French Press and Cold Brew coffees

French Press vs. Cold Brew: A Tale of Two Steeping Brews

By Coffeenated Stories | 14 min read

Updated On: FEB 08 2024

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In the ever-evolving world of coffee, two brewing methods stand out for their distinct flavors and brewing processes: the French Press and Cold Brew. Each brewing technique offers coffee enthusiasts a unique way to experience their beloved beans, whether through the rich, full-bodied warmth of a French Press or the smooth, refreshing coolness of Cold Brew.

French Press
French Press
Cold Brew
Cold Brew
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Photo by ALINA MATVEYCHEVA : https://www.pexels.com/photo/coffee-in-bottles-17180412/

But what exactly sets these two apart, and how can you decide which brewing style is right for you?

The French Press, a beloved classic, is renowned for its simplicity and the deep, intricate flavors it extracts from coffee grounds. This method has stood the test of time, offering a straightforward approach to brewing that requires nothing more than coffee, hot water, and a few minutes of patience.

Pouring French Press Coffee
Pouring French Press Coffee
Photo by Esmihel Muhammad: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-pouring-coffee-from-a-french-press-pot-16444384/

On the other hand, Cold Brew, a method that has gained a surge of popularity in recent years, promises a gentle extraction process, resulting in a smooth, mild, and almost sweet coffee — a stark contrast to the robust intensity of its hot-brewed counterparts.

Pouring Cold Brew Coffee
Pouring Cold Brew Coffee
Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash - URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/Qnq9ZmSKJoo

This article aims to dive deep into the realms of French Press and Cold Brew, comparing these two popular methods to help you navigate a part of the rich tapestry of coffee brewing. Understanding the nuances of these brewing methods can enhance your appreciation of coffee and lead you to your perfect cup.

So, let's embark on this coffeenated journey from the rich, aromatic depths of the French Press to the cool, nuanced layers of Cold Brew, exploring what each has to offer to the modern coffee enthusiast.

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French Press and Cold Brew Coffee Makers

French Press Coffee Maker
BAYKA French Press

BAYKA French Press

The BAYKA French Press effortlessly combines sleek, stylish design with the ability to deliver a pure and authentic coffee taste. Elevate your coffee brewing routine and savor every sip of your coffee.

  • Durability and quality: Crafted from high-quality borosilicate glass, this brewer is resistant to thermal shock and can withstand high temperatures.
  • 4-level filtration: This system includes a metal mesh filter, spring disk, metal cross plate, and a final mesh screen. Together, these components work harmoniously to deliver a sediment-free brew.
  • Easy cleaning: The glass carafe can be easily disassembled, allowing for thorough cleaning. Both the plunger and filter are dishwasher safe.
Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Primula Burke Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Primula Burke Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Primula Burke Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a convenient and efficient choice for making incredibly rich and smooth cold brew coffee at home.

  • The Primula Burke Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is designed to be hassle-free, with easy-to-use components, dishwasher-safe parts, and durable glass construction.
  • With a capacity of up to 6 cups (52 ounces), it provides plenty of smooth and delicious cold brew coffee to enjoy throughout the day.
  • A slow-brewed cup of cold brew coffee from the Primula Burke Deluxe is the perfect way to start your day, and this coffee maker makes the process simple and affordable.
  • Primula is an industry leader with over 30 years of experience, delivering high-quality, award-winning products that are patented, thoroughly tested, and highly reviewed.

The Background on Both Brewing Methods

The journey of coffee brewing is as rich and varied as the beans themselves, with each method bringing its history, technique, and flavor to the cup. The French Press and Cold Brew methods are no exceptions, each rooted in a distinctive approach to extracting the essence of the coffee bean.

French Press: A Timeless Tradition

The French Press, also known as a press pot or plunger pot, has a storied history that dates back to the mid-19th century. Its invention is attributed to the French (hence the name), but it was the Italians who refined and popularized the design we know today.

Read Also: The History of the French Press: From its Origins to Modern Day

The French Press consists of a cylindrical glass or stainless steel beaker and a lid with a plunger that fits tightly into the cylinder. A metal or nylon mesh filter attached to the plunger separates the coffee grounds from the water after brewing.

