When it comes to brewing a decent cup of coffee, few options generate as much discussion as the French press and moka pot. Coffee drinkers have long disputed which method makes the superior brew.
As a coffee enthusiast, we know you want to cut through conflicting claims and gain a clear understanding of these two methods to discover which approach best suits your taste preferences and needs.
To assist you, we'll first outline the key differences between French press and moka pot brewing. You'll learn about factors like flavor, customization, ease of use, and portability.
Then we’ll incorporate the results of our own personal experimentation with these two methods and present our personal—and likely much less objective—thoughts.
We might not be able to settle this debate once and for all, but armed with the following insights into each method's pros and cons, you’ll at least be on your way to choosing which method is right for you.
After Reading this Article, You Will . . .
- Understand the unique brewing processes of the French press and moka pot.
- Recognize how different techniques influence taste, texture, and caffeine level.
- Consider your priorities like strength, convenience, and customization.
- Apply best practices for making excellent coffee with either device.
- Feel empowered to make an informed choice for your home barista skills.
- Make the best choice for your travel and camping coffee brewing needs.
What are the key differences between a French press and moka pot?
The French press and moka pot are two classic manual coffee brewing methods that produce very different cups of coffee. The key differences are:
- The French press uses an immersion brewing method by steeping coarse coffee grounds in hot water, while the moka pot uses pressure from steam to extract espresso-style coffee.
- French press coffee has a thicker, oilier texture and more body, while moka pot coffee has a thinner, lighter texture.
- The French press allows more control over brew time and coffee strength, while the moka pot's brewing process is more automated.
- The French press is simpler to use while the moka pot can be a bit more involved.
- Both are portable and good for traveling and camping, the French press (especially glass beaker versions) being the more fragile of the two.
- Overall, the French press produces a more full-bodied and customizable cup while the moka pot creates a strong, espresso-like coffee.
Whether you choose a French press or moka pot, the most important thing is finding a method that brings you joy in your daily coffee ritual. We hope the following details will help you do just that.
The French Press: A Brief Overview
The French press is a classic, simple manual brewing device invented in France in the 1850s.
It consists of a cylindrical beaker, a lid with a built-in plunger, and a mesh filter. To brew, coarse coffee grounds are added to the beaker followed by hot water. The grounds steep for 4-5 minutes before the plunger is pressed down, filtering the grounds and separating the brewed coffee.
The French press showcases the natural flavors of the coffee and produces a cup with a rich mouthfeel, full body, and little bitterness when used properly. The resulting flavor is determined by factors like coffee origin, roast profile, grind size, and brew time.
The Moka Pot: A Brief Overview
The moka pot, also called a stovetop espresso maker, was invented in Italy in the 1930s. It uses steam pressure to produce a strong, concentrated brew similar to espresso.
The moka pot has three chambers—a bottom chamber for water, a middle chamber for ground coffee, and a top chamber for brewed coffee. The water is heated until steam forces it through the coffee into the top chamber.
Moka pot coffee is intense, thick, and flavorful. The steam extraction and metal filter leave behind some sediment, resulting in a full-bodied brew. The flavor can be customized by adjusting the grind size, dose, and brew time.
The Brewing Process: French Press vs Moka Pot
The French press and moka pot employ very different brewing processes:
- Coarse ground coffee is added to the beaker.
- Hot water is poured over the grounds.
- Coffee and water steep together for 3-4 minutes.
- Plunger is pressed down, filtering grounds.
- Finely ground coffee is added to the middle chamber.
- Water boiled in the bottom chamber forces steam through the grounds.
- Coffee extracts into the top chamber via steam pressure.
- Brewing ends when liquid stops flowing into the top chamber.
The French press steeps the coffee like tea, while the moka pot forces hot water and steam through the grounds. This results in different flavors and textures.
