In this article, I will bring you an answer to the old question “What is the difference between coffee and espresso?”, some of you may even think that they are just the same right? After all, they come from the coffee plant.
Well no, there is quite a difference and I will teach you all you need to know in basic terms. Coffee is like Earth, whereas the Espresso is a continent. So, basically, coffee is a parent, and espresso is one of it’s type.
Most of you are searching for the difference between a regular coffee and an espresso. I suggest you to read the complete article carefully, and you will have your answer in detail.
First, we will address the individual parts, coffee, and espresso, just to point out the main differences from the start.
What is Coffee?
This beloved beverage has quite a history, these coffee beans have traveled all the way around the world and that’s why we have so many alternatives now.
The fruit from the coffee plant is actually similar to a cherry, but what makes the greatness is inside the seed.
Once the fruit is harvested, the seed or bean is extracted and then roasted, and once you grind it, that’s what we need for a cup of coffee. There are dozens of species of coffee plants, and each of these plants will make a different coffee bean, but also the way it is processed will change the flavor of the final product, giving us hundreds if not thousands of different possibilities.
Coffee Brewing Methods
Now we have so many flavors, so many beans, and different types of grind, but there is still one variant we are not taking into account – the brewing method. Often the boiling, steeping and dripping method outputs regular coffee, and the pressure method gives, an espresso. Most of the people are confused here in regular coffee and espresso. So, the basic and major difference is the, Method.
Brewing coffee, no matter the method, has one constant principle and this is the principle of infusing or the process of using hot water to take flavors and smells away from a product. Infusions (Tea) use this method as we all know, and coffee is not an exception.
The original and oldest known method is well, boiling water in a pot with a fire and getting your ground coffee in there, in a few minutes coffee will be ready, easy right? Well yes, but this will bring nothing special and burning the coffee is quite easy if you use this method. But a few centuries back, without electricity or a simple way to heat up water (other than starting a fire), this was the easy way to go, and it was also quite practical if you had to travel.
But luckily, we have evolved from this rather primitive method, if you are reading this article, chances are you own some kind of coffee machine, or at least have seen countless of them in coffee shops, from electric modern machinery to the old but effective mechanical machines.
Now, we will meet the steeping method, which is still infusing but made easy. Imagine you took the pot from the method above, and you found a way to just separate the ground coffee from the liquid once your infusion was ready, well that is basically it.
If you know the French-press, you know what steeping is, mix hot water and ground coffee in the press, wait some time, based on how hot the water was, then use the press and well, press the ground coffee to the bottom (yes big surprise uh?). This squishes the ground coffee and gives you an amazing final flavor because of this.
Of course, you won’t be able to use a fine grind or will then have residues in the coffee because of the holes in the press.
This is perhaps the most common method used nowadays, because of all the electric coffee makers out there. You must have seen those coffee makers that need a coffee filter and you put the ground coffee on it? Well, that’s dripping, as the name suggests.
With electricity, the process of heating up water is no longer a problem, the new drip machines just need you to put the filter, the ground coffee and the water in the machine, and it will do the rest.
The principle behind this is simple, water goes into the ground coffee and starts soaking it, the water gets infused with the coffee, the filter stops the ground coffee from falling but keeps the liquid flowing, and there we go, you now have coffee, this method just needs a few time to fill a cup or the whole kettle.
Pressure Method (Espresso)
This is where things get even better and we start addressing the title of this article directly. This method is the one used for espresso, so yes, espresso is coffee (in case you had any doubts), but what makes espresso unique and different from all the methods above is the amount of time it takes to be ready.
With all the previous methods you would have to wait a few minutes to get that cup of coffee, with the pressure method well, once the water is hot and ready, you will have the finished product in a few seconds.
What makes this method special is that the hot water goes into the fine ground coffee at a really high pressure with high temperature, and the infusion not only takes seconds, but it becomes quite powerful, that’s why espresso has that distinctive flavor. This brings us to the next question.
What is Espresso?
As mentioned above, espresso is coffee brewed in a unique way, and this unique way makes, well, unique coffee, espresso tends to have a more intense flavor, even though it’s brewed in a shorter time. The espresso machines are different then the regular drip machines.
So espresso can be described as intense coffee, brewed with pressure at a high temperature in a short time, but also the ground coffee has to be fine.
Another big characteristic of espresso is the crema, and the crema really talks about the coffee you are about to drink, erm sorry, espresso. The crema is the foam that forms on top of the liquid when you prepare an espresso, and the information it gives is about the age of the coffee used and the strength of the coffee.
For the age, the amount is to be observed, If the crema is abundant it means the coffee is fresh, while with less crema it means it’s a bit older. For the strength, the color is to be noticed, usually, the rule of thumb is, the darker the crema, the stronger the espresso.
Types of Espresso Shots
Espresso is often served in shots, and in this little section, we are mentioning few common drinks that are popular.
Espresso Shot: The classic shot is usually 30 ml, this is a generic measure and what you should expect from a shot.
Doppio Shot: Also called a double, is just double the amount of the original shot, so two shots in a cup, 60 ml.
Ristretto: This would be the grown-up measure, although the quantity is less, 22ml, the liquid is a concentrated mix of coffee, so expect a lot of strength in this kind of shots.
