What’s the Difference Between Coffee and a Shot of Espresso?

What’s the Difference Between Coffee and a Shot of Espresso?

Americans drink a lot of coffee. Whether it’s a classic roast, pumpkin spice latte, or cold brew, there’s a coffee beverage option for everyone. There’s a reason there are over 60,000 coffee shops in the United States. We love our coffee, and although many of us prefer to make it at home, we can’t help but want the energy and the flavors of a local coffee shop. While making classic drip coffee at home only requires a simple coffee maker or even a single-serve machine, it’s harder to create blended coffee drinks and espresso at home. Since millennials, in particular, prefer espresso-based drinks and gourmet coffee 70% of the time, it’s important to understand what is espresso, and how does it differ from regular coffee? 

 espresso drink

What is Espresso? 

Espresso is more concentrated than regular drip or pour-over coffee. Espresso is made with finely ground, preferably high-quality coffee beans. An espresso machine forces pressurized hot water through the beans to create a flavorful beverage. The bold flavor and higher caffeine content make espresso drinks popular among coffee enthusiasts, and the delicious taste of espresso-based drinks makes them popular among more casual coffee drinkers.

Unlike regular coffee, which is often served by the cup, espresso coffee is served by the shot. A shot of espresso, usually 60 ml or one ounce, contains an average of around 60 mg of caffeine. By contrast, a standard 8-ounce cup of coffee contains around 90 mg of caffeine. Comparing one shot of espresso to one ounce of coffee, the espresso has five times as much caffeine. Espresso shots serve as the base for a variety of popular coffee beverages, but can usually be added to any coffee drink for an extra boost. Often times you’ll see double shots of espresso on a menu on in a drink, providing even more flavor and energy. 

Coffee V. Espresso: Similarities and Differences 

The main similarity between standard coffee and a shot of espresso is that both are made from a combination of coffee beans and water. Both have similar flavors, both contain caffeine, and both are available at your favorite local coffee shop. Similar to coffee, espresso can be served in a variety of forms and in a variety of different drinks, both hot and iced. 

The main difference between a cup of coffee and a shot of espresso is how concentrated the drink is. There is a reason espresso is served by the shot and coffee by the cup. Espresso is a much more concentrated beverage, with much higher caffeine content. This difference is based on how the beans are ground, and how the beverage is brewed. Making espresso relies on hot water and pressure, whereas coffee can be brewed with any temperature of water, without any pressure. While both beverages start with the same coffee beans, the ones used for espresso are roasted differently, creating distinct espresso beans. 

One visual difference between coffee and espresso is the presence of crema. Crema is the froth on top of a fresh shot of espresso, formed when air bubbles combine with fine-ground coffee's soluble oils. Crema helps give espresso coffee a fuller flavor, and even a lasting aftertaste that standard coffee lacks. Know that we know “what is espresso,” we can talk about our favorite espresso-based drinks. 

espresso drink

Beverages with Espresso Shots

While you can add a shot of espresso to really any coffee drink, espresso is the key ingredient in many popular beverages. Some of the basic espresso drinks include:

  • Cappuccinos are made with an espresso shot topped with equal parts steamed milk and milk foam, resulting in a creamy coffee drink.
  • Lattes combine espresso with a larger amount of steamed milk, resulting in a milder coffee flavor with a creamy texture. Lattes are similar to cappuccinos but have some distinct characteristics. 
  • Macchiatos are an espresso shot plus a small amount of milk or milk foam
  • Americanos are made by adding hot water (or cold water for an iced americano) to a shot (or two) of espresso. This results in a diluted espresso coffee, and a more similar strength to a standard cup of drip or pour-over coffee. 

Similar to other coffee drinks, espresso drinks can generally be served hot or iced, making them enjoyable when it’s freezing cold or grossly hot outside. Some of our favorites include a caramel macchiato, and our signature command cup, which is drip coffee with a double shot of espresso. 

home espresso

Making Espresso at Home 

If you want the extra taste of espresso, but are a fan of brewing your coffee at home, there are ways to create your own espresso at home. The easiest is to invest in an espresso machine, which can range from the more budget-friendly under $100 for something basic, or over $1000 for something with all the fancy features. To create the perfect at-home espresso set up you’ll also need a bean grinder, and to select high-quality beans.  

There are DIY ways to make your own espresso, or at least a higher concentrated version of coffee with less expensive equipment, including a French press method, stovetop method, and AeroPress method. These may not result in the best shot of espresso, but it’ll be close. The absolute easiest option is to stock up on premade espresso shots The other option is to rely on pre-made espresso that can add that extra caffeine boost to any drink, or premade espresso drinks you can use to make your own espresso coffee drinks. 

Of course, we might be biased when we suggest the very best option is simply to visit Command Coffee and order your double-shot iced vanilla latte from one of our talented and friendly baristas. It’s a good reason to get out of the house and enjoy all that our coffee shop has to offer. You can always pick up some of our coffee to take home for when you just want a simple drip coffee, and keep coming back when you need that espresso. 

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