Is Immersion Brewing Better than Filter Brewing?

Recently I have spoken to several people who argue that immersion brewing is superior to drip coffee brewing. This is especially true for beginners. When you think about it, there is in fact a strong argument for immersion brewers, such as the French Press. Today we are going to run through the advantages and disadvantages of both brewing styles, so don’t go anywhere!

What is the Difference Between Immersion Brewing and Drip Coffee Brewing?

Both types of brewing are often considered to be filter coffee. Although immersion brewing methods generally use a coarse screen or filter in the brewing process, immersion brewing is considered a different entity to filter coffee.

For pour-over and automatic drip methods, the coffee grounds are placed into a fine filter. Water is then passed through both the grinds and the filter before being collected in a separate chamber or receptacle.

With immersion brewing, on the other hand, the coffee is in contact with the water for the whole process. This results in a much stronger tasting, bolder cup of coffee, with more properties from the bean present.

French Press: an immersion coffee brewer
With immersion brewing like the French Press, water is always in contact with the ground coffee

The Advantages of Immersion Brewing

As I mentioned, there are lots of strong arguments for immersion brewing.

  • Firstly, as I mentioned, immersion brewing results in a fuller and more flavorful brew.
  • Secondly, immersion brewing is a much more foolproof, consistent brewing method compared to manual pour-over brewing, which requires more technique.
  • Immersion brewing is less hands on. You don’t have to be present for the whole brewing process.
  • There is less waste and no need to regularly buy coffee filters.
  • The lack of a disposable filter is arguably better for the environment.

The best example of immersion brewing is French press. The best thing about French press brewing is that is very versatile. We talked about it in more detail in our French press brewing guide, where we show how changing various aspects of the brewing can give you a different cup.

Advantages of Brewing Using a Filter

On the other hand, brewing using a filter offers some great perks that you miss out on with immersion brewing.

  • A clean cup of coffee. Due to the presence of a filter, no sediment finds its way into your cup.
  • A more balanced brew. Filter coffee aficionados attest that passing water through coffee grounds offers a better extracted, more balanced cup of joe. This is as opposed to coffee being in constant contact with water, which can lead to over-extraction.
  • Filter coffee is less messy. One of the worst things about brewing with a cafetière is having to clean out the used coffee grounds. With disposable filters, there is no real cleaning necessary. You simply throw the filter into the compost, then give your brewer a quick rinse.
  • It is is arguably healthier. Using a filter when making coffee stops properties such as cafestol from getting into your coffee, which has been linked to increased cholesterol in some individuals.

Different Types of Filter Coffee

In fact, it is not as simple as just comparing drip brews with immersion methods. There are lots of different methods of filter coffee brewing.

Automatic Drip Coffee Makers

For example, if you use an automatic drip coffee maker, there is not much technical knowledge to nail a decent coffee. If you aim for perfection, you should read our drip coffee brewing guide. It is also not necessary to be present for the whole brewing process, much like with the French press. However, an automatic coffee maker does require an upfront financial investment.

Metal filters vs. Paper Filters

The different filter you use when brewing is also an important factor. There is a preference for reusable filters among the environmentally conscious, as they produce no waste. However, metallic filters are not as fine as paper ones, so they let more sediment into the final beverage. There is also the argument that, if paper filters are fully compostable, there is no greater impact on the environment, compared to reusable filters.

Different Pour-Over Brewers

Finally, different types of pour-over coffee maker can yield different tasting brews. For example, Chemex brewers use thick, extremely fine filters, compared to brewers like the Hario V60. This results in an ultra clean cup of coffee.

A Chemex coffee brewer
A classic Chemex pour-over coffee brewer

So What is the Winner: Immersion or Filter Brewing?

Personally, I still prefer manual pour-over coffee brewing. However, I am a massive coffee nerd, and I enjoy learning about technique and being involved in the coffee brewing process. I also just love the clean, bright taste I get from pour-over brewing.

Having said that, there is a lot to be said for immersion brewing. It is more consistent, probably cheaper overall, and arguably better for the environment. It also produces a much fuller-bodied, stronger tasting coffee, if that’s your thing. The real answer is that it is up to you: so which way of brewing do you prefer?

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Josh Spink

Joshua is an Irish opera singer and writer. His specialist topics are coffee, food, wellness and culture. His love for coffee comes from growing up in his parent’s coffee shop and working as a barista for several years in the specialty coffee scene in Dublin. As an opera singer, Joshua is a frequent traveller and is passionate about discovering new coffee shops in every new place he visits. Joshua is fascinated by the health benefits of coffee drinking and is an advocate of moderate coffee consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle. Apart from drinking and writing about coffee, Joshua enjoys cooking, all forms of exercise, reading and languages.