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Does anyone happen to know the differences in brewing quality of using a french press v.s. using a manual pour over? I can imagine using filter paper might give a better quality brew with a manual pour over than with the french press' metal mesh filter but I could be wrong.

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It's relatively difficult to define quality differences without knowing how you're grinding it.

Grinding may be the most influential aspect in your case. If you're grinding with just a basic blade grinder, your grounds are extremely inconsistent. Regardless of your brewing method, your result will be quite different from the results of a grinder with better consistency. The reason has to do with the amount of extraction happening over [time] in relation to the coffee's surface area. If the grounds are large, the surface area is less, so the total extraction per [time] is less. If the grounds are very fine, the surface area is greater, so the total extraction per [time] becomes greater. When your grounds are consistent, you can prepare coffee with greater accuracy. However, if some of your grounds are huge, others medium and others fine, then you have very little control over accuracy, and you sort of have to choose between under-extraction for watery results with less undesirables, or over-extraction for fuller results with more undesirables.

If you are using a blade grinder, I recommend over-grinding for more consistent results. Then just shorten your brew time in order to not over-extract.

In the event that you're using a pretty decent grinder, then how coarse/fine you're grinding the coffee is probably the second most influential aspect. If your grounds are fine, then more grounds are likely to pass through the plunger, and you'll also have to put more force on the plunger, possibly pushing even more grounds through. The more grounds that pass through lengthen the total extraction, even after you pour it out. To be honest, this usually makes a small difference that most people cannot detect it, and those who can do not often care. So relatively speaking, in this case the pour-over may be considered the better option. However, if you're grinder can produce evenly coarse grounds, with little to no powder, then the french press is an equally good method.

Lastly, there is a notable difference in the flavor between the two. It is said that the coffee from a french-press "clogs" your taste buds. And most people can taste the cleaner/thinner quality of coffee that's been filtered through paper. But at the end of the day, it's preference. I have a coffee snob friend who only drinks french press, and another who only drinks pour-over. I enjoy them both.

  • Thanks! I currently have been using a cheap plastic pour over with some filters and am currently looking at other options to "change things up" with brewing. From the feedback I've been getting it seems like a "Thicker" coffee is made with a french press and a "thinner" coffee is made with a pour over- is there any truth to that statement? – InstantCoffeeJedi Mar 6 '17 at 3:48
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    @PloniAlmoni As the usual paper filters (the most common type in pour over) soak up the oil of coffee; they generally do not have body. French press does not soak up the oils, so you can taste the fullness; your final cup has more body (with the same beans and consistent grind for each brew type). – MTSan Mar 24 '17 at 15:03
  • @MTSan I've filtered oil through coffee filters many times. I wonder if the body of a french-press actually has more to do with super small coffee particles that the metal filter can't catch, and then maybe those particles remain in the coffee (as opposed to the dregs which are the bottom of the cup) since they're too small to fall out of suspension. I've always assumed it's the oil in the coffee that makes it fuller, but as I think about it, I'm not sure that makes sense, especially with an aeropress where most of the oils would end up getting pressurized out of the filter. What do you think? – nateclonch Mar 25 '17 at 16:49
  • @PloniAlmoni Due to my humble knowledge, the body defined by richness. It is the aroma and flavor. The smelly part and the tasty part, respectively. And these are made by the total dissolved oils in your cup. That's why it affects the body. I'm not sure about the small brewing particles in French-press. I normally use inverted French-press to get rid of them as much as possible. And, I never thought of aeropress pressurized oils out of filter. I should observe more. Sorry, this is not a thorough answer. – MTSan Apr 4 '17 at 6:49
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First things first, let's put the difference between French press and manual pour-over:

  • French-press: Coffee and water stay in the same container during brewing. The water is not very close to boiling temperatures. You wait for a while to brew it. At the end, the output is coffee with some fine residue of coffee ground in it. This may continue to brew while you drink. So, it must be consumed fast.

  • Manual pour-over: Coffee and water are in two different compartments. (This is a very definitive difference.) Brewing happens fast, with close to boiling temperatures. The output has no visible grounds in it. You may wait for a while till it gets colder.


And, the answer... How could we define the quality? I think it depends on the drinker's mood. I change my brewing method from day to day. I drink cold brew for a while, then two shots of espresso, then a Turkish. I never thought one of them has superior quality.

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  • From experience, the french press can produce a better flavoured / bolder cup of coffee in my opinion; however
  • paper filters produce a more consistent flavour/body (better quality).

For me, quality is consistency in results. So by definition, paper filters produce better quality coffee. Depending on the type of bean you use, the output coffee from a french press varies greatly. It does have more potential of extracting the most flavour out of the coffee bean.

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