French Press vs. Moka Pot: What Are the Real Differences?

If you want to brew your own coffee and do not want the hand-holding coffee makers like pod machines to assist you in the process, you’ll have heard of two of the greatest methods of deriving coffee from coffee grounds. The debate between Moka Coffee vs. French Press is a pretty niche topic, and before deciding which is best for you, you need to know the differences between the two.

Moka Coffee vs. French Press can be explained as follows: A french press uses pre-heated water and pressure from a plunger to get the coffee out of the grounds, whereas Moka pot boils water, which rises through a filter basket with grounds, in order to get Moka coffee.

In this article, you will learn about each method in detail and discover the pros and cons of both brews. You will also discover which one is best for you, depending on your tastes and experience.

Moka Coffee: A Brief Overview

Moka coffee originates in Italy, a country with a strong tradition of coffee consumption. Italians have preferred espresso and other unaltered coffee drinks, which contrast the western commercialization of coffee as an additive to warm and cold beverages. Moka is consistent with the Italian preference for an intense coffee and is, in fact, one of the strongest brews that beat espresso in caffeine concentration.

So how is Moka made? If you’ve not read this post about what Moka is, here’s a brief recap: Moka coffee is made in a Moka pot and relies on the principle of slow infusion of coffee essence from coffee grounds to the passing water. It sounds close enough to the french press, right? Well, that’s why you’re reading this article. Not only do the two methods differ in preparation but also the profile and features of their respective yields as well.

French Press: A brief overview

While the French press may also refer to the guys printing newspapers in France, we’re not here to compare them to Moka coffee because that would be like comparing journalist apples to caffeinated oranges. 

French press is a coffee brewing device as well as the method named after the machine. It can be used by the employees of the french newspaper, in which case it would be the French press using a french press to make french press coffee, but it is actually popular in Italy and the United States.

The French press and Moka pot both have one similarity: they both derive their names from different regions yet have Italian inventors. Paolini Ugo invented the french press plunger coffee device, and the rest is history. The familiarity of classic brewing (grounds sitting in hot water) and the novelty of a plunger brewed the perfect storm as more people adopted the new device. In a few decades, the coffee press has replaced most brewing devices, especially for single-serve coffee.

French Press vs. Moka Pot: The Brewing Experience

When we can order coffee with a click of a button, there are only two reasons to make your own coffee: to save money or to have the experience of making your own cup. If you make your own coffee to save money, instant coffee is the cheapest way to get yourself an affordable serving. But if you’re looking up methods of brewing gourmet coffee, chances are, you prefer the experience of brewing. And this experience begins with the look of the device.

French press and Moka pot don’t look alike but are both self-serve methods for coffee preparation. A french press is usually transparent, and preparing coffee in one brings the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the plunger work its magic as the water is passed through the filter and the grounds are pushed down. 

Moka pots are usually made of opaque metal, and preparing coffee in such stovetop coffee makers brings a sense of curious excitement as you never know when the water will start bubbling upon reaching its boiling point.

Verdict: Use the french press if you are a fan of ASMR videos and appreciate slow movement that helps you calm down and ground yourself internally. Use a Moka pot if you’re a fan of surprises, and anticipation makes you feel good.

French Press vs. Moka Pot: The Mechanics

While one can easily learn the differences between coffee prepared with The Moka pot and one brewed using a french press, you can appreciate the difference only after recognizing how the mechanics of the two vary.

In comparing the two methods, we don’t have many nuances to cover among the mechanical differences as the two differ quite drastically. A French press involves having coffee-infused hot water pass through a filter as the plunger is pushed deeper to the pot’s bottom. A Moka pot uses heat to have the water rise through the filter basket which holds the grounds, collecting the brewed coffee in the upper chamber.

These mechanical differences come with limitations and advantages of each method. The most significant limitation of a french press is that you need a different device to heat water, while a Moka pot can serve as both the pot and the filtering mechanism. That’s not to say that a Moka pot doesn’t have its own drawbacks. 

You cannot use a Moka pot with your office’s hot water dispenser, for instance, and almost always need refrigerated water to get the right tasting yield. As you can see, the drastic differences make the actual advantages and disadvantages of each method worthy of comparison.

Pros of the French Press

Gives You More Control

You can decide the level of dilution in your french pressed coffee because the grounds and water amount are both controlled by you. In contrast, a Moka pot relies on heat to pass water through the grounds. The quantity of water cannot change by much, given the container size. 

Is More Portable

While you can carry the Moka pot almost anywhere, you can take a french press; the latter is more portable in the practical sense. In other words, you don’t need a stove. A cup of microwaved water can be used to make gourmet coffee if you have grounds and a french press. 

It Has Social Acceptance

Moka pot looks too primitive a way of making coffee because you’re literally boiling water over a flame. A french press, on the other hand, looks sophisticated, which gives you the freedom of preparing coffee in almost any social setting. You can pull out a french press in your office pantry, and no one will bat an eye. Take out a Moka pot in a similar setting, and the fire marshall will be on his way to have a chat with you. Don’t ask him if he’d like some coffee.

Cons of French Press

French Presses Are Relatively Fragile

You can literally throw a Moka pot and damage only the wall, whereas a french press is made of glass and can fall and break, especially if you’ve bought one on a budget. This becomes a problem because it can cancel out the portability advantage. 

