Now now, there’s no need to fight! There’s easily room for both in any coffee lover’s heart! There is in mine anyway!
Room for both in my modest kitchen? Well that’s a different story entirely. But you make room for the things you love, don’t you!
At the end of the day, each has a unique, distinctive flavor, and if you’re going to choose one over the other, it’s going to be the one you like the taste of more.
Espresso is more bitter, but this makes it ripe for use as the base for a larger drink, like an Americano (add more water), a cappuccino (add some frothy milk) or a latte (add more frothy milk).
So the point of this article isn’t to try and change your tastes (good luck to me if that was the case!), it’s to point out some of the differences between the two.
Here are the main ones:
Coffee Bean Preparation
You don’t need to have specifically labelled Espresso beans to make an espresso – you can use any roasted bean. What makes it an espresso is the fineness of the grind and the high pressure extraction method provided by espresso machines.
However, a darker roast is preferred by Italians for making espresso. The beans are roasted for longer, which makes them darker and more oily looking.
So if you want the authentic Italian experience, use Italian espresso-labelled beans.
Coffee is generally prepared using a coffee maker, and espresso is prepared using an espresso machine. Although a moka pot is most popularily used in Italy for espressos, it doesn’t actually make espresso. The pressure inside a moka pot isn’t great enough to make a true espresso.
In a coffee maker, hot water is poured over loosely packed ground coffee in a basket, and drips through under gravity. In an espresso machine, hot water is forced through tightly packed ground coffee at a high pressure.
Since coffee drips through a coffee maker under gravity, it takes several minutes to brew. If everything’s done correctly in an espresso machine, it takes 25 seconds to pull a shot of espresso.
A shot of espresso is significantly faster to pull than a coffee. One thing that helps this is how finely the beans are ground.
In espresso, the beans are ground much finer than in coffee. The fineness of the grind exposes more surface area to the water, which means they’re extracted more completely. Not only does this help with speed, it also makes espresso more concentrated. Pound for pound, espresso has more caffeine and other nutrients than coffee.
This fineness poses a challenge though.
You might already be aware that it’s better to grind your coffee beans at home right before you make it. This is because after grinding, coffee beans degas and emit carbon dioxide for several minutes. While it degasses, the aroma and flavor are protected from oxidation by exposure to air.
After a few minutes, your ground beans become attacked by the air and rapidly loses its aroma and flavor over the course of a few hours.
For the tastiest coffee, it’s best to grind the beans yourself. However, it’s mechanically more difficult to grind espresso to the right size and consistency, which means that true espresso grinders are more expensive than coffee grinders.
Because of how it’s extracted, espresso is more concentrated than coffee. But because of its size, a cup of coffee actually has more caffeine than an espresso, or a cappuccino or a latte made with one espresso shot.
An espresso shot has 53mg of caffeine, and a mug of coffee usually has between 95 and 200 mg, depending on the size of your mug.
This is more ralated to how healthy your coffee is.
The oil in coffee contains a substance called cafestol which stimulates LDL cholesterol.
A paper filter traps this oily residue, keeping most of the cafestol out of your coffee. Paper filtered drip coffee has less cafestol than a shot of espresso, which in turn has less cafestol than a cup of French press coffee.
For more on cafestol, click here.
So there it is – the main differences in coffee vs espresso.
Which do you prefer, and why? If you love both, have you ever tried a Hammerhead? This is a cup of drip coffee with a shot of espresso. If you’re brave enough, let me know how you found the Hammerhead below!