An espresso machine next to a coffee maker in different kitchens

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ESPRESSO AND COFFEE

Sipping a truly exceptional cup of coffee or espresso drink can turn any moment into one worth savoring. You know some days a vanilla almond latte will hit the spot, while other mornings call for a strong cup of black coffee. But do you know the differences between coffee and espresso, how they’re brewed and what kinds of drinks you can make with them? Learn more about espresso vs. coffee for answers to these questions and more.

Coffee being poured from a carafe into a mug

WHAT IS COFFEE? 

When you think “coffee,” you’re probably imagining a full mug of hot, dark, roasty liquid brewed with an auto-drip coffee machine or hand-crafted with a pour over kettle or French press. Coffee is a much-loved staple in many American kitchens and an enjoyable part of most morning routines. Coffee is usually served 6-8 oz. at a time and is brewed using a grounds to water ratio of roughly 1:18, depending on how strong you like it. Dark, medium or light roasted coffee beans are ground semi-coarse for this type of brew that results in a lighter, brighter drink.

KitchenAid® Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine brewing espresso on counter

WHAT IS ESPRESSO?

Espresso is a rich, concentrated form of coffee with a full-bodied, bold flavor. The espresso brewing method is all about creating pressure to quickly extract intense flavors for a “shot” of espresso with a luxurious crema (or dense foam) on top. Espresso calls for finely-ground, dark-roast coffee packed tightly into a “puck” through which hot water is pumped at high pressure. Espresso typically uses a water to coffee ratio of 1:2 and is brewed in 1-2 oz. servings.

WHAT MAKES ESPRESSO DIFFERENT FROM COFFEE?

Espresso is thicker and more intense than coffee because of the lower grounds to water ratio, the finer grind, and the pressurized brewing method. Regular coffee uses a coarser grind, more water and gravity to extract the final brew. 

Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between espresso and coffee:

 

ESPRESSO

COFFEE

ROAST Dark Dark, Medium, Light
GRIND SIZE Very fine Medium-coarse
EXTRACTION Pressurized water Gravity/Filter
CREMA Yes No
SERVING SIZE 1–2 oz. 6–8 oz.
TIME TO BREW 20-30 seconds 6-12 minutes

ESPRESSO VS. COFFEE GRIND-SIZE: WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Getting the right grind size for your brewing method is an important factor for a delicious cup of coffee or shot of espresso. In espresso, the smaller size of the grounds results in more surface area exposed to the water and is ideal for a fast extraction. 

Conversely, use a larger grind for coffee to avoid over-extraction. Because water is in contact with the grounds longer when brewing coffee, the reduced surface area of a larger grind allows just the right amount of flavor to be pulled from your grounds. 

Make sure to use a grinder with settings that allow you to adjust from fine to coarse. The KitchenAid® Burr Grinder features over 70 precise settings for a range of brewing methods and allows you to grind directly into the portafilter of your espresso machine. Learn more about coffee grinders to find the right one for your coffee and espresso.

Woman making espresso using a red KitchenAid® espresso machine

HOW TO MAKE ESPRESSO 

Because making espresso requires a delicate balance of pressure, heat and timing, an espresso machine that helps keep things consistent is a common way to prepare it. Semi-automatic espresso machines are a popular choice for making espresso at home because they offer a good mix of manual and automatic processes. Just add finely ground coffee to a portafilter, tamp or compress the grounds, then connect it to the machine and press a few buttons.

Learning how to use a semi-automatic espresso machine doesn’t require expertise, even if you are just starting to experiment with different kinds of coffee. KitchenAid® semi-automatic espresso machines help you easily make authentic-tasting espresso at home. Features like a flat portafilter for level tamping and a simple dosage selector help you enjoy espressos, lattes and cappuccinos just the way you like. These are the first residential espresso machines that feature dual, smart temperature sensors that maintain the perfect brewing temperature shot after shot. The fast-heating thermocoil technology heats water up to the ideal brewing temperature in less than 45 seconds. And, the low pressure pre-infusion and 15-bar Italian pump work together to make a deliciously rich, thick crema.

Collage of different kinds of espresso drinks
Collage of different kinds of espresso drinks
Collage of different kinds of espresso drinks
Collage of different kinds of espresso drinks

TYPES OF DRINKS YOU CAN MAKE WITH ESPRESSO

The bold flavor of espresso can be enjoyed on its own or used to craft café favorites at home. Use a milk frother or steam wand to create silky aerated milk and foam for classic cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites and more. Blend espresso with ice cream for a decadent and refreshing frappé or mix into baked goods like chocolate espresso torte. Espresso can also be used in marinades and pairs especially well with steak, pork or even fried plantains. 

