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Espresso vs Coffee – 4 Critical Differences Between Two Drinks

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Espresso vs coffee – What is the difference between the two drinks?

As a former barista, I get asked that question a lot! Most people are quite confused actually. They think the two drinks are the same. Well…they are not!

Coffee is a wide term and it could be anything from drip coffee to French Press coffee.

Espresso, on the other hand, is a speciality drink made from coffee beans using a specific brewing process usually involving a high-pressure machine.

In this blog post, I’ll go into some key elements that set espresso and coffee apart – from their flavours to their preparation methods – so you can understand the difference between them.

Espresso Vs Coffee - 4 Key Differences

Espresso Vs Coffee – Definition and Characteristics

Espresso is a type of coffee specifically crafted to highlight the fragile flavour nuances of coffee beans.

It features a much more concentrated brew than regular drip coffee and can be prepared in the espresso machine with finely ground espresso beans, which are then brewed under pressure at a high temperature.

When served, espresso has golden-brownish crema – a thin layer on top of the espresso – that indicates its freshness.

There are also various espresso drinks such as cappuccino and latte, which can be enjoyed without any added milk or cream for a pure espresso experience.

Coffee is a brewed beverage produced from the roasted coffee beans of coffee plants.

These coffee beans come in two main categories, Arabica and Robusta, and are used in the production of coffee drinks and many varieties of speciality coffee beverages.

Its colour ranges from light to dark shades depending on the roast level; for example, a light coffee may contain notes of fruity or citrus flavours while a darker coffee might present hints of nuttiness or chocolate.

Furthermore, coffee can be enjoyed both hot or cold depending on personal preference.

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

Espresso and coffee differ significantly in their brewing methods and distinct flavour profiles.

Espresso is brewed under consistent pressure using high temperatures, resulting in a much more concentrated drink with a richer flavour than the longer-brewed coffee.

The differences between the two beverages become even more distinct when you consider common embellishments.

It’s common for people to add cream, sugar, and flavoured syrups to coffee, but espresso has its own series of added elements that give it unique characteristics – such as foam or microfoam, which enhances the texture and leads to a creamy body.

The key difference between these two drinks lies especially in how they are prepared; understanding how each is made will help you select precisely the right one to suit your taste.

Roasting Process

Coffee and espresso differ greatly in the way they are roasted.

Coffee beans are coarsely ground beans that are generally much lighter than those used for espresso, though not always. You will find medium and dark roasts used for coffee drinks.

Espresso is typically a dark roast, and the grounds are finely ground to ensure adequate crema formation during brewing.

Grinding Process

The grinding process plays an important role in making coffee or espresso coffee.

For coffee, the beans should be ground slightly more coarsely than that espresso coffee. Coarsley-ground coffee releases its flavour quickly, while fine-ground coffee allows for flavours to slowly unfurl over time.

To make espresso, the beans should be ground much more finely. This allows the pressurized hot water to extract the full flavour from the beans easier and makes it creamy as well.

Brewing Process

For coffee aficionados, understanding the difference between coffee and espresso brewing is essential.

The brewing process of coffee generally involves a filter to hold coarsely-ground coffee beans, which are placed in a heated vessel of water for 5 to 8 minutes and then poured into a mug after the coffee grounds are removed from the pot.

In contrast, espresso is made using an espresso machine. Finely-ground coffee beans must be packed into a portafilter and then tightly pressed into a bed with an espresso tamper.

The brewing process takes about 25 seconds to complete.

The resultant liquid is dense and concentrated as it is brewed under pressure from high-temperature water forced through the coffee grounds.

Serving Size

When thinking of coffee, many people think of espresso as simply a coffee in a smaller size.

However, the difference between coffee and espresso goes beyond size, as there is a huge distinction between serving size and preparation.

Espresso is served in significantly smaller quantities – often about one ounce or even less – when compared to coffee which requires approximately 8-12 ounces to fill a cup.

