The infamous Moka Pot has been around since 1933, and its counterpart, the French press coffee maker, was invented in 1929. The huge debate regarding which of these is best has, therefore, been going on around the world for close to 90 years!
Although both of these coffee makers produce the same thing…coffee…there are a number of differences between the two, not only with the brewing methods used with each of them, but also the end result (the coffee) that is brewed in each of them.
The Main Huge Difference…
The main difference between a Moka Pot and a French press that probably will be the most important factor to you is the coffee that is the final brewed beverage. For most people, this is THE deciding factor that plays into choosing one of these coffee makers over the other.
Although both of these types of coffee makers brew up a strong coffee that is about twice as strong as your normal coffee brewed in a drip coffee maker, coffee brewed in a French press tends to have more coffee bean oil in it, as well as some grit from the coffee grounds used in the brewing process.
A Moka Pot, on the other hand, produces coffee that contains less coffee bean oil and no grit from the coffee grounds.
Therefore, if you can’t stand the thought of having grit/sediment from coffee grounds in your coffee, you should probably pass on choosing a French press, and instead go for a Moka Pot!
Neither is an Espresso Maker!
Neither Moka pots nor French presses brew espresso. Although many people, including producers of Moka pots and French presses, call these two coffee brewing appliances espresso makers, they do not make true espresso.
A Moka pot is a stove top coffee maker that produces a very strong brew of coffee.
A French press also makes a very strong brew of coffee.
Both the Moka Pot and a French press brew coffee that is basically a ratio of 1:7 water:coffee ratio. This is a little over twice as strong as that a normal drip coffee maker produces, which normally is in the range of 1:16 water:coffee ratio.
The term “espresso” refers only to the method of brewing coffee that is used by an espresso machine to make espresso, rather than a type of coffee bean used, the strength of the brewed product, or the coffee beverage that is made with an espresso machine.
That being said, if you don’t want to fork out anywhere from about $200 on the low end, going on up to the several-thousand dollar mark, but you want to enjoy lattes and other sweetened coffee drinks in the comfort of your own home, a Moka pot or French press is the next best thing to having a true espresso machine. Most people truly won’t be able to tell the difference in the flavor.
The Moka Pot
What a Moka Pot Is
The Moka Pot is a coffee brewer that “brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee.” There are also electric Moka pots available that are plugged into an electrical outlet.
A Moka Pot is made up of three separate chambers within the pot.
The process of brewing coffee in one involves loading cold water into the bottom chamber and ground coffee into the middle chamber, and then heating the water in the bottom chamber on a stove top.
When the water reaches the boiling point, it is forced up through coffee grounds contained in a funnel holding the coffee grounds. Steam from the boiling water then goes up through a hollow column in the middle attached to the funnel, after which it is dispersed into and stays in the upper “serving” chamber.
The French Press
What a French Press Is
A French press is “a coffeepot in which ground beans are infused and then pressed to the bottom by means of a plunger.” (Merriam Webster).
The French press is comprised of two different parts:
- The lid, filter, and plunger.
- The beaker (usually glass), handle, and base.
A French press is made up of two different components. The inside component is comprised of the lid, which covers the top of the glass beaker, the plunger (normally a metal rod) that goes down the middle of the lid and is affixed to the bottom part of the component, the filter, which traps most (but not all) of the ground coffee underneath the filter when the plunger is pressed down to the bottom of the beaker, through the water.
Because the filter is not completely 100% airtight around the edges, French presses normally let loose a small amount of sediment/coffee grounds in the coffee. There is also more coffee bean oil present in coffee brewed in a French press, again because the seal between the sides of the beaker and the filter is not 100% airtight.
Here is a diagram of the other component of a French press…the beaker and handle. This component holds the water and coffee grounds prior to, during, and after brewing.
The steps for using a French press include adding coffee grounds to the bottom of the glass “beaker” of the French press, adding hot water to the beaker, stirring and steeping the coffee/water mixture for 4 to 5 minutes, placing the lid of the French press on top, and then depressing the handle until it reaches the bottom of the French press.
Brewed Coffee Information – Moka Pot and French Press
A Moka pot brews up a rich, heavy-bodied coffee that is versatile and flavorful, with less oils and “sediment” from the coffee grounds than you get with a French press.
