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What’s the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee

Two cups of coffee

If you’re not a big coffee drinker or you’re new to the industry, you were probably confused when you realized some drinks are made with coffee while others are made with espresso. While these two ingredients have many similarities, they have some key differences as well. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between coffee and espresso, as well as some of the tastiest drinks you can make with each.

Table of Contents

What is Espresso?
What is Coffee?
What’s the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee?
How Much Caffeine Is in Espresso Versus Coffee?
Drinks You Can Make With Espresso
Drinks You Can Make With Coffee

What is Espresso?

An espresso machine

Espresso is a type of coffee that is made by using an espresso machine. The machine forces hot water through tightly packed ground coffee beans. This results in a small amount of coffee with a strong flavor.

Espresso is made from the same beans as other forms of coffee, but its preparation method means that it has more caffeine than the same amount of coffee. It is typically served in smaller serving sizes because of this.

What is Coffee?

Someone pours a cup of coffee

Coffee is a type of brewed drink made from roasted coffee beans. The beans are ground and then placed in a filter with hot water. The hot water extracts the flavors from the beans, resulting in a cup of coffee.

Coffee has less caffeine than espresso because more water is used per serving. This dilutes the caffeine content. Additionally, the grind size for coffee is usually larger than for espresso, which also contributes to its lower caffeine content.

While espresso is always made the same way, there are many different ways to brew coffee. Cold brew, which is made by brewing coffee grounds in cold water, is one popular method. Drip brew is the method most home coffee machines employ, which involves letting hot water drip through a filter filled with coffee grounds. Other methods include pour-over, French press, and siphon brewers, and each method will give a slightly different flavor and caffeine content to your cup of Joe.

What’s the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee?

Different coffee drinks on a table

The main difference between espresso and coffee is the way they are made. Both filter water through coffee grounds, but an espresso machine makes the final product much more concentrated. Espresso is also generally stronger in flavor than coffee and thicker in texture.

While espresso is a type of coffee, coffee is not a type of espresso. So while these two ingredients are similar, they produce very different drinks.

How Much Caffeine Is in Espresso Versus Coffee?

A woman drinks coffee at a coffee shop

The amount of caffeine in espresso and coffee can vary depending on the beans used and the brewing method. Espresso generally contains more caffeine than coffee when comparing the same serving size. A shot of espresso, which is measured in a one-ounce serving, has about 63 milligrams of caffeine. One ounce of coffee only contains about 14 milligrams of caffeine.

Ounce for ounce, espresso clearly contains more caffeine. However, espresso is also served in smaller portions, so an espresso shot mixed with milk may end up having less caffeine than a cup of plain coffee of the same size. A standard eight-ounce cup of coffee, for example, contains anywhere from 95 to 130 milligrams of caffeine, which is more than a single shot of espresso.

Drinks You Can Make With Espresso

A cappuccino in a coffee cup

Espresso drinks are made by combining a shot of espresso with milk, syrup, foam, or other ingredients for flavor. Many of your favorite drinks are made with espresso. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Latte: A latte is made by combining espresso with steamed milk and a small amount of foam. It is common to add flavored syrups to this drink to give it a unique flavor, and you’ll see endless varieties at coffee shops, from lavender lattes to the famous pumpkin spice latte.
  • Cappuccino: Very similar to a latte, a cappuccino is also made with espresso, steamed milk, and foam. However, this drink differs by combining all three ingredients in equal parts. The result is a stronger espresso flavor and denser feel.
  • Macchiato: A macchiato has an even stronger flavor than a cappuccino, as it’s made with only a shot of espresso and a dash of foamed milk. Because the coffee flavor is so pronounced, macchiatos taste best when made from high-quality coffee.

Drinks You Can Make With Coffee

A glass of iced coffee

Coffee drinks are made with coffee and do not contain a shot of espresso. Because coffee has a less intense flavor than espresso, there is usually more coffee in these drinks than there is espresso in espresso drinks. Some of the most popular coffee drinks include:

  • Iced Coffee: Iced coffee is made by combining several ounces of coffee with ice and sometimes milk. This is a very popular drink in the United States, especially when it’s hot outside. Flavored syrups and sweeteners are often added for flavor.
  • Cafe Au Lait: This is a French drink made from coffee brewed in a French press and combined with the same amount of warm milk. It’s a simple drink that has a strong flavor. Although sweeteners can be added, you’ll only be served coffee and milk when you order one in France.
  • Double Double: A Canadian classic, this drink refers to a cup of coffee made with two creams and two sugars. This usually amounts to about two teaspoons each of cream and sugar. The final product is apparently a drink that Canadians “always have time for.”

You’ve probably had both coffee and espresso before, but do you know the difference between the two? Here’s why it’s important, plus some tasty coffee drinks to try featuring each ingredient.

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