Is French Press Coffee Stronger Than Espresso? Here’s How to Find Out

is french press coffee stronger than espresso

Is French Press coffee stronger than Espresso? Check out the differences in flavor, grind, and body that make one coffee stronger than the other.

Making coffee in a French Press is one of the best manual ways to achieve a robust and earthy cup of coffee that packs all the flavors, oils, and aromas of the beans’ country of origin.

On the other hand, espresso is a lightning-fast way to achieve an intense, dark shot topped with frothy crema.

Espresso has higher caffeine than most coffee at about 77mg per shot. Expresso also has a bold flavoring that has a stronger taste than other coffees. Coffee brewed in a French press, has a more subtle and smooth flavor than espresso. But since it is typically served by the cup, you can expect caffeine levels to be higher at 107mg per serving.

Is French Press Coffee Stronger Than Espresso Brew?

It’s a question that coffee afficionados may debate until the end of time.

If you love a good strong cup of coffee, you might wonder if French Press is stronger than espresso. While espresso has a bold, sweeter flavor, French Press offers a gentler, but more intense, earthy taste.

Both brewing methods are very different, which helps espresso achieve more intense caffeination than French Press. At the same time, French Press contains a heavy, full-bodied flavor profile.

Due to its intense concentration, espresso packs more caffeine per unit volume than almost any other coffee drink, including espresso.

At 77mg of caffeine in a 1.5 oz. shot, this jitter-inducing number is significantly higher per unit when matched against the French Press’ 107.mg in an 8 oz. cup.

At the same time, some experts consider French Press coffee to have a rounder flavor than espresso because a French Press’ stainless-steel mesh plunger doesn’t have a filter that eliminates natural oils and fine bits of particles that give French Press coffee its characteristic robust and earthy flavor. 

In contrast, an espresso machine has a portafilter that filters out compounds and bits of grind that gives it a cleaner, smoother, and milder taste. Because an espresso machine also uses a high-pressurized hot water process, this extracts extra compounds into the brew.  

When it comes to caffeine strength and intense flavor, espresso wins hands down. Meanwhile, many people consider French Press coffee to have a richer, full-bodied flavor since the brew contains all the natural oils, aromas, and flavors extracted from the coffee beans.

Is French Press Coffee Different from Espresso?

The big difference between espresso and French Press coffee lies in the brewing process.

An espresso is made in an automated machine where hot pressurized water is forced, fast and furious, through the compacted coffee puck and a portafilter to produce an intense, concentrated shot.

The heat, speed, pressure, filtering, and fine grind combine to create a smooth, powerful coffee that’s topped with a characteristic rim of foam called crema.

If you’re unused to espresso, you might find the concentrated shot bold and bitter at first, but after a while your tongue should be able to decipher a wide range of subtle notes such as walnut, almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, dark chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, or caramel. These fleeting flavors appear in high-quality espresso which should never taste burnt or flat.

A French Press, on the other hand, is a slower, manual brewing method that uses time (typically four minutes) and water that is heated to just under boiling to extract the flavors and compounds from coarse-ground coffee beans in an immersion method that’s like steeping a good cup of tea.

This helps the flavors grow slowly so it doesn’t pack a punch like espresso brew does.

Because there’s no filter, you’ll likely see flavorful shards of coffee beans floating and a thick sediment at the bottom of your cup. There’s no pressure involved with a French Press, so it’s impossible to get crema with this brewing method.

It’s the kind of coffee that you can roll around in your mouth to taste the bold layers of flavors. A French Press can really bring out the earthy and heavy bass notes in rich Indonesian or Columbian coffee beans.

While French Press is considered more aromatic and acidic, there’s no doubt that espresso takes the prize for beverage strength.

What Kind of Coffee is Stronger Than Espresso? 

Although espresso has a reputation for strength it’s possible to get higher concentrations of caffeine the longer coffee beans are exposed to hot water. In theory, this means that French Press grind that steeps too long could cross the line between bold and end up intense, overpowering, or bitter. 

Coffee strength can also depend on the type of beans that are used in the brew. For example, Robusta species produce the strongest global coffee.

Grown predominantly in India, Brazil, and the African continent, Robusta coffee beans are used for both iconic and intense Italian espresso and powerful cold brew coffee. 

Cold brew coffee may be stronger than espresso since espresso has more caffeine per ounce while cold brew contains more caffeine per serving.

If you’re looking for a strong flavor profile that outdoes espresso, consider trying ristretto, an espresso that uses a lower water-to-coffee ratio to produce an even more concentrated shot. While French Press coffee isn’t going to pack a caffeinated punch like the espresso family, it’s a good option if you want a gentler flavor with less concentrated caffeine.

French Press Coffee vs. Espresso: Which Coffee Method is the Strongest?

By now, you get the idea that espresso’s fast and pressurized method makes stronger coffee than French Press’ slower immersion method.

Despite its strong and complex flavor profile, espresso still has a smoother, more filtered taste compared to French Press.

With French Press coffee, you get continuous immersion and full contact with none of the oily natural flavors filtered out. A lighter roast is more delicate with sparkling acidity and will give you more clues about the country of origin, while a darker roast will showcase more warm, toasty flavors.

Can I Make Espresso Shots in a French Press?

Yes, you can make a beverage that’s somewhat like espresso shots in a French Press. Because a French Press only screens out the bigger bits of grind, you won’t get as smooth a cup.

It also won’t have the same concentrated caffeine content. Without fast, pressurized water, you also can’t “shoot” a shot of espresso that results in an Instagram-worthy topping of crema.

At the same time, you use medium grind and a higher coffee-to-water ratio to mimic some of espresso’s characteristics without clogging up the mesh filter. A coarse ground won’t extract as fast to produce the more intense flavor needed for a French Press espresso.

Make sure to bloom the coffee for 30 seconds before pouring all the hot water into the French Press. If you want a stronger brew, aim to let the grounds steep in the glass carafe a little longer (about 6 minutes).

You can also achieve a smoother, dark brew that’s a great base for homemade lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos, and more by using a secondary paper filter to remove strong-tasting oils, aromas, and compounds.

If you want to make espresso in a French Press, the best thing to do is to play around with water, temperature, grind, roast, and timing to find the perfect flavor for you.

Final Thoughts

It all comes down to preference when it comes to choosing between French Press or espresso.

An espresso shot’s fine ground and high caffeine levels make it a favorite for busy people who enjoy a fast, smooth, and intense shot with a signature crema topping.

If you enjoy a slower, more mindful brewing process with raw, earthy, and unfiltered flavors, then the French Press’ heavy body might be for you.

If you want to know everything about how to make espresso in a French Press, check out our article, “Can You Make Espresso in a French Press?”

Whichever flavor profile you prefer or brewing method that you choose, you’re sure to enjoy bold, earthy, and aromatic tones or a super dark shot to kickstart your day.

Christopher Mize
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