Espresso vs. Drip Coffee: 10 Important Distinctions

Espresso is a quick, high-pressured brew method done by an espresso machine. And drip coffee is a straightforward brew method of pouring hot water over the coffee grounds.

Whether you make your coffee at home or enjoy it at your favorite café, sometimes we don’t take the time to really appreciate our beloved black cup of bitter drink, as you can get an endless array of combinations and types of coffee these days.

All these mixes and matches seem to really take away our interest in the drinks as well as our appreciation of their brewing methods.

As an example, consider the modest drip coffee and the exquisite espresso. Both are popular coffee brands around the world. Let’s take a dive into their differences.


What’s An Espresso?

Before anything, let’s highlight the fact that espresso is not any sort of coffee bean.

It’s just a special brewing method that originated in Turin, Italy.

So, when you see a coffee bag labeled as “espresso coffee” or “espresso roast”—these are put there by the roasters. It means that these roasted coffee beans are ideal for making espresso, but you can use them in other brewing styles as well.

Now, espresso is not a roasting style either. Most “espresso roasts” are dark roasted beans as they’re more porous. It makes the extraction easier for the espresso machines.

Espresso is a concentrated brewed coffee. It uses high pressure to run the hot water through finely-ground coffee in half a minute.

Espresso uses very little water (1–2 oz.), which makes it a thicker coffee topped with crema.


What’s A Drip Coffee?

Drip coffee is a much more straightforward brew method.

Drip coffee mixes coffee and hot water together, and it’s not a high-pressure brewing system. The hot water is poured over the coarse coffee grounds over a filter. The coffee slowly seeps through the grounds and the filter.

Drip coffee is a pretty strong brew, but not as strong as espresso.

With the proper brewing technique, drip coffee offers very flavorful cups of coffee.


Espresso vs. Drip Coffee

DifferencesEspressoDrip
Grind SizeFineMedium Coarse
Roast LevelDarkMedium
FlavorsIntense, Chocolatey, & CreamyBold, Floral, & Fruity
TasteChocolatey, Sweet, & CitrusyMellow, Simplistic, & Aromatic
Brewing EquipmentComplexSimple
Brew DifficultyHardEasy
Brew Time20 – 30 seconds5 minutes
Standard Serving Size1 – 2 oz.8 – 12 oz.
Caffeine150 mg per 2 oz.140 mg per 8 oz.

Grind Size

The key difference between drip and espresso is their grind sizes. Espresso requires a finer ground bean consistency. It helps to firmly pack the grounds in the portafilter.

Drip coffee, however, needs a medium-coarse grind. A finer grind size over-extracts a drip brew. If the grind is medium-coarse, the water will sip through the grind with all the essential oils and goodies from the grounds.

Roast Type

Espresso is intended to be intense, chocolatey, and less acidic. Thus, dark roasted beans serve as an ideal choice for it. Dark roasted beans are also lightweight, and that’s why espresso grounds produce a concentrated shot from the portafilter.

Drip coffee, on the other hand, encourages a medium roast level. But what’s important is that you can use any roast level for drip brew as long as you grind the beans in a medium-coarse setting.

Flavors and Texture

When it comes to espresso, its pressurized brewing process turns a typical shot of coffee into a very concentrated, richer, and flavorful drink. Examples of espresso’s flavors and texture include sweet notes of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, cocoa, and sometimes even tropical fruit. Good espresso also offers a creamy mouthfeel.

In contrast, drip coffee typically features acidity, as you’re going to dilute the brew with water. The water balances the bitterness. Depending on your bean origin and quality, drip coffee can bring floral and fruity flavors with a mellower mouthfeel. 

Taste

Espresso has an array of palate profiles since it depends on the bean origins and soil types. On average, espresso has a dark chocolatey taste combined with a citrusy punch of fruit. It’s more concentrated than drip coffee and has a warm honey color.

Drip coffee is a clean-bodied brew style. It has a rounder, more simplistic palate profile. It’s often appreciated due to its mellow taste and lower intensity. It’s also a less concentrated drink than espresso.

Brew Length

Brewing espresso is a much faster process than brewing drip coffee.

Espresso takes about 20–30 seconds to extract with an espresso machine. Thanks to the combination of high-pressure and high water temperature, the extraction is ultra-quick for an espresso.

Drip coffee requires the coffee to bloom first on the filter and then a slow period of dripping. That’s why the drip method needs around 5 minutes to complete the extraction.

Brewing Equipment

Making espresso at home requires not only an espresso machine but also other micro-tools for the machine to work properly. Sometimes these micro-tools come with the machines, and sometimes they don’t. Plus, espresso is best when it’s made with freshly ground quality beans.

On the other hand, for a cup of drip coffee, you’ll just need a coffee pot, a filter, and some coffee grounds.

