What’s the Real Difference Between Coffee and Espresso?Subscribe to our FREE weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!
If you plan on diving into the world of coffee, one of the most basic things you need to understand are the differences between coffee and espresso. After all, how smart will you sound if you start talking about espresso plants in a crowd of coffee fanatics?
So to continue your coffee education, today we will take a closer look at coffee and espresso and examine the main differences between these two drinks. That way when you are talking about coffee and espresso, you will know what you are talking about, and you will understand all you need to know about the drink you are ordering.
First, let’s look at what coffee and espresso have in common. That way you can begin to see how espresso and coffee relate to one another.
Before we go any further, you need to know that there is not separate type of plant for making espresso. Espresso is made from the same beans as coffee and is even roasted in much the same way. Sometimes, your best coffees and espressos are actually blends of many different types of coffee, but in the end both drinks come from the same type of beans and undergo the same roasting process to get them ready to be used.
Where the main differences come into play is the preparation methods. So, let’s take a look at how both coffee and espresso are prepared. This will begin to paint a complete picture of the differences between the two drinks.
Whether you are looking at pour over methods, French press, or drip coffee makers, the underlying principle is the same.
To prepare coffee, medium ground coffee beans are measured according to the amount of coffee you wish to make and then placed into a paper filter. Hot water somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 degrees is then poured over the ground coffee and gravity works its magic. As the water falls through the coffee and filter, the flavors are then extracted from the ground coffee into the water.
The end result is a pot of coffee that can be enjoyed for a couple of hours after it is initially brewed, assuming it is kept at the right temperature. This drink, as you already know or you wouldn’t be here, tastes great, is soothing and it can even give you a little pick me up when you need it most. This is the way a majority of people around the world enjoy their coffee, but it isn’t the only way.
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Espresso is another way you can enjoy coffee, but it’s method of preparation is somewhat different from traditional coffee.
Typically, when you make espresso, you grind the coffee beans down to a much finer grind than you would use for regular coffee. Once your grind is complete, you place them into a basked and then tamp them down using around 30-40 pounds of pressure. This prevents the water passed through the grounds from opening a whole in them.
An espresso is served as a type of shot, so a small glass that can be quickly pulled through the grounds. On average, when you pull a shot of espresso, it should take around 15-20 seconds to pull the water through the grounds. Anything longer than that can impact the flavor of your espresso shot.
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There are three main parts to a shot of espresso:
- The Heart – This is the very dark part that you see in the bottom of your espresso shot.
- The Body – This is the light brown center where both the darkest parts of the coffee and the top layer of creama begin mixing together.
- The Crema – This is the creamy top layer of the perfectly pulled espresso shot.
From the moment you pour an espresso shot, you have a very limited amount of time that it can be enjoyed. After only 10 seconds, these three distinct layers will begin to vanish, impacting the taste of the espresso. Wait too long, and your espresso will taste so bad you will forget why you ordered it in the first place.
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Serving Size and Caffeine Content
After the preparation, the main difference you will notice between espresso and regular coffee is the serving size. At the same time, there is a noticeable caffeine content difference that you must be aware of as well.
Typically, a standard cup of coffee today is 8 ounces, while a standard espresso serving size is much like a shot at 1 ounce. Depending on how you brew your coffee, a typically 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 80 to 185mg of caffeine. An espresso shot, on the other hand, contains anywhere from 40 to 75mg of caffeine per shot.
Basically, there is more caffeine per ounce in espresso than in regular coffee, however if you drink either one cup of coffee or one shot of espresso, you will get more caffeine from the single cup of coffee. Where your caffeine levels will spike is if you enjoy multiple shots of espresso or if you include shots of espresso in your cup of coffee.
For some, things like caffeine content and preparation methods really don’t matter. In the end it all comes down to taste. In general, espresso offers a well-balanced flavor between both sweet and bitter flavors. Overall it is a more full flavored taste that many would consider bolder than regular coffee. That is usually due to the fact that the paper filters tend to filter out some of these flavors. Espresso tends to have a much fuller body as well compared to regular coffee, simply because of the paper filters used during the preparation of regular coffee.
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Espresso and regular coffee both offer something unique for coffee lovers to enjoy. While there are some differences between the two beverages, they have much more in common than many of us realize. In the end, it is really about how you want your coffee. Do you prefer something with a fuller flavor and body that comes in a small package or do you want something you can sip on and enjoy for more than just a couple of minutes every morning?
Once you answer that question, you will know which one is right for you. Heck, you may enjoy both depending on your mood, and there is nothing wrong with that. Still, knowing the difference between espresso and coffee can help you understand what kind of drink you are ordering and it can help you guide others to the right type of drink while also not sounding like an idiot among other coffee lovers. So which do you prefer? Coffee or espresso?
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