Difference between Coffee and Espresso

Sometimes it’s the most common things we never question. While every bean lover prefers his coffee or espresso drink according to his preference, many are not aware, of the differences between the coffee specialities. We’ll explain the differences between the drinks and expand your basic coffee knowledge.

Coffee beans vs. Espresso beans: The main difference

There is a wide-spread rumour that the varying tastes of coffee and espresso are due to the use of different beans. Some claim that an espresso is made from the Robusta bean, while a coffee is made from the Arabica bean. In fact, the main difference between coffee beans and espresso beans is not the bean itself, but the roasting of the beans, as both types of coffee specialities can be based on both types of beans. A coffee bean is roasted for an average of 10 minutes. An espresso bean, on the other hand, spends an average of 18 minutes in the coffee roaster. Through the longer roasting process, the bean not only loses significantly more water, it also becomes visibly darker. Light roasted coffee is generally milder in taste, dark roasted coffee beans, on the other hand, taste noticeably more intense. The fact that espresso has a stronger taste than coffee is also due to the fact that the amount of powdered coffee is distributed in less water than with a standard coffee.  As a result, the powdered coffee is extracted in a more concentrated way.

Perhaps you have already noticed that espresso beans often have a slight shine. This shine is caused by the ethereal oils, which are released from the bean after a longer roasting period. These oils define the taste of the drink and provide a nice crema.

Does espresso contain more caffeine than coffee?

Furthermore, it has been said that espresso contains more caffeine than coffee. We would like to take a closer look at this rumour as well. The caffeine concentration of a coffee drink is influenced by the following factors:

  • The length of roasting: The longer a bean is roasted, the lower its caffeine concentration. As a result, the “espresso version” of a bean contains less caffeine than the “coffee version”.
  • The grinding fineness: The finer the grinding degree, the higher the caffeine content (1). A finer grinding degree is usually selected for an espresso, which releases the caffeine more quickly and thus appears more concentrated than with a cup of coffee.
  • The length and temperature of the brewing process: As the coffee draws longer and temperatures increase, the caffeine content in the drink increases. An espresso is brewed for about 25-35 seconds at a temperature between 88 and 94 degrees Celsius. A coffee, on the other hand, brews much longer between 92 and 96 degrees Celsius.
  • The type of bean: An Arabica bean contains about 1.1-1.7% caffeine, a Robusta bean approximately between 2.0 and 4.5%. Depending on the blend, the caffeine concentration per portion varies significantly.

Due to the various factors that influence the caffeine content of a cup of coffee or espresso, it is nearly impossible to determine an average number. During a study in 2014, scientists throughout Europe examined the caffeine concentration of more than 100 different Espressi and Cappuccini and determined values ranging from 48 to 317mg of caffeine per serving (25mg). This is why it is recommended not to measure the caffeine concentration of a coffee drink in cups (2). However, in order to be able to give a cautious reference value, we will refer to a statement made by the German Coffee Association. It states that a portion of coffee (150ml) contains 50-100mg of caffeine, the caffeine concentration of an espresso (50ml) varies between 50 and 150mg (3). In conclusion, the caffeine concentration of an espresso is not higher than of a cup of coffee, but much more concentrated.

So are you – Team Coffee or Team Espresso?