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What’s the Difference Between Coffee and Espresso?

Coffee and espresso—we regularly see these options in coffee shops. And if you are not well versed in these ‘coffee’ terms, you could confuse one for the other. Is coffee the same as espresso? Isn’t espresso also coffee?

Simply put, espresso is stronger in taste than coffee, and it goes through a different bean extraction process. Does this just make it concentrated coffee then?

There are so many differences between espresso and coffee. However, some people think espressos do not come from coffee. Let’s get into the details to tackle the question: “what’s the difference between coffee and espresso?”

Differences Between Coffee and Espresso

people drinking coffee

Although there are some differences between coffee and espresso, both come from coffee beans.

The main difference between them is the grinding and brewing method. In simple terms, espresso is extracted from ground coffee using a lot of pressure. This makes it more concentrated.

Espresso comes from Italy, famous for its coffee drink machine that uses steam. It became popular in the 1800s and was a luxury caffeinated drink for people all over the globe. This beverage is available in coffee shops, but you can also brew your own using good-quality beans and an espresso machine.

Here are some of the basic differences between coffee and espresso.

Taste

cup of espresso and coffee beans

When it comes to taste, espresso brings a full-bodied taste, reduced acidity, and flavorful balance for those with a sweet tooth. Coffee, on the other hand, lacks oils and a full range of flavors found in coffee beans.

During the brewing process, the paper filter removes a lot of the natural oils. Since the brewing time is considerably longer, tannic and phytic acids can hide the desirable flavors. However, this does not mean that a cup of espresso cannot be bitter.

When espresso is over-extracted or made with over-roasted beans, the taste can be impacted negatively. It can begin to taste bitter, but this is not how a properly made espresso should taste. It should remain sweet, salty, nutty, and fruity.

Coffee has a more volatile aroma, but the taste also depends on the level of roasting. A light roast will preserve the fruit and herb notes, while the burnt and smoky aromas can be found in darker roasts.

Also, the release of saliva affects the aroma experience. Larger sips of coffee generate more release of aroma. This can also affect the taste.

Want to get the best out of a cup of espresso? Learn to drink it as the Italians would.

Caffeine Content of Espresso Vs Coffee

pouring coffee into a cup

The caffeine content depends on the brew. However, a regular cup of coffee will contain around 80 to 185 mg of caffeine in an 8oz serving. Espressos are often smaller, so a 2oz serving could contain around 60 to 100 mg of caffeine. Espresso may contain more caffeine per ounce, considering that a 2oz serving has 60 to 100 mg of caffeine.

However, you can get more caffeine from a single serving of coffee than from a single serving of espressos. Some people may assume espressos have a higher caffeine content as opposed to a cup of coffee. Well, the difference is not in the content of caffeine but the concentration of caffeine. In most cases, one single serving shot of the beverage is one ounce. It only has a higher caffeine concentration per serving.

So can you take espresso to get a caffeine boost instead of dark coffee? You are likely to get more caffeine from a cup of coffee and not from an espresso. If you want more caffeine, then you may need to get a double espresso shot.

Process

The brewing process also differentiates both beverages. To make coffee, the whole coffee bean is ground and then brewed in a home coffee maker. The process may be different for automatic drip systems as the beans are only ground lightly to maintain medium coarseness. The hot water drips on the grounded beans and gathers the beverage with a filter.

After this process, the ground beans are thrown away. The coffee can also be put in a percolator or boiled. There are many other brewing methods for coffee, including Nespresso, Tassimo, and Keurig. Others include removing a paper filter and using a french press instead. This lets the coffee maintain its natural oils and more flavor.

For the espresso, a different type of brewing method is used. It starts with boiling point water under pressure being pushed through compacted and thoroughly ground coffee for about 20 seconds. It produces a beverage with a thicker consistency than coffee. Also, the beverage has some froth on the top after it is brewed.

This froth is known as crema and it comes from the emulsifying of the oils into a colloid. Normally, this froth should have small bubbles of gas with a dark mahogany color. If the froth has light-colored spots, then it could have been caused by the barista letting the pull continue for too long. The pull occurs when the barista pulls down a level that controls extraction pressure.

In the same vein, if there is an absence of crema, it could indicate that the espresso is poorly brewed. It could also mean that fat and sugar were lost during the processing of the coffee beans.

Origin

While it is true that espresso and coffee come from one origin—a coffee bean—it is important to know its origins to understand the difference.

Two types of coffee beans are used to produce coffee and espresso. They include Arabica and Robusta. Arabica has a more unique taste and it is harder to identify. The flavor of this bean can be tangy and also sweet, depending on the variety.

Roasted Arabica beans have a floral and sweeter flavor. It gives off a fruity and sugary tone. The unroasted beans have a different blueberry scent.

Roasted Robusta coffee beans have a nutty flavor and some say it tastes like oatmeal. The unroasted variant has a peanut-like scent.

Generally, espresso does not require any special kind of coffee beans to be considered espresso. It can be made from Arabica or Robusta beans or a mixture of both.

Is Espresso Healthier Than Coffee?

Espresso is coffee, the difference is how it is prepared. However, it may have more caffeine content because of the way it is prepared. This is why it is taken in smaller quantities as opposed to regular coffee.

Still, a cup of coffee may contain more caffeine than espresso and this makes espressos healthier.

If you are a coffee enthusiast, you cannot go wrong with both options. Try them both, explore the taste, and enjoy. You can enjoy a rich cup of espresso as you do a hot cup of coffee. Espresso is a quick caffeine shot with lots of flavors. Coffee, on the other hand, is lighter.

Many appreciate the basic and pure taste of espresso as it captures the true essence of the coffee beans. But mixed with the right amount of steamed milk or froth, you can also enjoy a wide array of coffee styles, from latte to cappuccinos and red-eyes.

Avatar for Giada Nizzoli

Born in Italy but currently brewing from the UK, Giada is a highly-caffeinated coffee expert with a soft spot for espressos. She worked in cafés for years and has recently fallen in love with the practical Kalita Wave (just don’t tell her Italian moka pot!).

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