Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

It is a slight misconception that Espresso Beans are anything other than normal coffee beans. All coffee beans grow on coffee trees. The main growing regions for coffee trees are Latin America, Africa, and Asia. These trees grow coffee cherries and at the center of each cherry is what we know as coffee beans.

What happens with these beans after they are harvested is what may set apart beans used in espresso and beans used in regular coffee. Though, you can just as well use ‘espresso beans’ for coffee and vice versa.

We’ll look into the brewing process, the flavor profile, caffeine amounts, and differences in roasting for both regular coffee and espresso.

What’s the Difference between Espresso and Normal Coffee?

Let’s take a closer look at how espresso and coffee differ in some key areas. First up, brewing.

Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

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The Brewing Process of Espresso vs. Regular Coffee

Espresso is a coffee drink made from espresso beans. It is brewed by forcing hot water under high pressure through ground coffee beans. The result is a very concentrated coffee with intense flavor and a thick, rich crema on top.

Regular coffee is brewed by pouring boiling water over ground coffee beans. This process yields a tamer, less bold cup of coffee. Also, there are many different kinds of ways of brewing a ‘regular cup of coffee’; from percolator to pour over to even French Press.

Flavor Profile Differences between Espresso and Drip Coffee

There are many taste differences between espresso and drip-brewed coffee. Espresso has a more intense flavor, while drip-brewed coffee tastes mellower with less acidity.

There are different roasts when it comes to drip coffee (dark roast, medium roast and light roast) which will also give you different coffee flavors. The darker roast will give you different flavors than a light roast.

Drip brewed coffee is also much easier to make than espresso. But the difference in taste may be worth it for some people who enjoy the stronger flavor of espresso.

The taste of coffee versus espresso is very different due to them being different brewing methods.

Amount of Caffeine in Espresso Shot vs. Cup of Drip Coffee


A shot of espresso has a higher caffeine content than the average cup of coffee. A single espresso shot contains around 50-70 milligrams of caffeine, while a whole cup of coffee has around 80-120 mg of caffeine. To put that in perspective, a 1 oz espresso shot has more than half the caffeine content as an 8 oz cup of coffee.

The reason accounting for this real difference in caffeine content is that espresso shots are concentrated. This means that very little water is used to pull a shot as compared to the amount to brew a cup of coffee.

The extreme heat and pressure are what allow an espresso shot to brew with this higher concentration even though it has less water and is pulled for only ~20 seconds.

*Read: The Best Espresso Coffee

Which Roasts are Used for Espresso vs Drip Coffee

Espresso roasts are usually roasted for a longer amount of time so it has a toasted and deeper flavor. The beans being roasted for much longer removes some acidity but allows for the extraction of more of the oils into the shot.

This creates a heavier, fuller feeling in the mouth which people attribute to the bold or strong flavor that espresso has.

cup of coffee in white mug on table

Now regular coffee comes in various roasting profiles too. You’ve probably seen coffee sold as light, medium, or dark. This is the general scale for roasting coffee where lighter roasts are roasted for shorter amounts of time.

The truth about roasting profiles for coffee vs espresso is that there are some rules but they are mostly general preferences of the broader market.

Americans, in particular, like very dark and caramel-y espresso shots. Outside of preference, there is nothing stopping you from using light, medium, or dark roasts with espresso or pour-overs.

*Read: The Best Espresso Beans on Amazon

The Difference in Grind Size between Espresso and Drip-Brewed Coffee

The grind size depends on what brewing method you will use. Different factors play into grind size but there are some hard and fast rules for drip coffee vs. espresso that is good to be aware of.

Espresso is a coffee drink made by brewing a small amount of finely ground, highly roasted coffee beans under pressure. The result is a thick, dark shot that has an intense flavor.

The grind size for espresso coffee beans is more fine grind than the grind size for regular coffee. Espresso is brewed at higher pressures and temperatures than other coffees, so it extracts more flavor from its grinds. The finer the grinds, the more surface area they have to extract flavor from the water.

There are two ways to make espresso: with an espresso machine or with a Moka pot (also called stovetop espresso). To get a good cup of espresso, either way, you need to use high-quality whole beans and freshly ground coffee. You also need to measure your water carefully and tamp the grinds to create a packed puck for pulling the shot.

Different grind sizes are used for different brewing methods. The grind size for pour-over is different from the one for a percolator but they are very similar grind sizes as compared to espresso.

Pour-over coffee needs a coarse ground to produce an even, slow flow of water through the coffee bed. The water needs to be in contact with the coffee for long enough to extract all of its flavors.

*Read: How to Use an Aeropress


Can you use regular coffee beans for espresso?

Espresso is a type of coffee that is made by forcing hot water under pressure through finely-ground coffee beans.

Regular coffee beans can make espresso, however, the flavor will not be as strong as using traditional espresso roasts. The biggest difference, other than trends in roasting profiles is how finely the coffee is ground. Espresso needs finely ground coffee where most regular cups of coffee have grounds with a coarser grind setting.

Are Espresso Beans Stronger than Coffee Beans?

Espresso beans are a type of coffee bean that is typically roasted for a shorter time than other types of coffee beans. This gives them a stronger flavor and different taste.

The main difference in taste between espresso and coffee is that espresso has a much stronger flavor and can have a much more bitter taste to it. Espresso also has less caffeine than coffee, but more caffeine than some other types of decaffeinated beans.

What Beans does Starbucks Use for their Espresso Drinks?

The coffee beans that Starbucks uses for espresso are a blend of different types of beans. Starbucks has two major types of Espresso roasts that they use in all their stores. They have what they call their Espresso Roast which is the default roast in all their lattes and espresso beverages. They also have their Blonde Espresso Roast

Can You Make Espresso in a Coffee Maker?

It is a common misconception that you can make espresso in a coffee maker. Espresso is made using an espresso machine, which has two separate chambers: the upper chamber where the water and the ground coffee are mixed together and the lower chamber where steam pressure forces the water through the grounds to extract flavor.

But you can think of espresso machines as being a particular type of coffee maker. It would only be a different type of coffee maker as compared to percolators or Keurig machines.

Did you know that there’s also 4 different types of coffee beans? Head here to learn about the difference between arabica beans, robusta beans, liberica beans and excelsa beans!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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