Filter coffee is a popular way to get a caffeine fix among coffee connoisseurs. Manual filter coffee brewing methods give you full control over the process and unveil the delicate flavors in single-origin coffees.
There are significant differences between filter coffee and espresso, but the distinctions don’t end there.
Which manual brewing method would be most suitable for you?
We’re going to compare the differences between the three most popular ways of brewing: a pour over, an Aeropress, and a French Press.
What is the brewing process for each method? How does the resulting cup taste? And what are their pros and cons? We’ll help you find the brewing method best suited to your taste.
First patented in 1929, the French Press is one of the oldest traditional brewing methods (*). It is the most popular out of the three contenders, easily accessible in mainstream stores, and can be found in many households around the world.
The French Press consists of a tall carafe and a metal mesh filter attached to a long stem. It is a full immersion brewing method that requires coarse coffee grinds to extract oil and flavor.
The coffee is steeped in hot water for several minutes and the grounds are separated from the coffee by a paper-free plunger. This straightforward process requires no filter and has a 3-5 minute brew time.
When brewing coffee with the French Press, the natural oils and microscopic coffee grounds are not trapped by the paper filter, as is the case with the other two methods. This results in a full and heavy flavor with a robust mouthfeel.
- Easy to use - brewing coffee with the French Press is an easy, straightforward process that requires little skill or experience. This makes it one of the most accessible manual brewing methods suitable for beginners.
The no-fuss process allows you to steep the coffee, forget about it for 5 minutes, and come back to a perfect cup.
- Requires minimal setup - all you need is your French Press, coffee, and a kettle to start brewing.
- Consistent robust taste - the French Press brewing method is very forgiving and will provide a consistent cup with a robust mouthfeel every single time.
- Portable and easily accessible - the French Press is available in multiple sizes, is suitable for brewing multiple cups at a time, and comes at an affordable price.
- Doesn’t require filters - you don’t need to buy additional paper filters for brewing coffee with the French Press, which makes the process easier and comes with no additional cost.
- Sediment - the mesh filter isn’t able to catch all the sediment from your cup and you might find small grounds floating in your coffee.
- Robust taste - for those who are not fans of the robust taste that comes with the French Press coffee, other brewing methods that can produce cleaner and brighter tasting notes might be more suitable.
- Long brewing time - brewing the French Press coffee takes around 5 minutes, and might not be the most practical if you’re short of time.
The pour over brewing method was originally invented by Auguste Melita Bentz in 1908 in Germany by producing coffee using her son’s school blotting paper as a filter for the first time (*).
Today, there are many different pour over methods available including Kalita, Clever dripper, and others. But the most popular one is the Hario V60.
This name stems from the V shape of the device. To brew a coffee with V60, filter paper is inserted into the V shape dripper filled with medium-coarse coffee grinds.
The hot water is slowly poured over the coffee in a circular motion. The first pour is followed by a 30-second coffee bloom that serves to release the oils from the coffee and develop the flavor. The process then continues with additional small pours.
This brewing process takes around 2-3 minutes, is the least forgiving brewing method out of the three, and requires precision and skill.
The V60 coffee will create a lighter-bodied coffee with a clean taste. The slow brewing process allows the development of delicate tasting notes present in single-origin coffees.
This brewing method is unforgiving and the resulting taste exposes the shortcomings of the brewing process. Even though it takes time to perfect, this brewing method will display the most delicate flavors out of the three methods.
- Taste - most coffee enthusiasts vouch for the superiority of taste you can achieve with the pour over method.
- Affordability - the basic V60 cone typically costs $20 or less.
- Easy cleanup - this method has one of the easiest clean-ups, with coffee grounds separated from the coffee by the filter.
- Difficulty - the brewing process takes around 3 minutes and requires your constant attention. This can be off-putting if you’re looking for an easy quick straightforward method.
Perfecting your pour over technique is a learning process and in the meantime, you’ll probably produce some bad-tasting coffees.
- Advanced setup - brewing a perfect cup requires precise measurements, so the process demands a weighing scale alongside the dripper cone, filter, your cup, and the kettle.
The newest kid on the block, the AeroPress was invented in 2005 and is one of the latest brewing methods on the market (*).
In that short period of time, it has attracted a large number of users and has its own international brewing championships (*).
The AeroPress is made with a food-safe rubber that’s extremely durable and built out of a brewing chamber, plunger, and a filter cup, that requires a paper filter.
This is a piston-style brewer that forces medium-fine coffee grinds through a thin paper filter directly to your cup. It generates a low 0.35-0.70 bar pressure with an average brewing time of around one minute.
This pressure is much lower than an espresso machine, which generates a minimum amount of 9 bars, but still higher than the French Press or pour over, which don’t generate any.
The AeroPress has a strong fanbase all around the world, members of which have developed thousands of recipes. The two basic techniques include the traditional and inverted methods, but different grinds and brewing times open up more options.
The AeroPress produces a bright, clean cup of coffee. It is crisper, brighter, and cleaner than that of a French Press or a pour over.
The paper filter prevents the sediment from penetrating your cup but also doesn’t allow much of the natural oils and smallest particles to enter, missing out on a lot of flavors.
There are stainless steel reusable filters available that produce a richer, fuller coffee.
- Easy and quick - once you figure out the brewing process, the standard recipes only require around 1 minute of your time. The numbered indicators on the AeroPress mean that you don’t need to weigh out the water, thus further simplifying the process.
- Versatility - with hundreds of recipes available, you can brew a cup similar to a pour over, and by adjusting the grind size, amount of water, and time, you can also brew a coffee close to espresso.
You can then mix the espresso-like shot with steamed milk. This is perfect for latte lovers and it is a functionality that you won’t be able to get with French Press or a pour over.
- Portability - the AeroPress is light, hard-wearing, and portable, which makes it one of the most favorite methods for travelers and campers.
This device offers an easy clean-up, complete reusability if you purchase the metal filter, and allows you to brew a coffee straight into your cup in one minute.
- The taste might be “too clean” for some - if you’re used to drinking robust coffee made with a French Press, the AeroPress cup might not be satisfying enough for you.
- Non-intuitive brewing process - if you haven’t used an AeroPress before, this method is not very intuitive and takes time to figure out.
- Unsuitable for multiple cups - the AeroPress is made for brewing only one cup at a time and after you finish, you need to do the whole process again. If you need to make coffee for you and your 3 friends, this process is ineffective and tiresome.
When selecting the best manual brewing method for you, the winner depends on your taste and preferences.
Looking for an easy brewer that requires little effort during the brewing process and produces a consistent robust cup of coffee? Then the French Press would be the best fit for you.
Are you an advanced coffee enthusiast who doesn’t mind putting in the extra effort if it results in more delicate flavors in your cup? Pour over would be the best fit.
Looking for a portable, easy-to-use brewer that can quickly produce a consistent black coffee but be also versatile enough to make a concentrated espresso-like shot? The AeroPress is the answer.