For the longest time, coffee lovers and beginner coffee drinkers, there is always a decision to be made: “what drink should I get today?” One of the most popular comparisons is regular coffee and espresso. While both drinks are sure to bring an energy spark to your day, each has its benefits.
This article answers all your burning questions about espresso and coffee. Which has the higher caffeine content? Which costs more? What are the brewing methods required for each? We address all the critical information to help you make an educated coffee purchasing decision.
Espresso vs Coffee: An Overview
Before we dive into the deep comparison between espresso vs coffee, we must define both. Below are some of the critical things you should know about espresso and drip coffee.
What is Espresso?
Espresso is a concentrated, flavorful coffee variation served in the form of a “shot.” We typically think of coffee served in a standard cup that takes several sips to finish. However, an espresso shot provides the same (sometimes more) amount of caffeine, but it does so in a much smaller cup.
Espresso is created by pressuring hot water through finely ground coffee beans. There are espresso machines designed for this specific process. The result is a stronger form of coffee with brown foam on top, called “crema.” The foam comes to fruition when soluble oils mix with air bubbles. This crema provides another rich, sharp flavor that is unique to espresso.
Espresso is cultivated and made by using the same plant used for coffee. It is also roasted, processed, and grown through similar methods.
What is Drip Coffee?
Drip coffee is the end brewing result from coffee makers. Drip coffee can come from several machines, including a percolator or French press.
However, most people associate drip coffee with an automatic coffee maker, including the ground coffee basket, carafe, and hot water dripping through to the cup. We briefly walked you through the espresso brewing process, but here is a breakdown of the drip coffee brewing process:
- Pour the ground coffee into a filter, and then load it into the automatic coffee maker
- The water reservoir will start to fill up with water
- A heat source raises the temperature of the water, causing it to rise
- Water moves upward toward a shower ahead and then falls onto the filter with the ground coffee
- The brewed coffee will run out of the trough, and then flows into the carafe
What’s the Main Difference Between Espresso vs. Coffee?
The main difference between espresso and coffee is the treatment and grind of the beans.
When preparing espresso, the barista will grind the beans into a consistency that is much finer than regular coffee. Not only does espresso use a different machine, but the grounded beans pack much tighter before the barista forces hot water through.
When you compare drip coffee to espresso, the drip coffee depends on pressure to send it upward. This thermally-charged high pressure will force it up to the showerhead, allowing gravity to bring it back down through the coffee grounds. From here, the paper filter will catch most of the oils that will exist within French press, percolator, instant coffee machine, or espresso coffee.
Does Espresso or Coffee Have More Caffeine?
The standard coffee provides an average of 100 milligrams per cup. However, there are wide ranges of caffeine content that depend on several factors.
On the other hand, espresso contains an average of 63 milligrams per ounce, which is one shot. While a cup of coffee has 100 milligrams per cup, it only has 12-16 milligrams of caffeine for every ounce. So, you get more bang for your buck with espresso.
We can typically pinpoint the amount of caffeine in an espresso shot, but the amount of caffeine in regular coffee will depend on a few things:
- A coffee with finer grounds (like Turkish coffee) will have higher caffeine content levels.
- The coffee bean variety will have an impact because Robusta coffee beans have double the caffeine as Arabica coffee beans.
- A more prolonged brewing method will produce higher levels of caffeine.
Is Espresso Just Very Strong Coffee?
When it all comes down to it, espresso is much more than just a dark, strong coffee. Authentic espresso goes through a special process. It creates a creamy, full-bodied espresso drink for you to enjoy. The deep, concentrated flavor would not be possible with optimal roasting and coffee beans
Espresso is prepared by blending Arabica coffee beans from multiple regions. The beans will get roasted in machines that boost the temperature to no more than 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also a Notable Difference: Serving Size
One critical thing to highlight is the serving size difference between coffee and espresso. Espresso is served in the form of a “shot,” while brewed coffee comes in the standard 8-ounce, 12-ounce, and 16-ounces. Because espresso is so concentrated, it will deliver similar caffeine amounts that a traditional cup of coffee would.
For example, one sip of espresso with 50 milligrams of caffeine would be comparable to drinking a half cup of an 8-ounce cup of coffee. It all comes down to your personal preference. If you want a smoother, long-lasting experience, you should go with a cup of coffee. If you want a more full, quick drink, espresso is the way to go.
Flavor and Grind
One of the critical differences between espresso and filter coffee is the flavor and grind. Espresso provides a fuller, thicker, and bolder flavored drink. The barista will grind the beans into a more refined substance. Then, the beans get brewed with a much higher ratio of grounds to water.
Compared to espresso, coffee’s flavor is a less-concentrated, lighter drink. The flavor is much milder than espresso because of the coarse grounds. The oils and flavors will get caught in the filter, which is where you see the most significant flavor difference.