Coffee Vs Espresso
Difference between coffee and espresso. Feel free to share it and give credit to

How do Coffee and Espresso Differ in Flavour?

Espresso and coffee have distinct differences in their flavour profiles.

Espresso is brewed under pressure, which extracts a higher degree of bitterness compared to coffee. It has higher concentrations of oils, which gives it its characteristic velvet body and deep, rich flavours.

On the other hand, coffee generally produces a mellower taste than espresso as it can be brewed with a variety of brewing methods including electric coffee makers, French presses or simple pour-over coffee drippers.

In addition to having differences in flavour profile between espresso and coffee, coffee beans used for espresso should often have more acidity and be less bitter when compared to coffee beans typically used for coffee brewing.

How do Espresso and Coffee Differ in Caffeine Content?

An oft-discussed difference is the caffeine content between espresso and coffee.

Generally speaking, coffee contains more caffeine than espresso, with a regular cup of coffee containing approximately 95-200 mg of caffeine, while a single shot of espresso contains around 63-65 mg.

However, it should be noted that when a double shot of espresso is consumed rather than a single shot, the amount of caffeine in espresso increases significantly to approximately 126-130mg.

While coffee generally contains higher levels of caffeine than espresso, the concentrated nature of an espresso drink means that even a small quantity of espresso can contain more caffeine than coffee shop coffee.

Which Is Better, Espresso or Coffee?

There is no definitive answer as to which is better, coffee or espresso. It really comes down to personal preference and what suits your individual taste.

Espresso has a stronger flavour than coffee because it is made from finely ground beans that are brewed with high pressure.

Additionally, espresso has significantly less caffeine than traditional coffee because it is served in much smaller portions.


When considering health benefits, both coffee and espresso offer similar advantages.

They contain antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and can even have protective effects against some chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Coffee also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium and potassium.

However, one key difference between the two is that espresso contains fewer acids than regular coffee which can be beneficial for those who suffer from acid reflux or other gastrointestinal issues.

In terms of availability and convenience, both options are widely available in most areas so there’s usually never an issue with finding them.

Coffee is generally easier to find since it’s served at many restaurants, cafes and other food outlets while espresso may only be found at speciality shops or dedicated espresso bars.


As far as convenience goes, coffee requires more equipment such as a grinder and/or pot whereas all you need for an espresso shot is an espresso machine which can range in price from relatively inexpensive to quite expensive depending on the model you choose.

Espresso Vs Coffee – Conclusion

The debate between espresso and coffee is one that has been ongoing for many years. Both drinks offer different flavours and levels of caffeine, depending on the brewing method used.

It’s important to note that different beans can be used to make either espresso or coffee, and each will contribute to the flavour of the beverage in its own way.

Ultimately, the differences between espresso and coffee come down to their preparation method and resulting flavour profile.

Coffee tends to be bolder than espresso due to its longer extraction time, but it also contains more caffeine overall – depending on the brew method used.

On the other hand, espresso is usually made with finer ground beans which generate a higher concentration of flavour in less time than other methods like French Press or pour-over.

Additionally, espresso packs more punch in terms of caffeine content due to its shorter extraction time period compared to other brewing styles.

As both beverages have unique qualities that people enjoy for various reasons, it’s up to your individual preferences as well as what kind of drink suits each particular moment best!

What to Do Next?

I hope you enjoyed this post about the difference between espresso and coffee. I have enjoyed preparing it for you.

Do you have any more questions about the two drinks? Let me know in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about espresso? My team and I invite you down to the rabbit hole. Check out our top espresso guides and keep on learning!

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Author: Ivan Brozincevic

Ivan fell in love with everything about espresso while he was in college back in 2010, so much so that he decided to quit his education and pursue a career as a barista. Today, Ivan has extensive knowledge about espresso, espresso gear, and everything else related and loves sharing it with others who share his passion.

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