Cold Brew Vs French Press: What’s Right For You?

Let’s compare two excellent brewing methods and see which one comes on top. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced coffee lover, you will love making your coffee using the cold brew method as well as using a french press. If you had to pick one winner, what’s your choice? Before you answer, let’s address the most important question here.

What’s the difference between a cold brew and a french press? The french press and cold brew are unfiltered brewing methods for making coffee. The brewing process takes 4 minutes in a french press but around 12 to 15 hours in the cold brew method. The cold brew coffee is slightly less acidic but has more caffeine when compared to a french press. You also won’t need specialized equipment like a french press in the cold brew method

Cold Brew Vs French Press: Equipment Needed

To make your coffee using either of these two methods, you are going to need specialized equipment. 

Here’s what you’ll need to make coffee using a french press

  • French press
  • Electric kettle
  • Coffee grounds of your choice (coarse)
  • Spatula (for mixing, could be anything honestly)

To make a cold brew coffee, you are going to need the following things.

  • Tall glass or mason jar or pitcher
  • A second glass
  • Coffee grounds of your choice (coarse)
  • Strainer

As you can tell, you will need a french press in the first method which will cost a little money upfront. In the case of the cold brew method, you don’t have to buy any fancy equipment.

Though the french press will cost you some money, buying the right french press will last for a long time. Avoid the ones with glass bodies and go for the metal ones.

Here are our recommendations.

  1. Mueller French Press Coffee Maker (Metal body, Excellent product)
  2. Cafe du Chateau French Press Coffee Maker ( Glass Body, if you must, Solid product)

For a cold brew, you don’t have to buy any fancy cold brew, coffee maker. There are tons in the market, but they are just overpriced tall glasses and pitchers with an elegant bag holder and a lid.

Differences in Brewing Method

The brewing method is the biggest difference you are going to find between the two.

French Press

Let’s talk about the french press first. 

To brew your morning cup of coffee in a french press, you are going to need a french press, some coffee grounds, and hot water.

Open the lid of your french press and add the coffee grounds as per your requirements. 

One of the most important things when making coffee is the coffee to water ratio. When using a french press, we recommend going for a 1:14 ratio. That is, for 1 part of coffee, you will add 14 parts of water.

If you’re going to add 30g of coffee, then you should add 420ml of water. This might be weak for some people so do improvise and go to 1:12 ratio to see if it brings the best taste for you.

Once you add your coffee grounds and water, give it a nice swirl and close the lid. Wait for around 4 minutes and then starting pressing the lid uniformly. This will push the grounds to the bottom while clean coffee can be taken from the top.

Now, you can pour your coffee into your favorite mug and relish it.

Cold Brew

A cold brew is a lot simpler when compared to a french press.

The main reason is that you don’t have to deal with specialized equipment. That also means that you won’t have to spend time cleaning and maintaining it which is nice.

To make a cold brew coffee, take a tall glass or a mason jar with a lid.

Add coffee and water in the ratio of 1:14 and mix well. Close the lid and keep it in the refrigerator for 12 to 15 hours. If you want, you can open the lid and stir the mix every 5 to 6 hours.

Just like the french press, you are going to need coarsely ground coffee beans. 

Once the steeping is complete, you can now strain the coffee into a nice glass, add some ice cubes or milk and devour it. If you think it is too strong, you can add some water or milk to smoothen it. If it is too weak for you, bring the coffee to water ratio down the next time.

The good thing with cold brew is that you can even serve an iced coffee by adding some ice cubes.

Flavor Difference

At the end of the day, you’re making coffee. So what difference is going to be there in terms of flavor, right?

Wrong!

A cold brew always gives you a cup of coffee that is less acidic when compared to the coffee you get from a french press. 

Though the difference is small, it can be a big factor that can help you in fixating on one of these brewing methods.

If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn after drinking your coffee, switching to a cold brew coffee made from Arabica coffee beans can help with those problems. You can also add some milk, dairy or non-dairy, to reduce the overall acidity in your cup of joe.

Some have the opinion that a french press coffee is a bit stronger than a cold brew, but that’s mostly personal and depends on the coffee to water ratio used.  

If you’re going for a 1:12 ratio, then your coffee will be stronger. You are looking for a slightly settled flavor, the ratio of 1:14 will be fine.

