Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee: The Unexpected Truth Revealed


Ahoy, coffee lovers. I’m a fan of practically any kind when it comes to coffee, but drip coffee and espresso are my personal favorites. A while back, I was in the line of a coffee shop, and I overheard a conversation that the two young girls were having, and the discussion was about whether espresso is stronger than coffee?

That is a valid question, and I know some of you wonder the same question. Therefore, I crafted this article to teach everything you need to know about the strength differences between espresso and drip coffee and many other things about them that is simply good to know! But before we get into the additional information, we need to understand espresso is stronger than coffee?

An 8oz cup of coffee contains 95mg of caffeine on average, whereas a shot of espresso contains 40mg. Therefore a coffee drinker gets more caffeine from a cup of regular coffee. However, the cup of coffee is 8oz, and the shot of espresso is 1oz. Therefore espresso as a liquid is stronger than coffee.

So it really comes down to the point of view. Are you looking at a cup of coffee and an espresso shot next to each other and wondering which one has more caffeine, or are you thinking about which liquid has higher caffeine content per ounce?

Look at it this way, if you want a better wake-up call in the morning and you have to decide between a cup of coffee or an espresso shot, take the cup of coffee. However, if you compare the caffeine content per ounce and want to consume 3 shots of espresso, it will have more caffeine.

Also, it’s good to remember that the caffeine amounts per cup and shot are averages. Many variables will affect the real caffeine content of the beverage, such as coffee bean type, roast level, water temperature, grind size, and brew dwell times.

Let’s take a closer look at all of the reasons above so you can better understand what on earth determines the caffeine content of drip coffee and espresso.

What determines the strength of coffee

Coffee type

There are 2 major coffee types that dominate the coffee industry, and they are Arabica and Robusta. The type of coffee beans partly determines the caffeine content and strength. Let’s take a closer look at both of them individually!

Arabica

Arabica coffee usually has a much sweeter, smoother, and aromatic taste, which the flavor notes can describe. Arabica coffee is grown at high altitudes, so they are more difficult to farm and harvest, which leads to higher prices than robusta. Arabica is considered the ultimate quality coffee, and it is the most popular type!

Robusta

Robusta has lower acidity levels than Arabica, so the taste isn’t as sweet and aromatic, and it is sometimes described to taste like wood or rubber with a harsh taste. Don’t get discouraged because Robusta is less expensive than Arabica, and it has much more caffeine. According to CoffeeChemistry, Robusta bean is 2.2% caffeine while Arabica bean is only 1.2%, therefore it has 83% more caffeine.

Roast level

The roast level has a lot to do with the strength of the coffee, and before the coffee beans are roasted, they are extremely light and somewhat green. Anyways, beans are roasted in 3 main categories that are light, medium, and dark roasts.

The more you roast the coffee bean, the more the bean will expand in size. Therefore when you measure the coffee beans for your coffee, a light roast has more caffeine than a dark roast because you can fit more light roast beans into the scoop than dark roast beans. Let’s learn more about the roast levels individually.

Light roast

Light roast is made because it will hold the unique flavors that the bean has without diminishing it too much. This is why many coffee shops use light roast Arabica beans so the coffee will have a quality and flavor-rich taste.

Medium roast

Medium roast is a popular bean type because it is the intermediate form of light and dark roast. This means that medium roast still has the unique flavors intact, but it has begun to get that deep caramel taste of a darker roast.

Dark roast

Dark roast doesn’t have so much of the original flavors left; however, they have that famous caramel and chocolaty aroma. The bean also has an oily surface and is the largest in size of all the roast levels.

Water temperature

Water temperature has a huge effect on the taste and strength of the coffee. If you run too cold water through your coffee, it will be under-extracted, which results in a dilute and weak coffee with much less caffeine content.

On the other hand, if you use too hot water, it will be over-extracted, which results in a bitter taste with a lot of caffeine content.

According to National Coffee Association, the optimal water temperature for brewing should be between 195-205°F (90-96°C) because that temperature will extract the right amount of coffee into the water.

Grind size

Grind size is a big variable when considering the strength of the coffee. Using a proper coffee grinder for the right kind of purpose is extremely important if you want to make as good a cup as possible.

As a rule of thumb, the bean needs to be ground to the right size. If the grind is too fine, it will be over-extracted, bitter, and too strong for pleasure. On the other hand, if it is too coarse, it won’t be extracted as it should be, which will result in a weak and dilute a cup of coffee.

