AeroPress Vs Plunger – A Detailed Comparison

Seeing as you’re here, I’m guessing you’re probably aware of what an AeroPress coffee maker is (or you’ve at least heard of it), and given that, I’m going to presume you also know what a coffee plunger (or french press, coffee press, press pot, or cafetière) is.

You’ve probably also found yourself wondering what the differences between them are. Well then, you’re in the right place!

In this article, we’re going to look at:

  • How they work
  • What’s included when you buy them, and
  • The differences between them.

Let’s jump in.

How does it work?

AeroPress

An AeroPress sitting on a kitchen bench with its box in the background.

The AeroPress works by pressing the brewed coffee through a paper filter, which sits at the bottom of the AeroPress, directly into your cup. This differs from the plunger, which instead presses the filter through the coffee and is then poured into a cup.

The coffee brewing process is simple:

  1. Unscrew the filter cap at the end of the chamber.
  2. Place a paper filter inside the filter cap and screw it back onto the chamber.
  3. Add the desired amount of ground coffee to the chamber – one scoop for an espresso equivalent and up to a max of four scoops.
  4. Sit the chamber on top of your coffee cup.
  5. Add hot water to your desired level.
  6. Stir the coffee for about 10 seconds.
  7. Insert the plunger at the top of the chamber and gently press the plunger down until the plunger reaches the coffee grounds.
  8. Take the AeroPress over to your rubbish / compost, unscrew the cap and push the plunger over your rubbish / compost to eject the used grounds.

Watch this 1 minute official video on how to use the Aeropress and check out my AeroPress review.

Plunger

A stainless steel coffee plunger sitting on a table.

If you’d like to know exactly how a coffee plunger works, I recently wrote a post about called How do coffee plungers work? Again, it’s a pretty simple process, but the brewing time is substantially longer.

  1. Remove the plunger from the canister.
  2. Add the desired amount of ground coffee into the canister – this will vary depending on the size of your canister.
  3. Add hot water to the canister, filling it to below the spout.
  4. Stir the coffee for about 20 seconds.
  5. Sit the lid on the canister, but don’t press the plunger yet.
  6. Leave it for four minutes to steep.
  7. Slowly press the plunger down into the canister.
  8. Slowly pour the coffee into your coffee cup.

What’s included?

AeroPress

An AeroPress box sitting on a kitchen bench.
I decided to recently purchase an AeroPress, as I had been using a coffee plunger at work, but I accidentally dropped it and it smashed… I immediately saw the silver lining, as I had been strongly considering getting an AeroPress for some time.

This was my chance. A crisitunity! I’d used my friend’s one on several occasions, so I was aware of how they worked and that they make a great cup of coffee.

I ordered one and had it in my hot little hands within a week. Let’s take a look at what I got:

  • The AeroPress itself – this includes the main canister where you brew your coffee, the filter cap which screws onto the bottom of the canister and the plunger.
    An AeroPress sitting on a kitchen bench with its box in the background.
  • 350 paper coffee filters – considering you can reuse these papers at least once, it’s a pretty hefty supply. Almost two years worth!
  • Coffee filter holder – a convenient little holder for your coffee filters that protects them from damage.
    An AeroPress paper filter holder with filters inside sitting on a kitchen bench.
  • Stirring paddle – used to stir your brew, it has a very wide handle which I’m guessing is to remove the chance of accidentally dropping it into the canister.
  • Coffee scoop – one whole scoop per standard brew is enough for me.
    An AeroPress scoop and stirring paddle sitting on a kitchen bench.
  • Funnel – placed inside the canister, this can help you to avoid spilling your coffee grounds on the bench when scooping them into the canister.
    An AeroPress pouring funnel sitting on a kitchen bench.
  • Instructions – these come in six different languages: English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German and Chinese. They include some recipes, how to get started with your AeroPress, cleanup and storage and some general tips and safety information. Online versions also include: Italian, Portuguese, Korean and Turkish.

French press

Coffee plungers are pretty readily available, but you’ll find that the quality of them can vary quite dramatically. It’s always best to find one that meets your needs and also has good customer reviews.