The coffee brewed in a Moka pot can be enjoyed on its own, or it can be mixed with other things such as steamed milk for a Cappucchino or hot water for an Americano.
A French press also brews up coffee that is strong, about the same strength as that brewed in a Moka Pot, but normally has grit/sediment from the coffee grounds used, as well as more coffee bean oil in the brewed coffee.
If you are someone who doesn’t care for coffee that has coffee ground grit in it, a French press probably is not something you would be interested in, unless you wanted to strain the brewed coffee through something such as a paper coffee filter or paper towel after it has finished brewing.
Sizes Available – Moka Pot and French Press
Moka Pots come in many different sizes from a 1-cup size that produces a small 1- or 2-ounce shot of coffee, on up to a 12-cup pot. Keep in mind that size truly does matter when it comes to Moka pots. A 1-cup Moka pot will produce a 1- to 2-oz. shot of very strong coffee, a 2-cup Moka pot will produce about 2 shots, etc.
Also keep in mind that you can’t fill a Moka pot half full and have it work correctly. In other words, if you plan on just brewing for one or two people daily, you don’t want to buy a 12-cup Moka Pot, as it won’t work correctly. Optimal performance can only occur when you use the appropriate size pot, which is determined by the amount of coffee you plan on making regularly.
The best size for, say a couple of people who generally each drink two normal cups of coffee with cream, is the 6-cup size. The Moka pots that are 9, 10-, or 12-cup sizes work good for families or when guests come over.
French Press Sizes: French presses come in varying sizes, with the most common sizes being those that hold 3 cups, 4 cups, 8 cups, and 12 cups. There are also a few companies that offer smaller and larger sizes, but the sizes listed here are the most common ones used.
Construction Materials – Moka Pot and French Press
Moka pots can be found made of aluminum and stainless steel, which are generally used on a stovetop, as well as ones that are electric which are plugged into a wall.
Aluminum: Moka pots used on the stovetop are generally made of aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is known for its ability to evenly distribute heat, thus making it a very popular material to be used for Moka Pots. Aluminum Moka pots are also less costly than those made of stainless steel.
The disadvantages of aluminum are: 1) Aluminum is somewhat porous, which allows particles of coffee and coffee bean oil to become lodged in the pores of the metal. 2) Scrubbing aluminum with abrasives to clean it can scratch tiny pieces of the aluminum, which will give the brewed coffee a somewhat metallic flavor. 3) Aluminum will rust over time if not thoroughly dried after each use.
In summary, the only real advantage of aluminum Moka Pots is their affordability.
Stainless Steel: Some Moka Pots are made of stainless steel. There are a few great advantages to stainless steel ones that aluminum can’t boast: 1) Stainless steel doesn’t rust. 2) Stainless steel is not porous. 3) Stainless steel is unlikely to get scratched like aluminum can.
The only true disadvantage of stainless steel Moka pots is the higher cost. If your budget can allow for it, a stainless-steel Moka pot is definitely the better one to choose. A stainless-steel Moka Pot will last many, many more years than an aluminum one.
Electric: The other “type” of Moka pot is the electric Moka pot. Rather than heating the water and brewing on a stove top, this type sits on the counter top and has an electrical cord that is plugged into a standard electrical outlet. Electric Moka pots generally have a temperature regulator,
French presses are generally made of two components – a glass or metal “beaker” (container) and a second component that includes the base, handle, and lid.
Glass beakers don’t seem to hold heat as well as metal ones, so if you live in a cold climate, you would probably be happier with one that has a metal beaker.
Water is heated in a tea kettle or pan that is separate from the French press, and is then poured from the separate container into the French press, where the brewing occurs.
You can also purchase electric French presses that heat the water, brew the coffee, and then keep the coffee heated for you after brewing is complete, although I very strongly recommend that you dispense the brewed coffee into a separate decanter after it has completed brewing, or you will very likely end up with a very strong brew.
Cost – Moka Pots and French Presses
Moka Pots and French presses are similar when it comes to price.
You can find both of these appliances starting at about $20 each, although there are also mid-range and high-range prices for both of them as well.
