[Save on Coffee]: Should I Buy an Espresso Machine or a French Press?

If you love coffee, there will be a point where instant coffee just won’t do it for you anymore.

In my opinion, the Espresso machine gives the best coffee experience for special occasions (weekends) at home and the French press is perfect for morning routine coffee before heading to work to keep the cost down.

This article will explain my POV as a normal person who enjoys quality coffee at home, but want to keep the cost lower than buying out and without transforming myself into a pretentious coffee hipstee.

What I Want Out of Coffee at Home

  • I want a quality upgrade from instant coffee, close to what I get at cafés
  • I want to keep the price per cup lower than RM4 (~USD 1), the price of McDonald’s coffee
  • I don’t want to do too many extra steps just to enjoy a simple cup of coffee at home

Espresso Machine Vs French Press Coffee

Without getting too technical, the biggest difference between a cup of coffee that was made in the French press & the Espresso machine is the foam, as can be seen below:

French press coffee: No foam
Espresso machine coffee: Very foamy
French PressEspresso Machine with Coffee Pods
How it worksInfusing ground coffee beans, then filterPressurized boiling water through ground coffee in a capsule
Advantages1. Can serve many people at once
2. Cheaper to make coffee
1. The froth on top
2. Quick to make (less than 2 min)
Disadvantages1. Does not have the froth on top. Perfect for people who enjoy black coffee
2. Takes longer to make (5 mins)
3. A slight annoyance to clean
1. Expensive & bulky machine
2. Pricy capsules (RM25/USD6 for 7 capsules)
Price Per CupAround RM 1.6 (USD 0.40)~RM 3.6 (USD 0.90)
Who I Think It’s ForCheapest upgrade from instant coffeeThe best coffee experience at home & for people who like frothy style coffee
Table of comparison between French press and Espresso machine

I have both of these machines at home. I use the French press almost every day, and I use the Espresso machine on special occasions and on the weekends to treat myself and my family.

How does a French Press Work?

Infusing course ground coffee with hot boiling water for 4 minutes

The French press is a device that has 2 parts:

  • The glass beaker to hold & brew the coffee in
  • The filter plunger to separate the ground coffee into your cup

Course ground coffee is recommended for French pressess and here is the 4 steps on how to use it:

  1. Measure the amount of ground coffee, this will depend, but I use 2 big tablespoons for a cup
  2. Pour in 1 cup of hot boiling water into the French press
  3. Let the coffee infuse for a minimum of 4 minutes
  4. Plunge the coffee down to filter the coffee from the ground beans & pour into cup
Pouring in the coffee after infusing for 4 minutes

You can get the French press at any department store and even at IKEA. But I’d advise not to get one that is too cheap, as the filter plunge will lose its tension after a while, and you’ll end up with a lot of ground coffee beans in your cup of coffee.

The French press that you see in my pictures above is from a brand called Bodum. If you’re in Malaysia, you can get the Bodum French press from Lazada.

From all the ground coffee that I’ve tried, my 2 personal favorite brands (in order) are:

A 200g of ground coffee can make me about 12 cups of coffee. So making a cup of coffee using a French press works out to be RM 1.6 (US$ 0.40) per cup. Not bad for a cup of really good coffee!

How does an Espresso Machine Work?

The key difference between an Espresso machine and the French press is that the Espresso machine makes the coffee very frothy. So if you’re into foamy rich coffee, this is a no-brainer between the two.

Super foamy coffee from the Espresso machine
  1. Pick out a flavor pod that you want & insert the capsule into the Espresso machine
  2. Press the button on the Espresso machine, and that’s it

There are a lot of choices for espresso machine, but I like the Nespreso Essenza mini for 2 specific reasons:

  1. Its small size & modern minimalist design that blends into my small kitchen
  2. Many capsule brands that is compatible with the Nespresso machine

A quick search for ‘Nespresso Capsules’ on Shopee or Lazada shows that there are plenty of capsule brands to choose from & nice to know that I’m not tied into and monopolized by any 1 brand:

Out of all that capsules that I’ve tried, I like these 2 brands specifically:

At RM 25 for 7 capsules, this works out to be RM 3.60 (USD 0.90) a cup. A significant increase in price compared to the French press, but still cheaper than McDonald’s’s black coffee at RM 3.8 (USD 1) per cup.

Coffee Summary

If you want the cheapest non-instant coffee, the French press is the one to go. But if you want the best coffee experience at home and price is secondary, then go with the Espresso machine.

I have both of these devices. I drink the French press almost daily, and I only use the Espresso machine when I want to treat myself, like on the weekends. Having the best of both worlds and saving money at the same time in the long run.

If you have found a better way to enjoy quality coffee for cheaper, leave a comment below:

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan, the founder, and writer for the personal finance blog, Balkoni Hijau. Read more in the 'About Me' page or follow me on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “[Save on Coffee]: Should I Buy an Espresso Machine or a French Press?

  1. I miss going to Nespresso boutique for a coffee tasting and recycling my pods. Can’t wait to finish MCO!

    1. That’s nice! I didn’t even know that there was a Nespresso boutique. Will look it up! Thanks for the tip Hazriq

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