What is the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee?

Coffee is an umbrella term for all drinks made from ground and roasted coffee beans, including espresso. Espresso is a type of coffee that differs from other coffee drinks because of its brewing method. 

The rules are different when it comes to espresso. It is different from other pour-over coffee drinks such as Aeropress or Drip Coffee based on the brew time, caffeine concentration, strength, taste, mouthfeel, etc.

In this article, we will talk about these differences in detail, along with the types of coffee beans, brewing methods, different espresso-based drinks, and more.

Let’s begin!

Difference Between Espresso and Drip Coffee

Coffee is made by brewing coffee with hot water. A coffee bean is either derived from Arabica plants (Arabica beans) or Canephora plants (Robusta beans). 

All coffee beans come from one of these 2 types of plants.

Then how come espresso and drip coffee are different from each other? Well, they both have a distinct brewing method that gives them unique characteristics.

The differences between coffee and espresso are:

Caffeine Content

Yes, espresso has more caffeine per unit volume than drip coffee. But, the serving size of the espresso is only about 1 ounce, and the other drinks are normally about 8 ounces. 

Due to the small serving size of espresso, its caffeine content comes to be about the same as a normal drink.

Water to Coffee Ratio

Typically, espresso is brewed with a 1:2 ratio, which means it contains 1 part coffee and 2 parts water. Other methods of brewing coffee, such as a pour-over, require a ratio of approximately 1:15, meaning 1 part coffee per 15 parts of water. 

Brew Time

The amount of time it takes to brew a cup of espresso is much shorter than the time it takes to brew pour-over coffee. 

This is because in an espresso, water is shot at high pressure through the finely ground beans, and it only takes 30 seconds to pull a shot.

Whereas, in drip or pour-over coffee, water is poured on top of the coarsely ground beans, and it slowly drips down and collects in a jar. The water is poured a few times at an interval of 40-50 seconds. This whole process takes about 5 minutes.

Grind Size

The grind size of coffee beans for espresso is very fine. 

It is similar to sugar, whereas drip coffee is more coarse. This is because it uses gravity to push the water through the coffee grounds.

Difference Between Coffee and Espresso Beans

Many coffee aficionados prefer to brew their coffee at home. The process of making a cafe-like cup of java is made simpler due to the availability of different types of beans and coffee machines. 

But coffee beans come in different roasts, i.e., light, medium, and dark. Which roast should you use for making espresso, and which one is better for any other brewing method? Let’s find out!

First of all, we need to bust the myth that you can only use one type of roast for espresso. You can use any blend you want. After all, making coffee at home is all about experimenting!

If you see any coffee bag labeled as espresso beans, it is not necessary to use it for brewing espresso. Brewing instructions are not set in stone. 

You can use it to brew all types of coffee drinks. But, keep in mind that the bag is labeled so because the grind size and roast duration of the beans are more suited for espresso, and the manufacturer suggests using it as such. 

While you can use any coffee, darker roasts are preferred for espresso because they are suitable for quicker extraction. You can extract all the flavors with a shorter brew time. Lighter roasts, on the other hand, are more suited to slow extraction methods. 

Dark Roast

Espresso is made from finely ground coffee beans, which generally belong to the dark roast category. 

Espresso machines extract 8 to 10 times more concentrated coffee. So, if there is bitterness or acidity in the coffee, it will be more pronounced. Darkly roasted beans have the least acidity and a fuller body.

Dark roasted coffee beans are rich in the natural oils of coffee. The mingling of these oils with other compounds in coffee produces the distinct espresso crema. The crema is the layer of foam you see on top of your espresso shot. 

You will not see this crema if you use normal coffee.

Light Roast

Coffee beans that are roasted for a shorter period are called light roasts. 

They have more caffeine because longer roasting periods can make the beans lose their caffeine content. Lightly roasted beans have a course grind.

They also have high acidity, which is why if you use a light roast for espresso, it will not taste good. Light roasts are preferred for pour-over coffee drinks because of the longer brewing time, so the floral and fruity compounds can also be extracted. 

How to Pull A Perfect Espresso Shot?

Brewing a cup of espresso is not rocket science, but it is also not just about collecting ground coffee in the portafilter and attaching it to the espresso machine. 

There are some rules you need to follow when it comes to pulling the perfect shot of espresso.

1. Grind Your Coffee

If you don’t have ground coffee at hand, you can grind the coffee beans yourself. The grind size should be very fine. 

Dispense 18 grams of ground coffee beans in the portafilter.

2. Stir the Coffee

The Weiss Distribution Technique is used to evenly distribute the coffee in the portafilter. 

Using a WDT tool, stir the coffee to even out the density and break up any clumps. This will ensure that the water flows uniformly through the coffee. If the coffee is clumped in one place, the extraction will be slow, and the espresso will taste bad.

3. Tamp the Coffee

Using a tamper, press down tightly on the coffee to remove all air from the puck (coffee bed) so that water can flow through evenly. 

If you tamp with low pressure, water will flow through the areas of low density. If you tamp with too much pressure, you might hurt your fingers in the long run. 

4. Pull the Shot!

Lock in the portafilter in the machine and put a cup below it to collect espresso. If everything is right, the espresso will drip in a single stream through the middle of the portafilter without looking watery. 

People Also Ask

In this section, you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the difference between espresso and coffee. 

1. How is Espresso Different From Regular Coffee?

Espresso is different from regular coffee solely because of the different brewing methods. Espresso is brewed under high pressure with boiling water. It also has a thicker mouthfeel and a creamy foam called “crema” on top. 

2. Why Do People Drink Espresso Instead of Coffee?

Espresso is coffee at its best. 

It is the only coffee that is not diluted by water. It is also served without milk or sugar, which is why it is low in calories. It gives you an instant energy boost, and the high caffeine helps improve your metabolism. 

Final Word

Now that we have identified all the differences between espresso and regular coffee, you can move one step forward on the journey to becoming a coffee snob!

Remember what works for others will not necessarily work for you. 

The process of transitioning to becoming a coffee drinker is about experimenting. You should try different coffee beans and use various brewing methods until you find what’s best for you!

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Jeff Stone
Jeff is a coffee aficionado. He loves a couple cups of joe first thing in the morning. He like trying out new grounds and gear and then writes about it here. When he is not sipping java, he is usually writing it for his clients as a software engineer.

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