Most of us coffee drinkers have wondered about the difference between espresso and coffee.
For some, a tiny cup of strong espresso is the only true coffee, while others think it’s a bitter waste of perfectly good beans. Whichever you prefer, it’s always good to get our of your comfort zone and try something new!
To get you started, here’s a quick guide on the difference between the two.
Coffee and espresso are similar in that they are made from coffee beans. The difference between espresso and drip coffee is the grind of the bean and the brewing methods. To put it simply, espresso is just a small concentrated volume of coffee, extracted using a lot of pressure.
Espresso originates in Italy where the first coffee drink machines that used steam were created and produced. Since those early days in the 1800s, espresso has become a favorite luxury caffeine indulgence for people worldwide. Espresso can be ordered at many coffee shops, but homebrewers can have their very own espresso coffee drinks with an espresso machine and some quality coffee beans.
Espresso: The Method
The espresso brewing method is just one of many, and it is just one of the differences between coffee and espresso. Espresso is created using a specific, complex brewing method. High pressure and hot water, combined with finely ground coffee beans make a small shot of coffee as opposed to an average cup of regular drip coffee.
If you want to become a home espresso master, you will have to set your regular coffee pot aside and invest in an espresso machine or even an Aeropress. Why a special machine? An espresso machine uses high water pressure to force near-boiling water through a finely ground puck of coffee beans.
Historically, this process started out using steam power alone. The addition of hand pumping was used which lessened the bitter results of steam-only machines. You may have heard your favorite barista refer to “pulling a shot” when making your espresso. This is a homage to the old process of hand pumping.
Coffee technology evolved, and the current-day espresso machines use mechanical pumping to force the water through the beans which is now how we get our shot of espresso. Combine that high-pressure water with closely packed or tamped down grinds, and the result is a highly concentrated, steaming cup of espresso.
Espresso is just one of many brewing methods that creates a specific coffee drink, and it is the most commonly used method in southern European countries like Italy and Spain.
Espresso Vs Coffee Breakdown: Who Has More Caffeine?
Alright, now let’s take a minute to break down one of the classic misconceptions (or at least partial misconceptions) of espresso and coffee: caffeine content.
Chances are you were raised thinking that espresso has WAY more caffeine than a cup of coffee. And, as you might expect from the above sentence, the correct response to that is both yes …and no.
See, if you take an equal amount of espresso and coffee, then yes, absolutely the espresso will have much more caffeine. But that should be no surprise, right? Especially since everyone and their mother knows that a tiny espresso shot is absolutely LOADED with all sorts of flavors and elements in a much more concentrated way than you get in coffee.
However, if you break things down by typical serving size, you’ll quickly find that a typical 8oz cuppa actually has quite a bit more caffeine than your average one to two oz shot of espresso.
Now, as is the case with most culinary facts, the specific numbers can vary quite a bit here depending on the beans you use, the brewing method, the temperature of the water, extraction time, and so on. Read our article “How Much Caffeine is in Coffee” to find more about caffeine in coffee.
To know the difference between espresso and coffee, it will be helpful to first know a little bit more about coffee. Coffee is a brewed drink that comes from a species of plant called Coffea. This species of plant needs a warm climate with the shaded sun, plenty of rain, and rich soil. Most coffee in the world is grown in an area known as The Coffee Belt.
The Coffea plant, which can grow as trees or bushes, produces a berry called a cherry. When this cherry is red and ripe, it is picked and dried. Hidden inside the cherry is the coffee bean. The beans are processed roasted and ground in a variety of ways. The key to different flavor dimensions and fullness is in the processing and type of plant species. The two most widely used coffee plant species used for the coffee we enjoy are the arabica beans and the robusta beans.
If we use a Mr. Coffee machine, they already set the ideal temperature to brew. During the process, the pulsating motion the boiling water makes over the coffee grounds will stir them up (turbulence) to help with the extraction. And lastly, the brew will stop after some time, in proportion to the amount of water.
Drip coffee drinking has evolved with the times. The diverse coffee “waves” have left their marks decade after decade. Nowadays we see two major groups of coffee lovers. The “bold, and the mild crowds”, the coffee vs espresso. The complexity of opinion gets aggravated when each individual pours in different other components and additional ingredients in their cup. Each cup reflects an opinion. The amount of caffeine in coffee vs espresso is another debate.
The OG Story
There is an Ethiopian legend associated with how coffee was discovered. A goat herder noticed that his goats became more energetic after eating the berries. An abbot at a nearby monastery was made aware of these findings and he made a drink with the berries. This drink helped him stay awake for the long hours of evening prayer.
Word of the delicious caffeine beverage spread through the continent and to the Arabian peninsula. The popularity of coffee increased and it was soon a highly sought-after trade. Over time, people in Europe and the Americas were soon having a cup of coffee to replace other traditional morning drinks.
In Europe, some were suspicious of the possible evils of the new black liquid. After papal sampling and approval, it was considered safe and delicious. It wasn’t long before coffee became known and consumed worldwide. Its popularity sparked new businesses in trade, coffeeshops, specialty roasters, and of course created a world of coffee debate.
Coffee aficionados can be found in every corner of the world. Coffee is currently the second most sought-after commodity, just behind crude oil!
How to Make Strong Coffee
If you aren’t ready to invest fully in the tools and know-how to make espresso, you may want to experiment with making strong coffee. Strong coffee will not have more caffeine content per serving size than a regular brew, but it will have a heavy flavor that will delight the taste buds.
The way to make a strong brewed coffee is to simply adjust the ratio of water to the amount of regular ground coffee. An average cup of drip coffee has a ratio of about 1 part coffee grounds to 18 parts hot water. Start by decreasing the hot water ratio a little at a time.
Strong coffee does not have to be bitter, either. If the flavor is sour or bitter, there may be too high of a concentration of ground coffee. In this case, the coffee was under-extracted. Experiment with the ratio until you have a rich, flavorful, strong cup of drip coffee.
Conclusion: Coffee vs Espresso
If you love coffee as much as we do, you can’t go wrong with any choice of coffee drinks. A rich-bodied espresso shot is just as satisfying to enjoy as a steaming cup of drip coffee. If you want to stick with regular ground coffee and try something new, a French press maker will provide a lot of flavor without a lot of investment.
After the espresso-making process is perfected, try something new and make a full-flavor espresso drink. Some popular choices are cappuccinos, lattes, the red-eye, or try your hand at making authentic south Indian filter coffee using espresso grinds.
No matter how you say it, espresso is a good choice for a quick caffeine shot full of heavy flavor. Coffee is a lighter liquid to be consumed by the mug. Coffee drinkers know that whatever the choice, a good cup of coffee with its exotic history and worldwide fame is always around the corner or at the kitchen brew station.
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