Before we delve into the difference between coffee and espresso, let us just remind everyone that it’s ‘espresso’ not ‘expresso’. Although if an ‘expresso’ is a shot of coffee that arrives at the speed of lightning, perhaps this word should be officially added to popular vernacular.
Now we have that out of the way, let’s have a chat about the difference between coffee and espresso. Recently, pour-over coffee has become cool (we blame the hipsters) which, by proxy has placed some types of filter coffee in the same league as the coveted espresso. For decades espresso was viewed as a superior way to drink coffee. Just ask any Australian who has traveled to the United States and it’s pretty much all they’ll talk about.
Coffee snobbery aside, filter and espresso are both legitimate (and effective) ways to drink coffee, it just depends on how you like it.
Here’s a brief run down of the differences between coffee and espresso so you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.
They have the same origin
All coffee and espresso comes from coffee beans and they’re even roasted in much the same manner. Even though you may see the words ‘espresso’ on a bag of coffee beans that doesn’t mean they’re specific espresso beans, it’s simply referring to the suggested brew method of the coffee.
They’re brewed differently
Espresso is brewed via the extraction method, requiring pressure to force hot water through coffee grounds to make an espresso shot. The easiest way to make espresso coffee is with a machine, like a coffee machine you see at cafes or pod/capsule machines you can use in your own home. You can also make espresso with hand presses like an Aeropress. Any kind of coffee that is made with hot water and pressure is essentially ‘espresso’ coffee.
Drip coffee is made by adding hot water over ground coffee. The water then filters or drips through the grinds making the coffee. Filter coffee has a coarser grind than espresso and the coffee it produces is in contact with the grinds for a lot longer than when espresso coffee is made. It’s difficult to prove but this may be one of the reasons why a cup of drip coffee generally has more caffeine than a single shot espresso.
Why not both? Sometimes you might be in the mood for a drip coffee and other times you might be hankering for an espresso. They have different characteristics and each provide a different coffee drinking experience. Having said that, if you need a quick fix, espresso is the way to go as the pressure method is super quick. Brewing coffee takes a bit more patience so maybe save filter coffee for days when you’re no so desperate for your morning cuppa. This logic also applies to cafes. If you order a fancy filter coffee, you’ll be waiting a lot longer for your cup of joe than anyone who ordered a latte.
Which one has more caffeine?
This is a very valid question, particularly if you consume coffee for the buzz. It’s difficult to tell which one has more caffeine because it comes down to the beans and how much caffeine they contain and the way they’re brewed. On average a cup of drip coffee will have more caffeine that an espresso shot but that has a lot do to with size. Espresso has a higher concentration of caffeine per millilitre than drip coffee but people generally consume a lot less of it. It’s also important to remember that each cup of drip coffee will have a different amount of caffeine in it, so sometimes you’ll get a decent buzz from your afternoon cup and sometimes it has no effect. The jury is really out on the caffeine argument so just go with whichever one you prefer.