French Press Vs Cold Brew (Key Differences Between Them)

Coffee is a timeless favorite when it comes to beverages. It transcends borders thanks to its unique flavors. While there are virtually endless varieties of coffee drinks out there, the French press and cold brew are two of the most popular.  

If you want to learn all about the French press vs cold brew, don't go anywhere because this guide will make sure you’re an expert! 

So, what’s the main difference between French press and cold brew coffee? Where to begin? There are quite a few differences! 

1. Coffee Taste & Flavor  

The coffee flavor with a French press is much more rich, bold, and intense. As the coffee is steeped with a French press instead of being filtered, it adds to the coffee fragrance.

Cold brew is much smoother, velvety, and has a slightly sweeter flavor

If you have acid reflux or other issues, you may find it to be a great alternative. It's also less bitter, so if you aren't a fan of "regular" coffee, you may like cold brew. 

2. Brewing Time & Control  

With a French press coffee maker, you need your water to be consistently hot the entire time you’re brewing. However, the French press method of brewing only takes a few minutes in total and isn’t all that complicated. 

Cold brewing coffee will often take up to 24 hours or so, which means you have to wait until the next day to enjoy the rewards of your work. If you want an instant cup of coffee for you or others, then the French press is definitely the winner here.  

dark roast coffee from french press

3. Water Temperatures Required

With a French press, you want your water to be approximately 195 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the entire brewing process. This is often touted as the ideal temperature and isn't all that hard to achieve.

Just boil to around 200 degrees and let it sit for a minute. Water should be at room temperature for cold brewing.

You can brew it in the fridge or with cool water, though it will take you longer. As room temperature water takes practically no time at all to prep, cold brewing is the winner here.   

4. Coffee Bean Types Used  

When brewing coffee you need to use the right coffee beans and coffee grounds. 

With a French press, you should use fresh coffee beans for the best results. 

For cold press coffee or cold brew coffee you can use older coffee beans with different flavor profiles. This is because when the temperature and brewing method involves soaking coffee beans, so it's easier to pick up the flavor. 

However, with both the French press and cold brew methods, you can switch up different types of beans and check out new flavors. You may want to go with a slightly less potent bean with a French press; however, as the result is more robust anyway.  

5. Coffee Grind Size

Getting the right size of coffee grounds is vital for great brewed coffee.

French press works best with coarse coffee grounds. These coarsely ground coffee beans allows the French press method of immersion to absorb more of the brewed coffee flavor. 

Cold brew concentrate works best with very coarse coffee grounds, though it's not as important. Very coarsely ground coffee beans give your cold brew maker more opportunity to absorb the flavor and create your rich cold brewed coffee. 

6. Caffeine Levels

Coffee lovers mainly drink coffee for the energy boost, but cold brew coffee has much higher caffeine levels.

On average, French press coffee contains 80-100mg of caffeine in a serving. This is fairly standard, but slightly stronger than regular drip coffee.

Cold press coffee or cold brew coffee contains 200-400mg of caffeine in a serving, which is a lot more. In fact, cold brew coffee is generally the strongest coffee option around.

Hot brewed coffee tends to be weaker because some of the caffeine will dissolve at higher temperatures. Cold brew iced coffee is a lot stronger because the water temperature and brewing method preserves the caffeine from the coffee beans. 

7. Negative Health Aspects  

When considering the health implications of French press coffee and cold brew coffee there are a few things to consider:

  • Caffeine
    Cold brew contains a lot more caffeine than French press coffee. This can make you more jittery, cause headaches, or upset your stomach.
  • Acid Content
    Cold brew contains much lower acidity levels than French press coffee so it's much healthier for the stomach and body overall. However, this can vary depending on the type of coarse coffee ground used.
  • Cholesterol
    Studies have shown that brewing coffee with the French press method creates hot coffee which can raise your higher cholesterol. It's not dangerous, but if you have high cholesterol already you're better using the cold brew method. 
  • Sugar Content
    Neither French press coffee or cold brew coffee contains sugar, as the brewing process only involves coffee beans and hot water. However, it's common to add milk and sugar to hot coffee and if you put in any extras to either coffee it will increase the sugar and calories.  

Overall, neither coffee is particularly unhealthy, but if you're sensitive to caffeine you should avoid cold brew.  

French Press Brewing Method Explained

The French press brewing method is a more traditional one, which is appealing due to its flavor, user-friendliness, affordability, and more.

While there has been talk of it originating in both France and Italy, it was first patented in Italy, and many say the person who created it was a Frenchman.  

The French press is great for making affordable, quick cups of coffee or even a large pot for multiple people.

Whether you are brewing coffee for yourself, for you and a partner, or even a large group, the French press method is perfect as it’s so similar to your regular hot coffee brewing process that most of us are already familiar with.  

