What is Espresso?

Here at Amora, we’ll admit that we can sometimes get caught up in our own world. Surrounded by coffee lovers at all times, we tend to simply assume that everyone else around us is just as excited about coffee as we are! In reality, however, not everyone is as passionate about coffee as we tend to think they are, which can make connecting with new customers challenging. 

In an effort to bridge that gap and to try and make our section of the coffee world more inclusive, we tried to brainstorm some of the more common questions people may have about coffee. Instead of looking at coffee through the eyes of a regular coffee-drinker, we took the stance of a complete newbie! No question was off-limits, and after some time, we landed on one particular coffee “area” to focus on:

What is the difference between coffee and espresso?

As far as coffee terminology goes, espresso is one of the most commonly seen and heard terms, even if people aren’t sure what it is. People tend to assume that espresso and coffee are 100% interchangeable instead of being two different concepts. There’s probably a few seasoned coffee drinkers that aren’t sure of the difference themselves! 

This article will answer some of the most common espresso questions, such as: 

  • Is espresso coffee?
  • Are espresso beans different from coffee beans?
  • What is an espresso shot?

And a few others just for good measure! We know that not everyone reading this article will go out and become the coffee lovers that we are, but as long as more people can learn and engage with coffee, our job is done! 

So, Is Espresso Coffee?

Just so we’re all on the same page, yes, espresso is coffee! It’s sort of like the square and rectangle rule that you might remember from elementary school math class. Espresso is always coffee, but coffee isn’t always espresso. We’ll get into some more nuanced detail in a moment, but for starters, this is a good fact to know. 

Espresso is simply a different method of preparing your coffee, no more, no less. You can (in theory) use the exact same bag of coffee beans to produce a shot of espresso as you would an average cup of drip coffee. The magic is all in the tools, know-how, and preparation of the coffee itself. 

What Makes Them Different?

Three main factors differentiate a “regular” coffee from espresso.

  • Grind Size - Before you drink any type of coffee, you must grind the coffee beans into a sort of powder. While you can technically use any kind of roasted coffee bean, there are specifically roasted “espresso beans” that most people tend to use (We have our own Espresso Blend that you can try for yourself). These beans are roasted for a longer period of time than most beans, giving them a very dark roast; great for making espresso! 

    For some of the simpler coffee brewing methods, like Cowboy Coffee, the coffee should be coarsely ground. In contrast, the more complex and intricate methods (like espresso) require extremely fine coffee grounds. To make an espresso, your coffee grounds should resemble fine sand. 
  • Pressure - Next, there is the brewing of the coffee itself. Typically, coffee is brewed by combining the ground-up coffee with hot water, which extracts the caffeine and flavor from the beans. Most methods of coffee brewing simply steep the grounds in the water over time before filtering out the grounds, leaving you with coffee. Espresso, however, is very different! 

    Once you’ve ground your coffee finely, you then compress all of the grounds, forming what’s called an espresso “puck.” To make espresso, you must shoot high-pressure (hot) water through the puck. The combination of the pressure and the tightly packed coffee grounds create the signature look and taste of an espresso. 
  • Size - The third main difference between regular coffee and espresso is the amount of liquid in each. Regular coffee is usually around 8 to 16 ounces of liquid, though, in the end, the serving size depends on where your coffee is coming from. Meanwhile, espresso comes in the form of 1 to 1.5-ounce shots, which can either be served on their own or mixed with other ingredients to make various coffee drinks.

This size difference also helps clear up one of the most common coffee debates you might hear. In the coffee world, it’s common to hear both;

“Espresso is more caffeinated than regular coffee.”

And

“A cup of coffee has more caffeine than espresso!”

Confusing, right? The thing is, both statements can be correct, but not enough people understand why. Espresso is more caffeinated than regular coffee, based on caffeine per ounce, while a regular cup of coffee (eight ounces) does have more caffeine than a shot of espresso by itself.
One ounce of espresso equals about 65 grams of caffeine, while a regular eight-ounce cup of coffee is roughly 100 grams of caffeine. To sum up the debate in a single sentence, espresso has a higher concentration of caffeine than regular coffee. Still, a single shot of espresso, on its own, has less caffeine than regularly brewed coffee. 

How Do You Use An Espresso Shot?

Serving size is often the easiest way to determine whether a coffee drink is an espresso or not. As we mentioned, the espresso brewing method results in a shot, named due to its similarity in size to a shot of alcohol. Typically, you will have a single shot or double shot of espresso, but the real caffeine fans might ask for even more. 

So, why do the shots matter? 

Well, for one thing, you can simply drink the shot on its own! In fact, this is the traditional way to drink an espresso, according to most Europeans. Add a small glass of sparkling water on the side (to cleanse your palette), and you have the ideal European coffee shop experience.

If you want a little more volume in your coffee drink but still want the jolt of espresso, there are plenty of options for you to choose from. If you order a latte, you’re ordering a shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk, and if you order a cappuccino, that’s just an espresso shot with frothed milk! Different simple syrups can add flavors to these drinks (Vanilla latte, caramel cappuccino, etc.), but for the most part, milk and espresso will make you the majority of coffee shop drinks. 

Coffee and Tea For Everyone!

Even if you don’t become an avid coffee drinker after reading this article, we hope you learned something more about the coffee world! Here at Amora, we love all things coffee (and tea!), and we’re trying to share that love with as many people as possible. Through our coffee subscription service, you can get top-quality coffee and tea shipped directly to your door, no middle man required. 

Check out our collections online, or learn more about all things coffee at our blog


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