First Coffee, Then... is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase an item using one of our links. We independently review every product.
Summary of Differences
If you’re deciding between a French press and a pod coffee maker (or K-cup coffee maker), they are on almost opposite ends of the coffee-making spectrum. The French press is a manual coffee maker known for making vibrant, rich-tasting coffee. It’s inexpensive to purchase, doesn’t require paper filters, and is easy to clean.
A pod coffee maker is an electric coffee machine that takes K-cups or coffee pods to make single servings of coffee. K-cups are convenient to use, requiring little to no manual work. They also come in many coffee roasts and non-coffee options, like teas and hot chocolates. Many pod coffee makers are dual brewers, meaning they can make pod coffee or function as a regular drip coffee or espresso machine.
|French press||Keurig K-cup machine|
|Prices||$20 to $30 for 30-ounce size||$80 to $300|
- Brews 8 coffee cups which is equal to 1000 ml; includes plastic measuring spoon
- Durable heat resistant borosilicate glass carafe beaker sits in stylish insulated plastic frame which makes pouring coffee easier and prevent wobbling
- Easier to use than a drip coffeemaker; brews within minutes and no soggy filters to deal with
A French press is a manual immersion and press coffee maker. To make coffee in a French press, add coarse ground coffee and hot water to the carafe. Let the coffee steep in the water for several minutes, usually between three and six minutes. After steeping, press the plunger down to push the coffee grounds to the bottom. Pressing the plunger helps extract additional oils and flavors from the coffee grounds and ensures no grounds end up in your cup.
One defining characteristic of French press coffee is its earthy, rich, aromatic taste and smell. A French press is great if you like bold coffee flavors, as the immersion technique extracts a ton of flavor from the coffee grounds.
On the opposite end of the coffee-making spectrum are K-cups, which offer a hands-off, automatic way to brew coffee. K-cups are single-serve coffee pods that contain coffee grounds and a filter.
You need a specialized pod coffeemaker to brew coffee using K-cups. Keurig, as well as other brands, offer these coffee makers. They function similarly to a drip coffee machine.
- FITS ANYWHERE: Less than 5 inches wide, perfect for small spaces.Filter type:Reusable
- YOUR PERFECT AMOUNT: Brew any cup size between 6-12oz with Keurig K-Cup pods.
- ONE CUP RESERVOIR: Just add fresh water for each brew.
To make coffee, fill up the water chamber of the coffee machine and insert the K-cup into the slot. Don’t open the K-cup because the machine will do that for you. You then need to start the brewing process on the coffee machine. During brewing, the coffee maker will puncture a hole in the top and bottom of the K-cup. This allows hot water to flow through the K-cup and out of the machine into your coffee cup.
K-cups are popular as they are convenient and easy to use and offer a variety of coffee and non-coffee options. You can find all types of coffee beans and roasts in K-cup form, and you can find non-coffee K-cups, such as teas and hot chocolates.
K-cup coffee generally has a milder and less nuanced taste than if you brewed the same coffee bean using a different method. The flavor profile of K-cup coffee is clean and light. Like a drip coffee machine, the hot water is not in contact with the coffee grounds for that long, resulting in a milder flavor profile.
One important factor to discuss when considering K-cups is the environmental impact. There’s no getting around the fact that K-cups create a lot of waste. Each cup is single-serving and made of plastic and other materials. Some K-cups are recyclable, but not every municipality will accept K-cups into their recycling program, meaning that they frequently end up in the trash.
K-cup machines may or may not be recyclable depending on what the appliance is made of and your municipality’s electronic waste programs. New York City, where we live, offers safe disposal and recycling sites for electronics, but not every city provides these programs.
French presses are much more eco-friendly than K-cups. You don’t use any paper filters, and the only waste created by French presses is the used coffee grounds. If you compost the used coffee grounds, you can virtually make the French press zero-waste. Moreover, most French presses are made from glass or metal, which means you can recycle it once it has reached the end of its life.
K-cup coffee machines generally come in two forms – they only make K-cup or pod coffee, or the coffee makers have the pod coffee maker as an additional function. For instance, a coffee machine may make drip coffee and have a separate pod coffee maker. Or an espresso machine may have a pod coffee maker built in.
Depending on the machine, there may be options to adjust the brew strength or do delayed brewing for the pod coffee. Combination machines will have additional features related to making drip coffee or espresso.
For the K-cups themselves, you can purchase tea and hot chocolate K-cups to use your pod coffee maker to make other beverages.
French presses have some alternate uses as well. You can steep loose-leaf tea in a French press, using it the same way you would to make coffee. French presses can also froth milk, but by pushing the plunger up and down rapidly. Finally, you can make espresso-style and cold-brew drinks in the French press by modifying the grind size and brewing times.
Most French presses are not dishwasher-safe, so you must hand wash them. For daily cleaning, cleaning the carafe and the plunger is sufficient. You should occasionally take apart the plunger to clean all of the parts. If you don’t do this, oils and minerals will build up on the plunger and may cause your coffee to have a sour taste.
You need to de-scale K-cup coffee machines on occasion. How you de-scale depends on the coffee maker, but most require using a particular de-scaling solution that you run through the machine several times. Similarly to the French press, the coffee machine will get mineral buildup from water.
For the outside of the machine, wiping it down with a damp cloth is generally enough to keep the coffee maker clean. Most machines cannot tolerate cleaning products on the outside, so only clean them using a towel or rag dampened by water.
One way to avoid mineral buildup in a K-cup machine and a French press is to use filtered water.
K-cup coffee makers are generally more expensive than a French press. However, they are comparable in price when it comes to the price per cup.
A 30-ounce French press will generally run around $30 to $40. A 12-ounce bag of coffee typically costs between $10 and $20. You can brew around 16 cups of coffee from a 12-ounce bag. Assuming a $15 bag, that’s about $0.94 per cup of coffee.
The cheapest Keurig K-cup machine is $80. Other brands make pod coffee makers for less, but they are generally more expensive than the French press.
If you buy K-cups from Keurig, they range in price from $0.50 to above $1 per pod. You can save money by purchasing large quantities or signing up for a subscription. Buying in bulk and signing up for a subscription can bring the cost down to as low as $0.40 per pod.
Which One Do We Prefer?
Unless I’m reviewing a pod coffee maker, I don’t use them at home, mainly due to the waste factor and the fact I can make better-tasting coffee using other methods. However, I use pods when traveling if the place I’m staying has them, and I find them quite convenient when you’re staying at a hotel.
At home, however, there are many other ways I can make coffee that are easy and produce far less waste than K-cups. Some of my favorite methods to make coffee at home include French press and pour-over and using our automatic espresso machine.
French press is great if you’re making a batch of coffee to serve multiple people, so I often use it when we have guests. When I make coffee for myself, I prefer to use either pour-over or our automatic espresso machine to make a cappuccino.