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Espresso vs. Coffee: Understanding the Differences

Dave Carter

May 2, 2020

Espresso vs. Coffee: Enjoying the Best of Both Worlds​

The Best Espresso vs. Coffee Comparison

Let's start by pointing out the fact that both coffee  and espresso are both coffee and can be made, extracted, or brewed from the same type or combination of coffee beans. The big difference is that they are made from two different ways of preparation and the way the coffee beans are roasted and ground. Coffee beans meant for the espresso machine go through a longer roasting time and ground fine while those beans destined for a cup of drip coffee or brewed coffee are coarser and roasted for less amount of time. To further illustrate, let's go through this Espresso vs. Coffee comparison, and let's see what pick-me-up perks we will get at the end of this showdown.

What is espresso?​

Know More About What is Espresso Coffee

Borrowing from Shakespearean lore, we can say that caffeine by any other name would smell and taste as bitter and acidic with floral, fruity, and/or earthy notes, or whatever aroma or flavor you are looking for in caffeine coffee. Now that was a mouthful of characteristics, pun intended. Caffeine can be enjoyed in its purest form as espresso, a concentrated form of caffeine extracted by forcing pressurized hot water using a machine made especially for that purpose.

The first espresso coffee machine was built and patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. A stovetop version was invented by Alfonso Bialetti, an Italian engineer in 1933. It was named after Mocha, a city in Yemen where Bialetti invented it. The resulting extracted liquid from this process is more durable than caffeine brewed by any other method. The espresso maker is ideal for this as it also forms "crema", a creamy foam that forms on top of the liquid as it comes out of the porta-filter or filter holder. The crema is not just for aesthetics as it adds to the richness of the caffeine flavor of espresso.

There are several coffee varieties, and they can be used to make any of your favorite types of cup of coffee. So if you are asking how to make espresso that looks and tastes like the one your favorite barista gives you? Here are some things to consider.

Espresso coffee is made from any of those coffee bean varietals. It is important to note that all coffee comes from the same caffeine plant, with variations of varietals and origins, but grown according to the traditions where they are found but usually processed and roasted similarly as in any other country of origin. The only significant difference that separates the regular coffee you drink from espresso is the type of grind and how the beans are treated.

Espresso coffee is usually made with finer consistency grind and firmly pressed in the porta-filter where hot or nearly boiling water is forced through. It is easy to learn how to make espresso if you understand the principle behind the process.

The concentrated espresso you get is usually called a "shot" and can be used as the base of long coffee drinks such as cappuccino, macchiato,  latte, or Americano. After being concentrated, the resulting drink is thicker and creamier than brewed coffee and well suited to make the coffee drinks mentioned previously.

What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee?​

What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee

While drinking a cup of coffee and espresso is a worldwide pleasurable activity, there seems to be a world of difference in how people from different countries prefer to have their first cup of joe in the morning and how they take their subsequent cups during the day.

While the first-ever coffee cup in the entire universe was probably made accidentally, the millions of coffee brewed the world over are made through deliberate actions using different brewing methods, extracting, and pouring over coffee through various coffee-making gadgets.

Coffee is coffee in whatever form you want to drink it, be it as a cup of drip coffee, shot of espresso from an espresso machine, from a Moka pot, from a French press, or from any other fancy and modern coffee-making gadget you use. The precious liquid you extract from any of the different coffee varietals is coffee.However, to be specific, the drink you want to call espresso can only be espresso if it was made with hot water and espresso maker. And there are several types of them.

There are piston-driven ones, air pump, steam-driven, and pump-driven too. This last one is even separated into as many as four different categories, but all are variants of the automatic type - from semiautomatic to a super-automatic espresso machine. You can say that all the liquid you extract from an espresso maker is indeed espresso, but coffee that comes from other types of gadgets is just that, coffee.

While it is quite simple to understand the making of a shot of espresso, there are several variables involved in extracting the best espresso shot from your espresso machine. You would consider the water temperature, the water pressure, how fine the beans are ground, and the manner that the coffee grounds are packed in the porta-filter. Water temperature should be near-boiling, while the water pressure should typically be at nine bars or about 130 PSI.

