The battle of the French press vs Moka pot is a battle between two old old-school classics. Both are giants in the home coffee-making world. And for good reason.
Both coffee methods make an incredible cup of joe. But they are very different coffee brewing methods, resulting in very different tasting brews.
So is one really better than the other? Ask a room full of die-hard coffee fanatics and you will quickly find that not everyone agrees. You will hear a dizzying array of slightly suspect reasons as to why one coffee brewer is better than the other.
But which one gives the best coffee experience all boils down to just one important thing: What do you like?
To help you work out which coffee maker is right for you, we give our unbiased opinion as to which is better. What are the main differences between the Moka pot and the French coffee press? And which one makes better coffee? Let battle commence!
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The life of the Moka pot began in Italy in the 1930s. At the time, Italian families were looking for a fast, easy way to make “espresso” at home. Enter the Bialetti Moka pot: A simple two-chambered device that works on a gas or electric stove to make “espresso” at home.
Nowadays we don’t consider anything made under less than 8 BAR of pressure to be espresso – and the Moka pot only creates 2 BAR. But, back in the 1930s, there were no other coffee makers that could create even this much pressure. So, it was enjoyed as espresso at the time.
It is now commonplace for the coffee from a Moka pot to be called Italian espresso. Think rich, thick coffee. But, it obviously doesn’t have the same strength, depth, or body of an espresso shot brewed under higher pressure.
HOW DOES A MOKA POT WORK?
The Moka Pot works like a percolator. Except it’s under pressure:
The water is placed in the bottom chamber with the coffee grounds in a basket above it. As the water is heated, the pressure increase forces the coffee up the spout, through the coffee grounds, and into the Moka pot’s top chamber. Once all the water has been forced through the coffee, the Moka pot makes a “gurgling” noise that lets you know your coffee is ready.
It is the syrupy, intensely bold coffee as well as how easy it is to use that makes the Moka pot a fan favorite.
Since you only need a stove to make your coffee, they’re also superb for campers. Although you can also get an electric coffee maker. But, with the classic stovetop version, if you look after it well, your stainless steel Moka pot will last a lifetime.
In 1852, the French press was invented by two Frenchmen (hence the name), Mayer and Delforge. However, their original design didn’t create a seal inside the carafe. So it was quite different from what we recognize today as a French press.
The first French press design that resembles what we have today was patented in 1929 by two Italians, Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta. But what is probably the most popular French press design was patented by a Swiss gentleman named Falerio Bondanini in 1958. This design, which was made in France, became known as a “Chambord”.
As the Chambord coffee press grew in popularity, it became synonymous with the French, despite being a Swiss design.
Later it was marketed in the UK as “La Cafetiere Classic”. So, this is where the other common name for the French press method arises – the cafetière.
The Danish company Bodum gained the rights to distribute the Chambord in Denmark. And later they bought the factory and the rights to the “Chambord” name. Bodum tried to do the same for “La Cafetiere” but there are ongoing legal disputes about the use of the name outside the EU.
HOW TO USE A FRENCH PRESS
The French press coffee is an incredibly simple device to use:
Coffee grounds are mixed with hot water and left to steep for 4 minutes. After steeping, the fine mesh filter is pushed down through the coffee which separates the liquid from the coffee grounds.
The French press produces full-bodied, rich, bold coffee as all the oils from the beans are retained, making a very aromatic cup of coffee.
If you aren’t a fan of the “sandy” mouthfeel then French press may not be for you. The mesh filter never completely removes all the coffee particles meaning there will always be sediment. How much sediment depends on the quality of your French press coffee maker.
If you want to learn more about this brewing method, jump over to our Ultimate Guide to French Press Coffee for everything you need to know.
You can create the greatest process ever for brewing coffee, but if it takes 30 minutes, no one is going to use it. Nobody can wait that long for their caffeine!
HOW FAST IS THE FRENCH PRESS?
French press takes 4 minutes of steeping, give or take, to brew.
So, it’s a fairly fast brewing method. But you also have to factor in the time to heat your water:
Are you using a kettle, which is pretty quick? Or are you heating the water on a stove, which takes much longer? You could be looking at around 10 to 15 minutes to get your coffee from start to finish if you are using a slower method. Whilst this is hardly a deal-breaker, it’s also not ideal.
IS THE MOKA POT FASTER THAN THE FRENCH PRESS?
Yes. The Moka pot wins this round as coffee extraction and heating the water take place simultaneously:
Once the Moka pot is on the stove, you’re looking at around 5-7 minutes until your coffee is ready. You do have to keep an eye on it though, unlike the French press where you can set a timer and wander off for a couple of minutes.
The real winner here all depends on whether you’d prefer your coffee brewing to take slightly longer but can be ignored. Or faster but you need to pay attention. That one’s up to you.
HOW FLEXIBLE ARE FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKERS?
You can use any type of coffee beans in French press coffee makers and get an awesome full flavor coffee.
As a coffee extraction method, steeping works beautifully on light roasts as well as darker roasts. And, because all the oils are retained, you get the full flavor of the beans.
With the right coffee beans for cold brew, you can also use your coffee press to make this different style of coffee which is a nice additional function.
To make your coffee just how you like it, you can also easily change the grind size (you’ll want a French press grinder that can handle coarse grind sizes), water temperature, water-to-coffee ratio, or extraction time if you want. Tweaking the method is very easy and will allow you to get the best out of whatever coffee beans you’re using for French press.
CAN YOU CUSTOMIZE THE MOKA POT?