Here’s what you get with a plunger:

  • Canister – This is generally glass, stainless steel or ceramic. Each has different benefits. They can range in size, but most common sizes are 1 litre (3 cups) and about 350 mls (1 cup).
    one of my coffee plungers
  • Filter – This is usually three individual parts held together: a metal filter, a fine mesh metal filter and a filter base.
  • Lid – This sits on top of the canister and will often have an opening to pour the coffee. Some can also be turned around to keep the heat in while your coffee is brewing. There will also be some kind of knob in the centre of the lid, which controls the plunger.
  • Plunger rod – This connects the lid to the plunger filter and attaches to the knob on top of the lid on one end and the plunger filter on the other end.
  • Additional filter – Some French Presses come with one or more additional mesh filters that you can replace with the existing mesh filter.

What’s the difference between an AeroPress and a plunger?

There’s some definite similarities between them, such as they both use a plunging action and they can both brew using the immersion method, but the cup of coffee you end up with does vary.

Some of the differences between an AeroPress and a French press are:

  • Grind size
  • Filtering method
  • Brewing time
  • Capacity
  • Clean up
  • Durability

What grind size should you use?

AeroPress

For an AeroPress, it’s recommended to use a fine ground, the same as you would use for an espresso coffee. This is because the extraction time is brief, so a fine ground will give you plenty of flavour without over-extracting.

If you’re making two serves, a slightly coarser grind may work better. This is because it can be difficult to press two serves worth of fine coffee at one time.

If you do find that it’s difficult to press your coffee, try a slightly coarser grind, like for drip coffee, and see if that helps.

When I first started using mine I was using a coarse grind, as I had already ground my coffee to use with my plunger that broke.

I did have some issues with too much water coming through the filter before pressing the coffee, which was likely due to the grind size.

When I did eventually try a fine ground, I noticed an instant decrease in the amount of water passing through the filter before pressing.

Plunger

For a plunger, you should use a medium coarse grind. This is a major difference between the AeroPress and French press.

The reason for a coarse grind, is if a fine grind is used, too much of the coffee grounds end up in your cup. This is mainly due to the filtering method, which I’ll discuss more in a moment.

This also means that the coffee will need to steep for about four minutes before serving, as coarser grounds take longer to extract the flavour.

Basically, a coarse grind stops more of the grinds from ending up in your coffee.

What’s the filter method?

AeroPress

The AeroPress filters coffee by using a paper filter. This is placed inside the cap, which is unscrewed at the base of the chamber.

A new AeroPress Coffee Maker filter inside the filter cap
A new AeroPress filter.

Once this is screwed back on to the AeroPress, you can pour your ground coffee in, sit your AeroPress on your cup and add your hot water.

As you push down on the plunger, the coffee is pushed through the paper filter and into your cup. This is a major difference when compared to a French press.

According to the AeroPress website, you can re-use your paper filters once, which I have been doing since reading that, and I haven’t noticed any loss of quality to my brews.

A used AeroPress Coffee Maker filter inside the filter cap
A used AeroPress filter.

There are also reusable metal filters of various types available for purchase.

I purchased a reusable metal mesh filter, but I have gone back to using the paper filters, as I was noticing an increased amount of coffee sludge at the bottom of my cup.

close-up of an aeropress metal mesh filter

While some people prefer this, personally I don’t. As soon as I reverted to the paper filters, this disappeared and I was again able to drink all the way to the bottom of the cup.

It’s possible that this was due to the quality of the metal filter I purchased, though. I have seen other options which look like they would be much better quality and produce a better result. For instance, the type of metal filter that comes with the Fellow Prismo pressure-actuated attachment works great.

French press

A plunger filters coffee a different way. It’s generally a metal plate at the bottom, then a metal mesh filter and then a metal plate filter on the top. It’s all held in place by the plunger rod that connects the filter to the lid screwing into it.

a close-up of a coffee press filter

The plunger is removed from the canister and you add your coffee and hot water. After steeping for about four minutes, you press the plunger down through your coffee.

This allows the coffee liquid to pass through the filter, while trapping the coffee grounds underneath it. Once fully pressed, it holds the coffee grounds at the bottom of the canister.