The beans should be finely ground with a consistency akin to powdered sugar and should be packed tightly in to ensure that the water slowly pushes through the filter for about 25 seconds.  The finely ground coffee allows more surface area contact with water, which results in more efficient extraction of the desirable properties of drink in the short time it takes for water to pass through.We have mentioned the types of espresso-machines, and one that deserves special mention here is the super-automatic espresso-maker. While many espresso coffee purists prefer authentic espresso-machines, there are times when the super-automatic ones come out on top of their preference, mainly because of convenience.

Preparing espresso can be considered an art form, and thus a shot usually takes time, from grinding the coffee beans to measuring a dose to be tightly packed into the porta-filter is a ritual that they go through each time they want a shot.But not all coffee-lovers have that luxury, and many of them have come to love using the Nespresso and Keurig brands of super-automatic espresso-machines.

They both are established brands and have quite a following around the world. If you are new to this type of espresso maker, you might find that these brands have a very competitive Nespresso vs. Keurig rivalry. You might eventually become a convert and would prefer your first of your daily shot from either machine.

Does espresso taste better than coffee?​

The difference between coffee brewed and espresso is the presence of crema, that reddish-brown foam that gives a shot of espresso an extra dose of flavor and aroma. It can only be produced by a good machine when air bubbles are combined with the soluble oils that come from finely ground coffee beans. It is the crema that infuses your espresso with a full-bodied flavor that you recognize and gives the shot of espresso a lingering pleasant to the palate aftertaste.

Is Espresso stronger than coffee?​

This is another difference between coffee brewed and espresso. A shot of espresso can be as strong as you want in comparison with other brewed and drip coffee prepared in the traditional brewing method with hot water. Gram for gram in terms of ground beans, brewed and drip coffee has more caffeine that adds to its stronger taste than espresso. What you consider as strength in espresso is the concentration of flavor and aroma in an ounce of liquid coffee served in a very small demitasse.

Espresso vs. Coffee Facts: Who Has More Caffeine?​

Espresso vs. Coffee Comparison Who Has More Caffeine

Many people equate coffee taste with the amount of caffeine their cup contains. They might have a point there, but too much caffeine in coffee makes coffee very bitter, and that is not good, not only as far as taste is considered but also in connection with some health concerns. 

However, espresso indeed tastes better than coffee, but it is not because of the caffeine it contains.

Which has more caffeine, regular coffee, or espresso?​

Regular brewed and drip coffee contains more caffeine with roughly 120 milligrams as compared to espresso that generally has about 80 milligrams. However, if you get a double or even quadruple espresso shot, you would get an espresso with more caffeine than regular brewed and drip coffee.

Which is more acidic, regular coffee, or espresso?​

The coffee we drink is often looked upon as an acidic drink.  However, studies show that coffee is, in fact, scores very low in the acidic measure as compared with alcoholic beverages as beer or even natural orange juice.  The acidity people refer to when it comes to coffee is not about the same pH level in other liquids.

Talk about acidity in other drinks or food may conjure visions of stomach pain as that type of acid tends to destroy stomach lining. But the acidic quality of this drink is, in fact, desirable. It is this type of acids that impart the delicious taste you recognize in the coffee you love. Acidity, in this sense, refers to a special flavor note naturally present in beans and which roasting helps bring to the fore. And in this sense, we can say that espresso is more acidic because there are more flavor notes in concentrated form in it.

Convenience of Coffee Pods​

We have seen how our espresso vs. coffee exposition unfolded. We now know that espresso is called such but not because of particular caffeine beans. However, coffee enthusiasts will prefer special preparation made for certain beans or a blend of different ones, to be the beans of choice for their espresso-machines.

Espresso is based on the preparation of the coffee and espresso beans and how the liquid coffee is extracted. In contrast to regular coffee, espresso is a caffeine-loaded shot of concentrated caffeine with rich and thick dark brown liquid with crema on top. This liquid coffee is the one that will give you authentic coffee with a complex and aromatic taste you have learned to love.

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