Is Espresso better than coffee?

This question first crossed my mind the first time I had an espresso. I thought the quantity was quite small and learned that’s how espressos come. They reminded me of vodka shots.

The question crossed my mind again when I heard my boss ask for coffee.

‘Help me to a cup of coffee,’ he called out to the Barista.

‘Espresso sir?’ She responded.

‘Yes.’

After a moment’s thought, he changed his mind. ‘I already had my espresso earlier, give me a regular cup of coffee.’

What’s the difference between an espresso and a regular cup of coffee? 

I didn’t ask the question out loud because I figured I could explore it here in the coffee journal.

Introduction

When I entered the words, ‘Is espresso better than coffee,’ in the Google search bar, I was amazed to see the many variations of the question. Turns out espresso is something and my new coffee brain was right to peek.

I quickly learned that my curiosity is an age-old mystery that has long intrigued coffee lovers.

In this post, I look at some research I discovered and a little bit of my coffee reasoning after trying both types of coffee.

In the end, I present evidence that will settle the debate once and for all.

Is Espresso better than Coffee?

Before answering the question, let’s look at the general differences between espresso and coffee.

While coffee refers broadly to the beverage brewed from ground coffee beans with hot water, espresso is a concentrated variant, brewed by forcefully passing hot water through finely ground coffee under high pressure. It is this difference in brewing that sets espresso apart from a regular brew.

But what’s the point of this pressurized variant?

A Brief History Of Espresso

Birth of espresso
Angelo Moriondo and the first Espresso Patent

The original espresso machine patent belonged to Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy – he set out to solve an age-old problem with coffee – the amount of time it took to brew. To brew faster, the coffee grounds needed to be finer which made it difficult for water to pass through. Angelo’s invention forced hot water through the grounded coffee under high pressure to create the espresso. Like its name – espresso, it was a quicker way to make coffee and a highly concentrated variant of the brew.

See James Hoffman’s video on The Birth Of Espresso.

A History Of Coffee

Coffee first

Popular legend has it that coffee was discovered by goats. Yup. Ok, maybe not discovered but they were first eaten by goats. A young Ethiopian goat herder called Kaldi noticed his goats became energetic after eating berries from a particular tree. He decided to try the berries himself and he too became energetic and happy. Those berries are the coffee berries from which coffee beans grow and the first time coffee beans were discovered.

Coffee is now grown and cultivated in many countries around the world including Nigeria where all Zuma coffee beans are grown.

When we consider the fact that coffee and espresso are not different things but different processes of brewing coffee, we reconsider the question, ‘Is espresso better than coffee?’ That’s like asking is coffee better than coffee?

The Espresso Vs Coffee Debate

Assorted cups of coffee
Is Espresso Better Than Coffee?

An espresso is known to pack a punch and give an immediate kick to the drinker. A cup of coffee might achieve the same kick but a little slower.

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. 

In my research, I found a few reasons why Espresso is pitched against Coffee. Or better put, why espresso is the preferred type of coffee for some coffee lovers.

Flavor and Aroma:

Is Espresso Better Than Coffee
A cup of Espresso

A strong distinguishing factor between espresso and regular coffee is the coffee’s flavour profile. The first time I had an espresso, I could taste the difference, The shot of espresso felt fuller in my mouth – it had a foamy top layer called crema. Research featured in the Journal of Food Science suggests that the high-pressure extraction method in espresso brewing yields a more concentrated flavour. The intense pressure extracts both soluble and insoluble compounds, creating that rich and bold flavour of espresso.

Caffeine Content :

espresso-drip
Espresso drip

Kitchen Aid wrote –

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.

Health Considerations:

Is Espresso Better Than Coffee
Group of 4 people drinking Espresso

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that both espresso and coffee can positively aid overall well-being, with potential benefits on cognitive function, mood, and certain chronic diseases. This is great news for coffee lovers.

I heard someone on a coffee podcast say that drinking coffee is like eating your vegetables since coffee beans start in berries that grow like any other vegetable.

I thought it was a reach. Yet, when I really think about it – ain’t that the truth?

Conclusion:

Coffee Accessories

In the ongoing debate of espresso versus coffee, the question – Is espresso better than coffee?- lacks a definitive answer.

The choice between the two is deeply personal as the answer will depend on several factors peculiar to each coffee drinker.  Ultimately, the quest for the perfect cup should be an enjoyable exploration, whatever your choice of coffee.

As you enjoy your next cup, mindfully consider the brewing process, the flavour profile, and the kick you get/sense from your favourite cup.

In February, you will have an opportunity to experience different coffees and brewing, tasting and sensing processes in Brew and Balance. (More on that in another post)

You can buy an Espresso Machine.

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