What Is Espresso? What’s The Difference Between Espresso & Coffee?

If you want to know exactly what is espresso, and what the differences are between a shot of espresso and a regular coffee, then you better keep reading!

Espresso fun facts

Do you think you know everything there is to know about the delicious world of coffee?

Or are you a coffee lover and taster, but you would like to deepen your knowledge about the most famous beverage around?

Well in both cases it is necessary to start from the beginning, and understand the major differences between espresso and coffee.

Let’s further discuss the differences between espresso and coffee, because believe it or not, there are quite a few!

For starters, coffee is a much longer drink than espresso.

You might be thinking that coffee is just an espresso which has added water? Well, technically this is an Americano! But there’s a lot more to it than just simply that.

The type of ground coffee used in regular coffee vs a shot of espresso is different.

And so is the basic way in which it is made.

Espresso is made with high pressure and heat, and consists of only 1oz.

It’s also consumed differently, and it is actually the base of so many coffee drinks which we bet you already drink quite often.

But let’s dive deep into the world of espresso vs coffee!

What Is Espresso? The Differences Between Coffee & Espresso

Let’s break down the differences by talking about the cups used, the type of grounds, the pressure & taste, and also how to make the perfect espresso.

The Cup

What is espresso

The consistency between these two types of coffee is quite different.

We use a cup of only 1oz for espresso, as its consistency is concentrated.

Even the cup has its importance for the espresso: it must be already hot (for this reason, cups in coffee shops are on top of the coffee machine, covered by a cloth napkin) because this helps to keep the temperature of the espresso quite constant.

In addition to the porcelain cup served with a saucer, espresso coffee is very often served in small glass cups.

Whereas for coffee we will use an 8oz cup, because of its more liquid consistency.

And then, of course, we use taller glasses for drinks such as caffe latte etc.

Type Of Coffee

Coffee beans

For espresso it is advisable to use a robusta blend, which makes the espresso full bodied, however in coffee it is preferable to use arabica, which is more aromatic and light. However, you can use either arabica or robusta blends!

Also, the grain is different.

For espresso, we use a more finely ground coffee, where as filter coffee grounds are a bit more coarse.

Because with filter coffee, for example, we allow gravity to pass water through the ground coffee. And this would be impossible fi the grounds are too fine!


Regular coffee is obtained through gravity filtration.

The system is based on the principle of slowly dripping hot water through a layer of ground coffee placed in a paper filter. There is no pressure, as we just let the water naturally flow downwards.

But when making an espresso, a special machine is used that forces hot water through tightly packed ground beans at intense pressure.

This then results in the perfect espresso shot.


Many people often wonder if coffee tastes different from espresso.

Espresso definitely has a stronger flavor, thanks to the high pressure and finely ground coffee.

On top of that, most regular coffees contain a lot more water, and other things such as milk.

Another difference between them is the crema that is formed on the espresso, which we don’t have on coffee.

If you order an espresso and there isn’t a crema layer on top, then chances are high it is not a good quality shot.

How To Make An Espresso Shot

The preparation method makes the difference between coffee and espresso.

Both coffee and espresso are prepared with ground coffee and hot water. But that’s where the similarities end!

Espresso, however, is prepared by running a high-pressure jet of hot water through finely ground coffee in less than 30 seconds.

This is different from the preparation of coffee, where the hot water slowly filters through the coffee.

To prepare espresso we need a coffee machine that has the ability to actually make espresso.

The machine then shoots out near boiling water at a high pressure through the ground coffee, with the end result being a caffeine packed shot of deliciousness.

Now you do not need a fancy machine, but having a decent espresso machine makes your life a lot easier.

The Most Obvious Differences Between Espresso & Coffee

coffee vs espresso

The Actual Espresso

When you make an espresso the proper way, you’ll notice that the coffee lies under a thin layer of crema.

This is always a good indication that an espresso has been made the proper way.

Many people aren’t even ware that an espresso shot forms the base of so many coffee drinks we often order at bars and restaurants.

On top of that, there are a few ways in which you can use espresso to create unique coffee drinks.

Are There Any Benefits Of Drinking Espresso?

Believe it or not, but studies have actually found quite a few benefits that come from drinking a good quality espresso.

Coffee in general has numerous health and skin benefits, so it’s only natural that a shot of espresso also comes with its very own health benefits!

According to the Espresso Experts, espresso’s health benefits are quite big.

It can improve your long term memory and your concentration levels, it’s high in antioxidants and boosts physical activity.

In terms of more serious health, studies have found espresso to help reduce chances of getting a stroke and type 2 diabetes.

A shot of espresso also has a really low caloric count, with a single serving only containing roughly 3 calories.

In Italy (and now other parts of the world) an espresso is used as a digestive after a big meal.

It helps kickstart the digestive process, making you feel a lot better after a hearty lunch or dinner!

How Does One Drink Espresso?

Whilst we often refer to espresso as a “shot”, it should definitely not be treated that way!

Think about when we drink shots of tequila, we usually gulp it in one go.

An espresso is to be enjoyed with small sips.

If you are already a big coffee drinker and love the taste of a strong coffee, then you can drink your espresso as is.

But a lot of people like to add some sugar to it. In Italy and France, for example, most add sugar!

As we mentioned earlier, it’s a great digestive.

Especially after a big meal.

Types Of Espresso Shots

Whilst the actual espresso in its plain and simple form will always remain the same, coffee shops do offer variations.

These are awesome because not everyone likes the taste of a normal espresso shot.

Below are just a few of the most popular espresso variations which you will most definitely find at your local coffee shop.

Make sure to order a few of these on your next trip to your local coffee house!

  • Caffe Americano: An Americano is basically a shot of espresso with added hot water. It’s a great drink for someone who wants a less strong coffee beverage.
  • Doppio: As the name suggests, it’s a double shot.
  • Macchiato: Our personal favorite. It’s a shot of espresso topped up with a tiny bit of foamed milk.
  • Noisette: It’s 2 shots of espresso which is mixed with 1oz of foamed milk.
  • Caffe corretto: A normal espresso modified by the addition of some grappa or other alcoholic beverages.
  • Ristretto: It is simply obtained by letting less water flow in the cup, in order to obtain an espresso stronger in taste. The concentration of caffeine is, however, very reduced.

Espresso As A Base

Believe it or not, but espresso is actually the base of most popular coffee drinks!

The experts all say that what makes a good coffee beverage (such as a classic cappuccino) is the quality of the espresso shot, and NOT the fanciness of the latte art!

One really world famous barista once told us that badly foamed milk can be saved by a high quality shot of espresso, but that a bad shot of espresso topped with the world’s best foamed milk is still a failure.

Below are just a few more classic coffee drinks that are built with espresso as a base.

  • Cappuccino: Does this drink even require any introduction? It’s made with 2oz of espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk.
  • Flat white: Similar to a cappuccino, but with no foamed milk on top.
  • Mocha: A mocha is a delicious, sweet drink made with espresso, chocolate syrup and steamed milk.
  • Latte: The majority of this drink consists of steamed milk, with a shot of espresso added to the milk.

What You Should Do Next

Go out and enjoy an espresso somewhere!

If you aren’t really into drinking them, or you haven’t really tried them, then there’s no better time to start than right now.

In Italy a shot of espresso is usually enjoy standing at the counter at any coffee shop. It’s consumed within a few a minutes, and usually preceded by some fresh water to clear the palate.

It’s also a great drink to have after a heavy lunch or dinner.

When you start drinking espressos all over your local town or city, you’ll quickly start to realize how the quality of the shot differs depending on how good the barista and the quality of coffee is.