Glass Beaker and a Lid with a Plunger (Disassembled French Press)
Glass Beaker and a Lid with a Plunger (Disassembled French Press)
Photo by Ivan Calderon on Unsplash - URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/white-ceramic-mug-beside-black-and-silver-coffee-maker-EqReelPJzDk

This method is celebrated for its simplicity and efficiency, requiring only medium-coarse or coarsely ground coffee and near-boiling water. The brewing process allows for complete immersion of the grounds in water, ensuring a comprehensive extraction of flavors.

Read Also: A Coffee Brewing Guide: The French Press

The result is a robust and rich cup of coffee that retains much of the coffee's natural oils and fine particles, contributing to its full body and complex taste profile.

Cold Brew: The Cool Contender

Cold Brew coffee, by contrast, is a relatively recent phenomenon that has quickly captured the hearts of coffee lovers looking for a less acidic and smoother alternative to traditional hot brewing methods.

Cold Brew Coffee
Cold Brew Coffee
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The method involves steeping coarse coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, typically 16 to 24 hours. Depending on the coffee-to-water ratio, the cold extraction process can result in a ready-to-drink coffee or a more potent coffee concentrate that needs to be diluted with water or milk before serving.

Read Also: A Coffee Brewing Guide: The Cold Brew

What sets Cold Brew apart is its incredibly smooth and mild flavor profile, with reduced bitterness and acidity compared to hot-brewed coffee. This gentle brewing method highlights the sweet and chocolatey notes of the coffee, making it a favorite among those who prefer a softer, more subtle coffee flavor.

Cold Brew coffee is versatile, too, serving as a refreshing standalone drink or as a base for a variety of coffee beverages.

Both the French Press and Cold Brew methods offer unique pathways to enjoying coffee, each with its own set of rituals and results.

The French Press appeals to those who cherish the warmth and richness of a hot cup of coffee, while Cold Brew caters to the modern palate, offering a cool and gentle twist on the traditional coffee experience. As we delve deeper into the nuances of these methods, it becomes clear that choosing between them is not just about taste—it's about embracing a particular coffee culture and lifestyle.

Brewing Process Comparison

Diving into the brewing processes of the French Press and Cold Brew reveals the heart of their differences—not just in taste but in the very ritual of coffee making. Each method has its own set of steps, requirements, and nuances that can transform the same coffee beans into remarkably different beverages.

French Press: The Art of Immersion

The French Press is a testament to the beauty of simplicity in coffee brewing.

Elegance and Authenticity

Mueller French Press

Mueller French Press is an exceptional choice that will exceed your expectations.

Mueller French Press
  • Triple-layered filter structure: This innovative design ensures that no sediment enters your cup while allowing the delicious coffee oils to pass through.
  • Matching travel canister: This convenient addition allows you to carry enough coffee beans or grounds for two whole batches, ensuring that you can enjoy your favorite brew even on the go.
  • Double-layered stainless steel: This coffee maker not only does it retain heat exceptionally well, keeping your coffee hot for a remarkable 60 minutes longer than thinner steel and glass models, but it is also drop-proof and rust-proof.
  • Versatile: It serves as a handy appliance for brewing tea, creating pleasant MCT oil coffee, indulging in hot chocolate, experimenting with cold brew, frothing milk to perfection, and even making infused beverages with almond milk, cashew milk, or fruit infusions.
  • Excellent gift choice: Whether it's a housewarming, wedding, birthday, or any celebration, this coffee maker will impress coffee and tea lovers alike.

Its process begins with medium-coarse or coarsely ground coffee beans, which are essential to prevent over-extracting bitter flavors from the coffee and prevent them from slipping through the mesh filter and into the final brew. The grounds are placed directly into the bottom of the press pot, to which hot water—just off the boil—is added.

