for those who don’t want to dedicate the extra time to ensuring their French press is brewed properly, without sacrificing much flavor.

Nespresso vs French Press Coffee

French Press Vs. NespressoTwo of the tops contenders for style and quality are compared for their true qualities. If you’ve been a Nespresso fan and were curious about French press, then this article is for you. Likewise, if you’ve stuck with the French Press brewing method, then maybe you’ll see things in a new light… Or dark, depending on the brew.

The expresso coffee maker uses steamed water to extract coffee taste and flavor in a very short time under high pressure, which a french press style coffee maker can’t do. As a result, flavor and taste, as well as crema, are completely different entities.

Nespresso Vs. French Press

So what makes these two beverages special. Let’s have a little history lesson to satisfy that itch and then we will compare exactly what make these brew methods so infamous.

The Amazing World of The French Press

There’s magic brewing. It’s inside a glass carafe, and it even has a plunger. This might sound delinquent compared to the masterfully engineered tech of the Nespresso but wait.

Big coffee tech aside, the old ways of making coffee are still the best. One, in particular, the French press, remains well regarded as a subset of coffee fans. As it turns out there’s a reason for this method’s remaining popularity. With only two moving parts it’s an easy to understand brewing method and it’s likely that it will teach many young coffee novices about the best parts of making coffee by hand.

While brewing French press coffee requires much of the same gear and even a similar ratio of grounds for say, drip coffee, it’s easy to understand why these coarse grounds will bring out a bigger flavor. There are several factors:

The Paper Filter

Nespresso InissiaThe filter you’ll find in most drip coffee makers isn’t doing your brew any favors. The filter actually stops some of the most important flavors from getting to your coffee. There’s plenty of flavonoids and oils that come easily to French Press brews.  Since there’s only a metal filter here, you’re getting the most out of fresh ground coffee beans and not dealing with stray grounds in your cup.

So when the coffee tasting experts take a slurp of french press and declare it “A really clean, strong cup of coffee”, you might be left confused. However, it’s the kind of a paradox. The great and flavorful oils and the manual brewing method come together to create a full-bodied coffee.

It’s a simple process too. If you kindly add your grounds and hot water and then show some discipline by waiting four minutes you can plunge your french press and enjoy some coffee. Just remember to stir after you’ve poured the hot water and experience tells us to use a wooden spoon to stir the grounds in the press – if you use metal, the hot glass could break.

You are the coffee master. You control brew time, therefore you control the strength and, ultimately, taste.

Like any personal pursuit or pleasurable endeavor, brewing and enjoying coffee is highly subjective. Some java drinkers will surely prefer the clean and refined taste of quality drip over the rustic and powerful flavors of the French press. Others will crave cold brew like no other coffee style no matter what the forecast. As long as you know just what kind of drink these popular methods will likely yield, I suggest trying your hand — or at least wrapping your taste buds around — as many brewed coffee types as you can. You never know what kind of black gold will float your boat.

There is also a multitude of different Nespresso machines that will fit your style or budget. Here’s a review we did of two of the most popular Nespresso brewers.

How to make French Press Coffee

French press coffee follows few rules, and even breaking those rules could make for some interesting possibilities. However, there are a few fundamental steps that need to happen to ensure you end up with coffee and not a disaster of sorts.

French press coffee requires a source for hot, near boiling water. Now, the exact temperature is discussed and argued over in many of the expert coffee circles, but you can be sure that close to boiling will reveal excellent flavor notes and a good extraction. Thus, it’s important that regardless of where you are preparing your coffee, that you have ample heat and enough water to brew with your ratio of fresh coffee grounds.

We all know how important fresh coffee grounds are to the final product.

How to prepare French Press

Between 18 and 20 grams of coffee, which looks like a heaping tablespoon, per eight ounces of water is an adequate ratio.

Once you’ve got your French Press apparatus ready to go, then it’s time to add grounds to the bottom of the carafe. Then the water. Water should be to temperature and pour in a manner that ensures all grounds are covered equally as they rise to the top. It’s recommended to use some god filtered water as well.

Next, you’ll find patience or a timer to be among the most important tools in the process. If you let the coffee get out of the sweet spot for extraction you’ll end up with a poor brew that is either sour tasting, on the short brew side, or too bitter and astringent, on the longer brewing side. Thus, it’s important to know that the sweet spot is around four minutes.

Of course, the factors such as temperature and PH balance have an impact, but let’s have the white coats take that on, for now.

