Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, with millions of people drinking it every day. But while coffee gets a lot of attention, its close cousin espresso is rarely discussed, and yet the two each boast their own unique characteristics. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between espresso and coffee, and help you understand what sets them apart.

What Is Espresso?  

Espresso is a type of coffee made by forcing compressed hot water through finely ground coffee beans. It is generally thicker and more highly concentrated than drip coffee or French press, and it has a distinctive flavor and aroma. The process for making espresso is quite complicated and requires a wide range of specialized equipment, and often times a skilled barista.

What Is Coffee?  

Coffee refers to any type of brewed beverage made from ground coffee beans that have been steeped in hot water. This includes specialty coffees like cappuccinos, Frappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and more. Coffee can be served hot or cold, and it can be flavored with various syrups, creamers, and other ingredients.

Coffee vs. Espresso: The Differences  

While espresso and coffee are both made using ground beans, there are some key differences that set them apart. Here’s a look at some of the key contrasts between espresso and coffee:

Ingredients & Taste

Espresso is made from finely ground coffee beans, whereas coffee is made from more coarsely ground beans. This results in espresso having a more intense flavor and aroma due to the finer grind and higher concentration of brewed liquid. As such, espresso is often seen as having a more robust and complex flavor than regular coffee.


The process for making espresso is more complex and specialized than for coffee. The espresso brewing process requires greater precision and control over the variables that affect the flavor, such as the type of coffee beans, the grind size, the amount of pressure used to force hot water through the grinds, and more.

Caffeine Content

Espresso has a higher caffeine content than regular coffee. A single shot of espresso has 80 mg of caffeine, while a cup of coffee generally has anywhere between 70-140 mg. Though espresso is higher in caffeine, it is served in smaller portions than coffee, so the overall amount consumed will often times be less.


Espresso and coffee can both be consumed on their own, but they are also used to create a wide range of other drinks. Espresso is a key ingredient in drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, whereas coffee is used for cold brews, iced coffees, drips, and other types of beverages.

How to Choose Between Espresso and Coffee  

Whether you choose espresso or coffee depends on a few factors, such as your personal preference in taste, the brewing process and ingredients, and your desired caffeine intake. Here’s a brief guide to help you decide which one to choose:

Taste Preference

If you like a bold, rich and complex flavor, espresso is the way to go. But if you want something smoother or weaker, then coffee is likely to be a better choice.

Brewing Process

If you have the skills and equipment to pull off the espresso brewing process, it is worth trying. But if you’re a beginner or don’t have access to the right tools, coffee is more suitable.

Caffeine Content

If you’re looking for a stronger kick of caffeine, then espresso is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a lighter pick-me-up, coffee is the wiser choice.

Espresso and coffee may be similar in many ways, but they are still distinct in several key areas. From the ingredients and taste to the brewing process and caffeine content, espresso and coffee have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. The best way to choose between them is to consider your own preferences, budget, and skill level. With these tips in mind, you can easily make an informed decision about which one to enjoy.