Taste and Texture: French Press Coffee vs Moka Pot Coffee
The brewing processes lead to notable differences in the taste and mouthfeel of the coffee:
- Thick, oily, silky texture
- Rich, bold flavor
- Less bitterness
- Thinner, lighter texture
- Strong, concentrated flavor
- Intense aroma
- Slightly more bitter
The French press highlights the inherent flavors of the coffee while the moka pot creates a dark, robust espresso-like flavor.
(That said, there are a few techniques you can employ to get an espresso-like drink from your French press: AKA French-press-o.)
French press coffee also tends to have less bitterness due to the coarse grind and immersion brewing.
Customization and Control: French Press vs Moka Pot
The French press allows for more brewing customization than the moka pot:
- Grind Size: Coarse to fine grind with a French press depending on the technique used, fine grind for moka pot.
- Brew Time: Variable steep time with French press, set by moka pot.
- Coffee Dose: Flexible with French press, limited with moka pot.
The French press gives more control over brew factors like time, grind size, and coffee amount. The moka pot automates more variables in the brewing process.
Convenience and Ease of Use: French Press vs Moka Pot
When it comes to convenience and ease of use, there are some key differences between the French press and moka pot that are worth considering.
The French press is very simple to use. You just add ground coffee to the carafe, pour in hot water, let it steep, then slowly press down the plunger to filter out the grounds
As long as you have access to hot water, you can brew a carafe of French press coffee pretty much anywhere—and those concerned about the portability of glass can always opt for a sturdy stainless steel press. The moka pot requires a bit more work.
You have to assemble the different chambers, fill the bottom with water, add finely ground coffee to the middle chamber, then screw on the top chamber and place it on the stove over medium heat.
If you are traveling or camping, you’ll also need a controllable heat source (for the moka pot), like a portable gas stove. Still, the durable vessel makes the moka pot a popular choice for travel.
The brewing process takes longer than the French press as the water needs to boil and pass through the grounds. Cleaning the moka pot involves taking apart all the pieces and washing each chamber individually.
So for pure convenience and ease of use, the French press has a slight edge over the moka pot. The assembly and brewing process is simpler, and clean-up is easier as well. However, the moka pot isn't overly complex to use either. With a little practice, the process becomes quick and routine.
Brew Time: French Press vs Moka Pot
Brew time is another key difference between these two manual brewing methods. With no assembly involved, The French press takes around 4-5 minutes to brew a cup of coffee from start to finish—including grinding the beans and decanting the finished brew.
With a moka pot, you need to allow 5-10 minutes for the water to boil and pass through the grounds under pressure. The stovetop brewing process takes a bit longer since you have to wait for the water to heat up sufficiently to produce steam.
So the French press delivers coffee faster than the moka pot. However, the difference is only a few minutes, so brew time may not be a deciding factor for most coffee drinkers.
The hands-on time is similar for both methods, it's just that the French press steeps faster while the moka pot requires extra heating time.
Cleaning and Maintenance: French Press vs Moka Pot
When it comes to cleaning up after brewing, the French press once again has a slight advantage over the moka pot in terms of effort and ease.
Cleaning a French press only requires scraping out the wet coffee grounds, giving the carafe a quick rinse, and washing the filter by hand or placing it in the top rack of the dishwasher. The entire cleaning process takes just a couple of minutes.
The moka pot, on the other hand, needs to be disassembled into its separate parts after each use. This involves unscrewing the top chamber from the bottom chamber, removing and emptying the filter basket housing, and washing each piece individually.
Some parts like the filter basket require a more thorough scrub to remove all residual coffee oils and sediments. Reassembling the chambers also takes a bit of care to ensure a good seal.
Overall, the simpler design of the French press leads to quicker and easier cleaning. While the moka pot isn't overly difficult to maintain, it does demand a bit more effort in terms of disassembly, careful cleaning, and periodic replacement of worn parts down the road.
For simplicity and minimal effort, the French press gets the edge in terms of cleaning and long-term care.
The Cost Factor: French Press vs Moka Pot
When it comes to upfront costs, the French press and moka pot are quite similar.
