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Espresso vs. Coffee: What’s the Caffeine Difference & Full Comparison

Cup of italian espresso and brioches

Espresso vs. Coffee: What’s the Caffeine Difference & Full Comparison

Whether you use a pour-over method at home or you like to stop by your local coffee shop for a cappuccino, having a cup of joe is a popular morning ritual. It’s actually so popular that the average coffee drinker in America drinks over 3 cups a day. For those who do drink coffee, there are few things more comforting than a fresh cup in the morning. If you enjoy various types of coffee, have you wondered about the difference between espresso and coffee?

The main difference between espresso and coffee is the brewing process and the flavor. Espresso is made with a pressurized brewing method that produces a concentrated cup of coffee. There are numerous ways to make regular coffee, but it's a slower brew with a flavor that isn’t as strong as espresso. While there is less volume in an espresso shot, it’s often used for drinks such as lattes or cappuccinos. 

If you’ve ever been unsure what to order at your local coffee shop, this article will help you understand the difference between coffee and espresso. Keep reading to find out more about the difference between espresso and coffee and which one you should try during your next coffee break.

Cappuccino and croissant on the table in the cafe. The morning sunlight falls on the table, beautiful shadows appear. Delicious breakfast.Women's hands hold a cup of coffee.
Coffee is a delicious and popular morning ritual for many people.

©Alie04/Shutterstock.com

Espresso vs. Coffee: What Is the Difference?

Some enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning with cream and sugar, while others choose an espresso shot, paired with a breakfast pastry or biscotti for dipping. There’s no limit to the ways you can enjoy a cup of coffee, whether you order it at a coffee shop or make it at home.

Even though espresso and brewed coffee are both types of coffee, there are many differences between them. The main difference between espresso and coffee is the process of making them and the flavor. There’s also a difference in the type of beans and how you should grind them.

A standard cup of coffee is brewed slowly and doesn’t use a pressurized method. On the other hand, espresso is made with an espresso machine and finely ground beans that are tamped down before pulling the shot.

No matter what your coffee preference is, there are plenty of ways to use both espresso and brewed coffee. They can be a delicious part of your morning routine or even an afternoon pick-me-up, but you can also use them in dinner recipes or baked goods.

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is a concentrated type of coffee made with an espresso machine. To make the espresso shots, the machine uses a pressurized method that produces a concentrated coffee with a strong, bold flavor.

While you can make brewed coffee with a pour-over device, espresso is a bit more complex. There are portable espresso makers available, but quality espresso requires an espresso machine.

There are numerous types of espresso machines, and depending on the quality, they can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000. What they all have in common is they force boiling water through the ground espresso beans, leading to the hot, crema-topped espresso shot. Speaking of crema, one aspect of espresso that sets it apart from brewed coffee is the crema, or frothy brown foam, that sits on top. This cream or foam is mostly carbon dioxide that comes from the roasting process. 

While there are ways to make something similar to espresso without a machine, they don't quite match the quality that comes from an espresso machine. The closest you’ll get to making espresso without an actual espresso machine is making coffee in a Moka pot.

The Moka Pot is a stovetop method that makes concentrated coffee by forcing steam through it. It doesn't quite match the quality of an espresso machine, but those who have perfected this method claim it has a pretty good flavor. 

How To Make Espresso

While drinking espresso on its own may not be everyone’s preference, the signature rich and bold flavor is part of what makes espresso so popular. The best way to make espresso is with an espresso machine but the exact method will depend on the type of machine you have. Generally, it will start by finely grinding an espresso roast. Then, you pack the grounds and tamp them down to get them as even as possible.

Most espresso machines will come with a tool that allows you to tamp down, or tightly pack, the grounds in the espresso basket. For the best espresso shot, this part of the process is essential.

Next, you pull the shot by putting the espresso basket or portafilter in the machine and pressing a button to make the shot. Most espresso machines have different settings and it will likely require some trial and error before figuring out how to make the perfect espresso shot.

What Is Coffee?

Coffee is a well-loved beverage that comes from brewing roasted coffee beans. Of course, espresso is coffee as well, but when someone asks for a cup of coffee, they're normally referring to a slow-brewed cup of coffee rather than an espresso shot.