While you can make french press coffee almost anywhere there is hot water; you can take your french press in fewer places. You can protect yourself from this disadvantage by getting a high-quality french press like Coffee Gator French Press that isn’t as vulnerable to breakage.  

You Might Get Grounds in the Final Yield

French press isn’t ground-proof and depends on both the coarseness of your coffee grounds and the force with which the filter is plunged alongside the filter’s own quality. You can avoid this drawback by opting for coarse grounds and using little energy during the plunge. It is also advisable to get a high-quality coffee filter like a Boao Mesh Filter to ensure that your beverage isn’t swarmed by stray grounds.

It Takes More Effort to Make Coffee

If you don’t find brewing your cup a therapeutic practice, you’ll find it a frustrating one. And in this french press is perhaps the worst offender. You will get impatient and plunge hard prematurely, getting not only diluted coffee but also a cup filled with grounds. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of the french press’s preparation effort requirements without affecting the final product. 

You Need Additional Equipment to Heat Water

While this can be an advantage in settings where hot water is readily available either from a faucet or the office kettle, it is a drawback in every other way: more things to carry, steps to take, and utensils to clean up, which brings us to the next disadvantage.

It Is a Nightmare to Clean Up

French presses are notorious for being hard to clean because of their reliance on ground squeezing. Add to that the fact that you need to maintain water heating utensils, and you end up with a tough clean-up chore.

Difficult to Operate

Since the French Press method has different parts, from external water-heating to the internal plunger, there’s a higher chance of human error at each point. Compared to pod machines, French Presses are risky. Compared to Moka pots, they are easier to mess up the flavor in.

Pros of Moka Pots

It Is Easier to Operate

A moka pot is self-working and has fewer moving parts compared to a french press. Assembling a french press can be a daunting task if you’ve never used one. And even after assembling one, using the right pressure and timing, the press can be difficult. A Moka pot works as long as there’s a fire running.

The Pot Is Camping Friendly

While french presses are generally more functional in almost every other setting, a Moka pot can be used to brew coffee over a campfire or even post-barbeque on hot coal. 

It Produces Richer Coffee

Yes, you can control the intensity of coffee with a french press, but you’ll almost always have comparatively diluted coffee because it is easier to make weaker coffee with a french press. A Moka pot is biased in favor of intensity as only a tiny amount of water boils through the grounds.

Moka Pots Are Easy to Clean and Maintain

Moka pots are as easy to clean as any water heating utensil. With the filter basket being permanently elevated, the grounds are almost never stuck to the bottom of the pot. The lower chamber often requires only rinsing, as does the top chamber. The area that might require scrubbing is often very small and in the center. 

It Keeps Coffee Fresh

This is an advantage to a small extent as you don’t want to keep your coffee sitting in a stovetop coffee maker for an extended period. That said, if you compare the heat retention of the french press with that of a Moka pot, you’ll realize that Moka pots are very efficient at retaining heat, thanks to their metal body. 

Aluminum is often used to make Moka pots, which is the best at heat retention among common utensil metals. And since the freshness of hot brewed coffee is decided almost entirely by the temperature of the coffee, the fact that Moka pots stay hot longer than french presses leads one to believe a Moka pot can double as a temporary store for the caffeinated beverage whereas a french press can’t.

Moka Pots Are Cheaper

When it comes to coffee-making, Moka pots are among the most budget-friendly methods of preparing high-quality coffee. This has been elaborated better in this post on what Moka pots really are and whether you should get them. Moka pots, unlike French Presses, are cheaper to make because of less room for error. 

In a french press, the plunger’s diameter should match the container column, for example. A small error in the manufacturing process can lead to the entire batch being discarded. Such complicated products include the cost of errors and potential manufacturing losses in their production costs. A Moka pot is designed from pre-set mold, and its lower cost production translates to a lower price.

Cons of Moka Pots

Moka Pots Require the Right Grinder

If you grind your own beans, you need to check how fine you can grind them before getting a Moka pot. It is possible that the coffee grinder might be useless for the Moka pot. You need a decent burr grinder like Baratza Encore Burr Grinder to get the best performance out of your Moka pot. If you buy your coffee pre-ground, you might think this drawback doesn’t apply to you. 

You might be right to an extent but will end up with ground storage drawbacks for fine ground coffee beans. Smaller grounds have a larger surface area, which means there’s more coffee bean surface interacting with the environment. This leads to rapid oxidation, environment-driven decay, and humidity damage to coffee.

One way to fight this drawback is to double the frequency with which you purchase pre-ground coffee beans and half the amount of grounds you purchase every time. Doing so will allow you to go for a finer grind without compromising the freshness of each batch. Of course, if you already order fine grounds and are satisfied with their freshness towards the end of each batch or have a good burr grinder, this disadvantage doesn’t even apply to you.

The Pot Produces No Crema

For true fans of espresso, the thick layer of pressurized foam is an essential part of their coffee consumption experience. Unfortunately, the casual passage of hot water through a filter basket will not produce crema. You can use a finer filter paper to get some foam, though, but it isn’t really crema.

Final Thoughts

Moka coffee is strong and flavorful, can be made with ease, and is cheaper, given that you have access to fine grounds and a stove. A french press is more socially acceptable with artisanal connotations, and you can opt for it if you are willing to go through the learning curve and have other utensils to heat water. Both coffees have their merits which is why neither method of brewing has cannibalized the other despite originating from and existing in the same country for multiple decades.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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