Water:Coffee Ratio – Moka Pots and French Presses
Drip coffee has a “water:coffee” ratio of 1:16. Both a Moka pot and a French press brew coffee that is about twice as strong as regular drip coffee, with a ratio of about 1:7. Of course the strength of the coffee will be determined by how much water and grounds that you use.
Below are charts showing the amounts of water and ground coffee that are normally recommended for a Moka Pot and a French Press. After you gain some experience using either of these appliances, you can, of course, make adjustments according to your particular flavor preferences.
Moka Pot Coffee:Water Ratio
|4 Tablespoons||16 Ounces|
|8 Tablespoons||32 Ounces|
French Press Coffee:Water Ratio
|Brew Strength||Amount Of Water||Amount Of Ground Coffee|
|Mild||10 Ounces||3 Tablespoons|
|Medium||10 Ounces||4 Tablespoons|
|Strong||10 Ounces||5 Tablespoons|
How To Use A Moka Pot
Here are some basic step-by-step instructions for using a Moka Pot.
- Step 1: Dampen a hand towel and place in the freezer. This will be used immediately after the brewing process is done.
- Step 2: Fill the bottom reservoir with water. It’s important that you don’t fill the water over the small “nub” on the outside of the Moka Pot (called the pressure release valve). Over-filling over this valve will render it useless, and you may risk a “blow out” that could cause the coffee to overflow out of the pot.
- Step 2: Place ground coffee into the filter basket. The best grind coarseness for a Moka Pot falls somewhere in the medium level…not too coarse and not too fine. You shouldn’t tamp (compress) the grounds, and also avoid over-filling the filter basket with grounds. A grind that is too fine may clog up the filter basket. The best ground coffee to use is that which is just slightly finer than that which you would use in a drip coffee maker.
- Step 3: Assemble the inside of the Moka Pot and screw it together tightly.
- Step 4: Heat the Moka Pot on medium-low heat. For gas stoves, you probably will want to go even lower than medium-low heat.
- Step 5: After 5 to 10 minutes, the coffee should start to brew up into the upper chamber. If you hear any “spitting” or “sputtering” it means you have the stove heat too hot.
- Step 6: When brewing is done, remove from the heat and immediately place on the dampened towel that you placed in the freezer. This will help the brewing to stop when it needs to stop, thus preventing over-brewing, which will result in a bitter tasting coffee.
- Step 7: Pour and enjoy immediately after brewing is complete.
Troubleshooting Moka Pot Brewing Problems
If you are new to using a Moka Pot, there are a number of different things that can go wrong when it comes to the flavor of the coffee or things that may go wrong with the Moka Pot. Below is a list of the different things you may come across, as well as solutions to remedy the problems. With some experience, you likely will not come across any of these problems.
Bitter Coffee: If your brewed coffee ends up tasting bitter, there are three things you can do to improve the bitterness:
- Use a lower heat setting on your stove.
- Use a slightly more coarse grind of beans.
- Stop brewing a little earlier than you did before.
Weak Coffee: If your brewed coffee ends up being weaker than you would like, there are a couple of things you can do to make the coffee stronger:
- The next time you use it, tap the filter basket to make sure the grounds are evenly distributed within the filter basket.
- If you distribute the grounds evenly but still end up with a weak brew, try using a finer grind, which will boost the extraction of more flavor.
Leakage During Brewing: If you notice that the Moka Pot is leaking from the side of the pot, do the following:
- Remove the Moka Pot from the heat.
- After cooling has taken place, make sure it is clean and sealed tightly.
- If this doesn’t solve the problem, try using a coarser grind. A grind that is too fine tends to clog the filter basket.
Steam Leakage from the Pressure Release Valve: If you find that steam is leaking from the pressure release valve, consider the following:
- Adding too many grounds can cause this.
- If you tamped (compressed) the grounds, that could also be the reason. Never tamp the grounds in a Moka Pot.
- If both of the above do not apply, try using a lower stove burner heat.
How To Use A French Press
Here’s a list of the step-by-step directions for brewing coffee in a French press.
- Step 1: Heat the water you will use for brewing coffee in the French press in a separate container, such as a stovetop tea kettle. This should be done as the very first step because it is the step that will take the longest.
