Espresso vs Coffee | Difference Between Coffee And Espresso

by Allen | Last Updated: July 8, 2020

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in existence. A staggering 50% of Americans are drinking coffee on a daily basis. That’s roughly 160 million coffee pots clicking on every morning in the US alone. Globally, the drink enjoys even more popularity.

If you’re a lover of java looking for something a little bit different to add to your routine, you’ll want to take a look at espresso. Developed in Italy, this hyper potent and flavorful beverage takes java to the next level. But what exactly is it, and how does it compare to the coffee that you are used to? In this article, we take an in-depth exploratory look at both beverages to help determine which is right for you. Read on!

Are Espresso Beans and Coffee Beans the Same?

Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

Yeap! They’re same in terms of beans. Most coffee beans are either Arabica or Robusta beans. This exists true for any type of coffee drink you produce including espresso.

Well, As we have said, there is no explicit difference between espresso beans and coffee beans, so why do we call them by different names? The term espresso describes the brewing method more than it does the bean itself. However, that’s not exactly to say that a bag of beans labeled “espresso” will be a good fit for your drip brew maker.

Espresso beans are so labeled for their flavor profile. Traditionally, they are dark, very potent, and flavorful, grown specifically for the very specialized process of steaming and pressing that espresso necessitates.

Though these beans technically can be used in a drip brew maker (the same way that “regular” beans can be used in an espresso machine), you are highly advised to avoid mixing and matching. Why? It’s a little like pairing a wine with a choice dinner. The same way Moscato is fine on a hot summer night, but no so good when paired with a filet, espresso beans don’t reach their full potential unless brewed properly.

Beans that have been improperly brewed taste bitter and unpleasant, so proceed at your own risk.

The 4 Main Differences between Espresso and Coffee

There are four main differences to look out for between espresso and coffee.


Typically, espresso beans are a very dark roast. This means that they have been roasted for slightly longer than a medium roast bean. Ironically, dark roast beans traditionally have a marginally lower caffeine count than the lighter alternative (as some caffeine is lost in the cooking process).

However, espresso maintains it’s caffeine edge through potent beans and a brewing process that is conducive to extremely strong coffee.

Granted, this is all just a rule of thumb more than it is a law from the heavens. Regular coffee can still be a dark roast, and espresso can be made from lighter roasted beans as well.


To prepare espresso beans for their very unique brew, the beans are typically ground to be extremely fine. Comparatively, beans that have been set aside for a drip brew process tend to be ground a little bit coarser. Think of espresso consistency as being like sand, and drip brew consistency being a little more like gravel.


This is where the difference between drip brew and espresso really comes to light. We all more or less know how the drip brew system works. Grounds go in the filter, water is heated up in the reservoir, and dispersed through a drip head, where it rains down on the beans and comes at the other end as coffee.

Brewing espresso is a little differentEspresso machines work by forcing highly pressurized water that has been heated to the point of boiling through a “puck” of coffee grounds. The ensuing result is a thick, deliciously potent beverage.


And of course, the taste. Needless to say, there are almost endless variations of what traditional coffee and espresso can taste like. However, in general, you can count on espresso being extremely bold, thick, and strong.

By comparison, most drip-brew coffees tend to be a little bit thin and certainly significantly milder.

Coffee Vs Espresso Showdown: Which has more caffeine?

In terms of pure caffeine, espresso has an overwhelming edge over coffee. However, this may not be apparent at first glance. Indeed, with a little bit of research, you may find that a serving of coffee has 94 mg of caffeine, while a serving of espresso has just 54.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you realize that a serving of regular coffee is eight times the size of a serving of espresso. This makes all the difference. Pour enough espresso to fill your regular coffee cup, and you can expect to have the energy for days.

What is Espresso

So, to be clear, all espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. It all comes down to the brewing method. The art of making espresso was refined in Italy but has since been globally adopted by people who appreciate the opportunity to ingest their java in highly potent, flavorful shot sized dozes.

Is Espresso Bad For You?

It depends on what you mean by “bad”; caffeine’s health risks and benefits are much debated. Still, the general consensus is that a moderate amount is generally safe for the average person, even when used on a daily basis.

In fact, there have even been some health benefits linked to caffeine. For example, in moderate doses, caffeine has been shown to increase metabolism, help with weight loss, and even reduce the risk of experiencing a stroke.

However, the espresso’s defining characteristic is that it is super loaded with caffeine, which may have unique health implications. Is espresso bad for you? Not when you drink it responsibly.

Let’s say that you usually have three cups of coffee on a given day (comfortably within the four cup threshold that most health experts recommend). If you were interested in experimenting with espresso, you would want to make sure that you reduced that number.

