With so many options for brewing coffee at home, it can be tough to decide which method is right for you. Should you splurge on a high-tech Keurig machine for single-cup convenience? Or go back to basics with a French press? Who wins the battle of French Press vs. Keurig?
Here, you’ll get the scoop on these two extremely popular at-home brewing methods—the French press and the Keurig—across a variety of factors. We’ll look at how they work, their respective pros and cons, and how they stack up in terms of flavor, batch size, convenience, cost, and more.
We’ll highlight the key differences between the Keurig and the French Press, so you can determine which is a better fit for your lifestyle and coffee preferences.
Let’s spill the beans.
French Press Overview
The French press is a simple but effective manual brewing device that has been around for decades. It consists of a cylindrical beaker, usually made of glass or stainless steel, with a plunger and filter screen.
To use a French press, you’ll start by boiling water and coarsely grinding your coffee beans. Next, add the grounds to the empty beaker and pour in the hot water.
After allowing it to steep for a few minutes, you slowly push down the plunger to filter out the grounds, while leaving behind a full-bodied and flavorful brew.
French Press Pros & Cons
There are several advantages to using a French press. It results in a very rich, robust coffee full of oils and sediment that you won’t find in other brewing methods. The immersion brewing process allows you to get the most out of your coffee grounds.
French presses are also inexpensive, extremely durable, and require minimal cleanup. Just rinse out the beaker and you’re done.
On the downside, there is a bit more effort and involvement required on your part. You need to boil water separately and monitor the steeping time.
The flavor can also be inconsistent since there are more variables you have to control. Still, overall the French press remains a favorite manual brewing choice for coffee connoisseurs.
The Keurig machine took the coffee world by storm when it was first introduced in the 1990s. Keurig pioneered the concept of single-cup pod brewing, making it easy to quickly brew one fresh cup of coffee at a time.
To use a Keurig, you simply insert a small plastic K-cup filled with pre-measured coffee grounds into the top of the machine.
When you close the lid and press a button, the Keurig will pierce the K-cup and force hot water through the grounds to produce a single serving of coffee directly into your waiting mug.
Keurig Pros & Cons
Fans of the Keurig love the no-fuss convenience. There’s minimal prep, cleanup, or waiting time required. Keurigs are also very customizable; you can choose from hundreds of different K-cup coffee flavors, brands, and roast types.
Models with water reservoirs let you brew up to 5 cups of coffee before needing a refill. Many also allow you to adjust cup size and strength.
Keurigs produce a thinner, weaker coffee compared to French press since the grounds are only briefly soaked rather than fully immersed.
The machines and K-cups are pricier than a simple French press too. And then there’s the environmental impact of all that disposable plastic.
However, in terms of simplicity and speed, Keurigs can’t be beat.
French Press vs. Keurig: The Breakdown
Now that you know what the French press and Keurig are all about, let’s compare them to see which coffee maker is best for your needs.
Quality and Flavor
When it comes to flavor, the French press is the clear winner. The full immersion brewing results in a richer, more intense coffee, bringing out more of the subtle tastes and aromas.
Since you control the water temperature and steeping time, you can also fine-tune the flavor profile. The oils and sediment that pass through the press’s filter add body and texture.
In contrast, the thin needle that pierces the K-cups limits water flow and extraction. As a result, Keurig coffee is weaker in body and flavor. Most coffee aficionados describe it as watery or diluted tasting.
You’re also at the mercy of whatever pre-ground coffee comes sealed in those pods, with little ability to customize or improve the taste.
If rich, nuanced coffee flavor is a priority for you, go for the French press. But if you care more about speed and convenience, the Keurig may be the better option.
When it comes to how much coffee you can brew at one time, the two methods offer very different capabilities.
French presses come in a wide range of sizes, from single-serving to 12 cups. The average size makes 3-4 cups—perfect for enjoying coffee with your family or saving some leftovers.
Larger French presses can brew 6-8 cups. You can brew a big batch first thing, then keep it warm in a thermal carafe for hours.