You can find basic French press coffee makers for around $15-30 depending on size, material, and extra features. Large, high-end French presses might bring you closer to $100.
However, it's important to note that glass French presses can be more fragile than other models. The risk of breakage needs to be considered, as dropped or damaged glass carafes would require full replacement. More durable stainless steel or other material French presses avoid this fragility issue.
Moka pots start around $20 for a small aluminum model, but larger stainless steel pots run $30 and up. High-end Italian-made moka pots can cost $100 or more. Replacement gaskets and other parts can add occasional maintenance costs as well.
Over the long run, a non-glass French press may save you more money since replacement filters and parts are cheap. With a moka pot, you may eventually need to replace the gasket or other pieces at a higher cost.
However ,the potential for replacement costs for a glass French press may even out the initial lower price point. Fragility is therefore also a factor to weigh against the affordability of the different models.
The Experiment: Our (Not Too) Partial Opinion
In the pursuit of journalistic integrity, our author James (who is currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand—the heart of Thailand's Arabica coffee growing regions) conducted a personal comparison experiment with both moka pot brewing and French press brewing:
The Control – The Beans:
For this experiment, I purchased beans from Mr. Win, the owner and head barista of Magic Brew Cafe, a coffee stand in Chiang Mai, Thailand where the moka pot part of the tastings were done.
These are wash-processed Arabica beans grown on his parent's farm in the Doi Chang mountains of Chiang Rai province in north-west Thailand.
Mr. Win's family, who are members of the Akha ethnic hilltribe, have been growing Arabica coffee there for over two decades now. The Arabica beans in this area are known for being well processed and having a nice balance between body and acidity.
The beans were roasted less than 2 weeks ago by Mr. Akkhadet Piaocheku—a respected roaster in the area with over 20 years experience—on his Giesen coffee roaster.
Roast level would be close to medium / City Plus—first crack completed, some development time, but before the start of 2nd crack. No oils showing on the surface of the bean.
1. The Moka Pot Test
Mr. Win of Magic Brew only uses the moka pot method at his coffee stand. At any given time, there are from one to six moka pots going on his stovetops.
His process involves:
- constantly adjusting the grind size to adjust for extraction, Moka Pots use a fine powdered grind like espresso, and even slight variations in the grind can make a big difference in extraction.
- distributing the coffee evenly in the basket with coffee distribution tines,
- He starts with warm water in the bottom of the moka pot as he believes less heating time to boil helps reduce burnt flavors in the coffee.
- He carefully watches the pot once extraction begins and pulls the pot off the heat as soon as the extraction is finished—at the first signs of hissing and gurgling.
Moka Pot Results:
The cup of coffee he produced for me from his family's beans was extremely balanced. The aroma was very distinct. There was just a little bit of body to the cup and some very light earthy notes.
The highlight was the pleasant mildly sour acid notes—very bright. The finish was very clean. There was no bitterness, no off flavors, no unpleasant notes in the aftertaste. Even after the coffee cooled down, the clean, bright flavors remained.
The French Press Test:
After enjoying the moka pot extraction—I brought a bag of the same beans home and prepared a cup using my French press.
- a medium-coarse grind
- water starting at 201°F (94°C)
- a 15:1 brewing ratio
- and just over a 3 minute total brew time, breaking the crust and giving the grounds a quick stir 1 minute before plunging.
This is my baseline French press brewing method.
French Press Results:
The cup of coffee produced was quite different from the earlier moka pot extraction.
Not surprisingly, the body was much heavier and the mouthfeel much more oily. The earthy notes were much stronger and there was a light smokiness that I hadn't noticed in the Moka Pot brew. This was not unpleasant though—and there were no off flavors or bitterness initially.
The big difference was the complete absence of the pleasant acids I had enjoyed in the moka pot brew. Once the coffee cooled down, some light bitterness did begin to appear, but it was still enjoyable.
