Is French Press Coffee Bad For You? A Terrible Dirty Secret

is french press coffee bad for you

French press coffee is one of the most popular, high-end ways to both prepare and serve coffee. However, whether you’ve noticed negative responses to drinking it or not, you may find yourself wondering: is French press coffee bad for you?

French Press coffee is often enjoyed because of the caffeine boost of energy and strong flavors it gives to the drinker.

Drinking 1 to 4 cups of French Press coffee may not have adverse side effects outside of those related to caffeine. But the risks involved in drinking higher amounts of French Press coffee outweigh the benefits. These health risks are related to the oils that are not strained from the coffee due to the unfiltered method that French Presses use, causing unhealthy heart effects.

In this article we’ll cover everything that has to do with the health risks involved with French press coffee, as well as a few other brewing methods that can pose a risk to your health, and some alternatives that are less problematic!

Is Coffee From a French Press Healthy?

Coffee from a French Press may taste more strong than other types of coffee, and some very experienced coffee drinkers may even tell you that French press coffee is one of the best methods to brew because of this very extreme flavor.

However, it is the source of these flavors that are unhealthy for the human body. French press coffee is made with a type of metal plunger which separates the final brewed liquid you’re drinking from the grounds that give it it’s flavor.

However, in this separation process, no filter is used.

Why Unfiltered Coffee Is Bad?

Unfiltered coffee, like the kind produced when you use a French press, is full of impurities and oils that were originally on the coffee grounds. A filter used in other types of brewing processes can usually strain these oils out, but if you use a French press or any other unfiltered method, these elements wind up in your coffee cup and eventually in your body.

Pros and Cons of Drinking Unfiltered Coffee

Below is a list of the benefits of drinking unfiltered coffee:

  • Higher Energy – There is no denying that a strong cup of coffee, like those produced in a French Press or other unfiltered method of brewing, can still give you a thrilling burst of energy! The raw, unfiltered caffeine content can give your body a boost in all it’s activities.
  • Better Exercise and Power – According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, intaking caffeine through methods like the French press brew of coffee can increase your exercise performance, give you longer endurance levels, and even boost the strength of your muscles for a limited time.

Now that we know a few of the benefits, let’s discuss a few of the problems with drinking unfiltered coffee in the list below:

  • Oils in Unfiltered Coffee include Diterpenes – Diterpenes are a chemical which have, in the past, been linked to heart issues like high cholesterol. It is a dangerous enough risk for us to go over in more detail later in this article!
  • Science Reveals Higher Death Rate – According to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, unfiltered coffee brews can increase the risk of heart problems so exponentially that it actually leads to death more often in those who drink it than those who do not.

What Coffee Besides French Press is Unhealthy?

Other than coffee prepared using the French press method, the following coffees can be considered unhealthy:

  1. Turkish-Style
  2. Espresso
  3. Percolator

Let’s take a closer look at how these coffees are prepared and what makes them unhealthy.

1.   Turkish Style

Turkish style coffee is brewed using a device called a cezve, which is made of copper, giving it a very strong flavor. Unfortunately, Turkish-style coffee is just as unfiltered as the French Press, leaving its drinkers open to the same heart-related health risks.

Not only that, but Turkish-style coffee is often associated with the sludge-like residue left at the bottom of each cup, which is also a result of brewing the coffee without a filter. That sludge is full of a coffee compound called cafestol.

Cafestol is one of the diterpenes that is extracted from coffee beans and can introduce a tendency toward cardiovascular diseases in those who consume it, according to a scientific review on the subject

2.   Espresso

Espresso, an intense, small amount of brewed coffee bean commonly found in lattes and americanos, is just as guilty of causing higher cholesterol in those who enjoy it as French Press and Turkish-style coffees.

Not only that, but some studies, like the one done by the Cleveland Clinic, link drinking espresso to upset stomachs and irritable bowel syndrome because of it’s highly-concentrated caffeine levels.

3.   Percolator

Not only is Percolator-style brewed coffee unfiltered, but it is often accomplished by using an aluminum container. Scientists note that aluminum consumption is higher in these aluminum brewing pots, which leech aluminum in trace amounts into the coffee you drink.

Exposure to high levels of aluminum, such as those consumed by heavy-coffee-drinkers that use this kind of unfiltered coffee pot, can cause lung issues and may even be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (though that link is still being scientifically studied.)

How is French Press Coffee Different From Other Brewing Methods?

French press coffee may seem fancy and distinguished, but the way that it is brewed is pretty simple when compared to other brewing methods.

Let’s start with the most common, widely understood method of brewing coffee, sometimes called the drip or automatic method. A drip coffee machine is made to heat cold water and then filter that water through grounds of coffee, usually placed in a paper filter.

When this happens, flavors and aromas are extracted from the coffee grounds, but harmful oils are usually kept out of the brew itself.