When you pour your coffee into your cup from the coffee plunger, you will likely get some coffee grounds in your cup that have passed through the filter.

This is why you should use a coarse grind when brewing with a french press, as regardless of the size or quality of the mesh, a fine grind will likely pass through the filter.

What’s the brew time?

AeroPress

When brewing with an AeroPress, the entire brew time is about 1 minute, which is a reasonably short time.

It’s about:

  • 20 – 30 seconds to pour in the hot water,
  • 10 seconds to stir the coffee, and
  • about 30 seconds to press the coffee.

No steeping time required. For the quality of the brew that it makes, it’s definitely time well spent.

Plunger

The entire brew time for a French press is about 5 minutes, which is substantially longer than the AeroPress.

Some of the times can vary due to the variety of sizes of French presses. It’s much easier to be specific with the AeroPress, as there’s only one type (not including the AeroPress Go).

It’s about:

  • 20 – 30 seconds to pour in the hot water,
  • 20 seconds to stir the coffee,
  • 4 minutes to let it steep,
  • 5 – 10 seconds to press the coffee, and
  • 5 – 10 seconds to pour it.

As you can see, most of the time (4 minutes) is taken up by letting the coffee steep.

What’s the capacity?

AeroPress

The AeroPress comes in one size (not including the AeroPress Go) and is often referred to as a “single-cup coffee maker”. Its capacity is about 250mls.

It’s perfect if you only want to make a coffee for yourself, but not the greatest if you’re hosting a dinner party and need to serve multiple guests.

You can always add more ground coffee and water and press it into multiple cups and then top the cups up with hot water.

Doing this is definitely easier and less messy with the Fellow Prismo. It’s a third-party attachment that has a pressure-actuated valve that stops the flow of coffee into your cup unless you are applying pressure, giving your AeroPress superpowers.

You can read more about it in an article I wrote called Fellow Prismo attachment for AeroPress.

Otherwise, you could press it into a small jug that has a pouring spout.

French press

French presses come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 350mls for one cup, to 1 litre for three cups.

You should consider how you’ll be using it before purchasing one. Is it just for you at home or work? Or will it be for multiple people at one time?

If you purchased a 1 litre option, for instance, would you be leaving the coffee sitting there for a while before drinking it all?

While the ceramic and stainless steel French presses can keep your coffee warm for some time, leaving it sitting in the French press can lead to over-extraction and not such a pleasant coffee drinking experience.

It’s worth keeping this in mind.

How do you clean it?

AeroPress

The AeroPress is super easy to clean. It’s definitely another clear advantage over the French Press.

All you need to do to clean the AeroPress is:

  1. Remove the filter cap from the bottom of the chamber.
  2. Push plunger all the way to eject the used grounds “puck” into your rubbish or compost.
  3. Rinse the rubber gasket in your sink.
  4. Remove the plunger from the chamber and rinse everything, including the filter cap.
  5. If you want to reuse the paper filter, rinse both sides of it, put it back into the filter cap, screw the filter cap back onto the chamber.
  6. Leave everything to dry.

Every few times, you can use a soft sponge and some soapy water, but it hasn’t really been necessary every time in my experience.

Although you could put it in the dishwasher (on the top rack only), at the risk of causing damage to it, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Plunger

If you want to give your plunger a super clean, you can read how to do that in the article I wrote called How do coffee plungers work.

For a regular clean:

  1. Remove the plunger and leave it in your sink.
  2. Take the canister over to your rubbish or compost and scoop out the used coffee grounds.
  3. Rinse the canister and plunger with hot or warm water in your sink.
  4. Put some dish soap on a sponge and gently wash the canister, the underside of the lid and the plunger rod.
  5. Gently pull back the mesh filter while holding the plunger under running water to remove any grounds that are stuck between the mesh filter and the bottom filter plate.
  6. Rinse all the parts with hot or warm water and leave to dry.

How durable is it?

AeroPress

Durability is one of the greatest features of the AeroPress. This is because of the materials that it’s made from.

It’s currently made from BPA-free polypropylene. I say currently, because there has been a steady evolution in the materials used.

When it was first introduced to the world in late 2005, it was made from polycarbonate.