The French press brew was a bolder, heavier brew with a longer aftertaste that was flavorful and expressed more intensely the bold flavors I had noticed in the moka pot brew. On the other hand, the French press brew lacked the acid notes that highlighted and balanced the moka pot extraction.
Based on this small personal experiment, I would peg the moka pot as the better option for a medium roasted bean that is known to have desirable acid notes if you want to extract the full potential from the bean.
For the French press, I would stick to more darkly roasted beans, as is typically recommended.
Tips for Making the Best Coffee: French Press and Moka Pot
To get the most out of a French press or moka pot, follow these tips:
For French Press:
- Use a coarse grind size—too fine and the coffee can be over-extracted.
- Use a coffee-to-water ratio of about 1:12 to 1:16 for proper extraction.
- Pour just-boiled water and bloom the grounds for 30-45 seconds.
- Gently plunge the filter after 3-4 minutes of brewing time.
For Moka Pot:
- Use a fine grind size—similar to espresso.
- Tamp down the grounds lightly but don't overpack them.
- Keep the heat source moderate to prevent bitterness.
- Stop the brewing before the pot sputters—don't let it over-extract.
- Preheat the water for faster extraction.
- A more detailed guide to brewing with moka pots
With the right grind size, brewing time, and preparation method, both the French press and moka pot can produce exquisite coffee. Experiment to find your perfect routine for making coffee just the way you like it.’
The Verdict: Which is Better, French Press or Moka Pot?
So which manual brewing method comes out on top—the French press or moka pot? Here's a quick recap of the key differences:
- The French press is simpler and easier to use, cleans up quicker, and may cost less. It offers convenience and simplicity.
- The moka pot takes a bit more work to use and clean but produces a stronger, espresso-like coffee. It offers more intensity and concentration.
While the French press and moka pot may seem quite different, they both offer memorable coffee experiences for any type of drinker.
If you’re looking for an easy entry point, the simplicity of the French press makes it the clear frontrunner. But the moka pot can also be a good starter model with some practice.
Enthusiasts seeking nuanced flavor will find it in both methods—it just depends on your specific flavor preferences. The French press highlights the aromatic qualities and individual notes as well as sweetness and body, while the bright moka pot brew intensifies flavors, offering a resulting cup more similar to espresso.
Experimentation is key to determining your personal preference.
If you want to ensure you’ll have some good joe no matter where you go…
The durable moka pot can handle rough and tumble and offers strong brews on the go, but keep in mind that it requires access to a heating element. The low-maintenance French press (a non-glass model preferably) also makes a good traveling companion, and you’ll only need to get your hands on some boiling water.
Overall, there’s no definitive winner.
Ultimately, newbies, connoisseurs, and adventurers all stand to enjoy coffee however it's crafted—whether via the simplicity of the French press or the intensity of the moka pot.
With a little practice using either method, you're sure to do just that.
Which Method Extracts More Caffeine—French Press or Moka Pot?
Studies indicate that espresso coffee extracted using a moka pot contains a higher concentration of caffeine compared to coffee brewed using a French press. 1
A study by the University of Newcastle found that espresso contains the highest concentration of caffeine (4,200 mg/L) compared to other brew methods including French press (742 mg/L). 2
- Research shows that 100 ml of moka pot coffee contains around 219 mg of caffeine, while 100 ml of French press coffee contains around 74 mg of caffeine. 3
- The higher pressure and temperature used in the moka pot leads to more efficient extraction of caffeine compared to the French press. 4
- However, when comparing typical serving sizes, the amount of caffeine consumed is fairly similar between moka pot coffee (30 ml) and French press coffee (100 ml). 3
- Other factors like coffee origin, roast level, and grind size also impact caffeine content but are not directly compared in these studies. 1
|Caffeine Content per 100 ml||Typical Serving Size||Caffeine Content per Serving|
|Espresso||420 mg||30 ml (1 oz)||126 mg|
|Moka Pot||219 mg||30 ml (1 oz)||66 mg|
|French Press||74 mg||100 ml (3.4 oz)||74 mg|
In summary, espresso and moka pot coffee deliver a higher dose of caffeine per volume, but when accounting for typical serving sizes, the French press and moka pot provide similar caffeine content.