Adding Coffee Grounds into the French Press
Adding Coffee Grounds into the French Press
Adding Hot Water into the French Press
Adding Hot Water into the French Press
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Photo by Los Muertos Crew: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-pouring-hot-water-on-french-press-7488706/

The key here is to ensure the water is not too hot, ideally around 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C), to avoid over-extraction, which can lead to bitterness.

After adding the water, the mixture is stirred to ensure all the coffee grounds are fully saturated. That is crucial for even extraction. The brew is then allowed to steep for about four minutes, though this can be adjusted according to taste preference.

Steeping the Ground Coffee
Steeping the Ground Coffee
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A longer steep will produce a stronger, more robust coffee, while a shorter steep results in a lighter cup.

Finally, the plunger is pressed down slowly, separating the coffee grounds from the liquid. The coffee is ready to be poured and enjoyed immediately, brimming with the oils and flavors fully extracted from the grounds.

Slowly Pressing the Plunger
Slowly Pressing the Plunger
Finished Pressing the Plunger
Finished Pressing the Plunger
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Cold Brew: Patience Pays Off

The Cold Brew method is a slow dance of patience and time, requiring a coarser grind of coffee similar to that of the French Press.

Cold Brew Pioneer

Toddy Cold Brew System

Discover the original cold brew pioneer and elevate your coffee experience with the Toddy Cold Brew System.

Toddy Cold Brew System
  • The set includes a brewing container with a handle, a glass decanter with a lid, 2 reusable filters, one silicone stopper, a set of instructions, and a new brewing container lid.
  • The Toddy Cold Brew System is made of BPA-free materials, providing peace of mind for health-conscious users.
  • Its cold water filtration process extracts the true flavor of coffee beans while reducing acidity, resulting in a remarkably smooth and delicious brew.
  • The coffee concentrate stays fresh for up to 2 weeks without any flavor changes, allowing you to get more out of your coffee grounds.
  • When purchased from an authorized reseller, the system comes with a one-year manufacturer's warranty, ensuring quality and durability.

However, cold or room temperature water is used instead of hot water, and the coarse coffee grounds are steeped for an extended period, usually 16 to 24 hours. The long extraction time at a low temperature ensures a smooth, sweet, and mellow brew, significantly less acidic than its hot-brewed counterparts.

Many brewers specialize in preparing Cold Brew, but a grander-sized French press can also be used to make a Cold Brew coffee. The French press can be used in many creative ways beyond its standard use.

Read Also: The Surprising Versatility of Your French Press: It's Not Just for Coffee Anymore!

The process starts by mixing extra-coarse coffee grounds with water in a large jar or pitcher, with a typical ratio of 1:6 coffee to water for a concentrate, which can later be diluted to taste.

For a ready-to-drink Cold Brew coffee, a typical ratio will be 1:14 to 1:16 coffee to water.

Ready-to-drink Cold Brew Coffee
Ready-to-drink Cold Brew Coffee
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After fully immersing the grounds in the water, the mixture is covered and left to steep at room temperature or in a refrigerator. The slow extraction pulls out the coffee's sweet flavors while leaving behind many of the bitter compounds that are more quickly extracted at higher temperatures.

Once the brewing time is up, the coffee is filtered through a fine mesh sieve, sometimes followed by a secondary filtration with a paper filter to remove the finer particles.

The result is a coffee concentrate that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days, ready to be diluted with water, milk, or any other preferred mixer for a refreshing coffee drink.

Diluting Cold Brew Concentrate with Milk
Diluting Cold Brew Concentrate with Milk
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To summarize the brewing processes, the primary distinction between the French Press and Cold Brew brewing processes lies in the water temperature and extraction time.

The French Press uses hot water and a short brew time to quickly extract a wide range of flavors, resulting in a rich, bold, and immediate coffee. Cold Brew, in contrast, takes its time, using cold water and a prolonged steep to achieve a smooth, sweet, and subtle flavor profile.

Flavor Profile and Texture

The distinctions between French Press and Cold Brew coffee extend significantly into their flavor profiles and textures, reflecting the diversity of coffee experiences available to enthusiasts. These differences not only cater to individual preferences but also highlight the versatility of coffee as a beverage.