Lungo: This is the relaxed measure and it is the one that gets closer to being brewed coffee, this is 60ml of less concentrated espresso, so expect a softer drink in these ones.
Macchiato: This is a doppio shot with a dot of foamed milk to soften it up and make it more creamy.
Café Noisette: This is similar to the Macchiato but contains more milk, again a Doppio shot but this time instead of just a dot of foamed milk, we will add 30ml of steamed milk, making it even more creamy and nicer.
You may not like espresso by itself or with a little milk. Here I will show you some of the popular espresso-based drinks you can find at cafes, some of which you will probably have heard of already. These drinks are made by added ingredients and steamed milk in different levels depending on the beverage.
Cappuccino: Classic drink, that great triple layered presentation just makes everyone fall in love, and it packs quite a punch with some creamy flavor as well, a doppio shot plus 60 ml of steamed milk with 60 ml of foamed milk on top.
Latte: Another classic, in my opinion, this is just a perfect presentation with a great flavor and texture and a milky taste, a doppio shot, 300ml of steamed milk, and the real skill comes here, 2ml of foamed milk, just to make that top perfect.
Mocha: Chocolate is just amazing with coffee, some blends even remind you of the flavor, this is a mix that was meant to be, doppio shot, 50ml of chocolate, 30ml of steamed milk.
Americano: Another classic among coffee aficionados, the Americano is a doppio shot with 90ml of hot water to soften it up, it still packs the double shot punch.
A Few More Espressos
Dry Cappuccino: Maybe you dislike the amount of milk in a regular cappuccino, so here you get a doppio plus 60ml of foamed milk, easy.
Affogato: Just a delight that, surprisingly, not a lot of people have tried but I highly recommend, here you get a doppio with 90ml of vanilla ice cream, double rush on this one, more like a dessert in my opinion.
Breve: Creamy delight, with a doppio shot and 90ml of half and half, you will get an amazing creamy mix of greatness.
Café con Hielo: Now with this, I can relate, if you live in a really hot place and having a hot coffee sometimes feels like a torture to your body, this is just amazing, who would have thought that coffee could be so refreshing, get enough ice in a cup, pour 50ml of espresso on top, voila.
Con Panna: Another delightful treat, more of a dessert, this contains a doppio shot and 90ml of whipped cream.
Flat White: This is great if you love the milky goodness of a coffee drink, a doppio shot and 120ml of steamed milk, it will have a soft taste and amazing texture.
So to wrap this up, the difference between espresso and coffee is how you make it, or the brewing method, espresso is, as the name suggests, a pressure-made coffee, while brewed coffee is usually an infusion made over more time. Here are almost all the types of coffee that I know!
The Caffeine In Brief
There is a question with a rather simple answer, always going around the coffee world, especially on people starting to discover this drink’s amazing benefits: “Which contains more caffeine, brewed coffee or espresso?”.
The answer depends on where you approach the question from; if you take a shot of espresso and a cup of coffee the amount of liquid on each is quite different, so you could say, in this case, that the cup of coffee contains more caffeine since an average cup has around 240 ml of coffee, while an espresso shot has 30 ml.
If you approach it the other way tho, in volume, you will find that the espresso contains way more caffeine per milliliter. In the end, it all depends on the amount you drink, think of it as the espresso being a form a concentrated coffee in caffeine terms.
Now in this section, I will mention some of the most common forms of equipment for each method, so you can start brewing coffee today.
How To Make Regular Coffee
For the Boiling method, well, use a stove and a pot, yes, that simple, when pouring out the coffee you may want to use a filter tho.
In The Steeping method, I recommend the classic French press, it’s easy to use and quite easy to clean, plus the process of pressing the coffee yourself is quite unique, just be sure to use it correctly.
And for the Dripping method, you will find, and I mean it, thousands of different drip machines with a lot of different prices, it is possible to make a little system yourself and use this method, simply pouring boiling water on top of a filter with ground coffee that leads to a kettle or pot.
If you don’t like the hassle, just buy a regular electric coffee machine, and get some good ground coffee (or grind the beans yourself, which is also quite entertaining, you will need a coffee grinder for this tho).
How To Make Espresso Coffee
And for the pressure method, or to make a cup of Joe, there are some great espresso machines out there, even some that are over $10,000 USD, but this much is not needed, I personally use Nespresso because it is extremely easy to use for your home and it’s just convenient, plus I believe the quality of the outcome is quite nice.
If you like mechanical machines you can buy an AeroPress, which makes great coffee and is quite fun to use.
At the end of day, whatever is more convenient for you, or whatever you like the better is best. Get good quality ground coffee, and most of the time you will be able to make quality coffee with any brewer.
Wrapping Up – Espresso Vs Coffee
So it’s been a long road now, right? but some may still be asking themselves “Okay, so, espresso is the same as coffee correct?” well, espresso is coffee yes, but it is unique to the different brewing methods. So we can say that it is just a different outcome from the same source. But don’t worry, you don’t have to like one better than the other, both brewed coffee and espresso are great. And they, in my personal opinion, will give you what’s needed depending on the situation.
Check out this video if you like a more graphic explanation.
Maybe you just want a quick shot to boost your energy and feel alive, or maybe you want to have that cup of coffee for 30 mins just to enjoy it. Coffee is like wine, the best coffee for each person is different so the one you like, is the best.