How To Make Nespresso Coffee

How to Make NespressoYes, we’re going to show you how to make coffee with an automatic brewer.

Though the Nespresso is among the most convenient ways to make coffee, it’s important to understand some of the defining practices that will get you the most brew for your buck.

Warm up the Nespresso machine first, it’s simple but a lesser-known tip in the world of automatic brewers. This is unbelievably effective. Before you pop a pod in your machine, be sure to run it a couple of times with the lid down to flush out any residual grind and heats up the pod contact points. This technique also does marvels for the Keurig brewer.

Secondly, when inserting the pod, depending on the machine it’s best to insert at an angle or however the pod will cause the least resistance when shutting the lever action lid. When the coffee is pouring, watch how the coffee changes colors. This is exactly the same as when a professional barista pulls an espresso shot. The espresso goes through three different shades of color during the brewing process. First a red/brown hue, then caramel, and finally a light blonde color.

By observing the process you can understand that the red/brown shade is the ristretto style of espresso which gives your coffee sweetness and body. Once it gets to the more caramel colored stage this is the pure espresso stage of the brew. This is the section of the brew that is the most balanced in flavor. Finally, as soon as the espresso turns blonde, stop the water flow. This can ussually be done (varying on different models, of course) by pressing the same button that begins the brewing session.

The light yellow color coming through is only extracting bitter and watery espresso. Some might call this the lungo, a term for a long draw espresso. However, it might be best to stick with the espresso draw and simply add hot water after the fact, so you’ll end up with a clean addition to the beverage instead of the bitter extract.

This is a world of difference between making coffee in the French Press. Nespresso is worlds apart from the Aeropress. We’ve compared the two of those brewing methods here.

Is there more caffeine in French press coffee?

The espresso is notorious for the notion that it contains a large amount of caffeine. This is somewhat misleading. When the white coat wearing coffee scientists approached the measurement of caffeine among the most popular style of coffee beverages they actually found that espresso had a very close milligram dosage to a cup of drip coffee or even French Press.

Based on the volume of the espresso drink, which is typically two ounces, the caffeine content is at 100 mg. Next was coffee brewed in the French press with 107.5 mg per 7 ounces. To give you a sense of perspective drip brewed coffee came in with 145 mg of caffeine per 7 ounces.

This is a great way to put into perspective the various amounts of caffeine you’re consuming. If you were to have a heaping glass of espresso though, you certainly would be consuming much more caffeine than a glass of drip coffee or French Press. You can always have a double espresso coffee cup too.

Here’s more info on caffeine that we love to consume every day. Thank God for those amazing coffee scientists.

caffeine levels in coffee

Can you use a French press to make espresso?

This method can be less consistent. The espresso ground is very fine. It is finer than what you would have if you were grinding beans for a regular French press or a drip coffee maker. The fine ground contributes to the flavor and ability to mix with the hot pressure of water.

Espresso ultimately requires atmospheric pressure to deliver its full spectrum of flavors that are characteristic of the drink. Certainly one could make some incredible dense French Press coffee, but the extraction wouldn’t have the same qualities.

However, one of the best functions of the manual French Press brewer is that the coffee product is completely determined by the variable that you put into it. It’s all at your fingertips, literally.

How does the Nespresso hold up to actual espresso?

Nespresso takes the skill out of the shot, but can’t replicate the quality of a manually or semi-automatically pulled espresso shot. It’s the number of variables that have become less with the machine. Espresso is difficult due to the fact that there are machines, beans, water quality, temperatures, pressures. Apply those further to the techniques like understanding tamping technique, pressure profiles, etc. Then you’ve got yourself quite a vertical challenge ahead.

Though it’s not impossible to learn these things and get a fine cup of espresso, it just requires a different kind of investment. Learning over time and dredging through some failures to get a product that you find fits the espresso you’ve come to love.

Nespresso takes automation and fresh grinds, even water temperature and pressure and makes quick work of them. The idea is like the automation of the Keurig but on a grander scale. Though there are some differences between the true espresso, it’s likely that you’ll find the beverage very closely resembles its counterpart. One can even try to make espresso without a machine, but it’s an arduous task.

Regardless of which of these coffee making methods you’re preferential to, it’s likely that you’ll end up with a significantly better coffee than you’ll find at the local gas station or even Starbucks. However, the choice is yours, hopefully, you’ve made a definite distinction between the two varying methods. If you simply want to try them both or further compare them to the plethora of brewing methods out there, then check out our gear reviews here.

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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