Then in mid 2009 they changed to copolyester. And finally in mid 2014 they changed again to polypropylene.

There have also been some subtle changes in its appearance over the years, and some other not-so-subtle changes, such as the colour changing from clear to a grey tint.

You can read more about the evolution of the AeroPress here.

The materials that are used to make it mean that it is extremely durable. You never need to worry about accidental breaks from dropping it and you could quite easily store it in your luggage when travelling.

The only part of it that I can ever see myself replacing is the rubber gasket that sits on the end of the plunger. And that’s only if I really have to.

French press

Each plunger is going to be different, so it’s a bit difficult to be too specific about this, but I’ll do my best.

The four most common types of plungers are:

  • Stainless steel,
  • Combination of metal and glass,
  • Combination of plastic and glass, and
  • Ceramic.

Stainless steel is the most durable option, as the other three can all potentially be broken from an accidental drop. They could, however, still be dented or have parts bent, like the plunger rod or the spout.

The durability of ceramic plungers would vary depending on the individual manufacturer. They could break if dropped, but they might survive.

If you’re considering purchasing one, make sure you read the user reviews to see if they mention anything about this aspect of their quality.

Obviously, anything with glass would be quite fragile. However, if you’re keeping it in one place and don’t intend on transporting it anywhere, this shouldn’t be a concern.

If durability is important to you, I would definitely go with an AeroPress instead of a French press.

Next, would be a stainless steel coffee plunger. They’re pretty much the only type of plunger that come close to the durability of the AeroPress.

So which is better, AeroPress or plunger?

While they both have their pros and cons, I do have a preference. Overall, the AeroPress ticks more boxes for me that make it the better choice.

I appreciate the portability, durability, brew time and cleaning time. It makes a pretty decent cup, too!

Which option ticks more boxes for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay caffeinated!

Stainless Steel Coffee Plungers

In this post, I’ll be covering the benefits of stainless steel coffee plungers, how much ground coffee you need and also showcasing some products available.

At my work office, we don’t have an espresso machine. There is a Nespresso pod machine, but while you can probably get a good cup of coffee from a coffee pod, I’m not really a fan.

Something doesn’t sit well with me about the waste. It’s just another bit of plastic that we’d all be better off without. As a result, I use my stainless steel coffee plunger and my AeroPress.

I realise that stainless steel coffee plungers may not be for everyone, but there’s a variety of options, which is a good thing, as what suits some, may not suit others.

If you’re wondering about the general operation of a coffee plunger, please see my other post How do coffee plungers work?

a group of different sized stainless steel french presses
French Press Frieling Ultimo flickr photo by doubleshot_cz shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Disclosure: Some of these links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost, I earn a commission if you buy which helps to maintain this website.

What are the benefits of stainless steel coffee plungers?

Some benefits of most stainless steel coffee plungers are:

  • Double wall insulation to keep your coffee warm
  • No glass, so no more accidental breaks
  • Easy to clean and dishwasher safe

The biggest reason most people choose to purchase a stainless steel french press, is that they are not easily broken or damaged, compared to a glass french press. Perhaps you had a recent accidental break or maybe are just considering your options. It was an accidental break of my glass french press that motivated me to make my purchase of an Aeropress. I definitely haven’t looked back!

The next reason for a purchase, is the ability to keep your coffee at a warm temperature for longer. Most (if not all) stainless steel coffee plungers have some type of insulation that does just that. So if you’re the type of person that likes to brew enough for a couple of cups of coffee at one time, but also likes to take your time drinking it, this may be a suitable option for you.

close up of a stainless steel french press
French Press Frieling Ultimo flickr photo by doubleshot_cz shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

How much coffee should I put in my plunger

How much coffee you put in your plunger can affect how your brew turns out. Add too much coffee, and you’ll feel jittery. Not enough, and you won’t get the kick you’re probably looking for. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about measuring coffee, unless I’m following a recipe to produce a particular expected result.

When I use my 1 litre stainless steel coffee plunger at work, I don’t measure a strict amount. I generally add three heaped teaspoons of medium ground coffee. This gives me and my workmates, who I share it with, one cup each. I’ve only had compliments so far, so I must be doing something right.

