Coffee Vs Espresso: What is the Difference?

January 24, 2023

Coffee Vs Espresso: What is the Difference?

If you order a shot of espresso and receive black coffee, you’re probably going to be disappointed and vice versa. The reason is a shot of espresso is different from a cup of drip coffee. But, Coffee Vs Espresso: what is the difference?

To bring out the differences between these two, here’s a quick guide.

What’s Espresso?

espresso shots

Espresso is a full-flavored and concentrated type of coffee that’s normally served in shots. An espresso machine is used to make this beverage and the process involves forcing hot water, at a high pressure, through finely ground coffee beans.

The outcome is a liquid that’s stronger than coffee with a crema at the top. The crema refers to a brown form that results from the combination of air bubbles and the soluble oils in ground coffee. This brown foam usually settles at the top of espresso and adds to the espresso’s aftertaste and flavor.

On the other hand, coffee is prepared using the pour over method. This approach entails pouring hot water in coffee grounds placed on a filter. The water then drains through the grounds and filter into a mug.

Thus, the difference between brewed coffee and espresso mainly lies in the way they’re prepared. The preparation methods determine the flavor more than the coffee beans, even though using the right beans can make a big difference between an ordinary cup and an extraordinary one.

History and Origin of Espresso and Coffee Drinks

The word “espresso” has different meanings because it’s closely associated with the words expres, express, and espresso which have various meanings in English, Italian, and French.

The first one, express, comes from pressure, which means you squeeze or express the flavor from your coffee using steam pressure. The second one, expres, has to do with speed, which means coffee is brewed like an “express train”. Lastly, coffee is brewed one by one, which means “expressly” for an individual.

Angelo Moriondo patented the first espresso machine in 1884. Unlike the other espresso machines that came after it, this one was a bulk brewer that brewed coffee for many customers at ago.

In 1901, Milano-based Luigi Bezzera, patented an improved machine, which had a boiler and four groups that contained filters of varying sizes. This espresso machine was known as “Tipo Gigante”.

In 1903, Desiderio Pavoni purchased Bezzera’s patent and began making espresso machines. He founded the “La Pavoni” company in 1905.

In 1927, an espresso machine was installed in the U.S. Dubbed La Pavoni machine, it was placed in New York.

Earlier espresso machines forced steam to get through coffee, producing a burnt flavor. Cremonesi created a piston pump in 1938, which forced hot, but not boiling water through coffee. This gave the coffee a natural flavor and created a foam at the top, which is a distinguishing characteristic of espresso coffee.

Improved espresso machines are manual, semi-automatic and automatic. In the UK, espresso was common among young people in the 1950s, in both standard form and cappuccino, which combines hot milk, espresso, and steamed-milk foam. But, in the U.S., the popularity of espresso was in the form of lattes (steamed milk and espresso) combined with flavored syrups.

Coffee Vs Espresso: What is the Difference?

Brew Time and Process

The primary difference between drip coffee and espresso coffee has to do with the brewing time. The brewing time of espresso is much shorter, and can take 20 to 30 seconds according to the National Coffee Association.

On the other hand, drip coffee is brewed by dripping hot water through ground coffee and the contact time between these two should be about 5 minutes. But, if you’re using a French Press to make your coffee, then the contact time comes down to 2-4 minutes.

If the taste of the final drink makes you frown, chances are you’re doing two things wrong:

  • You’re under-extracting – The brewing process is to short
  • You’re over-extracting – the brewing process is too long.

Thus, you should experiment with different contact times until you find the one that produces the best taste.

Coffee grind size of espresso and drip coffee

Ground coffee

To prepare espresso, you need to pass approximately 1.5 oz of nearly boiling water in finely ground coffee. If all goes well, the result is a dark brown, somewhat thick beverage with a crema at its top.

But don’t use too fine grind size to make espresso, as it may lead to a bitter and over-extracted drink. Similarly, coarse grounds will give you an acrid, under-extracted espresso. It’s recommended that you use the correct grind size to make the best espresso; the fineness should be between table salt and flour. To get the grind size for your espresso right, use a quality grinder.

Drip coffee, on the other hand, is prepared by dripping hot water on coarsely ground coffee. The coffee ground in this case is coarser than that for espresso.


The lever of any espresso machine is what contributes to a shorter brewing time. Pressure does not only trigger quick brewing, but it also helps in the development of crema and the dispersion of rich coffee oils into your final espresso.

The short time used in the brewing of espresso is because the espresso machines generate high atmospheric pressure (up to 15 ATM), which forces water through the ground coffee.

Drip coffee, on the other hand, relies on gravity when driving water through the coffee grounds. If you’re using a French Press or Moka Pot, then the pressure applied on coffee and water is negligible when measured in atmospheric bars.


