Espresso vs Coffee
With so many coffee options available to us now, our heads are probably swirling like the designs on a coffee art latte. How do we know what to order when we approach the barista at the counter of our favorite coffee shop?
Whether you want to be prepared for the next time you go to the café, or perhaps you just bought the best super automatic espresso machine, we are going to explore one of the more popular choices today… the espresso.
We do know that pronouncing it “expresso” is a coffee debate that may never get resolved, but that’s for another day. So, how is espresso different than a drip coffee or other brewed coffees? Beyond the pronunciation, we dug in and did some research on the difference between espresso and coffee, here is what we found!
What The Flip is Espresso?
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.
What the flip is 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 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 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.
The Goat 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 know and consumed worldwide. It’s 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!
The Beans: Espresso vs Coffee
Simply put, espresso can be made with any type of coffee bean. Don’t stop reading there though. The secret to making espresso beans so unique is the roasting process. One difference is that true, traditional espresso is typically made with a darker roasted coffee bean.
Another difference between espresso and coffee grounds is the way they are roasted. Espresso beans are roasted longer and darker than light or medium roasts which causes caramelization and an overall sweeter taste. These beans are typically roasted past the second crack (which means they crack open a second time in the roasting process).
The long, dark roasting removes a lot of the acidity, but more importantly, this extraction process pulls oils from the bean that translates into a heavier, fuller concentrate. In addition to using dark roast coffee beans, there is a specific espresso grind.
In order to pull a true, crema-rich shot of espresso, the coffee is very finely ground so that it can be tamped down in the portafilter. If the beans are not tightly compacted, the water finds a shortcut through the grinds and produces a watered-down version that is more like a regular cup of coffee.
Now we know that there are not specific espresso beans. If you do see a bag of espresso coffee at the grocery store, most likely it is a bag of darkly roasted, finely ground beans. You can undoubtedly grind your own espresso beans at home with a coffee grinder, they just need to be super fine and consistent!
Caffeine: Espresso vs Coffee
Most people assume that espresso has a higher caffeine content than a cup of black coffee. It is not the caffeine content that is the difference, it is the caffeine concentration. The serving size of a shot of espresso is one ounce. Espresso contains a higher concentration of caffeine per serving size.
A cup of regular drip coffee is about 8 ounces. There is less caffeine per ounce in a cup of drip coffee, but the caffeine content could actually be higher, depending on the amount of coffee in the mug. There is always the option to take a double shot of espresso if you needed a quick caffeine boost, but generally, a cup of coffee will have more caffeine.
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 world wide fame is always around the corner or at the kitchen brew station.