Because espresso is concentrated, its flavors carry through the addition of milk, sweeteners or other ingredients. Espresso gives you the freedom to experiment with adding different ingredients without losing the coffee flavor. Try adding coconut cream for a subtle tropical twist or scenting espresso with orange peel. There are no limits to the flavor combinations you can create in your own kitchen for unique espresso drinks and recipes.

Person pouring coffee grounds into a KitchenAid® 12-Cup Coffee Maker

HOW TO MAKE COFFEE

When it comes to brewing a comforting cup of fresh, hot coffee, there are many ways to get there, but drip methods might be the most popular. Add medium-ground coffee to a filter placed over a container (a mug or carafe), then slowly pour hot water over the grounds using various pouring techniques. If you have an auto-drip machine, just add grounds and water then make your selections and the machine will take care of the rest.

Finding the perfect ratio of water to coffee for your taste might be the trickiest part of the process. If you want to skip the scale and measuring scoops, some auto-drip coffee makers include dosage guides to make it easier. KitchenAid® drip coffee makers feature a dosage ladder on the filter and a chart on the water tank for consistently flavorful results every time. A Spiral Showerhead evenly saturates coffee grounds for optimal extraction and a Variable Brew Strength Selector allows you to choose between regular and bold strengths.

Collage of different kinds of coffee drinks
Collage of different kinds of coffee drinks
Collage of different kinds of coffee drinks
Collage of different kinds of coffee drinks
Collage of different kinds of coffee drinks

TYPES OF DRINKS YOU CAN MAKE WITH COFFEE

Creative coffee recipes aren’t just for espresso—you can make a whole range of caffeinated delights using brewed coffee and just a few ingredients. A Cafe Au Lait is a simple yet satisfying way to cut strong coffee with steamed milk. Try adding cinnamon sticks or your favorite syrups for extra flavor. An Irish Coffee rounds out the sharpness of whiskey with sugar and fresh whipped cream on top. Cold brew coffee drinks open even more possibilities with recipes like Hawaiian Iced Coffee featuring coconut extracts or C’mores Coffee that captures the flavors of your favorite campfire treat in a glass. Of course, black coffee with (or without) a splash of cream is a tried and true favorite you can enjoy every morning. 

The main difference between coffee drinks and espresso drinks is that coffee is less concentrated, making it the perfect base for more delicately flavored recipes. Some espresso drinks can also be lightened up with coffee or cold brew coffee concentrate. Try this Warm Winter Espresso Cocktail with double strength coffee, or swap out cold brew concentrate in cold espresso drinks like Chocolate Affogatos or iced lattes.

Can you make espresso in a coffee maker?

No—coffee makers don’t produce the pressure needed to extract espresso. You can make extra strong coffee by using less water and more grounds, but the result won’t be the same flavor and texture as espresso. If you need to add an espresso machine to your kitchen, discover the different types of espresso machines to find out which one is best for you.

A shot of espresso vs a cup of coffee
A shot of espresso vs a cup of coffee

COFFEE VS. ESPRESSO CAFFEINE: WHICH DRINK HAS MORE?

Espresso has more caffeine per ounce than coffee, but coffee has more caffeine per typical serving. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition data,1 oz. of espresso usually contains 63 mg. of caffeine vs 12 mg. of caffeine in 1 oz. of coffee. However, since a single serving of coffee is usually 8 oz., it will contain more caffeine than a single, 1 oz. shot of espresso. 

So, the answer really has more to do with how much coffee or espresso you drink at once. If you’re looking to cut down on caffeine, a single-shot espresso drink with milk or water may actually offer the least amount of caffeine per cup.

DISCOVER THE KITCHENAID® COFFEE MAKER BEST FOR YOUR KITCHEN 

Create rich and creamy café favorites in your own kitchen with espresso machines from KitchenAid bundled with an automatic milk frother attachment. Or wake up to freshly brewed coffee with the KitchenAid® 12 Cup Drip Coffee Makers featuring 24-hour programmability. Whether you’re brewing espresso or coffee, make sure you have the right grind with a KitchenAid® Burr Coffee Grinder featuring over 70 precise settings. Shop the entire coffee collection to find whatever you need for your perfect cup from grinders to cold brew coffee machines, or explore gifts for the coffee and tea lovers in your life.

MORE MUST-READ ARTICLES FOR ESPRESSO & COFFEE LOVERS