For reference, there is 512 mg of caffeine in eight ounces of espresso, and 94 mg of caffeine in eight ounces of regular coffee. Indeed, this is why most people drink their espresso in one-ounce shot sized servings. Espresso can certainly be ingested responsibly, but a little bit of knowledge goes a long way towards ensuring that you avoid health catastrophes.

These things said, if you are at all unsure if espresso is right for you, it’s not a bad idea to contact your doctor before ingesting. Patients with a history of poor heart health may be advised to stick with decaf.

Becoming an Espresso Scholar:

And now, here are some fast facts to cement your reputation as an espresso expert.

Espresso Shot: 

Most typically, you will find espresso in the form of a “shot.” This one-ounce portion of espresso can be ingested by itself in charming little cups, or mixed into other beverages to create an exciting coffee cocktail.

Types of Espresso Shots:

For the most part, an espresso shot is an espresso shot. They won’t all taste the same due to the variables of different grounds, makers, etc. The underlining principle is more or less universally the same. 

However, you do get the occasional variation. For example, Starbucks recently designed what they call a Ristretto, basically, just an espresso shot that tends to be a little sweeter.

How Much Caffeine is in an Espresso Shot?: 

As mentioned above, there is 54 mg of caffeine in a one-ounce shot of espresso. Of course, this number may vary somewhat based on how you prepared the beverage, but in general, expect this much caffeine to be present in a single serving of espresso.

Espresso Based Drinks: 

There are far too many espresso-based drinks. Here is a shortlist of some of the most popular options out there: Red eye, macchiato, Americano, cappuccino, latte.

Chances are pretty good that some or all of the drinks on this list are very familiar to you. The truth of the matter is that many of the most popular coffee beverages in the world involve espresso. The beverage has legions of unknowing fans all across the globe, and that number only increases with the advent of each new and exciting drink.

Now You Know:

So, there you have it. It is not and has never been a matter of espresso vs. coffee. The two products are companions, cut from the same cloth, but intended to satisfy unique situations or tastes. The truth of the matter is that most people who love coffee will probably enjoy espresso from time to time, and of course, the reverse is true as well.

Indeed, the two beverages are often even combined in chest-bursting concoctions like the “red-eye.” For a truly satisfying experience, consider selecting your caffeinated beverage based on the situation you find yourself in. For example, coffee is an excellent way to wake up because it requires very little effort to brew and can be prepared the night before.

Espresso, on the other hand, is a little bit more effort-intensive but can serve as an elegant and enjoyable way to conclude a great meal, especially when taken with an outstanding dessert.

Ultimately though, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Drink the beverage of your choice when you want and how you want for the best possible results.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can I use regular coffee in an espresso machine? (Medium Roast)

A. Regular coffee can technically be used in an espresso machine. However, the results often leave much to be desired. Medium roast coffee tends to taste extremely sour and bitter when filtered through an espresso machine. Rather than subjecting yourself to this unpleasant experience, it is much better to use the correct equipment.

Q. Can I use espresso beans to make regular coffee?

A. Espresso beans could technically be used in a regular drip brew coffee maker, with varied results. However, there are a number of reasons a person might refrain from doing this. For one thing, espresso beans are extremely potent, and could easily overwhelm a person if consumed in the same quantities as coffee.

It’s also worth pointing out that the grind quality is much different from that of your standard coffee bean. Drip brew coffee makers are designed to accommodate the slightly coarser grinds of a regular coffee bean. Espresso, on the other hand, is typically ground to be very fine, and may not work well with a drip brew system.

The taste will also be very off, as espresso beans were never intended for the conditions provided by your average drip-brew system. In general, it is much better to brew coffee beans of any kind with the equipment that was specifically made to accommodate them.

Q. Why is espresso so much more expensive than regular coffee?

A. First, it may not be right to say that espresso is necessarily more expensive than regular coffee. As enthusiasts know, regular coffee can become very expensive, with even small quantities of beans costing hundreds of dollars (see kopi luwak).

However, it is accurate to say that entry-level espresso will cost more on average than entry-level coffee, especially when evaluated on a per ounce basis. Why the disparity?

For one thing, the manufacturing process for espresso tends to be more time consuming and labor-intensive than for regular coffee.

It’s also simply a specialty product. There is less espresso to go around, which means you may need to pay a little bit extra to get it.

Q. Is espresso stronger than coffee?

A. Espresso is definitely significantly stronger than coffee. Bear in mind that just one ounce of espresso has a caffeine content comparable to that of a full cup of coffee. Where someone to ingest a similar quantity of espresso, their heart would probably beat right out of their chest. For safety’s sake, it is best that you strive for moderation and stick to those tiny little cups common to any espresso starter kit.

Q. What does the espresso label really mean?

A. The espresso label can mean a number of different things. In general, you can assume that espresso is a very dark, pungent roast, finely ground and designed to be tightly pressed and prepared with steam. Of course, as with any product, some brands honor this description better than others, so it is never a bad idea to do some research before making a purchase.