In the world of home coffee brewing, the French press is a heavy hitter. Along the same caffeinated vein is the famous stovetop espresso maker — the moka pot. You probably know coffee lovers who swear by one or the other.
Each is compact enough that any kitchen could house both coffee makers comfortably. Either one is available at an affordable price or in a more expensive luxury model.
When it comes to brewing methods, we say, “the more, the merrier.”
So, if you already own one … maybe it’s time to give the other a try! Becoming a full-blown coffee aficionado doesn’t have to be just another pipe dream.
If you’re trying to decide between a moka pot or a French press for your home coffee brewing needs, we can help. From pros and cons to coffee beans to equipment recommendations, prepare to get wired!
Stovetop Espresso (AKA the Moka Pot)
Even if you’ve never heard of a moka pot before, we’re willing to bet you’d recognize one if you saw it. They’re undeniably sleek and will bring a bit of Italian-inspired style to your stovetop.
Pros of the Moka Pot
First off, they’re also known as stovetop espresso makers. Meaning for a fraction of the price of a full-blown espresso machine, you can enjoy espresso-like coffee at home.
If they had a middle name, it would be “affordable.”
Secondly, they’re easy to use. If you’ve got a stove, a moka pot, water, and coffee grounds — you’re ready to rock.
Our third point, they’re camping-friendly! That’s right, take your buddy the moka pot along on your next outdoor excursion. Is there anything better than savoring a hot cup of coffee outside?
Finally, they make delicious coffee. Because the moka pot produces such a strong, rich brew, you can easily add hot water, milk, or foam to make it into a cafe-style beverage.
Espresso-Style Drinks You Can Make With the Moka Pot
- Add hot water to make a simple americano.
- Add hot milk for a creamy latte.
- If you have a milk frother, plop mounds of dense foam on top of your brew for a lush cappuccino.
- Add chocolate syrup and steamed milk (and maybe a dollop of foam) if you enjoy a cafe mocha.
Cons of the Moka Pot
Watch the heat on your stovetop. Too high, and you’ll force the coffee through the filter too quickly, resulting in a maybe-too-intense cup of joe!
(Also, most moka pots have plastic handles, so watch that they don’t melt on your stovetop.)
You have to pay attention to grind size. You want a fine grind, similar to espresso, but not too fine. If it’s too fine, water won’t be able to get through!
Lastly, the moka pot isn’t ideal for entertaining guests. Most models make four to six cups at a time which sounds like plenty.
But it’s referring to cups of espresso.
The French Press
The French press, a popular brewing method (that an Italian actually patented), makes darn good java.
With a French press, your coffee grounds steep in hot water before pushing it to the bottom of the carafe using a plunger. A mesh filter holds the grounds in place so that they don’t wind up in your cup of coffee.
This method allows more of a coffee’s natural oil to stay in your mug. When you make drip coffee, the paper filters catch most of the aromatic oils. Some say this is why French press coffee tastes better.
There’s some debate about how healthy unfiltered coffee is for you, but like most things — moderation is key. So if you’re chugging down five to eight cups of pressed coffee a day … then it might be time to cut back on the go-juice!
Pros of the French Press
Much like our friend, the moka pot, the French press runs relatively affordable. Once you have a press, all you need are some high-quality ground coffee beans and hot water.
It’s also reasonably easy to learn how to use, and the clean-up is straightforward.
Tips for Better-Tasting French Press Coffee
- Use the freshest coffee beans available.
- Don’t buy pre-ground beans. Grind yours right before brewing.
- Use a coarse, even grind for those beans.
- Preheat your French press carafe and/or coffee mug.
- Use water that’s just below boiling (195 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Nail down your perfect extraction time (usually ~four minutes).
- If you’re not going to drink it right away, transfer your fresh brew into another carafe (otherwise, it will continue to extract and over-extracted coffee = “blech!”).
Cons of the French Press
Unlike other coffee makers, you’ll need a separate method of boiling water.
It’s also super easy to mess up French press coffee. Get distracted by a ringing phone, a crying kid, or a barking dog — and whoops! You’ve got a full carafe of over-extracted coffee on your hands. (And it does not taste good.)
Moka Pot vs. French Press Flavor Differences
The flavor profile difference between moka pot and French press coffee is quite distinct.
While both are aromatic, one is much more concentrated than the other — can you guess which?
It’s the one you make in the (usually) smaller vessel, the moka pot.
With a moka pot brew, you get an intense, heavy-bodied, espresso-like cup of coffee. French press is a rich, strong coffee, but it won’t serve well as a base for coffee shop drinks like the moka pot coffee.
Moka Pot vs. French Press Brewing Method Differences
The moka pot functions somewhat like a percolator, while the French press relies on the immersion brewing process.
To put it simply:
The moka pot allows water to pass through coffee. The French press lets the ground coffee soak in water.
Want to know more?
How a Moka Pot Works
The moka pot essentially breaks down into three working parts. It has an upper chamber, a lower chamber, and a filter basket.
Start by filling the bottom chamber with water (some swear by adding hot instead of cold water). Next, fill the filter basket with your grounds until it’s level, but don’t pack it down. Put the filter basket in the bottom chamber. Finally, screw the upper chamber on top of the filter basket.
Place on the stovetop over medium heat. If using a gas stove, watch that the handle isn’t in a position where it may melt.
Your coffee is ready once the water makes it from the bottom chamber through the grounds and spurts out the valve in the top chamber. When you can hear it happily gurgling and smell the intoxicating aroma of fresh coffee, remove it from the heat.