Instant coffee types are also used with this kind of filter, as are most forms of Cold Brew and Iced coffee blends.

However, a French Press utilizes a metal plunger, as mentioned above, to keep the flaky grounds out of the coffee. Still, the grounds are left to directly interact with the water that eventually becomes your cup of coffee. This means that the harmful oils we’ve discussed stay present in the final brew.

This may give your coffee a richer, more intense flavor, and in fact many people believe a French Press batch to be “fresher” than other types of coffee. However, as previously mentioned, it does leave your coffee cup ultimately unhealthy.

If cold brew coffee is your thing, check out my article on how to make cold brew coffee with a French Press.

What Are Diterpenes?

Diterpenes, which are present in all coffee batches but are especially potent in unfiltered brews like those created with French Press methods, are technically lipids. These lipids come in two well-known forms: kahweol and cafestol.

The problem with diterpenes is that they are known to raise bad types of cholestorol such as LDL, as well as liver enzymes and triaclyglycerols. High cholesterol creates fatty deposits in blood cells, which makes blood sluggish and difficult to pass through arteries like the heart. This is what leads to dangerous heart disease.

How Do You Remove Cafestol From a French Press?

 Luckily, there is a very simple way to remove cafestol from a brew made in the French Press. In a sense, you’re simply reversing the unfiltered component of the brew. All you have to do is brew your coffee using the French Press, as usual, and then pour the contents of the french press into a cup or receptical through a paper filter.

The paper filter will help to strain out the thicker portion of the liquid, which turns into a sludge that contains most of the cafestol diterpene!

What Kind Of Coffee Is Good For Cholesterol?

Although you might miss the effects of caffeine, truthfully, the best way to drink coffee in a way that protects your cholesterol is in decaf form.

Switching to decaffeinated coffee, especially when it is filtered during the brewing process, can reduce the lipids that might make your cholesterol levels rise.

What Are the Benefits of French Press Coffee?

We’ve covered all of the issues that can come from drinking french press coffee, but let’s not forget that there are some benefits to this method of coffee preparation! These are listed below:

  • Enhanced Flavor – There is no denying it: French Press coffee just has a stronger taste than regularly brewed coffee!
  • Easily Brewed – The way French Press allows you to create your cup of coffee manually may seem intimidating, but it is actually a very easy type of brew to master. Simply pour and plunge!
  • Non-Expensive – French Press coffee brewing is much less expensive than the standard automatic or electronic coffee machines.

What Are the Drawbacks of French Press Coffee?

Aside from the health drawbacks, here are a few issues you might run into that serve as drawbacks when deciding to make French press coffee:

  • Variances in Taste – Although the flavor is strong, the truth is, giving up on a more automatic type of coffee brewing method means you’re also giving up on the consistency of a machine making your coffee. The flavor may vary morning to morning!
  • Health Risks – As previously discussed, an unfiltered method of brewing in a French press is a danger to the health of your heart.
  • Difficult to Clean – An Automatic coffee brewer simply includes a dish washable basket and coffee pot. A French press must be taken apart before it can be washed free of grounds.

What is the healthiest way to brew coffee?

Now that you know several of the more dangerous ways to brew coffee in terms of health, you may be wondering what the all-time healthiest method of preparing coffee is. 

Actually, the healthiest way to brew coffee is by getting a type of bean that was cultivated at high altitudes in a light roast and using a filter. For the very best health benefits, it should be a decaf blend.

Can You Drink French Press and Stay Healthy?

Though french press coffee is one of the more dangerous ways to drink coffee due to it’s unfiltered nature, this doesn’t mean you can’t drink it and maintain your health! If you’re hoping to keep drinking french press coffee even after learning of it’s risks, you may be wondering, “What can I do about it?”

Below is a list of tips to stay healthy while drinking French Press coffee!

  • Filter Your Coffee While Brewing 
  • Keep Your Cholestorol Monitered and In Check
  • Listen to Warning Signs From Your Body 
  • Don’t Drink More Than the Recommended Daily Amount 
  • Time Your Coffee Drinking

Is Coffee Made In A French Press Unhealthy After All?

To sum it all up, the biggest health risks represented by French Press coffee come from the diterpenes that are not strained out due to the lack of a filter in a French Press. These diterpenes can cause high cholesterol, leading to an increased risk of death. However, you can still pour French Press coffee through a paper filter to remove these risks!

References and Citations

Just a moment. . . (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2047487320914443

Cafestol and Kahweol: A Review on Their Bioactivities and Pharmacological Properties. (2020, September 20). National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747192/#sec1-ijms-20-04238title

Digestive Health Team. (2022, March 11). Why Does Coffee Bother My Stomach? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/coffee-giving-you-tummy-trouble-try-these-low-acid-options/

Christopher Mize
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