Espresso Vs Coffee

by Anne Franklin 6 min read

Espresso Vs Coffee

If you enjoydrinking coffee, you probably already know these two types of coffee: espresso and regular-brewed coffee. But what’s the difference between the two?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the difference between espresso and coffee, let's take a moment to touch on the beautiful culture that coffee houses have fostered around the world.

Coffee House Cultures

Coffee houses are often credited with inspiring creativity and social interaction. They indeed have a rich history dating back centuries.

In some parts of the world, coffee drinking is a tradition that families have continued for generations. In others, it’s simply a way to relax with friends and enjoy conversation over a cup of coffee.

Today, coffee houses have evolved into more than just places to enjoy coffee; they have become hubs of social interaction, art and music venues, and the heart of many local communities.

Every coffee house, whether it's a cozy local nook or a branch of a giant franchise, possesses a unique vibe defined by thetypes of coffee they serve.

Difference Between Espresso and Coffee


While espresso and coffee are both made from the same beans, there are some key differences between them, and these are:

Concentration and Strength

If you've ever tasted both espresso and coffee, you'll know that they taste quite different. Espresso is stronger and has a more concentrated flavor, while coffee tastes lighter and is less strong.

Now, this is due to how both are brewed. Espresso is made by forcing a small amount of hot water or steam under high pressure through finely ground beans.

This method extracts a high concentration of flavors, creating a "shot" of coffee that is substantially stronger intaste and flavor.

In contrast, regular coffee is made by gradually pouring hot water through coarse ground coffee in a filter. This results in a more diluted flavor and taste than espresso.

Brewing Time

Think of the brewing process as a mini coffee race. Espresso is the sprinter, running the "race" in about 20 to 30 seconds tops. Your regular coffee is more like a jogger, taking anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes to finish.

Ideally, this is because espresso is made using an espresso machine, while regular coffee is brewed in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Drip coffee maker: The most common household brewing method, where a filter cone holds the coffee grounds and hot water gradually drips through. This
  • French press: Hot water is poured overcoffee grounds and left to steep before being separated using a plunger.
  • Pour-over: Similar to drip coffee but done manually, pouring hot water evenly over coffee grounds in a filter cone.
  • Cold brew: Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for some time (12-24 hours), creating a low acidity and smooth flavored coffee.

Serving Size

Espresso is typically served in smaller volumes - usually in 'shots' of around 1oz (30ml) because of the concentrated nature of the beverage. This contrasts quite sharply with regular coffee, which is generally served in much larger volumes, typically anywhere from 6 to 12 oz (180 to 360ml) per serving.

Caffeine Content

While an espresso shot significantlybrims with caffeine - around 63 mg per ounce, as mentioned, it's served in tiny amounts. On the flip side, regular coffee has less caffeine per ounce, around 12-16 mg, but because it's served in larger quantities, a full cup (8 ounces) usually contains more total caffeine, about 95-128 mg. In essence, serving size defines the caffeine content overall.

Flavor and Aroma

Espresso's robust flavor profile bursts with intensity, and its aroma follows suit - it's unmistakably rich and bold. This comes from espresso's high-pressure extraction process. You'll also notice a richer texture, thanks to the lovely 'crema' on top.

Regular coffee is more subtle. Its flavor and aroma are more delicate, with a lighter body and a slight sweet aftertaste. This is because it's brewed at lower pressures, which allows for more of the coffee's natural oils to pass through the filter.

Serving Styles

Espresso serving styles vary, as do those of regular coffee. They hold a range of expressions for your particular taste,mood, or even time of day.

Espresso Serving Styles

  • Solo or Single Shot: This is the typical 1oz (30ml) serving of espresso.
  • Doppio or Double Shot: This is essentially two solo shots (2 x 1oz) served in a single cup.
  • Ristretto: Also known as 'restricted shot', ristretto involves preparing a solo or doppio shot with half the amount of water, making it even more concentrated and flavorful.
  • Lungo: Conversely, lungo ('long shot') uses more water for a single shot of espresso, making it less strong yet more bitter.
  • Americano: An espresso shot diluted with an equal volume or more of hot water, giving it a similar strength to regular coffee but retaining the rich espresso flavor.
  • Cappuccino: A drink made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk. and frothed milk, offering a harmonious blend of rich, creamy, and fluffy textures.
  • Latte: Similar to acappuccino, but with more steamed milk and less froth, making it creamier.
  • Macchiato: An espresso shot 'marked' with a small amount of froth or steamed milk on top.

