What is the Difference Between Espresso and Coffee?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Espresso is prepared using hot water that is shot at high temperature through coffee beans.
Espresso is prepared using hot water that is shot at high temperature through coffee beans.

Espresso is a particular way of preparing coffee. In other words, all espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. Coffee is a beverage made from the roasted seeds of the Coffea plant, or "coffee beans," but there are many ways of making the beans into a beverage.

In the United States, when one hears the word "coffee," or sees it on a restaurant menu, it is usually safe to assume that the beverage is made using the drip or percolator method. "Espresso" is typically referred to by that name in order to differentiate it from other types of coffee. In other countries, however, espresso is sometimes referred to simply as "coffee," while what those in the United States most commonly drink may be called "American coffee" or may not even be available.

Espresso is traditionally served in small, demitasse-style cups.
Espresso is traditionally served in small, demitasse-style cups.

Espresso is made by forcing a shot of hot water at high pressure through very finely ground coffee, while electric percolators and drip machines use gravity to move the water through the grounds. The high pressure method results in a brew that is more concentrated, thicker, darker, and stronger in flavor than gravity-brewed coffee, though the latter has a higher concentration of caffeine. In addition to being served on its own, espresso is used in a number of specialty coffee drinks, including lattes and mochas. It is well suited to these drinks because it is so concentrated that a relatively small amount can flavor an entire beverage.

Espresso is thicker, darker, and stronger than regular coffee.
Espresso is thicker, darker, and stronger than regular coffee.

In the United States, coffee is sometimes sold as "espresso roast," typically a dark roast with an oily surface. However, any type of coffee bean at any roast level may be used to make espresso. Many people prefer lighter roasts, and the types of beans used are largely a matter of personal taste. Conversely, espresso roast beans do not have to be used to make espresso; they are just as suitable for drip coffee and other brewing methods.

All types of coffee beans at every level of roasting can be used to make espresso.
All types of coffee beans at every level of roasting can be used to make espresso.

It is important, however, to use only "espresso grind" coffee in an espresso maker, as other grinds are too coarse. This grind is likewise too fine for many other coffee-making methods. Using a very fine grind in a drip coffeemaker, for example, will produce a bitter drink full of grounds.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

JavaGuru

@Limpopo, If you are new to making espresso, buying an espresso pod machine is a good option. Espresso pods can be used in espresso pod coffee makers as well as pod compatible espresso machines.

Using the pods is quicker and easier, since you will not have to measure the espresso out. Sometimes packing the espresso can lead to variations in flavor, if the espresso is packed too tightly or loosely. The pods are pre-packed and just right, so your shots will be consistently tasty.

Limpopo

Is it difficult to brew espresso at home? What are some things to consider when buying an espresso machine?

Daniel87

@anon5953, Unless your espresso machine has an attached coffee brewer you cannot brew coffee. You can make an Americano though, which is similar to brewed coffee but with a smoother taste. To do so just add a couple shots of espresso to hot water, you can adjust the ratio your tastes.

anon5953

Can you brew coffee with an espresso maker?

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    • Espresso is prepared using hot water that is shot at high temperature through coffee beans.
      By: Warren Goldswain
      Espresso is prepared using hot water that is shot at high temperature through coffee beans.
    • Espresso is traditionally served in small, demitasse-style cups.
      By: pressmaster
      Espresso is traditionally served in small, demitasse-style cups.
    • Espresso is thicker, darker, and stronger than regular coffee.
      By: Kesu
      Espresso is thicker, darker, and stronger than regular coffee.
    • All types of coffee beans at every level of roasting can be used to make espresso.
      By: tdelpiano
      All types of coffee beans at every level of roasting can be used to make espresso.
    • In many countries, except for the U.S., "coffee" typically refers to espresso.
      By: contrastwerkstatt
      In many countries, except for the U.S., "coffee" typically refers to espresso.