French Press Vs Moka Pot: Which Is Right For You?

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About This Guide

The comparison between the French press and the moka pot really comes down to a choice between which type of coffee you prefer. Sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but in many ways they are just two distinctly different ways to brew coffee.

However, in order to give you some perspective on how to choose one or the other, let’s break them down according to how they work and the pros and cons of each.

General Distinctions

The French press is a time-tested system for brewing rich bold coffee. It is a simple system involving little more than a piston rod, a mesh filter, and a beaker. Place freshly ground coffee in the beaker, add your hot water, and depress the mesh filter on the rod. That is all there is to it. You can check out our guide on how to make French press coffee for a more detailed look at the brewing method.

The moka pot also has a long tradition behind it. Often called a stovetop espresso maker, these are a common sight in Italy. Bialetti is one of the big names in moka pots, and you will sometimes hear people call them Bialetti pots.

Moka pots work similar to a stovetop percolator in that you heat them on the stove and the water is forced up through the coffee. The difference is that unlike a percolator, the water is forced through the ground coffee with pressure.

There are three major pieces to the moka pot: the water reservoir and the chamber for coffee at the top. Freshly ground coffee goes through a filter section in the middle.

The unique feature of a moka pot is that the water is force through with pressure in a way that is similar to an espresso machine. The moka generates about 1.5 bar of pressure compared to the 9 bars of a professional espresso machine.

French Press Pros And Cons

The French press uses an immersion method for brewing. This means the fresh ground coffee is fully immersed in the hot water which makes it possible for the most complete extraction of oils and soluble solids. The coffee you make with a French press is richer and more full-bodied than just about any other method.

While the French press is a hands-on process, it does allow you to work with the entire brewing process from start to finish. You can easily control water temperature, brewing time, and the filtering process. This makes it a little more user-friendly especially if you are new to manual brewing methods.

In order to make the most of your French press, you will likely need to do some experimenting to get your final brew just the way you like it. Again, these are not automated, so adjustments in the size of your grind, water temperature, and brewing time will be inevitable.

The final brew is lush and rich. The major appeal of French press coffee is this incredibly dense brew. It is strong without any of the bite we tend to associate with a strong coffee. The immersion brewing method makes this possible.

The French press is most often made of glass and this means they are fragile. They are not really the type of thing you can take on a camping trip. On the other hand, a number of manufacturers have put out French presses made of stainless steel and plastic.

Cleaning up a French press can be a little bit of a task. The steel mesh filter does get filled with grounds and the left over grounds in the beaker can get stuck. But just flushing it all with hot water generally takes care of this.

Moka Pot Pros And Cons

The moka pot uses the same basic method for brewing as an espresso machine. By forcing the steam and not water through the ground coffee into the top reservoir, you will end up with an intense and strong cup of coffee not unlike an espresso.

Moka pots are fairly easy to use. Since it really only consists of three parts, just putting things together right is all you need to do. It is important to watch your temperature as you heat up the water. You do not want the heat too high since that will force the water through the filter too fast.

You also need to be careful of your grind size. If you are after an espresso, you do want a fine grind. But if the grind is too fine, it will not allow the water to filter through (there is a safety valve on a moka pot to prevent any serious problems).

Unlike the French press, once the brewing process begins with a moka pot it just carries through until it is finished. Any adjustments you make to temperatures, grind size and brewing time will need to made with further experimentation.

All and all the moka pot is a simple method but it is just a little more complicated for someone who is new to making coffee with manual method. All parameters need to be accounted for ahead of time and this takes practice.

Another thing to keep in mind is a moka pot only brews about one cup at a time. Compare this with a French press which can make as many 12 cups. Moka pots are best for single serving occasions.

Moka pots are made of resilient metal and take a beating. You can make coffee on a campfire. They also clean up pretty easily.

Final Thoughts

I tend not to take sides in these debates because I think all manual brewing methods have their place. I would recommend the French press to anyone who is just getting started making coffee in one of the old-fashioned ways. They are more forgiving and easier to master.

The moka pot is for those who are after a powerful cup of coffee that you cannot get any other way. It provides a strong jolt with the intense flavor of a good espresso. Just keep in mind that they take a little practice to master.