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Coffee vs Espresso – What’s the Difference?

January 3, 2024

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world – and for good reason. Not only does it have a distinct flavor, one that’s enjoyed by many, but it also gives you a boost of energy.

There are many different types of coffee to choose from as well. Some popular options include lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos.

Espressos are another example. What are they? How are they different from regular drip coffee? Are they made with the same type of coffee beans?

For the answers, be sure to keep reading. We’ll be going over everything you need to know in our coffee vs espresso guide below.

The Difference Between Espresso and Coffee

difference between espresso and coffeeEspresso is a concentrated form of coffee that’s known for its strong, bold flavor. Not only that but it’s also thicker and more ‘syrupy’.

While it’s made from the same finely ground coffee beans as normal coffee, it has a much higher caffeine content.

The way it’s made is also different. Unlike regular coffee, espresso is made using high water pressure, which leaves a layer of golden foam at the top known as the crema.

Compared to regular brewed coffee, espresso is also served in smaller servings and is used as the base for many other coffee drinks (e.g. lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos).

How Do You Make Espresso?

There are several options when it comes to brewing espresso, the easiest being using an espresso machine.

If you don’t have one, don’t worry – you can also make it with a French Press, Moka Pot, or AeroPress.

How to Use an Espresso Machine

how to use espresso machineStart by preheating the espresso maker. Depending on the machine, it can take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes.

Next, you want to measure and grind your espresso beans (you can use a separate coffee grinder if your machine doesn’t come with one). For espresso, we recommend choosing an extra fine consistency (think powdered sugar).

Place your portafilter on a kitchen scale, tare the machine, and fill it with 20 grams of ground coffee. There should be a little mountain of it in the portafilter.

Make sure the coffee bean grounds are distributed evenly. If necessary, you can tap the side of the portafilter lightly with your fingers.

Next, tamp the grounds. Make sure you have a level top and press down straight. You can also ‘polish’ the top by giving the tamper a quick spin.

With that, you can pull the first shot. Ideally, you should get somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds per pull.

Dial in the shot afterward. If your espresso machines come with a pressure gauge, take note of the numbers. That’ll let you adjust your next shot if you end up with too little or too much pressure.

If your espresso maker doesn’t come with a pressure gauge, you can taste the espresso and adjust accordingly.

How to Make Espresso With a French Press

how to make espresso with french pressStart by grinding the coffee beans. Instead of having them extra fine, however, you want them to be a medium fine consistency – similar to what you would use for drip coffee.

Next, boil some water. In terms of how much, it all depends on the amount of coffee grounds you’re using. Just remember you want to use two tablespoons of coffee bean grounds for every one cup of water.

Add the grounds to the press and pour in half of the hot water. Allow it to steep for one minute.

Pour in the rest of the water and stir gently with a wooden or plastic paddle. If you want a stronger, bolder flavor, steep it for three or four minutes.

Press the plunger down slowly afterward and pull it back up once it’s halfway. Then plunge it all the way to the bottom – that will create a layer of foam at the top, which will mimic the crema that you usually see in an espresso shot.

How to Make Espresso With a Moka Pot

A Moka Pot is a stove-top coffee maker that’s used for brewing coffee. More specifically, it uses vapor pressure, to pass hot water through ground coffee.

Start by filling the espresso pot with water. Pay attention to the fill line – you don’t want to add too much otherwise it will seep through the strainer and affect the flavor of the coffee.

Once the water is in, attach the strainer to the base.

Grind your coffee beans so that they’re a little finer than what you would use for drip coffee and add them to the strainer. Don’t pack the grounds down, though, as that can clog the system. Not only that but it can also affect the pressure.

And make sure the grounds don’t get on the outside of the container or else water will spew out once it’s heated.

Assemble the pot once everything is inside and place it on the stove over medium heat. You don’t want the heat to be too high as that can affect the flavor of the espresso.