French Press: Richness and Complexity

The French Press method is renowned for producing coffee with a pronounced richness and a complex flavor profile. By immersing coffee grounds in hot water, this brewing technique extracts a broad spectrum of flavors—from the subtle floral notes to the deep, earthy undertones.

The presence of coffee oils, which are not filtered out by the metal mesh, contributes to the coffee's full-bodied nature and can introduce a slight bitterness that adds to the drink's complexity. These oils are essential for carrying the aromatic compounds that define coffee's unique scent and taste.

French Press Coffee
French Press Coffee
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The texture of French Press coffee is equally distinctive. The lack of a paper filter allows some very fine coffee particles to remain in the brew, resulting in a hazy drink with a more substantial mouthfeel. That can sometimes leave a bit of sediment at the bottom of the cup, which some drinkers appreciate for the rustic, authentic coffee experience it provides.

The overall effect is a cup of coffee that feels as rich and robust as it tastes, making the French Press ideal for those who enjoy a hearty and invigorating coffee.

Cold Brew: Smoothness and Sweetness

Cold Brew's extended extraction process at a low temperature unveils a different facet of coffee. This method produces a smooth and sweet coffee with an almost syrupy body due to the presence of more coffee oils in the brew, especially when making Cold Brew concentrate.

The lower extraction rate of cold water reduces the bitterness and acidity commonly found in hot-brewed coffee, highlighting the beans' natural sweetness and chocolatey notes. This gentler extraction process also means fewer fine particles are present in the final brew, making the coffee appear more transparent than French press coffee.

Cold Brew Coffee
Cold Brew Coffee
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The texture of Cold Brew is markedly smoother and silkier compared to French Press coffee. Without the fine particles, the coffee feels cleaner on the palate, making it particularly refreshing when served cold.

This smooth texture, combined with the inherent sweetness and low acidity, makes Cold Brew a favorite among those who may find traditional coffee too harsh or bitter.

It's a versatile brew, enjoyable on its own or as a base for various coffee drinks, offering a refreshing twist on the classic coffee experience.

Versatility and Serving Options

The versatility of French Press and Cold Brew coffee extends beyond their distinct brewing processes and flavor profiles, encompassing a wide range of serving options that cater to diverse preferences and occasions.

This adaptability showcases the flexibility of coffee as a beverage and allows individuals to tailor their coffee experience to their specific tastes and lifestyle needs.

French Press: Beyond the Morning Cup

The French Press is not only a beloved method for brewing a traditional hot cup of coffee; it also offers versatility in how that coffee can be enjoyed.

The rich and full-bodied coffee it produces is perfect as a warm, invigorating start to the day, but its utility goes beyond the morning routine. French Press coffee can be easily transformed into an iced coffee by cooling the brewed coffee and serving it over ice, retaining its robust flavor even when chilled.

French Press Coffee Over Ice
French Press Coffee Over Ice
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Moreover, the French Press is not limited to coffee brewing. It can be used to steep loose-leaf tea, offering a similar depth of extraction and flavor richness. Some enthusiasts also use the French Press to make cold brew coffee and a stronger, espresso-like brew with a French press, which is a base for many espresso and milk coffee beverages.

Read Also: Savoring the Seasons: Espresso and Steamed Milk Coffee Delights

Cold Brew: A Multipurpose Concentrate

Cold Brew coffee, known for its smoothness and mild flavor, is incredibly versatile in its serving options, mainly due to its concentrated nature. The concentrated brew can be diluted with water, milk, or any milk alternative to match personal taste preferences, making it a customizable base for a variety of beverages.

Whether served over ice for a refreshing summer drink, mixed with steamed milk for a cold-weather latte, or used as a component in coffee-flavored cocktails, Cold Brew is adaptable to any season or setting.

Making Coffee Beverage with Cold Brew Concentrate
Making Coffee Beverage with Cold Brew Concentrate
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Cold Brew's low acidity and smooth profile also make it an excellent ingredient for culinary explorations, from baking to cooking, where it can add depth and coffee flavor without bitterness.

