There are literally hundreds of coffee makers out there, but few have reached the love and prestige of the french press and siphon brewers. These two devices are known around the world and embraced by the world’s most fanatic coffee lovers.
But despite their similar level of fame, these brewers are very different.
If you’re in the market for a new coffee brewer and are looking at these two options, don’t make a hasty decision. You need to carefully consider how the brewers function, how the coffee tastes different, and which one will best suit your lifestyle and preferences.
Siphon coffee is delicate and nuanced in taste, with a more complex brew process. French Press is quick to brew and produces a more bold and robust flavor. It’s easy to get good, consistent results with a French press, whereas siphon brewing requires more skill and time.
Lucky for you, I’m going to make this as easy as it can be.
Let’s walk through the similarities and differences together. Soon, you’ll know exactly which brewer is right for you.
In This Guide:
French presses and siphon coffee brewers are classy, crisp, and eye-catching. Glass is the primary material in both brewers, but you’d be mistaken to believe they’re similar at all in the design department.
The French Press
A french press is a simple device. A glass carafe, a stainless steel filter that’s attached to the lid by a long rod, and some sort of frame with a handle.
It’s dependable, classic, and pretty to look at.
- French press: Chambord French press brews a premium cup of Coffee in just 4 minutes, simply add course ground Coffee, hot water and press
- Stainless steel: 3-part stainless steel plunger has a mesh filter that helps extract your coffee's aromatic oils and subtle flavors instead of being absorbed by a paper filter. Made of plastic
- Durable design: Coffee press features Bodum Patented safety lid to keep contents from spilling and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
- Maximum flavor: pressed Coffee extracts the perfect amount of essentials oils and acids from the Coffee bean for maximum flavor; the preferred method for brewing for Coffee enthusiasts everywhere
- Servings: premium French press Coffee maker makes 8 cups of Coffee, 4 oz each
The siphon is also made up of only a few parts, but it’s a little more complex. A lower bulb is suspended in air by a stand. Beneath the bulb is a heat source of some sort – usually a butane burner. Atop the lower bulb sits the upper glass cylinder, paired with a cloth filter.
- Upper bowl, lower bowl and burner are made of the best heat resistant borosilicate glass from Hario
- Stand, burner cover, and filter are made of stainless steel
- Imported from Japan
- Item dimmensions are: 14"H x 6.2"W x 4.3"L; 5 Cup Capacity
- Fasteners are made of brass; windbreak is made of aluminum
Here’s how it works:
As the water in the lower bulb reaches boiling, it gets sucked up to the upper chamber by a vacuum. After brewing, when you remove the heat source, the vacuum sucks the brewed coffee back down into the lower bulb, leaving the coffee grounds behind.
It’s a striking brewer and a fascinating process. It’ll make you look like a mad coffee scientist. Take a look at some of our recommended syphon cofeee makers.
As you can imagine, the vastly different brewer designs make for some dramatic differences in the flavor of the coffee.
French Press: Rich and Bold
Coffee made in a french press is on the more robust and bold side. The brewer’s stainless steel filter allows some of the micro-grounds to slide through into your final cup, as well as the coffee’s natural – and very aromatic – oils.
The micro-grounds add a grittiness to the cup and bond with the coffee’s acids, masking them slightly and adding a deep richness. The oils add complex and pleasant aromas, as well as a creaminess to the mouthfeel.
French press coffee is…
Siphon Coffee: Refined and Complex
Siphon coffee, on the other hand, tends to be more delicate, nuanced, and fascinating. The brewing process tends to produce a less bold and intense flavor profile, allowing the more subtle complex notes to shine through.
This is, in part, due to the special filter. Since the stainless steel piece is wrapped in special cloth, the micro-grounds aren’t able to drop into your final brew. However, the oils still are.
This takes away the grittiness and deeper flavor notes of the micro-grounds and also allows the coffee’s crisp acids to poke out some more. It also allows the creaminess and rich aromatics of the natural oils to add complexity to your brew.
Siphon coffee tends to be…
- Light and Creamy-Bodied
Brewing + Ease Of Use
This is where you really have to pay attention. The brewing processes for these two devices are could not be any different, and they both may not fit into your lifestyle.
French Press: Mix, Press, Pour
Brewing with a french press is extremely easy. Here’s how it goes every time.
- Combine coffee grounds and hot water in the carafe
- Brew for four minutes
- Attach the lid and plunge the filter
- Pour out your coffee and enjoy
It’s simple, it’s repeatable, and it’s relatively quick. Cleanup can be a bit of hassle since you have to spoon out those leftover grounds, but the brewing itself is nearly painless.
See how the French Press compares to the Chemex brewer.
Siphon Coffee: The Scientist’s Method
The siphon, on the other hand, is not so straightforward.
- Boil water and pour into lower bulb
- Attach the upper chamber and the filter, then turn on heat source
- When the water rises to the upper chamber, pour in the grounds
- Brew for one to two minutes, stirring every thirty seconds
- Remove the heat, let the brewed coffee drain, and enjoy
It doesn’t just look like a scientist’s brewer, it feels like one too. While it’s not exactly difficult, I wouldn’t say it’s easy either.
While there’s a learning curve involved, brewing coffee with a siphon is a rewarding, captivating experience. It’s exciting, hands-on, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment when it’s all said and done.
You can learn more about brewing stellar siphon coffee here.