There are numerous ways to make brewed coffee. You can make traditionally brewed coffee by pouring boiling water over coffee grounds. If you use a technique like the pour-over method, you simply pour the boiling water over the grounds manually. A drip coffee machine, which is the most popular way to make brewed coffee, simply drips the hot water over the grounds for you.

While drip coffee machines are the most common way to make coffee, they’re definitely not the only way. 

How To Make Coffee

With devices like the drip coffee machine, you don't have to be an expert to make a cup of coffee at home. For hot coffee, most methods involve pouring boiling water over the grounds or when using a coffee maker, you pour the water in the machine and it filters the water over the grounds.

There is a type of coffee known as cowboy coffee, where you mix the grounds into a pot of boiling water, but this is typically for scenarios when you don't have access to a coffee maker, hence the name.

Brewing a cup of coffee in a coffee maker involves grinding the beans, pouring them into the filter, adding water, and pressing the brew button. However, you can also make regular coffee using the pour-over method or in a French Press.

Each coffee brewing method can lead to many different flavors. Coffee connoisseurs usually have a favorite method, and generally, coffee purists frown upon drip coffee makers. The pour-over method is a simple and relatively efficient way to make delicious coffee without a lot of extra fuss.

Women working in a coffee shop
Many rely on caffeine to help them wake up in the morning or to help them focus on work.

©Brooke Cagle / Unsplash – License

How Much Caffeine Is in Espresso vs. Coffee?

When you’re considering the difference between espresso and coffee, you might wonder about the caffeine content. It’s a common misconception that espresso has more caffeine than regular brewed coffee since it’s strong and concentrated.

While a typical espresso shot has about 62 milligrams of caffeine, one 8 oz cup of coffee has closer to 95 milligrams. This means a regular cup of coffee has a much higher caffeine content than one espresso shot. However, if you order an espresso drink like a latte, the amount of caffeine will vary depending on the size of your drink.

Typically, one brewed cup of coffee is going to have more caffeine than a latte. At many popular coffee shops, a small latte only has one shot of espresso, but a larger size could have two or three shots. Just remember to check the caffeine content if you’re sensitive to caffeine or trying to stay under a certain amount.

Which Is Better: Espresso vs. Coffee

Coffee drinkers tend to have strong opinions about the best brewing methods. While everyone has their own preferences, both espresso and brewed coffee can be a delightful part of your morning routine.

Regular coffee and espresso come in a variety of forms–you can order a latte, cappuccino, iced coffee, or even a red eye, which is a regular cup of coffee topped with a shot of espresso. If you're not sure what coffee you like, try something new next time you stop by the local coffee shop, or even try making your own coffee at home. 

Espresso Beans vs. Coffee Beans

Considering there are numerous differences between espresso and brewed coffee, let’s take a look at how their beans differ as well. Espresso isn’t just a small amount of regular coffee. We've already seen how espresso uses a different brewing method and it requires different types of beans as well.

While the origin of standard coffee beans and espresso beans is the same, the roasting process is different. You generally make espresso with beans known as an espresso roast. These beans are roasted even longer than other coffee beans, and they are ground much finer due to the high-pressure brewing method. 

Even though they’re both coffee beans, it's not recommended to take the beans you use for your morning coffee and put them in an espresso machine. Even if you finely ground them, they won’t have the signature bold flavor of espresso.

Coffee and Espresso Recipes

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Perfect homemade tiramisu cake with fresh mint. Tiramisu portion on pink plate over white marble background. Delicious no bake tiramisu in natural daylight. Close up

Tiramisu with espresso


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  • Author: MomsWhoThink.com

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/2 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 package ladyfingers
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup strong espresso coffee, cooled
  • 3 egg whites
  • cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. Beat cheese, egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of brandy.
  2. Beat egg whites until stiff and shiny. Whip cream.
  3. Gently fold the egg yolk mixture, egg whites, and cream together. Mix espresso with the remaining sugar and brandy.
  4. Dip ladyfingers in the espresso mixture and line the dish. Alternate layers of ladyfingers and cream, ending with cream.
  5. Dust with cocoa powder. Refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.
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