The ideal water temperature for brewing coffee in a French press is 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you don’t get to the water in time and it reaches a full boil, that is okay also. If the water did reach a full boil, let it sit off of the heat for about 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the amount of water that has been heated. Sitting for a short time off of the heat should give the water time to cool back down to the recommended temperature range of 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 2: Preheat the French press by adding some hot water into the press and swirling it around inside the beaker until the beaker is warm to the touch. Then discard the water. This will prepare the French press for keeping the coffee hot longer.
- Step 3: Measure and grind the coffee beans. You are ideally wanting to end up with a grind that is somewhere in the middle of grind sizes…not too coarse and not too fine.
- Step 4: Add coffee grounds to the bottom of the beaker. This is done after you have disposed of the water that you used to warm the beaker, as indicated in Step 2 above. Make sure to give the beaker a shake after adding the grounds so that they will even out on the bottom.
- Step 5: Pour hot water into the beaker with coffee grounds. The pouring of water should be done relatively quickly while at the same time making sure all of the grounds get in contact with the water.
- Step 6: Gently stir the mixture in the beaker with a spoon. This will ensure that all grounds have been in contact with the hot water.
- Step 7: Let the mixture of grounds and water steep for 3-1/2 minutes.
- Step 8: After 3-1/2 minutes, you should have a crust-like layer of steeped grounds on the top surface. At this point, you have a couple of choices regarding what to do. If you want a lighter-bodied coffee, use your stirring spoon to scoop out and discard the crust, and continue to scoop and discard the grounds…or use your spoon to gently break up the crust and leave it in the beaker for a more full-bodied coffee.
- Step 9: Grab the lid/plunger/filter screen component and place it on top of the beaker with the plunger and screen pulled up to the top-most position. Fit the lid on the top of the beaker and then gently depress the plunger down through the coffee to the bottom of the beaker.
- Step 10: Pour the pressed coffee into mugs or a decanter and enjoy! A decanter is recommended for keeping the coffee hot for a longer period of time.
Troubleshooting French Press Brewing Problems
- If when you depress the plunger through the coffee it goes clear down to the bottom without any resistance, this means the grind you used was too coarse and you will need to do a finer grind the next time.
- If you find that it is taking a significant amount of effort to depress the plunger to the bottom of the beaker, your grind is too fine and you will need a larger/coarser grind the next time.
- Sour or Weak Flavor: This usually means that the coffee was under-extracted (not brewed/steeped for a long enough period of time. Try upping the steeping time gradually until you get it to a satisfactory flavor for you.
- Bitter Flavor: Coffee brewed in a French press that ends up tasting bitter usually ends up that way due to over-extraction, which means that too much of the coffee flavor has been extracted from the grounds. The two factors that come into play if your coffee is bitter tasting include either the grind being too fine and/or the extraction time being too long. For future brews, play around with different grind sizes and extraction times.
- Stale, Flat Flavor: This can be caused by several factors: 1) You used pre-ground coffee, which normally will be somewhat stale. It is highly recommend that you grind coffee beans just prior to brewing them, as ground coffee starts losing freshness after the first 30 minutes to 1 hour. 2) Low Brewing Temperature. 3) Under-extraction.
- Other “Odd” Flavors: The water you use to brew your coffee can also have a huge impact on the flavor of the coffee. If you can, use filtered water. Either bottled water or tap water that you filter yourself in one of today’s handy filter pitchers will likely make a huge difference in the flavor.
- Another possible cause of non-optimal coffee can be dirty equipment. If you think this might be a possibility, completely disassemble your French press, and even your grinder, and do a thorough cleaning and drying.
Conclusion – Moka Pot vs. French Press
A Moka Pot generally takes about 5-7 minutes to brew coffee, while a French press is slightly less time at about 5 minutes.
One HUGE difference between these two coffee brewing appliances is the coffee that is brewed in each of them…although both coffee brewers brew a strong-bodied coffee that is about twice the boldness of coffee made in a drip coffee maker, a Moka pot brews up a smoother coffee than a French press, which tends to brew up coffee that includes sediment and more coffee bean oils.
For optimum results in brewing in either of these types of coffee brewers, it is highly recommended that you use freshly ground coffee beans that are ground just prior to brewing. It is also highly recommended that you use filtered water and thoroughly cleaned equipment.
In summary, if you love strong coffee but don’t want to spend tons of money on a home espresso machine, a Moka pot or French press should be considered.