What exactly is the actual difference between espresso and coffee? The espresso vs coffee debate has been going on for ages. And no one has ever come down to a final verdict.
For some people, the only real coffee is a small cup of powerful espresso, while others believe that it is a bitter waste of some perfectly good beans. Whatever you like, it's always a good idea to step outside your comfort zone and try something different!
To clear every difference, we have broken down espresso vs coffee step by step and difference by difference. Here’s a quick guide on what are the factors that actually set these two caffeinated drinks apart:
Table of Contents:
What Is Espresso?
Espresso is a concentrated coffee shot, created by pushing very hot water, at high pressure, out through precisely ground coffee beans. Espresso is just a cup of coffee. It's only made differently from the regular American-style coffee.
Espresso is not another type of coffee bean, while roasters may have a specific process for beans that are intended to become espresso. In reality, roasters may choose to just use high-quality robusta coffee beans to add an extra boost of caffeine.
How Espresso Is Made?
Espresso is a solid black coffee, i.e. no milk added, which has a special brewing process. Espresso is created by pushing a small amount of very hot water through carefully ground and packed down coffee to create a concentrated beverage.
Similar to regular drip coffee, espresso can be produced from any form of coffee beans, although the blend is usually used to produce optimum flavours. Regular drip coffee, also known as pour-over or filtered coffee, is made by pouring boiling water over more roughly ground, roasted coffee within a filter.
The amount of caffeine in espresso is 40-75 mg per 1 ounce serving. Espresso is served in many different forms, including cappuccino, latte, macchiato, piccolo, flat white, galão, and cortado, which are milk-based products. The water-based varieties of espresso include long black and Americano. Other types are called latte macchiato and red-eye, etc.
Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee?
While most would think that an espresso shot is a fast, simple way to get out of gruesome misery every morning, you'll be shocked to know that it is not actually the coffee with the most amount of caffeine in your local coffee shop. A regular serving of drip coffee surprisingly has more caffeine content than a shot of espresso.
One 1.5-ounce espresso shot has between 90-100 milligrams of caffeine in it. But what about your usual cup of drip coffee? That packs up to 128 milligrams, making it the perfect wake-up call for those who hate mornings.
Of course, when it comes to an ounce for ounce measurement, the espresso actually has more caffeine, we just quite seldom, and we don't even recommend that you try it, down the 8-ounce mug of the concentrated brew. If you desperately need a morning jolt, just hang onto a double shot.
What Is the Difference Between Coffee and Espresso?
Let's take a look at all the differences between coffee and espresso:
Ironically, the distinction between coffee and espresso starts with their main similarity. It is also incorrect that there is a difference between coffee and espresso when it comes to the bean.
Many misinterpret espresso as being a separate type of bean owing to the variations in taste, texture, and caffeine in espresso, but the difference lies in the method of producing espresso.
Coffee and espresso originate from the same roots: the coffee bean.
There are two types of beans that are commercially grown: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta beans are known to have a nuttier flavour when roasted. Unroasted Robusta has more of a "peanut-y" smell.
The palate of the Arabica coffee bean is more difficult to recognize. Depending on the variety, the taste of an Arabica coffee bean can vary from sweet to tangy. When roasted, Arabica coffee beans have a sweeter and more aromatic taste. Unroasted, Arabica gives off more of a sweet blueberry fragrance.
"Espresso" does not correspond to the form of bean used to produce a drink. Espresso is just a drink like coffee, made a little differently.
When the coffee beans are picked, they are light green, unacceptable for brewing. They have to be roasted in order to bring out their best attributes.
Espresso coffee beans are roasted until they turn quite dark since this improves their ability to endure the high pressure with which they are brewed. They are roasted for quite a long time, generally past the second crack, so espresso has a toasted and deeper flavour. The dark roast also provides a full body with lesser acidity and is well adapted for enjoying with milk. It produces a heavier, fuller sensation in the mouth.
While, medium, light, and medium-dark roasts are widely used for regular coffee, which helps to bring out the lighter, more fruity flavours of the drink. But it all comes down to your personal tastes.
The espresso grind is generally much finer as compared to other forms of coffee grinds. This is because the method of making espresso involves hot water that is forced through tightly packed bean grounds. The size of the grind, which is too fine, will contribute to bitter, over-extracted espresso, while a rough ground will create an acrid, under-extracted cup of espresso.
That is why Espresso is called the most unforgiving way to prepare coffee. With such a high pressure and a short time limit of around 30 seconds, even the slightest adjustments can have a big effect on your cup. The grounds have to be very fine, much like the consistency of sand, as the water makes contact with the grounds for a shorter time.
In the case of coffee, the grind size is typically rougher. Although hand grinders come in handy for grinding a few beans for a regular cup of coffee, they fail to produce a grind size that is even and fine enough for espresso. You'll have to invest in a good machine grinder to get the perfect espresso grind but for a regular coffee, a hand grinder will do just fine.