French Press Coffee Maker

Sporting a round container with a wire-mesh filter "pressed" into a cylindrical jug, you start out by boiling water over coarse-ground coffee beans until it filters out. 

You have to keep the hot water at a consistent temperature throughout the entire process – ideally at 195 degrees Fahrenheit. As the grounds stay at the bottom of the press the whole time, it offers a very strong, bold flavor profile.   

How to make an amazing cup of French pressed coffee:  

  • 1
    Boil water and set it to the side for a minute.
  • 2
    Pour water into the kettle.
  • 3
    Grind your coffee bean of choice (coarse ground preferred).
  • 4
    Pour grounds and into water inside the kettle and stir gently.
  • 5
     After stirring for about 30 seconds, place a cover on the container while it steeps.
  • 6
    The longer the grounds sit in the water, the stronger the cup will be.
  • 7
    Once you’re ready to drink, press the plunger from the press down to keep grounds from getting into your cup of coffee.
  • 8
    Pour coffee into your cup and add milk, creamer, sugar, or anything else you typically enjoy in your coffee.
  • 9
    If you prefer iced/chilled coffee, set it in the fridge and add a cup of ice. 

Pros and Cons of Using a French Press  

What We Like 
  • Very affordable equipment 
  • Consistently delicious results 
  • Minimal learning curve 
  • Quick way to make coffee 
  • Easy to master after a few brews 
  • Versatile 
  • Easy to clean and maintain 
Things We Don’t  
  • Requires additional tools to boil water 
  • A bit more dangerous as you can burn yourself while boiling 
  • Can over-extract grounds when first learning 

Cold Brew: New Coffee Method on The Block  

Cold brewing is a method by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a longer period of time. In contrast to the French press’ rich, strong flavor, the cold brew method results in a smooth, less acidic, slightly sweeter coffee.

Don't be fooled, though; it's not anything like regular chilled or iced coffee.  

What’s nice with the cold brew method is that you can use older beans for cold brews, and there are two types of brewing methods: 

1. Ice drip brewing

Ice drip brewing is more time-consuming and requires a tower cold brew maker to drip iced water (or ice cubes) onto fresh coffee grounds, taking up to an entire day to brew. This offers a “cleaner” result, and you can control the flavor more - something coffee lovers really enjoy.

2. Immersion brewing

Immersion brewing is the more common cold press method, and is ultra-convenient. Simply place your grounds in a brewing container (often a mason jar) of cool water and let it steep until all grounds are filtered out.  

Here’s how to make a delicious cold brew coffee concentrate:  

  • 1
    Mix room-temperature water and fresh ground coffee in your container.
  • 2
    Place a spoon or other stirrer at the top, gently stirring. Alternatively, you can begin stirring once you’ve started brewing.
  • 3
    After brewing, cover the device with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours.
  • 4
    Once 24 hours have passed, remove plastic wrap and press the grinds. 
  • 5
    Pour concentrated grinds into a fine-mesh container, dissolving them with cold water.
  • 6
    Fill glass with ice, pour the delicious coffee drink over ice, and enjoy.  
Cold Brew Coffee

Pros and Cons of Cold Brew Coffee  

What We Like 
  • Coffee is smoother and less bitter but with an intense taste 
  • Lower temperatures better preserve caffeine  
  • Less acidic/easier on the stomach 
  • Wider option of flavor profiles 
  • Not dangerous at all 
Things We Don’t  
  • Very time-consuming 
  • Must use a higher ratio of coffee/tea 
  • Takes a bit of practice to get the right balance 

Frequently Asked Cold Brew Vs French Press Questions 

Can a French press be used for cold brew coffee?

Yes, they can! Instead of hot water, you’ll simply use cold water for cold brew coffee.  

How long should coffee steep in a French Press?  

We recommend stirring in 1/3 of your water to let your coffee grounds "bloom" for approximately 30 seconds. Then, add the rest of your water, cover it, and let it steep for around 3-4 minutes.  

How do I keep my French press coffee hot?  

You can pour your coffee into a thermos or double-walled carafe. Alternatively, you can place it in a thermal mug, smart mug, USB mug warmer, or in a microwave.  

How many scoops of coffee go into a French Press?  

It's recommended to add just one tablespoon of coffee for every 4 ounces of water. For example, if you're using a 16-ounce press pot, you'll add in 4 tablespoons of coffee. Of course, you can add or subtract, depending on your personal tastes.  


Now that you know practically everything about a cold brew coffee vs. French press, have you decided which one is for you?

The great news is that you don't have to pick! In fact, you could even use a French press to make cold brew, so you have the best of both worlds!

We hope our guide has helped you out - Happy sipping! 

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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