Compared to the French press, Moka pots are less flexible:
Whilst you can use any type of coffee beans you like, the low pressure of extraction doesn’t get the full range of flavors from lighter roasts. So they will feel a bit thin and acidic.
Moka pots were designed for using very dark roast coffee. Extracting the nuances from lighter roasts was never a consideration when it was designed, so it doesn’t do it all that well.
You also can’t really change the extraction process. All you can do is adjust the heat so the water doesn’t get too hot too fast. But it’s not an easy process and requires a lot of guesswork.
‘MOST FLEXIBLE’ AWARD
The French press is the clear winner here:
Not only can you take control of every aspect of the brewing process but you can use any type of coffee bean you like. Plus, you have the additional bonus of being able to use a French press to make Cold Brew.
Moka pots, on the other hand, make delicious coffee but they’re a one-trick-pony. Unfortunately, the shorter extraction time doesn’t work well with lightly roasted coffee, even under pressure.
Read Next: Ultimate Guide to Coffee Bean Roasts
IS THE FRENCH PRESS EASY TO USE?
It really couldn’t be easier to use a French press:
All you need to do is measure out the amount of ground coffee you need – it’s best to use fresh ground coffee using a grinder suited to coarse grinding.
If you’re not sure how much water or coffee you need, check out our handy coffee-to-water ratio calculator.
Next, you add the water and wait for 4 minutes, plunge, and pour. To maximize the full flavors from your coffee, allow the coffee grounds and a small amount of water to bloom for 30 seconds. Then add the remaining water and leave to steep for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
It really is that simple and it’s pretty difficult to make a mess of, even if you do sometimes forget to start the timer, wander off, and get distracted. Something I have obviously never done before…
Don’t get us wrong, it is still possible to go awry when making French press coffee. You have to use the right ratio (1:12 is a good starting point), and the right grind size. But overall, it’s pretty foolproof. Or morning-brain-proof, to be more exact.
HOW EASY IS THE MOKA POT?
Whilst the Moka pot is relatively simple to use, as coffee makers go, there is a little skill needed to make great coffee. Getting the heat just right takes a little practice but the most common complaint is under-extraction.
Usually, under-extraction is the result of an issue with grind size, tamping, or both. But these things are easily fixed, although it might take a little practice to get the best combination for you. It’s best to use fine ground coffee and don’t tamp too hard otherwise the water won’t pass through the ground coffee.
The characteristic gurgling noise from the Moka pot lets you know it’s ready to pour. This helpfully prevents you from leaving it too long but does mean that you can’t walk away and forget about it.
*SAFETY WARNING* Do not leave your Moka pot unsupervised – they have been known to occasionally explode!
FRENCH PRESS VS MOKA POT: WHICH IS EASIER?
In terms of easiness, French press coffee makers just edge ahead over the Moka pot.
Whilst both methods are very simple and can be mastered by anyone, the French press is slightly more foolproof. Nor does it carry the additional risk of a forgotten Moka pot taking off like a rocket from your stove and putting a hole in your ceiling.
This is a tricky one to answer because it depends entirely on the specific coffee style you’re looking for:
The Moka pot makes rich, syrupy, bold coffee with real depth and punch – an Italian espresso. Whereas the French press keeps all the oils from the beans and gives a full-bodied brew full of complex flavors and aromas.
They both have downsides, the extraction method of a Moka pot means you can’t use more lightly roasted coffee beans. And the French press has a distinctive “silty” texture that some people really don’t like.
If you’re not fussy about the specific coffee and buy pre-ground, then the Moka pot is the clear winner.
However, if you’re looking to taste the terroir and nuance of flavor from different coffee-growing regions, or try out different whole bean coffee roasts, then the French press is for you. It will do a much better job of showing off the nuanced differences between your beans.
WINNER OF THE TASTIEST CUP OF COFFEE
There is no hard and fast winner here – choose the brewing method that suits your flavor preferences. Pick the Moka pot for a more punchy, strong coffee and the French press for a smoother, more aromatic cup of joe.
In fact, they are among the cheapest coffee makers you can buy.
They both come in a variety of sizes too. So no matter how many people you’re making coffee for (within reason), you can get a Moka pot or French press to suit. And, because they are so cost-effective and don’t take up much space, you can have more than one size at home.
A quick note on the cup sizes:
Most coffee makers, French press and Moka pots included, quote their sizes as the number of cups they make. These “cups” generally refer to little demitasse cups rather than the mug of coffee you are most likely making in the morning. So always check how much liquid (fl oz or ml) you will get from your coffee maker.
BATTLE OF THE WALLET
If your buying decision comes down to cost alone, this round of Moka Pot vs French press is a draw.
You can pick up the most basic, smallest French press coffee maker slightly cheaper than a Moka pot. But it’s worth keeping in mind that you need to heat the water separately, so you also need a kettle.
Want to see how the French press compares to some other top coffee makers? Look no further than the below guides:
Ultimately it comes down to what you want from your coffee maker:
Are you looking for an easy way to try lots of different fresh ground coffee beans at different roast levels? If yes, the French press is the better option. Even if you’re just looking to get the complexity of flavor from your favorite coffee beans, then the French press is superior.
However, if you’re looking to make punchy, full-bodied coffee with minimum fuss, and if you already use pre-ground coffee, then the Moka Pot will do a much better job for you. Even if you’re grinding your beans fresh but prefer a more in-your-face style of brew, then the Moka pot will be more your style.
Overall, we feel the French press vs Moka pot winner is the French press. It just edges ahead as a better coffee maker thanks to its flexibility, ease of use, and price. If you want stronger coffee then you can always up the coffee-to-water ratio. Plus you can make a cold brew on those hot summer days.
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