We see you. You like your coffee as much as the next person – maybe even more. Perhaps you’ve even picked up a book about coffee once or twice, trying to learn more about this magical elixir that has transfixed so many and plays such an important role in your daily life. But when faced with the seemingly simple question, “What’s the difference between espresso and coffee?” you excitedly jump at the chance to show off your knowledge … then realize you have no idea.
Once again, JoeFroyo is your coffee query oracle, guiding you through the ins and outs of coffee minutiae.
The Old Way of Coffee-ing in America
Until the advent of (and subsequent takeover by) Starbucks, America was something of a coffee desert. Your choices were somewhere between burnt-bottom diner carafes and chemically crystallized coffee granules.
Coffee was not about pleasure. It was not for savoring. Coffee was a utilitarian tool facilitating the puritanical work ethic of the American people. You dealt with the mouth-puckering bitterness, you dealt with the stomach-dissolving acidity, you dealt with the tongue-numbing blandness. And then, along came grande half-caf soy caramel macchiatos, and the game changed forever.
Espresso Drinks Take America by Storm
Starbucks introduced the fawning American public to the pantheon of Italian espresso drinks – and their questionable American offspring (read: Frappuccino), many of which would probably send their Italian forebears into an apoplectic fit. But hey, times change right?
And for nearly two decades, espresso drinks were the ultimate caffeinated luxury, until pour-over and cold brew began edging good ol’ coffee back onto the scene.
So, what is the difference between espresso and coffee?
Both drip coffee and espresso come from either Arabica or Robusta beans. Here at JoeFroyo, we’ve made no secret of the fact that we prefer the Arabica bean for its sweeter, more complex flavor profile and aroma.
The main difference between espresso and coffee lies in the process of making the final beverages. Coffee is coarsely ground and (usually) brewed using a filter. Espresso is ground very finely, packed tightly and brewed individually, using hot water under pressure to produce a drink that is much more concentrated, in flavor and consistency.
Same Roast – Mostly
The highly concentrated flavor that comes from the espresso process is what led to one of its most distinctive features: the dark roast. When espresso was being pioneered in the late 19th century, the quality of the beans was nowhere near what it is today. To mask the imperfections in flavor and aroma that were more apparent in espresso’s concentrated format, the beans were roasted extra-long to bring out more of the toasty, sugary notes. This dark, roasty flavor is what people associate with espresso, but the vast improvements in the quality of the beans more recently have allowed roasters to experiment with every different level of roast to emphasize the distinctive flavors of each bean – which become even more heightened by the espresso process.
Concentrated Taste & Consistency
The pressure from “pulling” shots of espresso allows the water to extract as much flavor from the beans as possible in the 20–30-second brew time. The lack of a filter means that all of the natural oils in the beans – which are responsible for those coveted flavors and aromas – are transferred directly into the cup. The end result is a beverage with a thick consistency and a froth on top. This froth, called crema, is the result of those natural oils emulsifying.
One common belief is that espresso has a higher caffeine content than drip coffee. Strictly speaking, this is true: Espresso has a higher amount of caffeine per ounce than drip coffee (30–50mg/oz, compared to coffee’s 8–15mg/oz). But espresso is nearly always consumed in lower quantities than drip coffee. A 12oz Americano (two shots of espresso) has roughly 150mg of caffeine, while a 12oz drip coffee comes in at a jitter-inducing 235mg.
A good way to think about it is like shots of whiskey vs. a can of beer. Yes, whiskey has more alcohol in it, but you’re never going to be drinking a 12oz glass of whiskey. (Though, if you do, may we recommend a chaser to help soften the blow?)
Now, the next time you’re standing in line at your local coffee shop and you overhear somebody behind you asking the question, “What’s the difference between espresso and coffee,” you can school them. And the next time you find yourself in the mood for an espresso, why not grab a JoeFroyo? Our Espresso flavor plays up the dark, roasty characteristics associated with espresso, balanced with rich, creamy drinkable yogurt made with Real California Milk® for a bold, robust flavor experience.
May we recommend not pairing it with a 12oz glass of whiskey? You’re welcome.’