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Espresso versus coffee

After a good meal, a cup of espresso tastes great. The powerful, wake-me-up drink is said to have originated in Milan where it was initially prepared only in bars and on request. The word "espresso" means forced or pressed through.

Espresso is stronger and more intense

Compared to regular filter coffee, espresso has a stronger, more intense flavour. This is not due to the bean, because the varieties Arabica and Robusta are used for both coffee and espresso. The main difference is in the roasting. For espresso, the beans are roasted for 15 to 18 minutes, for coffee only 10 to 15 minutes. This makes espresso beans darker. In addition, they usually have a smooth, shiny surface because the fats and oils they contain come to the surface. Coffee beans are medium brown and matte. The longer roasting time means that the acids in the coffee beans are broken down, so that espresso is gentler on the stomach.

Key differences in preparation

Apart from different roasting times, the processes differ too. For espresso, the steam pressure is crucial. The steam must be forced through the compacted coffee grounds at 9 bar at least and at a temperature of 88 to 94 degrees Celsius. Since the hot steam or water is in contact with the coffee only for a short time (25 to 30 seconds), it’s important that the coffee for espresso is ground very fine. The pressure produces the velvety soft crema on the surface of your espresso. Espresso is traditionally served in small, thick-walled, preheated cups. When you’re making filter or French press coffee, the water will be hotter (typically 92 to 96 degrees Celsius) and it is not under pressure. The ground coffee can be coarser, because it is brewed for several minutes with the water.

Caffeine levels are almost identical

It is a common misconception that a cup of espresso provides you with more caffeine than a cup of coffee. In fact, they are more or less the same, mainly because the espresso cup is so much smaller. A 150 ml cup of coffee contains between 50 and 100 mg of caffeine. A 50 ml cup of espresso has between 50 and 150 mg of caffeine. If you drank 150 ml of espresso (i.e. the same volume), however, you would be consuming considerably more caffeine. 


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de