This has to be the most striking difference that lies between espresso and coffee.
For a regular cup of coffee, you can make use of a pour-over, drip, percolator, a French press, and other types of methods. Coffee shops use well-calibrated machines for a consistent cup of regular coffee. To grind their coffee beans, they use a medium grind that lets the water move through the coffee for a specific period of time. The grinder, normally half a horsepower unit, can grind more than one pound of coffee, if required.
Espresso, however, includes a particular method of the brewing process. This includes an espresso machine, resulting in a shot or two (1 to 2oz) of potent espresso. The aim is to reach an extraction for about 25-30 seconds and add about 140 pounds of pressure to well tamped, coffee.
Typically, this pressurized water moves into a tiny injector. Ideally, the coffee bed will obtain a well-dispersed volume of water before going down to the cup. The delay is about 3 to 5 seconds. This is an example of the optimal ratio of grind to pressure. An authentic cup of espresso can't be made in a normal pot of coffee.
Most people say that each drink can be sampled to find the key difference between espresso and coffee. Espresso drink has a well-rounded, roasted, full-bodied flavour that many deem much bolder as compared to the taste of the coffee. It offers the perfect balance between heavy body and subdued acidity. Over-extracted or espresso made from over-roasted beans is prone to taste overly bitter, but very well brewed espresso should not.
Regular coffee appears to lose the full range of flavours and oils found in the coffee beans as the paper filter in the machine filters out many of the natural oils. Furthermore, a longer brewing period can allow the production of phytic and tannic acids that mask the desirable flavours.
The body of the coffee contributes to its physical properties – the way it tastes in the mouth. It may be oily, grainy, foamy, medium, thin, full, or light. The density and consistency of a coffee can affect its body. The filter used in regular coffee eliminates many flavouring oils, and provides a lighter body, while the espresso, on the other hand, appears to have a fuller body as the essential oils are preserved.
The bitter taste felt at the back of the throat is to some degree desirable in coffee, but is especially desirable in the preparation of an espresso. Robusta beans contain a more bitter flavour as compared to arabica beans, and a well-balanced bitter taste ensures full taste. Typically, the sweetness of the regular coffee can be tasted at the tip of the tongue, and it feels mild and smooth in the mouth.
The scent of coffee is volatile and a good indicator of the overall taste. Herbal, smoky, fruity, nutty, and complex notes can be discernible. Neither coffee nor espresso should ever give off a burnt smell– this usually points to an improperly prepared drink.
Acidity and PH Level
Coffee usually has a pH level of 5 – slightly less acidic than tomato juice and slightly more acidic as compared to milk. Phytic and tannic acids, which exist in nature in coffee beans, cause bitterness in the mouth and stomach, often referred to as acidity.
The acidity of the drink relies on the coffee bean used for the production of the coffee grounds and the brewing method. Dark roasts are less acidic in both the taste profile and the pH level. Cold-brewing also generates a lower pH-level drink. The duration of the extraction method also influences the content of phytic and tannic acids in the drink.
The shorter extraction time of espresso normally prevents these acids from entering the final brewing process. A good way to determine when the phytic and tannic acids have siphoned into the espresso is when the deep dark tan colour of the cream shifts to the lighter colour of the straw.
Is Espresso Good for You?
Is espresso healthy? Yes. Similar to black coffee, espresso’s health benefits outweigh its disadvantages. At the simplistic level, espresso is full of antioxidants and poor in calories, which are some of its quite evident perks.
In addition, espresso is said to enhance long-term memory, focus, and mood. Research has also indicated that espresso may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and stroke. Plus, some people truly use espresso to improve their exercise results. And it's fair to say that this drink doesn't really ruin people's wellbeing.
According to the National Library of Medicine “Caffeine has been linked to a decreased risk of dementia. Caffeine can increase anxiety and blood pressure, but it has also been related to stimulated metabolic response.”
Both coffee and espresso have magnesium, potassium, and calcium. However, espresso supplies three times as much magnesium in an ounce as 8 ounces of coffee. The standard serving of coffee contains higher amounts of potassium and calcium.
So, Who Wins in the Espresso vs Coffee Debate?
It's easy to go for a truce. If a lot of caffeine content is what you are looking for, you'll get caffeine in espresso and coffee. How much is going to depend on the amount you drink. There are a lot of coffee drinkers who gulp down a few large cups of coffee every day, if not full cups, as if it is no big deal. Especially, because it is relatively easier to prepare than espresso.
But espresso drinkers are also not far behind. Some people actually drink 12 long shots of espresso in a single day. Yes! They exist. The workings of an advanced espresso machine are beautiful to look at. Nevertheless, no one wins in the battle of espresso vs coffee, some people just call espresso regular drip coffee but in disguise.