Ease of Use

Drip coffee machines are cheaper and simpler to use than espresso machines. Pouring water, setting up a filter, and adding coffee grounds – 3 easy steps, and you’re done with it.

Making a cup of espresso, on the other hand, needs several extensive steps throughout. Grinding, tamping, and locking the portafilter seem easy, but honestly, they’re not. You’ll need more practice to master the method.

Bitterness

In espresso, bitter compounds are in a much higher concentration than in drip coffee.

Even though the best shot of espresso is going to be balanced across the board, the espresso will always carry a much higher concentration of bitterness and acids. But a drip coffee, because of its lower coffee concentrations, will be less bitter and thus easier to balance.

Caffeine Content

A typical cup of drip coffee is brewed with 20–25 grams of coffee.

And a typical espresso requires 13–20 grams of coffee.

It seems like drip coffee has more than espresso, right? But it’s not that simple.

Brewed coffee is only more caffeinated when you are comparing a full cup of it to a tiny (2 oz.) amount of espresso.

Espresso beans are light, and thus require a higher concentration of grounds for the same amount of coffee. Plus, it uses dark roasted beans, which are naturally high in caffeine, at least compared to medium-coarse ground beans.

That’s why a single shot (1 oz.) of espresso has a caffeine content of 75 mg. On the other hand, a cup (8 oz.) of drip coffee offers around 75–140 mg of caffeine.

Serving Size

Espresso is traditionally served hot and in small quantities. A traditional cup of espresso holds 2 oz. of espresso.

On the other hand, drip coffee is served in a much larger quantity than regular espresso. The serving size ranges from 8 oz. to 12 oz. for drip coffee.

Health Benefits

Despite being a mellower drink, drip coffee has some crucial health benefits. As we’ve already mentioned, the drip method uses a paper filter. This paper filter can filter out terpenes and cafestol. These compounds contribute to higher cholesterol levels. That’s why the drip method is recommended for those who want to lower their cholesterol levels.

Espresso has a long list of benefits as well! It helps to lose weight, fights type-2 diabetes, increases concentration, improves digestion, and strengthens our brains’ long-term memory retention.


Why Espresso Crema Is So Important?

Crema is an aromatic, flavorful, and reddish-brown froth that rests on top of an espresso shot. It’s made with air bubbles and coffee’s soluble oils. Also known as the “Guinness effect”, as it mimics the creamy head of the popular Irish drink.

Crema is so important for espresso because it works as an indicator.

Crema contributes to a fuller flavor and a longer aftertaste in espresso.

A perfect espresso shot will have a crema that’s neither too thick nor too thin. It’ll also linger for about 2 minutes. Otherwise, your shot was not perfect.

Too much crema means you have less espresso in the cup. Ideally, crema should be one-tenth of the coffee in a cup.

And finally, only freshly roasted beans can create more crema in your espresso.

So, now you can understand how crema plays an important role as a quality indicator for a cup of espresso.


Popular Uses Of Espresso And Drip Coffee

You can make cold brew, iced coffee, various cocktails, and tasty dessert recipes with your drip coffee.

Espresso is wildly versatile as other crowd-favorite drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos, and espresso tonics are all made from regular shots of espresso. You can also make the famous Italian dessert, Tiramisu, with espresso shots.


Conclusion

Espresso and drip coffee’s biggest differences lie in caffeine content and their own brew methods. The methods have a big influence on the final flavor profile of these beverages.

Espresso is a more concentrated drink with more acidity and bitterness. Making espresso also requires a lot of dedication, but it’s worth it!

Drip coffee is lighter, mellower, and more aromatic. It’s easy to make and learn.

Both drinks are used as the basis of other popular drinks and desserts as well.

Now go ace these drinks at home and level up your coffee mastery!!!


FAQs

Is Drip Coffee Better Than Espresso?

In terms of taste and enjoyment, espresso is better. But in terms of ease of use and cost management, drip does better. Moreover, they both have similar health benefits.

What Is The Difference Between Espresso And Drip Coffee Beans?

Espresso beans are mostly dark-roasted, and drip coffee beans are generally medium-roasted beans.

Can I Brew Espresso With A Regular Coffee Machines?

Yes, but very poor in quality. You’ll end up with espresso-like coffee instead of actual espresso.

Is It Ok To Drink Espresso Every Day?

If you can keep it to 3 cups or 6 shots of espresso per day, then it’s absolutely okay.

Is Espresso Just Strong Coffee?

Yes, espresso is a coffee brewing method that yields a strong cup of coffee.

How Much Stronger Is Espresso Than Drip Coffee?

Espresso is 6–8 times stronger than drip coffee, depending on what recipe and preparation method you follow.

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