Coffee Facts

Cold Brew vs. French Press: What Makes Them Different?

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For coffee lovers who like their cup of coffee strong and flavorful, cold brewing and french press offer two methods that can deliver similarly delicious results. 

While you can tell right off the bat that one method relies on a cool temperature to brew, there are other differences besides just the water temperature. We’re sharing the properties that make the difference between cold brew coffee vs. french press so you can decide which method you want to rely on for your daily morning coffee.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold Brew

Cold-brew coffee uses a method of steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a long time. As a result, you usually get a flavorful, potent coffee blend with less acidity than coffee brewed by other methods. While some people might think you can get the same effects by cooling a traditionally brewed coffee, they are far from the same.

Cold Brew Properties

Here’s what makes cold brew coffee stand out from the french press brewing method.

Cold

The water used in cold brewing is cold, unlike the hot water used in a french press. Some people also choose to brew it with normal temperature water, leaving it to sit on a counter until the brewing is complete.

High Caffeine

Cold-brew has much higher caffeine levels due to this unique method of processing. Adding cream or milk to cold-brew coffee is a popular way to mellow the flavor and caffeine content.  

Flexible Bean Age

While you should always use fresh coffee beans for french press coffee, older beans work just fine for cold brewing.

Varied Flavor

The finished flavor of cold-brewed coffee tends to be sweeter, more delicate, and smoother on the tongue. It’s also less bitter than some traditionally brewed coffee and less acidic, which is easier on the stomach.

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Two Methods

There are two primary cold brew methods: ice-drip and immersion brewing.

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Ice Drip

Ice-drip brewing takes more time and effort than the standard immersion method and requires a unique tower mechanism to drip iced water on top of fresh coffee grounds slowly. It usually takes a full day to brew this way.

Immersion

Immersion brewing is the most common way of cold-brewing and is incredibly convenient and easy to do. You simply place your coffee grounds in a container of water and allow it to steep, eventually filtering out the grounds and leaving behind a smooth, cool beverage.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

To make a delicious cold brew coffee recipe with the immersion method, follow these steps:

  1. Mix cold or room-temperature water with freshly ground coffee beans and place them in a container to steep.
  2. Wait 24 hours, occasionally stirring while brewing takes place.
  3. Take the cover off of your brewing container and press the grounds down to concentrate their flavor. Filter out these grounds by pouring the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
  4. Pour the cold brew into a cup of ice and top with heavy cream, regular milk, or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk or coconut milk.

What is French Press Coffee?

French Press

On the other hand, French press coffee is a more traditional method of brewing coffee and is much faster than cold-brewing. French pressing is easy and affordable and can make individual cups of coffee or a large pot of coffee for a group. Brewing coffee through a french press is similar to the traditional hot coffee brewing method.

French Press Properties

The following properties categorize french press coffee:

Saturated Taste

Drinking coffee made from a french press provides an intense taste because you’re getting the taste of the wholly saturated beans, not just beans that have been brewed through. You’re tasting all of the beans’ oils and their full caffeine content, offering a robust flavor.

Steeped Grounds

Many people find that coffee created with this method tastes better since the beans are not filtered through but steeped instead. It adds to the fragrance of the coffee as well as the ambiance of the drinking experience. This is the biggest difference between cold brew vs. French press, as the cold brew filters the water through the grounds, and a French press steeps the grounds in water.

Sustained Warm Temperature

Water used when French pressing should be hot and steady throughout the entire time. The ideal temperature for the water is just below its boiling point, which is 212ºF, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The temperature you’re looking for is around 195ºF. To achieve this, you can first boil the water on the stove and then let it sit for a minute before transferring it to the French press. The other primary difference is that a French press uses hot water and cold-brewing uses cold water.

Quick Brewing

While cold brewing coffee takes up to 24 hours to complete, the French press is much quicker and won’t take up your entire day. All you have to do is grind the beans, boil the water, and stir the coffee after the first pour. The entire brewing process takes about four minutes.

Strong Flavor

French press coffee is distinctly strong and bold in flavor since the coffee grounds stay at the bottom of the press the entire time. If you let French press coffee sit, the coffee will only get stronger. 

How to Make French Press Coffee

To make a delicious cup of French pressed coffee from scratch, do the following:

  1. First, boil some water and let it sit for a minute. 
  2. Pour the water into the kettle.
  3. Grind up your favorite coffee beans – you don’t need a fine grind; a coarse coffee ground is okay.
  4. Pour in your coffee grounds and mix the blend.
  5. Stir the mixture for a moment and put a cover on the container as it sits.
  6. When you’re ready to drink, simply press the plunger in your French press downward to keep the grounds from entering your cup.
  7. Pour your coffee into a mug with milk or creamer, or let it cool in the fridge and add to a cup of ice.

Wrap-Up

When comparing cold brew vs. French press, there are some noticeable differences – temperature and brewing method – and several more subtle differences between the two, including flavor profile and brew times. 

Read on to learn more about the various coffee brewing methods.

Happy Caffeinating!

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