Brewing and Beverages
There are several drink variations with coffee. The coffee beverage will typically be served in cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, cafeterias, gas stations, and corporate offices.
With black coffee, baristas can get much more creative with the roasts, brewing methods, and types of beans. That way, you can keep your cups fresh and not feel like you are drinking the same boring drink every morning.
Espresso beverages are closely associated with coffee shops only. You can order lattes, macchiatos, Americanos, lattes, and much more.
Much like coffee, there are also several brewing methods. When you visit a coffee shop, you are likely to see an espresso machine behind the counter. However, a percolator or automatic coffee maker is more likely to be within the home.
Espresso vs. Coffee: Cost
Depending on the coffee shop, location, and brewing method, the cost of coffee vs. espresso can vary. In the United States, the average cup of coffee costs $2.70. On the other hand, the average espresso costs $2.62. Here is a quick price breakdown for the different variations of coffee and espresso.
- Americano: $2.62
- Cappuccino: $3.51
- Chai: $3.76
- Iced Coffee or Cold Brew: $2.99
- Latte: $3.78
- Mocha: $3.94
Why Is Espresso More Expensive than Drip Coffee?
Espresso can be more expensive than drip coffee because of the espresso machine itself. It uses high-quality materials like metal, sheetl, and brass. Therefore, this cost gets passed on to the customer.
Espresso vs. Coffee: Taste
When you taste espresso and regular coffee, you will notice a difference immediately. Espresso provides a stronger and fuller flavor. Below is the reason why.
The Difference is in the Brewing Method
The process for preparing espresso is much different from regular coffee, which will impact the overall taste. Espresso is brewed, ground, and roasted differently, contributing to its less acidic, fuller, and bolder taste.
When you taste it at first, it will feel stronger because of its rich, concentrated coffee flavor. The roasting process also extracts more oils from the beans, which will cause this heavier taste.
Coffee and espresso have their differences in serving size, taste, caffeine content, and brewing method. However, they offer the same health benefits. Here are some of the vital advantages to drinking coffee and espresso:
- Longer life – drinking coffee decreases your chances of dying from coronary heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke.
- Less chance of heart failure – drinking 1-2 coffee cups per day helps your heart pump ample blood to the rest of the body.
- Glucose processing – for people who drink coffee, their body might process sugar (or glucose) much better, decreasing the chances of type 2 diabetes.
- Parkinson’s Disease prevention – not only does coffee lower the chances of this disease, but it also helps people with the condition have more control over their bodily movements.
- Liver benefits – both decaf and regular coffee will allow you to maintain optimal enzyme levels, protecting your liver in the long run.
- Lower chance of colon cancer – drinking 1 or 2 cups of coffee per day is linked to the prevention of colorectal cancer
Which One Has More Antioxidants?
Espresso has the slight edge over drip coffee when it comes to antioxidants. Most drip coffee grounds will sit in a cabinet, store shelf, or pantry long before use. The longer the coffee beans stay idle and ground, the more antioxidants they lose. For espresso, the beans are ground immediately before the creation of espresso, retaining more antioxidants.
Is it Bad to Drink Espresso Every Day?
Drinking espresso everyday can be a healthy activity if you do not overdo it. Drink your espresso in moderation to achieve the best health benefits. Overindulging will diminish the effects in the long run, so try to stick with one espresso in the morning and afternoon, at most.
Our Thoughts: Is Espresso Better Than Coffee?
When it all comes down to it, everyone has different taste preferences with coffee. It also depends on the type of experience you wish to have. If you are socializing with friends in a coffee shop for hours at a time, it might be best to go with regular coffee. If you are working on a project and need a quick energy shot, espresso is the way to go.
If you like different options and variations of coffee, it might be best to stick with a regular cup of coffee. The barista can implement different beans and brewing methods to achieve your desired flavor. On the other hand, espresso offers limited options. For those who love stronger, richer coffee, espresso roast is the better option between the two.
Both coffee and espresso offer you a tasty, energizing drink. Depending on your mood and tasting preferences, there are benefits for each drink. But as you can see, there are many differences between regular coffee and espresso. Here is a quick breakdown of the differentiable factors between coffee and espresso:
- Grind – espresso grinds the espresso beans into a much finer powder, while regular coffee will have more coarse grounds
- Taste – espresso’s taste is much more full-bodied, richer, and concentrated than a regular cup of coffee
- Serving size – espresso is typically served in a 1-ounce shot, while coffee is served in standard 8-, 12-, or 16-ounce serving sizes
- Machines – espresso is typically prepared in an espresso machine, while regular coffee is prepared in a percolator, automatic coffee maker, or French press
- Caffeine concentration – espresso has much more caffeine on a per ounce basis, but regular coffee will offer more caffeine for higher serving sizes
Regardless of which option you choose, there are several health benefits and enjoyment you can get from coffee and espresso. If you love the taste, why not enjoy both?