A Guide to the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee.

Both espresso and drip coffee come from beans, but what’s the difference between espresso and coffee? Here are the ways that the two brews vary.

Most people don’t actually know the difference between espresso and coffee, even if they switch between the two. Come to think of it, most people have no idea about the very hot drink they run to each morning to jump start their day.

Coffee or Espresso... what's the difference?

Of course, many people rely on their drip coffee caffeine because espresso is still a mythical Italian creature that is known for its jitters. To demystify the Italian elixir of life, we’ve broken down the differences drip by drip. Keep reading to learn the difference between espresso and coffee.

So, What’s the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee?

You’ve probably seen bags of whole bean coffee labeled espresso roast and felt a little confused. How can it be that one type of coffee bean is stronger than the other?

For starters, all coffee beans are created equal. So what is espresso?

Well, it comes down to the process, rather than the actual coffee bean. But of course, there’s more to it than that. 

So, if you’re on the coffee beans wholesale search, you’ll want to keep the following in mind—especially if you fancy yourself a barista. 

The Caffeine Content

In the case of espresso vs coffee, there’s a bit of a misconception regarding caffeine content. Most people think that espresso has a much higher caffeine concentration, which it does. However, it also doesn’t. If you’re measuring drip coffee caffeine and espresso caffeine using the same size cup, then the espresso is the reigning (and shaking) champ of the caffeine wars.

But if you make the comparison by the typical serving size of each, then you’ll find that your regular eight-ounce cup joe actually has more caffeine than your two-ounce Italian delight. 

The Brewing Method

As mentioned before, all coffee beans come from the same plant (Coffea). The differences are in the brewing methods, which involve the roasting and grinding of the whole beans.

You’ve probably noticed that espresso is made using a fancy looking machine. This is because espresso is brewed by pushing extremely hot water through the coffee grounds at a high speed and high pressure. 

Drip coffee, also referred to as “pour over” coffee, relies more on time in terms of contact with the ground-up beans. Of course, there are other methods to brew regular coffee, i.e., using a French Press. 

Roasting Differences

When coffee beans are first harvested, they’re green in color. To get them ready for grinding and brewing, they have to be roasted.

It’s pretty scientific in that espresso beans must be roasted until they’re very dark. It’s the only way they’re able to withstand such high pressure from their brewing process. 

The lighter roasts are better for the filtered grounds because they rely on time and gravity (for drip coffee). Of course, you have to be careful when you’re using a French Press, for example, not to heat the water to a temperature that will burn the coffee.

Grinding Differences

There’s a bit more science involved in the grinding process, especially when it comes to espresso. (Those Italians really are fickle). Since espresso involves high pressure and a time limit of about 30 seconds, you have to be aware of grind size.

If the grind size is too fine, it could lead to a very bitter and over-extracted espresso. If the grounds are too coarse, it will produce an under-extracted and very harsh espresso. Espresso grounds should have a fineness somewhere between table salt and flour.

For regular old coffee, the grind size should be more coarse—but not too coarse. Too coarse and you’ll end up with flavorless, acidic coffee. You want to keep it on the medium side. 

This also means that the grinder you use matters. Hand grinders work just fine for regular drip coffee, but to get that perfect espresso grind size, you’ll need a machine grinder to get the job done. 

The Flavor Profile

One noticeable flavor indicator of the espresso is the crema. This would be the layer of flavorful foam that rests on top of the espresso shot. The crema invariably affects the flavor profile of your espresso because it’s an indicator of quality.

When the water during the extraction process is under high pressure, it is able to dissolve more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is naturally produced during the brewing process, which eventually comes to the surface to combine with the insoluble oils of the coffee bean to create the crema.

The darker the crema, the stronger and bolder the espresso’s flavor will be. In addition, a strong presence of crema indicates freshly ground beans as well as a skilled barista.

Pour-over coffee allows for the release of more subtle flavors from the grounds. While espresso is dark, rich, creamy, and bold, pour-over coffee and drip coffee will have a rounded, intense, and clean flavor. It will also be smoother and sometimes fruitier in taste.

Why Does Espresso Cost More?

You may have heard the joke, what’s a latte?—it’s five dollars added to a cup of coffee. But it’s not just coffee, is it?

Truth be told, espresso is more expensive due to the skill and effort it takes to make it right.

Not to mention, you have to invest in the necessary machinery to complete the task. And let’s not forget those fun designs our barista put on top of our specialty coffee drinks that involve frothy milk.

Regular pour-over or drip coffee only involves the combination of the right amount of coffee grounds, hot water, and time. 

What’s in Your Cup?

Whatever gets you going in the morning or midday, at least now you know exactly what it is that you’re paying for. You’ll also have a greater appreciation for what’s in your cup.

If you enjoyed learning about the difference between espresso and coffee, then check back with us for more articles about your favorite foods and beverages.

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