Its versatility extends into creative coffee drinks, such as Cold Brew sodas and affogatos, and even in making ice cream, showcasing its broad utility beyond a standalone beverage.

Making Affogato
Making Affogato
Ieva Kisunaite by Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/kRS7qyKfVhY

Both methods enable coffee lovers to experiment with and enjoy coffee in myriad ways, transcending the traditional boundaries of coffee brewing and serving. This versatility enriches the coffee experience and invites creativity and personalization, making every cup uniquely satisfying.

Pros and Cons

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both French Press and Cold Brew coffee brewing methods is essential for coffee enthusiasts to make an informed choice that aligns with their preferences and lifestyles. Each method brings its own set of benefits and potential drawbacks, shaping the coffee experience in unique ways.

Pros of French Press:

  • Full Flavor Extraction: The immersion brewing process extracts a wide range of flavors, producing a rich, robust cup of coffee that highlights the bean's depth.
  • Simplicity and Speed: The French Press is straightforward to use, with a brewing time of about four to five minutes, making it ideal for quick, quality coffee.
  • Versatility: Beyond coffee, the French Press can be used for brewing tea or making cold brews, offering a multifunctional addition to your kitchen.
  • Eco-Friendly: With no need for disposable filters or pods, the French Press is a more sustainable option for environmentally conscious consumers.

Cons of French Press:

  • Sediment: The lack of a fine filter means some coffee grounds may end up in your cup, which some drinkers might find undesirable.
  • Temperature Control: Maintaining the optimal water temperature requires attention, as there's no built-in mechanism to regulate heat during brewing.
  • Cleaning: While generally easy to clean, manually disposing of coffee grounds and washing the mesh filter can be a slight inconvenience.

Read Also: The Essential Guide to Maintaining and Cleaning Your French Press

Pros of Cold Brew:

  • Smooth, Mild Flavor: The cold extraction process produces a less acidic and bitter coffee, offering a soft and sweet flavor profile that's easy on the palate.
  • Convenience: Once brewed, Cold Brew concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days, ready to be diluted and enjoyed at any time.
  • Versatility: The concentrate can be used as a base for a variety of coffee beverages, from iced coffees to cocktails, and even in cooking and baking.
  • Ease of Brewing: The method requires minimal equipment and no specialized brewing skills, making it accessible to beginners.

Cons of Cold Brew:

  • Time-Consuming: The brewing process requires a significant time investment, typically 16 to 24 hours, which requires planning ahead.
  • Less Variation in Flavor: The gentle extraction process may not highlight the nuanced flavors of different coffee beans as distinctly as hot brewing methods.
  • Storage Space: Storing the Cold Brew concentrate requires refrigerator space, which could be a consideration for those with limited kitchen storage.

Choosing between the French Press and Cold Brew coffee brewing methods depends on what you value most in your coffee routine. Each method has its unique set of pros and cons, reflecting the diverse ways people enjoy coffee.


The decision to use a French Press or indulge in Cold Brew coffee need not be seen as a final choice but rather as an exciting chance to delve into the vast array of coffee experiences.

The optimal coffee brewing technique is ultimately the one that seamlessly integrates into your daily routine, perfectly matching your flavor preferences, lifestyle, and those special moments of enjoyment.

Coffee is a personal journey, one that invites experimentation and discovery. Diving into various brewing methods not only broadens your understanding and skill set in the world of coffee but also enhances your appreciation for the subtle distinctions that make every cup distinctively delightful.

As we wrap up this guide on comparing these two beloved brewing methods, it's important to remember that the true essence of coffee enjoyment extends beyond the cup itself. It's found in the journey—whether you're pressing a plunger down in a French Press or patiently waiting for your Cold Brew to steep.

Embark on your coffee exploration with an open mind and eager heart, aware that every brewing experiment enriches your personal story in the world of coffee.

Read Next:

French Press vs. Moka Pot - A Tale of Two Brews
French Press vs. Pour-over: Comparing Richness to Clarity
Comparing French Press Coffee and Espresso: What's the Difference?