This is one of the biggest dilemmas in manual brewing: do you go for immersion brewing or pour-over? Personally, I like immersion brewing for its ease and convenience but let’s consider both sides.
The French Press, also known as a cafetière, is an immersion brewer where the coffee grounds are steeped in hot water for about 3 minutes. It’s easy to use, very affordable, and easy to buy. Since there’s no paper filter, none of the coffee oils or acids get eliminated so you get a rich and full cup that can develop a robust taste. However, the taste can be quite bitter if you brew for too long and there’s often sediment in the cup when you brew with a French Press.
The Chemex is easy to identify thanks to its distinctive hourglass shape. It’s usually made of glass and the top portion needs to have a paper filter. You then fill the filter with coffee grounds and pour hot water over it slowly. As the water flows through the grounds, it extracts the brew into the bottom portion. This gives you a lot of control since you can control the flow of water. But you need to practice this to get it right, which can be a pain for casual drinkers and those in a rush. Brewing with a Chemex gives you a bright and clear cup, with less bitterness and a mellow flavor.
Ultimately, I don’t think one is better than the other. If you like subtle flavors and a clean cup, then you’d like the Chemex more. For those who like a strong flavor and easy brewing, then go for a French Press.