If I was making a brew with a one cup coffee plunger, I’d adjust how much coffee I used accordingly – about one heaped teaspoon would be enough.

Some typical examples of stainless steel coffee plungers

Let’s take a look at and compare a handful of options available.

Conclusion

Stainless steel coffee plungers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, which is a great thing. There’s plenty to choose from, which means you’ll be able to hopefully find something that suits all of your requirements.

If you’d like to see a stainless steel coffee plunger in action, watch this following video. It gives you a good feel for the look and size of a 1 litre model, and also, how to use it.

I hope this post was helpful and if you decide to purchase any of these listed products, have some experience with any of these products or have a suitable product that you could recommend, please let me know in the comments below.

Stay caffeinated!

How Do Coffee Plungers Work? – Free Complete Guide

Seeing as you’re here, you’ve probably found yourself wondering how do coffee plungers work. Perhaps you’ve never really used one and want to know how to make a coffee with one and maybe the cleaning that’s involved.

When I recently decided that I couldn’t continue drinking instant coffee (or powdered dirt, as my workmates called it) at work for one single day more, a coffee plunger was the first alternative that came to mind.

I definitely didn’t want to be shelling out cash for an average “real coffee” five days a week from the local cafe or use the coffee machine in the lunch room that only takes coffee pods (due to the waste).

If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs and would like to know more, read on.

Disclosure: Some of these links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost, I earn a commission if you buy which helps to maintain this website.

So how do coffee plungers work?

A stainless steel coffee plunger sitting on a table.

Coffee plungers work by using the infusion method of brewing, by first allowing the coffee to brew in hot water while sitting in a canister for a few minutes. Then, by pressing down the plunger / filter attached to the lid, you filter the coffee grounds, pushing them to the bottom of the canister.

Using this method you can make a simple black coffee, or you can make a flat white by adding some milk.

It’s also a flexible method, as you can make it as strong or as weak as you want, by simply adding more or less coffee grounds. This is one advantage that this method has over other methods, such as espresso, which has a set amount of coffee needed to make one cup.

What are the parts of a coffee plunger?

Coffee plungers come in various styles and sizes, but as far as functionality goes, they’re all basically the same.

They most often consist of a glass canister, but can also be found with stainless steel or ceramic canisters, a plunger with a metal and mesh filter and a lid at the top, which is connected with the plunger.

a close-up of a coffee press filter

A coffee plunger's filter

It’s also possible to get a coffee plunger travel mug that filters the coffee inside the same mug that you drink from. There’s many different styles of these available.

Some of them are insulated to keep the coffee hot, such as the Zyliss Travel French Press, and most of them have a different type of filter than the metal and mesh filter found in most coffee plungers, such as the BruTek.

It’s even possible to find some novelty coffee plungers, such as this Star Wars R2-D2 coffee plunger.

I strongly recommend reading the product descriptions and reviews of these different styles, though, as the quality and intended usage varies.

What grind size should I use for plunger coffee?

For plunger coffee, you’re going to want to use a medium to coarse grind. This is because the filtering method used allows for small granules of coffee to pass through the filter.

Having a fine grind, like that used for espresso, will result in more of the coffee grounds passing through to your drink, which I’m certain you do not want.

Having a medium to coarse grind stops most of the coffee grounds getting through the filter. It’s not perfect, but what is?

How to make plunger coffee

The process for making plunger coffee is fairly simple.

  1. Remove the plunger from the canister.
    coffee plunger with lid off sitting on bench
  2. Pour some hot water into the coffee plunger canister, swish it around and then empty it down your kitchen sink . This warms up your canister.
    swishing some hot water around inside a coffee plunger
  3. Add the desired amount of coarse coffee grounds. This will vary based on taste and the size of the canister. For a 1 litre coffee plunger, I usually use about three heaped teaspoons, which results in three cups of coffee. Accordingly, for a one cup coffee plunger, about one heaped teaspoon is enough.
    pouring a heaped teaspoon of ground coffee into a coffee plunger
  4. Add your desired amount of hot water to the canister.
    pouring hot water into the coffee plunger
  5. Give the coffee a stir with a spoon for about 20 seconds.
    stirring the brewing coffee with a teaspoon
  6. Cover the canister with the lid/plunger, but don’t press the plunger yet.
    coffee plunger with hot coffee inside and lid on sitting on bench
  7. Leave the coffee for about 4 minutes to brew.
  8. Gently press down the plunger.
    gently pressing down the plunger of the coffee plunger
  9. Pour the brewed coffee into your coffee cup.
    pouring hot coffee from the coffee plunger into a coffee mug
  10. Top up with hot water if needed, or some milk.
    coffee cup with coffee with milk inside and milk carton
  11. Enjoy that sweet, sweet freshly brewed coffee….Mmmmm….

