Difference Between Coffee and Espresso – The Core Factors

Written by | Updated On September 18, 2020

Do you know what makes dripped coffee different from espresso? If you are not a coffee snob, you will say – they are all coffee, after all. Technically, you can make coffee and espresso from the same beans. So, what is the difference between coffee and espresso? All the differences start from the very beginning, which is the preparations of the beans.

When you walk into any coffee shop, the two most common options are – Coffee and Espresso. Under the coffee section, you will generally find – hot or iced coffee or instant coffee. And for the Espresso section, you will find – cappuccino, lattes, mocha, and so on. But there goes a question in our mind – what is the difference between coffee and espresso?

Espresso is a coffee, but it is just one of the methods of brewing coffee. Espresso can be made from the same beans as coffee, but it is thicker, stronger, and higher in caffeine. 

Generally, the coffee beans designated for espresso are roasted for a longer period than the beans for drip coffee. However, you can use the espresso-roasted beans for making drip coffee. But the thing you have to be careful with the size of grounds and the right gear. And the right gear denotes the espresso machine, which delivers a coffee shot with a top layer of foam known as crema. This is the by-product of the high-pressure extraction process. It enhances the concentrated flavor and syrupy body. 

If we talk about drip-brewed coffee, you will also need to take some measures. You will need time and coarser grinds. And the coffee you will get in this method is kind of mild in flavor than a shot of espresso. 

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Coffee vs espresso

How much caffeine in a cup8 oz [70-140 mg caffeine]1.5 oz [60-80mg caffeine]
Brewing Time8 to 24 hours30 seconds
ExtractionUses gravityUses Pressure
Grind TypeMedium to largeFine
RoastDarkAs you prefer

Caffeine level between espresso or coffee

If we want to determine the caffeine levels of coffee and espresso, it will be a tricky job. 

The factors for different caffeine levels 

  • There is a misconception that darker coffee roasts have more caffeine because of their strong flavor. But the truth is for the prolonged heat of heavier roasting breaks down the caffeine molecule. So, the lighter roast or, the lighter color has more caffeine. 
  • If we talk about the grinds, the Espresso brewing method requires much finer grinds than the drip brewing method. The finer the grinds, the more caffeine the coffee gets. 
  • The brewing time also influences the level of caffeine. The longer you brew, the higher level of caffeine it will get. So, the lungos espresso will have a higher caffeine level than ristrettos. 
  • The amount of ground beans per cup of water also determines the caffeine level. Generally, for most common recipes, you will need 30 grams of coffee per 12 to 16-ounce water or 350 to 450 ml water. 

Let me share with you a thing to clear out your doubts. Decaf is not caffeine-free. Generally, a 16-ounce decaf coffee from Starbucks contains about 12.5 mg of caffeine. 

Other factors for the difference between coffee vs espresso

Difference Between Coffee and Espresso

The roasting

Generally, espresso beans are roasted until they turn into really dark. The dark roasted beans have the capacity to withstand the high pressure of the machine. And you can also bring out the full body with low acidity. 


Other brewing method takes time as they rely on the slow filtering of hot water through the grinds. Whereas the espresso machine pressurizes and shoots near-boiling water through fine grinds. And thus, you get your shot in under thirty seconds. 


There are mainly two kinds of beans grown commercially – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta has a nutty flavor when roasted and peanut-y flavor when unroasted. And the Arabica has a variety of tastes – from sweet to tangy. 


Espresso has less amount of acidity. That’s why it is a healthy choice for many whose stomach is more sensitive to acidity. 

Brewing temperature 

For the espresso, the optimum water temperature should be between 190 and 196 degrees F. And for the coffee, the optimum water temperature should be between 195°F and 205° F. 

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Some interesting facts about espresso

Espresso based shots

There are lots of beverages based on espresso –

  • Cappuccino 
  • Americano
  • Affogato
  • Breve
  • Mocha
  • Latte

Espresso types

  • Doppio
  • Ristretto
  • Macchiato.
  • Lungo
  • Corretto
  • Romano

Caffeine in coffee and espresso by brand

We are giving a list of the general ratio of caffeine per coffee brands. Remember, the amount can vary. 

Caribou coffee

  • Brewed coffee(Medium): 305 mg
  • Espresso(Medium) : 270 mg ( Caribou coffee serves larger espressos than other coffeehouses. 

Costa coffee

  • Espresso: 92 mg(single shot), 185 mg (double shot), 277 mg(triple shot). 

Caffeine in Expresso 

We are giving some estimated levels of caffeine in various espresso drinks according to the regular preparation method

  • Decaf Espresso – 8 mg(single shot), 16 mg (Double Shot)
  • Espresso – around 26 to 100 mg ( single shot), 


Is coffee stronger than espresso?

It depends on what you really mean by stronger. In terms of caffeine content, coffee is stronger than espresso. But when it comes to flavour density, espresso is stronger.
One 2 ounces espresso shot contains 80 mg of caffeine, while one 12 ounces regular coffee contains 120 milligrams. So on average, a cup of coffee has more caffeine.
But espresso is more concentrated. The beans are finer and roasted for a long time. So espresso is stronger for flavour density.

Are our espresso beans different than coffee beans?

Yes, espresso beans are highly roasted. The acidity level goes down, and the beans become oily and shiny. Thus the full flavour comes out. But as usual, coffee beans are not highly roasted as espresso. So it produces a light flavour into the coffee. The grinds are also finer than coffee beans. The roasting level creates the main difference between the beans.

Do you need special coffee for espresso?

No, you do not need special coffee for espresso. Actually, there is no difference between espresso and coffee beans. It’s just a new method. The espresso makes the coffee more shiner. Otherwise, you can make espresso from normal coffee beans just in a different brew method.

How many espresso beans in a shot?

Every 8-gram single espresso shot contains 71 Coffee Beans. It is an average calculation. But the amount of espresso beans are largely dependent on coffee beans. If the beans are roasted well, then the amount should be less. But if the beans are not, then the amount should be more. For shiny and creamy coffee, you should follow the label of coffee beans.

Is espresso stronger than French roast?

No. French roast is actually highly roasted beans, and the amount of oil is high. So full flavours come out. But espresso is a kind of finer grinds. As the French roast is roasted more than espresso, the flavours are stronger. Espresso is also strong, but the French roast is stronger.

Can you buy espresso at grocery shop?

Yes, espresso powder is available at grocery shops. You can get them from Amazon. Amazon has a lot of options, including King Arthur Flour Espresso Powder and others. Espresso powder is also available in Gourmet Food Stores and some Italian Markets.

What makes the espresso beans different?

The espresso beans are different for roasting a longer amount of time than the beans we use for drip coffee. So it has a toasted and deeper flavour. And the grinds are finer than other coffee beans.

Does espresso have more caffeine than drip coffee?

Generally, it seems that espresso has 40mg caffeine per ounce, whereas a drip coffee only has around 10 mg. But the difference lies in the serving size.
As a cup of coffee is served as 12 ounces, it contains 120 mg caffeine. But on the other side, espresso is served in a much lower quantity. There are 1 or 2 ounces espresso in one cup. Though the espresso has more caffeine in each ounce than drip coffee, a cup of coffee has more caffeine.

Which kind of espresso has the least caffeine?

An espresso from 7 grams of dark roast, coarsely ground Robusta beans has the least caffeine

Now you know!

So now you get – all espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. The difference between coffee and espresso depends on so many things! Let us know which flavor of coffee is your favorite.

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