Time

The time difference between a french press and a cold brew coffee is huge.

If you are looking to make a quick cup of coffee from scratch, then a french press is your friend. Most people will steep their coffee in a french press for about 4 minutes. You can go as long as 5 minutes at best.

Once the steeping is done, you can push the plunger down and enjoy your coffee.

The whole process will not take more than 10 minutes including the grinding of the coffee beans.

In the case of a cold brew, you will have to let the steeping continue for 12 to 15 hours. Some people use super coarse coffee beans so they will let their steeping process go on for around 30 hours.

If you’re thinking about a quick hit of caffeine, then the cold brew is not your friend.

But the advantage of cold brew is that you can store the coffee concentrate in your refrigerator for about 2 weeks. So once the initial brewing is done, you will get instant coffee till you run out of your brew.

Water Temperature

If you’re craving a hot cup of coffee, then you can do that only with a french press. 

You can heat your water up to 200 or 250F and then pour it into a french press on top of the coffee grounds to make your coffee. In the end, you have a nice, hot cup of coffee.

The good thing with the french press is that you can also brew your coffee with room temperature water. The steeping time will be a bit more since the water is not hot, but you can achieve it with a french press coffee maker.

With the cold brew method, you can only use normal water or cold water. The water will slow work on the coffee grounds for about 12 to 15, extracting all the goodness from the coffee beans.

Even though you can heat your coffee from cold brew, it is not ideal and it won’t taste as good as a proper hot french press coffee.

Related Read: Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffee?

Caffeine Level

The cold brew technique edges out the french press when it comes to the caffeine level.

Here’s a simple table to explains the difference.

Brewing methodSizeCaffeine Content
Cold Brew16fl oz200mg
French Press16fl oz160mg

As you can see, coffee from the cold brew method comes with a bit more caffeine.

If caffeine is your deciding factor, then you should stick with the cold brew method. But if you’re craving hot coffee, then you can increase the caffeine levels in the french press coffee by using a stronger coffee to water ratio (1:12 instead of 1:14).

Coffee Bean Type

You can use both Arabica beans and Robusta beans in both these methods. Arabica beans are superior in every way when compared to Robusta so using them is preferred.

When using the french press, it is important to make sure that your coffee beans are fresh. The french press will extract all the solubles from the coffee beans so making sure your coffee beans have them is important. Else, you end up with a less aromatic and flavorless coffee.

But in the case of cold brew, the process is designed not to extract all the intricate flavors. So you can use your old coffee beans (not too old) in the cold brew method and still get very good coffee.

Which Is Better, French Press or Cold Brew?

Honestly, one method is not better than the other in any way.

You can choose the method that gives you the coffee according to your taste.

If you’re going for a caffeine-heavy coffee, then cold brew might be the brewing technique for you.

If you must drink your coffee hot, then the french press is the right choice.

You can also choose the right brewing technique based on the factors we have discussed above. Again, not one factor will be sufficient to pick the perfect brewing method for you.

Can You Make A Cold Brew With A French Press?

Yes, you can make a cold brew coffee with your french press.

Here are the things you’re going to need.

  • French press (duh)
  • Coffee grounds (coarsely ground)
  • Normal temperature water

Add your coarse coffee ground into your french press. 

Next, add water on top of the coffee grounds. To make a cold brew concentrate, it is better to follow a coffee to water ratio of 1:5 or 1:4. 

Close the lid and keep it on your counter or inside your refrigerator for 12 to 15 hours. 

Then push down the plunger and your cold brew coffee is ready inside a french press!

Pour the coffee concentrate into another mason jar or mug and serve chilled with ice cubes and milk.

Is French Press Coffee The Same As Cold Brew?

Not at all.

If you are a total beginner, you might not be able to find the difference. But if you are an experienced caffeine-head, you can say the difference by just taking in the aroma.

The french press coffee is a bit stronger when compared to the cold brew coffee. However, in terms of caffeine content, the cold brew wins by a small margin.

Closing Thoughts

Both the French press and cold brew are great brewing methods.

They have their purpose and their audience. 

If you’re looking for a winner out of these two, then we hate to disappoint you, there is none. 

In our opinion, pick a method that suits your lifestyle and choices and have fun with it. 

If you have any more questions regarding this comparison, do let us know and we’ll be happy to answer them.

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