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French Press vs. Moka Pot: Great for Bold, Rich Flavors

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Summary of Differences

The Moka pot and French press have a lot of similarities. They both make bold, rich coffee, and they are easy to maintain, clean, and use. They are both exceptionally eco-friendly, requiring no single-use products, like paper filters, to brew coffee, and they can be repaired or recycled. They are also great options for small spaces as they can be stored in cabinets when not in use, saving valuable kitchen real estate.

Some key differences between these two coffee makers are whether you can use them for other purposes and if they are suitable for traveling or camping. French presses have more alternative uses than Moka pots. You can use them to brew loose-leaf tea, make cold-brew-style drinks, or froth milk. While you can technically use a Moka pot to brew other things, flavors and tastes will linger in the Moka pot, affecting the taste of your coffee. That’s why we don’t recommend using your Moka pot for anything other than coffee.

In our opinion, the Moka pot is a better travel companion than the French press because of its ease of use and compact size. A French press requires you to boil water in another container and then add it to the French press, whereas you add water directly to the Moka pot before brewing making it a self-contained brewer. Moka pots generally have even smaller footprints than French presses, making them easy to pack in your luggage.

French Press Moka Pot
  • $30 to $40 for a French press that makes six servings (five ounces per serving)
  • Bold, earthy flavor profile
  • Eco-friendly: no paper filters are needed and the French press can be repaired and recycled
  • Great for other uses like making loose-leaf tea, cold-brew-style drinks, or frothing milk
  • Great for small spaces
  • Easy to clean
  • Approximately $40 for a Moka pot that makes six servings (one ounce per serving)
  • Intense, sharp, and deep flavor similar to espresso (often called “poor man’s espresso”)
  • Eco-friendly: no paper filters are needed and the Moka pot can be repaired and recycled
  • A great option for traveling or camping
  • Great for small spaces
  • Easy to clean

Taste Profiles

Moka pots and French presses brew coffee at the strong, rich end of the coffee flavor spectrum. A French press makes coffee that has a decadent, bold, and earthy taste. Coffee from a Moka pot is frequently compared to espresso for its dark color and its sharpness and depth of flavor.

While coffee from a Moka pot is not espresso, it’s often been called the “poor man’s espresso” because of its similarities to espresso. Similarly to espresso, Moka pot coffee is a bit thicker and more syrupy than regular coffee. It also has an intense, deep, and sharp flavor akin to espresso. Moka pots also brew in espresso-sized servings (one ounce), so Moka pot coffee makes a great base for other drinks, like americanos or lattes.

The coffee from a French press isn’t as intense as Moka pot coffee but it has a strong flavor. Its flavor can be described as earthlike, rich, and intense. It is not syrupy like the coffee from a Moka pot, and it is brewed in traditional coffee-sized servings (five ounces).

If you don’t like rich, strong coffee, we recommend considering a pour-over coffee maker, like a Chemex or Kalita. Pour-over coffee makers are known for the light, clean, and crisp taste they produce.

Brewing Differences

Despite being on the same side of the coffee flavor spectrum, French presses and Moka pots brew coffee very differently. A French press uses immersion and manual pressure to brew coffee. You immerse coarse coffee grounds into hot water and let them steep for several minutes, brewing the coffee.

After brewing, you press the plunger down to keep the coffee grounds at the bottom of the French press. Pressing the plunger into the coffee grounds also releases additional oils and flavonoids into the coffee you’ve brewed, enhancing the taste.

A Moka pot uses the heat from your stove to create water and steam pressure to brew coffee. When you brew using a Moka pot, you place water in the bottom chamber of the pot and coffee grounds in a filter basket in the top chamber.

You place the Moka pot directly on your gas or electric stove to heat the water. As the water heats up, it creates steam and pressure. Eventually, the pressure is enough to push the water up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber, making coffee.

Alternative Uses

If you care about the versatility of your coffee maker, the French press wins this category. You can use a French press to brew loose-leaf tea (follow the same steps you use for coffee). In a pinch, you can also froth milk. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your sole way of frothing milk as it’s an arm workout. You can also use a French press to brew cold-brew-style coffee, making it a true jack-of-all-trades coffee maker.

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While you can technically brew other things in a Moka pot, I don’t recommend it because you can’t use detergent or soap to clean the Moka pot to remove lingering tastes. For instance, if you brew tea in a Moka pot, the taste will linger and affect the taste of your coffee the next time you make coffee in the Moka pot.

Eco-friendliness

Moka pots and French presses are some of the most eco-friendly methods to brew coffee. Neither device requires paper filters, pods, or other single-use products. Moka pots are made from metal with a plastic handle. They are sturdy, and if some components break (like the valve), many vendors sell replacement parts so you can fix and keep using the pot. You also don’t need to use soaps or detergent to clean a Moka pot, rinsing it with water is sufficient.

A high-quality French press is made of metal, glass, or ceramic. It may have plastic components, such as the handle or lid. Similarly to the Moka pot, a high-quality French press will last a long time. Most French press manufacturers also sell replacement components, in case the glass carafe or filter breaks.

While you can repair these coffee makers indefinitely, you can recycle them if your municipality accepts them (because they are mostly metal and glass, they likely will).

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Finally, you can compost the coffee grounds, clean with them, or use them for beauty purposes for a truly minimal waste experience. Coffee grounds can make a great body scrub to soften and smooth skin. They are also great at removing and masking odors.

If reducing waste is important to you, you can’t go wrong with a French press or a Moka pot.

Cost

Moka pots and French presses are comparable in price. For example, a 6-cup Moka Express from Bialetti runs around $40 and makes six espresso-sized servings. An espresso serving is one ounce. A 30-ounce French press that makes six standard coffee servings runs around $30 to $40. A standard coffee serving is five ounces. You can dilute the coffee from a Moka pot using a bit of water to make an americano or using milk to make a latte or cappuccino.

A French press and a Moka pot are both sturdy devices that should last a long time, so the cost per use is low. Besides the cost of coffee beans, the only additional cost to consider with both of these coffee makers is the cost of a grinder. A good entry-level coffee grinder can run $150 to $200, but it offers a ton of flexibility in how you make coffee at home. Investing in a good coffee grinder is one of the easiest ways to brew better coffee at home, even if you aren’t using anything other than a drip coffee machine.

Which One Do We Prefer?

I mostly drink espresso at home, so my French press and Moka pot don’t see much action unless I’m testing coffee makers, traveling, or hosting people. I like to use the French press when we have company as it’s easy to brew a big batch of coffee in it. It’s also good in a pinch if you want to brew a big pot of loose-leaf tea.

The Moka pot can be very convenient for traveling or camping, given its small size, durability, and simplicity of use. If you have access to an electric or gas stove, you can brew coffee with it. It’s also a great option if you are brewing coffee for only one or two people.

Both of these coffee makers are great if you have limited space or a small number of coffee drinkers in your household. You can store them in a cabinet or cupboard, so they don’t take up valuable countertop space. Both also come in single- and double-serve sizes so they have a small footprint. Either of these coffee makers could be a great option for someone living in a small apartment or traveling in an RV or van.

About Rebecca Wessell

Rebecca is the co-founder of First Coffee Then. She has written for numerous publications, including ValuePenguin, Inc.com, Business.com, Christian Science Monitor, StartupNation, and NASDAQ. She loves to get into the nitty-gritty of how things work and applies this philosophy to all things coffee. Her favorite coffee beverage is a cappuccino (though La Colombe Oat Milk Draft Lattes are an extremely close second).

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