Coffee Serving Styles

  • Black Coffee: No additions, just the pure coffee extracted from the beans.
  • White Coffee: Coffee served with a splash of milk or cream.
  • Cafe Au Lait: Coffee served with equal amounts of hot milk, creating a balanced combination of bold and creamy.
  • Iced Coffee: Regular coffee served cold, often with added milk, and sugar or flavorings.

Pairing Coffee and Espresso with Foods

Coffee and espresso pair wonderfully with various foods.

For espresso, it goes well with sweet pastries like croissants or muffins, as their intense flavor can cut through the sweetness. Dark chocolate is another perfect pairing, as the bitterness complements the rich roast flavors of espresso.

Coffee, given its less robust, morebalanced flavor profile, pairs well with mildly sweet or savory foods. Classic combinations include coffee with toasted bread and jam or a slice of banana bread.

Health Impact

A topic that invariably comes up about coffee consumption is its impact on health. So, how does espresso stack up against coffee in this light?

Espresso, despite its strong flavor and high caffeine concentration per ounce, contains less caffeine overall due to its serving size.

Coffee, on the other hand, given its typical higher caffeine content per serving, tends to provide a more noticeable caffeine 'kick’. This makes it great for an early morning pick-me-up or a mid-afternoon energy boost.

So what does this mean?

Caffeine has both benefits and drawbacks. While it can help to improve your mood, memory, and alertness, too much caffeine can lead to side effects like jitters and headaches.

Therefore, when it comes to how both canimpact your health, that pretty much comes down to how much you’re consuming. 

Choosing Between Espresso and Coffee

In determining which brew might be more to your liking, you should consider the following factors:

Taste Profile

A straight shot of espresso tends to be more robust, richer, and fuller-bodied compared to a cup of regular coffee. If you're a fan of strong, bold flavors, espresso might be the drink for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a lighter, more mellow taste, go with regular coffee.

Time of Day

The time of day you choose to drink espresso or coffee depends entirely on you. However, if you want to follow Italian traditional customs, espresso is usually consumed in the afternoon. Coffee, on the other hand, is enjoyed later in the morning.


Both espresso and coffee can lend themselves to other coffee beverages, but in different ways. Espresso is the base for manypopular cafe drinkslike lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas. Meanwhile, regular coffee is traditionally mixed with milk and sweeteners, perfect for those who prefer less concentrated flavors.

Espresso and Coffee Vs other Coffees

When comparing espresso and coffee to other types of coffee such as Mocha, Turkish coffee, Vienna coffee, and Irish coffee, a few differences emerge.

  • Mocha is a chocolate-flavored variant of a latte. It’s a distinct blend that brings together the flavors of coffee, milk, and chocolate and is typically less strong than espresso, but more indulgent due to the addition of chocolate.
  • Turkish coffee is a unique brewing method rather than a type of coffee. The preparation method involves grounding coffee beans into an extremely fine powder. It's unfiltered and is known for its intense, full-bodied flavor and thickness, compared to regular coffee and espresso.
  • Vienna coffee is a traditional cream-based coffee beverage. It's brewed with two shots of espresso, whipped cream - which replaces both milk or cream - and sugar to create a sweet and slightly strong taste. Its rich creaminess makes it considerably different fromregular coffeeand espresso, which lean on the robust notes of coffee.
  • Irish coffee is a cocktail consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, topped with cream. This results in a robust, slightly boozy, and sweet drink. The presence of alcohol makes Irish coffee stand out among other coffee types.

Final Thoughts

In the face-off of espresso vs coffee, there's no clear winner. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Both come from the same coffee beans, yet offer distinctive experiences. Espresso packs a quick, intense punch, while coffee provides a longer, milder sip.


  1. Taste of Home. (n.d.). Espresso vs. Coffee: What's the Difference? Retrieved from
  1. Super Coffee. (n.d.). Espresso Vs. Coffee: Are They Really That Different? Retrieved from

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