When grinding coffee beans for an espresso, you should always use a burr grinder instead of a blade grinder because it can grind the bean to the fineness required for a great espresso.

Brew & Dwell times

Last but not least, the brew and dwell times will naturally affect the strength and taste of the coffee. For example, if the brew time is too long, it will result in bitter and over-extracted coffee, whereas if it is brewed too fast, it will result in weak and watery coffee.

Also, if the coffee sits too long for the pot, it will lose its taste and turn into a burnt and bitter liquid. Coffee is at its best straight after brewing!

As we can see, many variables will affect the strength of both drip coffee and espresso. Therefore it is important to get these factors right. Also, if we mess up and make an extremely dilute and weak drip coffee and go all in to the shot of espresso, then it is a possibility that one shot of espresso is stronger than an 8oz cup of coffee. However, this probably doesn’t happen in any coffee house, or at least it shouldn’t.

What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee

Espresso and drip coffee differ in various ways such as preparation method, used bean type, grind fineness, roast level, caffeine amount, and of course, taste. Espresso is usually consumed slowly as on its own or used as an espresso shot to a specialty coffee, whereas drip coffee is enjoyed from the cup.

Let’s take a quick recap all the differences that separate espresso and regular coffee.

Preparation method

The first and most obvious difference is the process. Espresso is usually made with an espresso machine where the fine grind is pressed really densely to the portafilter to be properly extracted. You can also make espresso with a French press, Aero press, and Moka pot, but it won’t be the real deal because, for espresso, it’s important to get that high water pressure that only the espresso machine can achieve.

What comes to regular coffee, it is mostly made with a drip coffee maker, but you can prepare it with a French press, for example. Preparing a cup of coffee is easier and less expensive than making a shot of espresso.

Used bean type & Roast level

Espresso is made from either medium or dark roast because they are extracted more quickly and rich in oils, giving the espresso a rich crema texture. Also, if the espresso needs to be as caffeine-rich as possible, then it is best to use Robusta because it has 83% more caffeine on average than Arabica.

On the other hand, Drip coffee is at its best when light roast Arabica beans have been used. This is because light roast bean has the most flavor and original characteristics, which gives the cup the perfect aroma and Arabica is a more high-quality bean that further enhances the taste.

All things considered, you can use all bean types for both drip coffee and espresso. However, there are the ones that make the best outcome for both.

Grind fineness

Espresso must be ground to sandlike fineness because that is the only way to extract such volumes of coffee to a single shot. Most espresso machines have an integrated grinder, but there are separate ones as well. The important part here is to use only a burr grinder when grinding beans for espresso.

It is okay for a regular coffee cup to use more coarse fineness, and a blade grinder will do just fine for grinding beans for a drip coffee.

Caffeine amount

Caffeine amount is a big deal when comparing espresso and drip coffee. As previously mentioned, when placing the same amount of coffee and espresso next to each other, espresso has way more caffeine. Still, when drinking a regular cup of coffee which is 8oz, and enjoying a shot of espresso (1oz), the cup of coffee has more caffeine.

Taste

The taste difference will be big as well because of all of the reasons mentioned above. Most people say that espresso has a much richer, fuller, and roasted flavor, whereas drip coffee has a more flavor-rich and gentle feel.

Is espresso just really strong coffee

Espresso has many more differences than strength when compared to regular coffee. For example, espresso is stronger, but it is richer in flavor, creamier and oilier with a deep and full flavor. This is achieved by preparing espresso from the right beans using only a fine grind in high pressure.

Why does espresso have more caffeine

Espresso haves more caffeine because it is ground to extreme fineness to extract everything the grind offers. Espresso is brewed under high pressure, which leads to more caffeine per ounce. However, a serving of regular coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso because of the amount difference.

What do shots of espresso mean

One serving of espresso is called a shot. This doesn’t mean that you should drink a shot of espresso in one sip. In fact, a shot of espresso is enjoyed with time and pleasure so you can taste that rich, creamy flavor regardless of the small one-ounce size.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we learned that a serving of regular coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso, but the espresso has way more caffeine when comparing the liquid ounce for ounce. And as a warning, do not drink an 8oz of espresso as it were drip coffee because it would be quite hard to get some sleep afterward.

I hope that this article gave you real value and you got what you came for. If you have some pointers or comments, feel free to leave them below, and let’s talk about them!

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS and while I love working in a busy restaurant, I also enjoy more peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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