The moka pot produces a stronger, more concentrated coffee, while the French press results in a milder brew.
Why Is French Press Coffee Thicker and More Oily than Moka Pot Extractions?
Typically, moka pot coffee is not as thick or oily as French press coffee because the moka pot uses a metal filter basket with smaller holes compared to the French press's metal mesh filter. This generally allows less sediment and oils to pass through, resulting in a cleaner cup with a different texture.
However, it's important to note that personal preferences and brewing variations can affect the final results. Some people may prefer a stronger, oilier cup of moka pot coffee by using a finer grind or adjusting other brewing parameters. Similarly, it's possible to achieve a cleaner cup with less sediment and oil using a French press by using a coarser grind and ensuring proper filtration.
Ultimately, the specific texture and oiliness of the coffee can be influenced by various factors, including the brewing method, grind size, filtration, and other preferences.
Moka Pot FAQ
How Do I Prevent Bitterness when Using a Moka Pot?
- Use a medium-fine grind instead of an ultra-fine espresso grind to avoid over-extraction.
- Don't tamp the grounds too firmly or overpack the filter basket.
- Keep the heat source moderate to prevent burning the coffee.
- Stop the brewing before it sputters at the end.
What Is the Ideal Coffee Dose for a Moka Pot?
- The basket size and number of cups determine the dose. Generally use 8-10 grams (2 level tbsp) of coffee per ~30 ml (1 fl oz) cup size.
- Don't overfill the basket. Leave a little headspace for expansion.
- Adjust the dose based on personal taste preferences.
How Do I Get Crema on My Moka Pot Coffee?
- Use freshly roasted coffee beans (within 2 weeks of the roast date).
- Grind the beans finely but not into a powder.
- Let the brewed coffee rest before pouring to allow crema to form.
French Press FAQ
How Fine or Coarse Should I Grind for French Press?
- Aim for a coarse grind, similar to kosher salt or sugar crystals.
- Too fine a grind can lead to over-extraction and silt in the cup.
- Adjust grind size based on taste—go slightly finer for stronger flavor.
How Long Should I Steep French Press Coffee?
- The optimal steep time is around 4 minutes.
- Steeping longer than 5 minutes risks over-extraction.
- If using a very coarse grind, you can steep for up to 6-7 minutes.
How Can I Reduce Sediment in French Press Coffee?
- Use a coarse grind size and don't over-extract.
- Let it settle then pour the finished coffee slowly and stop before you see sediment.
- Consider a double filtration method using a paper filter.
Andueza, S., Maeztu, L., Pascual, L., Ibáñez, C., Paz De Peña, M., & Cid, C. (2002). Influence of extraction temperature on the final quality of espresso coffee. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 82(11), 1206-1212.
King, R., van Altena, I., & Hicks, C. (2018). Study reveals which cup of coffee delivers the biggest caffeine kick. University of Newcastle. https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured/study-reveals-which-cup-of-coffee-delivers-the-biggest-caffeine-kick
LuxHaus. (2022, May 3). Moka Pot vs French Press - Ultimate Brew Battle Guide. https://lux-haus.net/blogs/coffee/french-press-vs-moka-pot
Andueza, S., Maeztu, L., Pascual, L., Ibáñez, C., Paz De Peña, M., & Cid, C. (2003). Influence of extraction temperature on the final quality of espresso coffee. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 83(3), 240-248.
Additional Scientific / Journal References Discussing Brew Methods’ Effects On Flavor:
Influence of coffee brewing methods on the chromatographic and spectroscopic profiles, antioxidant and sensory properties
Coffee extraction: A review of parameters and their influence on the physicochemical characteristics and flavor of coffee brew