Espresso Versus Coffee

Here is how espresso compares to regular coffee in terms of ingredients, preparation method, caffeine content, and flavor differences. If you think espresso has more caffeine than regular coffee and that it requires a specific type of coffee bean and roast level, the information in this article may surprise you.


Espresso is made by forcing a small amount of very hot water under high pressure through finely ground coffee beans for about half a minute. The result is a small shot of dark brown, intensely flavored, thick liquid with a light brown foam on top known as crèma. Espresso can be brewed using an espresso machine, or a stovepot espresso pot known as a Moka pot.

Compared to regular coffee, espresso is not only thicker, but also has a higher concentration of suspended solids. Furthermore, the pressurization process extracts more oils, aromatics, and flavor than any other coffee brewing method.

Espresso can be imbibed straight up without mixing or diluting it. Espresso afficionados love its rich, deep, pungent taste. It is also used as the base for other drinks, such as americanos, cappuccino, lattes, macchiato, and mochas.


Compared to espresso, regular coffee is brewed at a lower temperature for a longer time using more water and a coarser grind. Coffee brewing methods include dripping hot water through grains, percolation, French press immersion, or simply adding grains directly to a pot of water and boiling.

Coffee is thinner bodied and lighter in color than espresso. Most coffee drinkers would also say it tastes less bitter than espresso. Developing a taste for espresso can be challenging for regular coffee drinkers because the flavors in espresso are so much more concentrated.

Caffeine Content

Espresso has more caffeine - by volume - than coffee and most other beverages, but if typical serving sizes are taken into account, a 1 ounce shot of espresso has about one third the caffeine of an 8 ounce cup of drip brewed coffee. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an 8-oz. generic brewed coffee averages 133 mg of caffeine while a 1 ounce shot of espresso averages 40 mg of caffeine.

The actual caffeine content in a given cup of coffee depends on the coffee/water ratio, brewing method, brewing time, grinding method and bean type. For example, Robusta beans contain about twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans.

Making Espresso

To make quality espresso, it is important to use the right water temperature (190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and the right grind. A too-fine grind can produce burnt coffee and extract unpleasantly bitter and woody flavors.

A common misconception of espresso is that it is made using a very dark roast of a particular type of coffee bean. The truth is that any bean, bean blend, or roasting level can be used to produce authentic espresso. In the Eastern US, a light roast is generally preferred but on the West Coast, a dark or French roast is often used.

Health Benefits

The majority of recent scientific studies point to a number of positive health benefits associated with both coffee and espresso. These include enhanced mental alertness as well as lowered risk of colorectal and liver cancers, asthma, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.