Remember to leave the top lid open. The espresso will eventually come out of the spout. Once you hear a hissing sound, remove the pot from the stove and let it finish brewing.

How to Make Espresso with an AeroPress

coffee vs espressoHeat water to 200F. While it’s boiling, grind the espresso beans to a fine grind.

Place the circular filter into the Aeropress basket and wet it with water. Attach the basket to the end of the coffee maker.

Add the coffee grounds into the Aeropress. Using a cocktail muddler, tamp the grounds gently.

Pour 85ml of the heated water over the grounds. If necessary, you can stir it to remove any clumps. Wait 40 seconds before inserting the plunger into the top and press down – you should hear a hissing sound as it reaches all the way to the bottom.

Coffee vs Espresso – Which Should You Choose?

Espresso is more concentrated than regular coffee as it’s made with a smaller amount of water. A one-ounce serving contains 63 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly the same amount as a six-ounce serving of coffee.

In other words, espresso may be the way to go if you’re looking for a bigger jolt. However, keep in mind the volume of the coffee. If you order a large cup of drip coffee, for example, it may contain more caffeine.

As far as which option is healthier, they’re both great sources of beneficial plant compounds such as chlorogenic acid, given that you drink them moderately.

Not only that but they also contain powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, which may prevent the development of certain cancers as well as diabetes.

Studies have also shown that drinking coffee and espresso can lower your risk of heart disease and improve your cognitive functioning.

Understanding Coffee and Espresso – FAQs

Which Espresso Brewing Method is the Best Option?

espresso brewingUsing an espresso machine would be the easiest – ideally one with a built-in grinder so that you won’t need a separate coffee grinder.

If you don’t want to invest in a machine, there are other coffee brewing methods that you can try. For example, you can also make espresso with a French Press, Moka Pot, or AeroPress.

What Kind of Coffee Beans Should I Use to Make Espresso?

There’s no such thing as an ‘espresso bean’ – you can use any type of regular coffee beans as long as you grind them properly.

Having said that, many tend to use darkly roasted beans as it gives the espresso a stronger, bolder flavor.

Is Espresso the Same as Black Coffee?

No, espresso is not the same as black coffee. The former is made using a pressurized brewing method whereas the latter is made by pouring hot water over ground beans.

Not only do they taste different (espresso tends to be sweeter and stronger) but they also contain different amounts of caffeine (one shot of espresso typically contains the same amount as an eight-ounce cup of black coffee).

Did you know that the cleanliness of your machine can affect the taste of your coffee or espresso? That’s right, over time residue from the beans and the water can accumulate inside your machine, tainting the taste of your brew.

Luckily we have several options to help solve this with ACTIVE Coffee Machine Descaler, Espresso Machine Cleaner, and Coffee Maker Cleaner Tablets.

How Should I Grind My Coffee Beans For Espresso?

As a general rule, you want to use a very fine, consistent grind (ie. less fine than sand). However, you don’t want it to be too fine otherwise it’ll slow down the flow of water, which will not only affect the extraction time but the flavor as well.

At the same time, you don’t want it to be too coarse – that will make your espresso watery and sour, without any of the sweetness and complexity it’s known for.

What Temperature Should the Water Be For Espresso?

Water temperature plays a crucial role when it comes to making espresso. For a high-quality shot, you want to use water that’s between 200F and 205F.

Knowing the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee

And now you know all about the differences between espresso and coffee! As you can see, they’re similar, but different in several ways – flavor being one of them.

Not only that but they also vary in terms of caffeine content. Just keep in mind the volume as a large cup of coffee will give you more of a buzz than a small shot of espresso.

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Lucas Bennett

Meet Lucas Bennett, a former coffee shop owner and current espresso aficionado. With years of hands-on experience in the coffee industry, Lucas now pours his expertise into writing comprehensive guides. His passion for coffee shines through in his meticulous tips on brewing the perfect cup and maintaining high-performing equipment. He takes pride in helping enthusiasts and novices alike elevate their coffee and espresso experiences.

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