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.
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.
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.
- 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.