Do you consider yourself a lover of all things coffee? Does your day always start with a piping cup of fresh coffee? If so, you aren’t alone, as coffee is one of the most favorite drinks of people, not just here in the United States, but around the world. But, with that said, there can be a real difference in flavor, quality and the method by which you make your coffee – so which one is the best?
If you’re in the market for a new coffee machine, you may be wondering if an auto coffee maker is your best option. Sure, they can be very convenient, but will they fit all your needs and expectations? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of automatic coffee makers and then compare them to the more traditional yet wildly popular French press coffee maker. When it comes to the French press vs regular coffee maker argument, some of the points may come as a bit of a surprise to you.
What Is an Automatic Coffee Machine?
Let’s start with the automatic coffee machine, which can be found in millions of homes across the country. These are the typical coffee maker machines that work by dripping water through a filter that has coffee grinds in it. Some people refer to them as “drip machines”. You can brew a whole pot at once and they are relatively quick, although not as fast as the single-serve machines that use a k-cup or pod.
After the coffee brews and is in the pot, it rests on a warming plate so this keeps the liquid warm. It can be so hot that when you pour a cup, you'll have steam coming off it.
The main parts or components of the machine are:
- The coffee pot
- The hot plate
- The filter basket
- Water reservoir
- The base
Pros of the Automatic Coffee Machine
So, what makes these such a popular choice in terms of small appliances for the home? The answer is simple: convenience. These machines are incredibly convenient in that they are easy and quick to use. But the pros don’t end there. Several other features may make this the perfect choice for your kitchen.
Other pros of the automatic coffee machine include:
- You can find them at a wide array of price points, ranging from relatively inexpensive to very pricey machines
- You’ll find a wide array of features, bells and whistles, but keep in mind that this results in a price increase
- You can purchase a machine with a small, medium or large-sized pot, tailoring it to your needs
- Filters are easy to find
- The machine uses grinds which allows you to freshly grind coffee beans if you choose to
- The pot of coffee will stay warm until you turn the machine off, so you don’t have to worry about brewing a fresh pot each time you want a coffee
Cons of the Automatic Coffee Machine
So, for all its pros, you may be wondering what the drawbacks could be to an automatic coffee maker? While there are a few, the top one to think about is whether or not this type of appliance is needed? Do you need to be able to brew a full pot of coffee at once? Do you go through that much coffee?
Other cons that you’ll want to factor into the decision process include:
- The cost of replacement filters
- Washing the pot daily
- These machines aren’t instant so they won’t be as fast as the single-cup coffee makers
- It's never going to taste as good as some of the other brew methods - this will be better than instant coffee but it won't be cafe style
- Even though there are some affordable models, if you want a lot of features, it will cost you
Features to Look for When Shopping for an Auto Coffee Machine
If you decide that an automatic coffee maker makes sense for your lifestyle, needs and budget, then there are a few things worth knowing before you head to the store.
You can start by asking yourself how big/small of a coffee pot you need and want? If you live in a small space, then you will likely want to choose a compact machine. Then there are the typical paper filters that are used; however, you can also look at a permanent filter, which can be a more eco-friendly choice. You may also want to look for a machine with a timer so you can program it to come on/off at a specific time. This is great for people who are in a rush in the morning and want that fresh cup of coffee ready when they walk into the kitchen.
Finally, it's important to factor in cost. As mentioned, coffee machines vary quite a bit, so it is a good idea to set the budget before you start shopping.
What Is a French Press Coffee Maker?
Then we have the other spectrum of coffee making, and that is a French press coffee maker. This is often seen as a more traditional way to make coffee and is popular in many countries around the world. In fact, for many countries, hand press coffee is the method of choice. You'll find these machines widely used throughout Europe in particular Italy and France.
The way this machine works is that you are soaking the grinds of coffee in hot water, as in the grinds are completely submerged in water during the process. To use the machine, you'll need to start by heating water. Next, you place the grinds inside of the machine - they can be fresh grinds or bagged grinds which you already have on hand. Now it's time to pour the hot water over the grinds and stir it. Attach the plunger to the top of the machine but don't begin the plunging process. Give it about four minutes and then push or plunge the grinds to the bottom of the machine. You now have a fresh cup of coffee that is grind-free but full of flavor.
Pros of a French Press Coffee Maker
Just like the automatic coffee machine, the French coffee press machine also has a list of pros. These may be enough to push you over the edge and convince you this is the best method for you. Here are some of the notable pros:
- Extremely affordable, especially when compared to an automatic coffee machine
- Relatively easy to use
- The flavor will be simply delicious and incredibly rich, so it's a ‘truer’ coffee flavor that tends to be bolder
- Many coffee drinkers feel they have more control over the way the coffee tastes
- There is no need to plug anything in, so this can be used anywhere
- It can be a very enjoyable and relaxing experience using this style of the machine as it has an authentic feel
Cons of a French Press Coffee Maker
To make an informed purchase decision, it’s important to also be aware of the negative side of these styles of machines. These may include:
- You need to be careful about the size of the grind you use - the medium is the desired grind as thinner grinds will result in a coffee that tastes bitter.
- Water temperature is pretty exact – again, it's about finding that happy medium so it doesn't take away from the flavor of the coffee.
- It can take some practice to get the water to the coffee ratio just right.
- These machines aren’t as fast as the automatic machines; in general, it needs to steep for approximately four minutes, which can be a lot of time when you’re rushing around in the morning .
- You can’t just put a timer on and wake up to a fresh cup of coffee.
- The clean-up can be a bit cumbersome.
Features to Look for When Shopping for a French Press Coffee Machine
When purchasing a French press machine, there are a couple of things to be aware of. The first is the size of the machine. These come in different sizes, allowing you to make a single cup at a time or enough for a couple of people. Choose the size that best fits your lifestyle.
Different materials are used, which include glass (the most authentic and traditional), steel and plastic. Plastic will be the cheapest option but it's also the least durable, which is something worth noting. Glass, while beautiful, can be the most fragile. Steel is a great option for the person who wants a durable machine that still looks stylish and modern.
Finally, you want to buy from a reputable brand so you can trust the quality.
No Clear Winner
What it comes down to it, the case of the French press vs automatic coffee makers is that there is no clear winner. It’s all about your lifestyle, expectations, ease of use, budget and just how bold and flavorful of a cup of coffee you enjoy. There’s also the fact that if the space and budget allow, there’s nothing wrong with getting one of each as they each have their unique pros and cons.