Drip coffee, typically has a clean body and a simple flavor profile. It’s less concentrated than espresso and so its flavor is less intense. For instance, if you follow the golden ratios, it takes approximately 16 grams of coffee beans to make a normal-sized cup of drip coffee.

When it comes to espresso, a standard double shot comes from 16 to 22 grams of coffee, but the outcome is about one-eighth of the volume (one-ounce shot against 8oz mug).

Imagine your best drip coffee’s flavor multiplied by eight! But don’t fear espresso because of that.

Most coffee loves like to drink a tasty and balanced espresso often. Drinking espresso allows you to enjoy a full array of flavors in a couple of awe-inspiring sips.

But, not everyone enjoys their first espresso shot because our taste buds aren’t accustomed to tasting intense things, which is why they can reject your espresso at the very first time. However, after a few sips, the taste buds get used to it as you enjoy those flavors.

But the sad truth is, most people don’t got past the first shocking sip.

In general, espresso has a full-bodied, roasty, and well-rounded flavor, which is bolder than drip coffee’s taste.


At the time of harvesting, coffee beans are usually pale green and not fit for brewing. So, they are roasted to manifest their unique qualities.

For espresso, coffee beans get a dark roast, as this increases their ability to bear up high pressure during brewing. Besides, a dark roast creates a low-acidic drink and is ideal for enjoying your coffee with milk.

Beans for making coffee often receive a lighter roast, which often brings out the coffee’s fruiter and brighter flavors. But it all depends on personal preferences.

Coffee vs. Espresso: Which has more caffeine?

Most folks assume espresso to have more caffeine than drip coffee. Well, that’s not entirely true, as it depends on how much you drink.

On average, a shot of espresso has less caffeine than a cup of drip coffee. Normally, a cup of coffee (8oz) consists of 85 to 185mg of caffeine whereas one shot (about 1oz) of espresso has anywhere between 40 to 75mg of caffeine.

Well, espresso contains a higher amount of caffeine per ounce – and that’s what confuses most people. However, by drinking a shot of espresso, you drink less caffeine than if you’re to take a cup of coffee.

Obviously, if you’re an espresso junkie, this is going to change, as you may end up drinking more than the recommended daily shots, which should be 5 per day.

Coffee vs. Espresso: Which one is healthier?

There is no definitive answer to whether espresso is healthier than coffee since both contain the beneficial plant compounds. Both contain caffeine, which can provide a boost of energy and can improve mental alertness, but too much caffeine can also cause negative side effects such as jitteriness and insomnia. Both coffee and espresso also contain antioxidants, which can have beneficial effects on overall health.

Ultimately, the healthiness of coffee or espresso depends on the individual’s dietary needs and preferences and it is always best to consult with a health professional to understand how it may impact your health.

Are you torn between drinking a shot of espresso and a cup of drip coffee? Consider the following benefits.

Espresso health benefits

  • Increases attention span – Espresso has been shown to reduce fatigue, increase the attention span, and make you stay vigilant for longer.
  • Boosts long-term memory – Drinking one or two espresso shots per day has been proved to enhance the long-term memory of espresso lovers. But that doesn’t mean taking more will have a bigger impact on your memory.
  • Prevents liver failure – Study has shown that espresso lowers the likelihood of having liver cirrhosis

Brewed Coffee Health Benefits

  • Lowers the likelihood of stroke – A study shows that consuming one cup of coffee per week may lower the risk of developing stroke or heart failure.
  • Improves mood – The caffeine in coffee can boost your mood and make you more productive. It blocks the receptors of adenosine, increasing the brain’s excitability.
  • A recent study has also shown that coffee helps in weight loss. It stimulates “brown fat” that burns calories.

Final Thoughts

While they may seem similar at first glance, coffee and espresso are actually quite different in terms of how they are made, their taste, and their caffeine content. For instance, espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans under high pressure, resulting in a strong, concentrated shot of coffee. While coffee is made by brewing ground coffee beans in hot water, resulting in a milder, more balanced flavor. Espresso has a stronger flavor, thicker consistency and has more caffeine per ounce than coffee.

The key takeaway from this guide is that understanding the differences between espresso and coffee can help you make a more informed decision about which one to enjoy. If you prefer a stronger, more intense flavor, espresso may be the better choice. If you prefer a milder, more balanced flavor, coffee may be the better choice.

Ultimately, it’s up to your personal taste, preference, skill and the equipment you have.




  1. ‌Dranoff J. A. (2018). Coffee Consumption and Prevention of Cirrhosis: In Support of the Caffeine Hypothesis. Gene expression18(1), 1–3.
  2. Kirby, J. (2019, June 25). Coffee can help you lose weight, study finds. The Independent.
  3. Makin, S. (n.d.). Drink two espressos to enhance long-term memory. New Scientist. Retrieved March 9, 2020, from
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