After you make your plunger coffee, there’s only one thing left to do.

How to clean a French press

After relaxing to enjoy your freshly made plunger coffee, it’s now time to get to the fun stuff… cleaning! It’s definitely worth giving your French press a proper clean after every brew.

Luckily for you, cleaning a French press or coffee plunger is relatively easy. There’s really not a whole lot to it.

  1. With the plunger still pushed all the way down inside the canister, pour any left over coffee liquid down the kitchen sink.
    pouring left over coffee liquid down drain from coffee plunger
  2. Remove the plunger and leave in the sink for now.
    used french press canister and lid with plunger sitting in sink
  3. Grab a spoon and gently scrape the used coffee grounds out from the French press canister. You can put them in the rubbish bin, or if you’re like me, in the compost bin.
    using a teaspoon to empty used coffee grounds into compost bin from french press
  4. Rinse out the French press canister in the sink with warm or hot water
    rinsing used french press with water in kitchen sink
  5. Pour a small amount of washing detergent on your sponge and gently clean the inside of the French press canister.
    cleaning french press with kitchen sponge
  6. Rinse the plunger and filter in the sink with warm or hot water, carefully separating the filter and the metal plate at the bottom while rinsing to remove any coffee grounds that may be stuck in between them.
    cleaning filter of the french press by rinsing under water

    1. This next step is optional and may not be necessary with every clean, but something you should definitely consider doing. It involves completely cleaning the French press filter. If you don’t want to do it, you can simply skip this step and continue on to step 8. You should be able to remove the filter from the plunger rod by unscrewing it from the rod. Exactly how this is done will vary from French press to French press. This one I’m showing here, has a bolt on the bottom that you can undo, but others I’ve used have the rod screw into the filter plate itself.
      unscrewing filter of the french press
    2. If it’s a bit stubborn or hard to grip, try using a kitchen rubber glove or something similar to improve your grip on the rod.
    3. Once the filter is detached from the rod, separate the mesh filter from the metal filter and metal plate.
      separating the filter, mesh filter and metal plate from the french press
    4. Rinse each individual part in the kitchen sink with warm or hot water and use a soapy sponge to gently clean, making sure to remove any coffee grounds.
      rinsing the metal plate from the filter of the french press
    5. Once you’re satisfied that all parts are sparkling clean, place them back in order and re-attach them to the French press rod.
      screwing the filter parts back onto the rod of the french press
  7. Use the sponge to clean the lid and the rod connecting the filter to the lid.
  8. Give all the parts a final rinse and then towel dry or leave to dry on your dish rack.
    rinsing the french press canister once more

See? I told you it was easy!

Coffee plunger or French press?

You may have heard coffee plungers called different names before, especially if you’ve done some travelling. They’re all the same coffee-making device, no matter what they’re called.

Other names for them are:

  • french press,
  • coffee press,
  • press pot or
  • cafetière.

one of my coffee plungers

Coffee plunger or Aeropress?

The Aeropress is another suitable alternative to a coffee plunger, because it’s no bigger than a single-serve coffee plunger, which makes it highly transportable, and it produces a great coffee.

I recently wrote an article here comparing the Aeropress to coffee plungers and also a review on the AeroPress.

Next level plunger coffee

If you are looking to take your plunger coffee to the next level, watch this instructional video by world champion barista James Hoffman.

 

Have you got a hot tip or trick that you use when making plunger coffee? Or perhaps a secret super-quick method for cleaning your coffee plunger? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay caffeinated!