Pour carefully and maybe enjoy with some biscotti!
How a French Press Works
A French press brews coffee in much the same way as you would steep a cup of tea. Yet, unlike a drip machine, where the water passes quickly through the coffee, a French press allows the coffee steeping time.
Place your coarse grounds in the empty carafe of your press. Pour just under boiling water on top, just enough to cover the coffee grounds. Give them a stir, letting the coffee “bloom” for about thirty seconds.
Pour in the rest of the hot water. Place the mesh filter and lid on top, but don’t push that plunger down yet! Set a timer for four minutes. When the timer goes off, press the plunger to the bottom.
Pour, sip, and smile.
Another example of an immersion brewer is the Aeropress.
Choosing the Right Coffee Beans
While the brew method is important, the secret to great coffee lies in those precious little beans.
Best Coffee Beans for Moka Pot
If you’re a pour-over fan, you likely opt for single-origin light roasts. But when it comes to that concentrated moka pot coffee, you’re going to want to swing to the other end of the spectrum.
Dark or medium-dark roasts are your best choice here.
That’s what you would use for espresso after all, right?
Since there’s no denying how very Italian the moka pot is, why not start by trying out some coffee beans from Italy?
Like this whole bean Lavazza espresso roast. Blended and roasted in Italy, it’ll give you a round flavor topped with that coveted crema.
Or this illy Classico medium roast: 100% Arabica beans, 100% delicious.
Best Coffee Beans for French Press
Think nutty, chocolaty blends here.
With a French press, try light to medium roast blends. The brew is already so intense that you don’t need the robust smokiness of a dark roast with this brew method.
Cold-brew and French press are two at-home brew methods that you can use to make lower-acid coffee.
Acid reflux keeping you from fully enjoying your morning cup?
Opt for a low-acid coffee like Lifeboost.
Or, if acid is a non-issue for you, try this cheeky Smart Ass blend from Kicking Horse. It makes a swoon-inducing cup with flavor notes of tart red currant, sugar cane, and milk chocolate.
This medium roast from Primos Coffee Co is smooth and sweet with citrus notes — mmm!
Whichever beans you choose, remember to use a coarse, even grind. That’ll lessen the chance of coffee grounds making it past your filter basket. Most of us don’t appreciate a bunch of sediment at the bottom of our mug!
Moka Pot: Which To Buy
We’re going to hit you with two quick options here. Our top budget-friendly pick for moka pot and then a premium pick!
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Coffee Maker, 6-Cup
You can’t go wrong with this classic choice from Bialetti. Sleek, silver aluminum. Give it a place of honor on your stovetop; it’s attractive enough to leave out as part of your decor!
- Ergonomic handle
- Zero waste method of preparing coffee
- No soap needed; hand wash with water
- Made in Italy
- Lasts a minimum of 10 years
Note: This moka pot won’t work on an induction stovetop.
Bialetti Musa Restyling Moka Pot, 2-Cup
Another stylish choice from Bialetti, this Musa model boasts a more modern design.
- 18/10 stainless steel
- Ergonomic handle
- Easy to clean (no soap required)
- Available in multiple sizes
You can buy it now on Amazon.
French Press: Which To Buy
Same deal here:
Our top-choice for affordability, followed by our luxury pick!
Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker
For less than $40, you could be French pressin’ 34-ounces of hot coffee every morning while wearing your most fabulous pair of bunny slippers. That’s almost three 12-ounce cups of coffee (or one perfect-sized to-go cup!).
- 3-part stainless steel plunger w/ mesh filter
- Dishwasher safe parts
- Glass carafe
- No paper filters needed
- Brew time: 4 minutes
Check out the customer reviews for this press on Amazon.
La Creuset Cafe Stoneware French Press
Handcrafted in France in a rainbow of unique colors, you won’t find anything quite so deliciously premium as La Creuset’s stoneware. Their French press will make waking up for your morning coffee ritual a European dream.
- Available in 3 stunning colors
- Chip, scratch, and stain-resistant
- Easy to clean/dishwasher safe
- Stainless steel plunger w/ mesh sieve
- Better heat retention than metal or glass
Are you totally sold? Check the price and order one here.
Bonus: Additional Caffeine Considerations
Buy a few more pieces of equipment to really elevate your home brewing game!
Not just any coffee grinder. Opt for a burr grinder over a blade grinder.
You can get electric or manual.
Manual is much cheaper and fun for a hands-on experience. Yet, the electric models are much more convenient for those of us who don’t want to do an arm workout before our first cup of coffee!
Water temperature can make or break your java. Nail the perfect water heat every time by bringing home an electric kettle like this one.
Even if you opted for French press over the moka pot, you could still take your coffee drinks to the next level with some frothed milk!
Stretch your carafe of French press further by doing half brew, half steamed milk for a dreamy, creamy cafe au lait.
Or, if you did go for the moka pot, use that concentrated brew for lattes and cappuccinos!
Just pick up a separate milk frother like one of these:
- Zulay Original Milk Frother Handheld Foam Maker
- Miroco Milk Frother, Electric Milk Steamer
- Secura Detachable Milk Frother
The mug tree is 100% optional, but hear us out.
Moka pot vs. French press, half-n-half vs. non-dairy creamers, medium roast vs. dark roast. These are the kinds of debates we love to get into — after caffeine, of course.
Now that you’ve got all this info, which brew method will you master first?
Enjoy playing barista and saying, “Ciao!” to bitter coffee!