Coffee or Espresso?

What IS the Difference Between Espresso and Drip Coffee?

Have you ever been asked the question, by your wonderful, smiling barista, “Would you like that made with espresso or drip coffee?” How many thoughts go through your head when presented with these options? The most commonly asked follow up question is, “What’s the difference?”

Well, here we are to tell you!

Let us start out with a myth: Espresso has more caffeine than drip coffee.

I suppose this is more misleading rather that untrue in itself. You see, the espresso bean and the coffee bean are actually the same thing, but espresso typically falls on the dark roast spectrum for a bolder, smoother taste. The caffeine content of the bean does not change.

Where did this myth come from? I’m glad you asked! Espresso is created by grinding the coffee beans on a fine grind, packing them tightly together in a confined space and pushing water through at a very high pressure, the general and accepted standard being 9 bar. Because of this high pressure and higher surface area interacting so strongly, even for a short time, the extraction rate is much higher and much faster, pulling 2 oz of liquid in about 30 seconds.

And what do we get? Espresso! To put it in perspective, a long shot of espresso is approx. 2 oz and 2 shots of espresso contain approx. the same amount of caffeine as a 16 oz drip coffee (give or take a few mg, depending on the roast.)

Overview: Finely ground coffee beans + confined spaces + high pressure water = high extraction = ESPRESSO

What does this mean for you? When each is consumed by itself in its “au naturale” form, espresso will get you that kick you need just a little more quickly than slowly sipping the delectable cup of heaven that warms your hands so nicely in the morning (not that we really need anything warming us up right now, am I right?) And when either are mixed up in a lovely specialty drink for you, they will bring their own special quality to the beverage.

With a 16 oz (medium) latte (and any variety, including the blondie latte, mocha, etc.), you get 2 shots of espresso, steamed milk and any flavoring you might like.

With a 16 oz au lait, you get half a cup of coffee, steamed milk and also any flavoring you might like.

The taste of coffee will surely be more prominent in a drink made with espresso. And, yes, a latte compared to an au lait will definitely give you more caffeine. With a touch of perfectly steamed milk and the chance at a beautifully poured rosetta, or perhaps a heart, this is a great way to start your day.

But what if you want just a little caffeine and don’t like to taste the coffee in your drink? Then an au lait is a good way to go. The smooth creaminess of microfoamed milk blends so nicely with the coffee, you’ll barely know it’s there. wink

So the next time your barista asks you if you want espresso or drip coffee, which will you choose?


Josie Deel
Cups Cafe of Clinton