Meanwhile, Keurigs are single-cup machines through and through. They only brew one serving at a time into your mug. So if you’re having a dinner party or you’ve got overnight guests, be prepared to spend some time making multiple rounds of coffee.
That said, being able to brew just one cup is extremely convenient for busy mornings when it’s just you rushing out the door.
Convenience and Maintenance
In terms of pure effort and time spent, Keurigs win for convenience thanks to push-button automation. All you need is 1-2 minutes to insert a pod and press start. Many models have programmable settings, allowing you to wake up to already brewed coffee.
Cleaning is also simple. Just dump the old pod, rinse the K-cup holder, and wipe any drips or spills off the plastic exterior.
That said, because they contain electronic parts, Keurig coffee makers can easily malfunction. Is your Keurig not working? Learn how to troubleshoot.
Using a French press takes a little more hands-on work. You’ll need to boil water in a kettle or pot, measure and grind beans, and monitor the brew time. Luckily, cleanup is easy. Just remove the grounds from the press, give it a quick rinse, and air dry.
French presses contain no electronic parts or tubes that require descaling either. Their simplicity makes them extremely durable and low maintenance for years.
French press coffee makers are typically very inexpensive. You can purchase a quality press for as little as $15-25. Even high-end stainless steel models rarely exceed $75-$100.
To complement your French Press, however, you may want to get a kettle, coffee grinder, and filters. Overall, though, even a proper French press setup can cost hundreds less than a Keurig machine.
The ongoing expense of K-cup pods can also add up, costing up to 5 times more per cup than using bagged coffee grounds.
To their credit, Keurig does sell reusable pods you can fill yourself at a lower per-cup cost.
For those wanting to keep their brewing budget minimal, the French press is clearly the more affordable route in the short and long term.
But a Keurig can still make sense for households where convenience is priority.
Part of the appeal of the simple, no-frills French press is that it’s seriously eco-friendly. There is zero plastic waste or electronics that will eventually end up in a landfill.
The glass, stainless steel, and mesh filters are reusable for years before any replacement is needed. And you can compost the leftover grounds if you wish.
The only waste is paper filters if you choose to use them.
Keurigs, on the other hand, create a tremendous amount of plastic waste from K-cups, with tens of millions of pods ending up in landfills annually. Even the machine itself is challenging to recycle and is often discarded.
Though, again, Keurig now sells reusable pods and recyclable K-cup versions to alleviate this issue. But there’s no denying the French press comes out far ahead in terms of environmental sustainability.
French Press vs. Keurig: Best Uses
So when does it make sense to choose a Keurig or French press? Here’s a quick summary:
Opt for a Keurig when:
- You want hot coffee in a couple of minutes
- You’ll mostly be drinking coffee solo or in pairs
- You want the option to brew a wide variety of roasts/flavors
- You don’t mind sacrificing some quality and flavor for speed
- You don’t have time for manual brewing and cleanup
Opt for a French press when:
- You want richer, full-bodied coffee flavor
- You’ll be making coffee for 2+ people
- You want control over brewing time, temperature, etc.
- You want something simple, eco-friendly and budget-friendly
- You don’t mind a little extra hands-on effort
For frequent travelers, office use, or dorm rooms, a portable Keurig may prove ideal. At home, the French press gives you better quality coffee that you can customize to your taste for a low price.
Ultimately, what matters most is choosing a coffee maker that aligns with your lifestyle needs and priorities.
The Final Scoop
Ultimately, choosing between a Keurig and French press comes down to weighing convenience versus quality.
Keurig machines are the fastest, easiest route to coffee with minimal cleanup required. But French presses help you unlock more complex flavors for a true artisanal coffee experience.
Consider how much time you have to dedicate to brewing each morning, whether you’ll be making coffee for just yourself or others, and how particular you are about flavor.
There’s no universally “better” option; both have their merits for different needs. The choice depends on what’s most important to you in your coffee routine.
No matter which method you choose, there’s a comforting ritual to preparing your daily brew. May your mornings be brightened by a piping hot cup of joe, just the way you like it!