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Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

Are you wondering the difference between Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans? Fun fact. Espresso beans and coffee beans are the same!

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 the fastest way of preparing coffee on demand. 

In about 30 seconds, nearly boiling water is forced through a compressed puck of finely ground coffee at high pressure. The result is a 1-ounce drink called a “shot.”

Dissolving sediment from coffee beans into water is the basis for all coffee drinks. The espresso method is no different at a fundamental level. Only it provides finer control over the pressure, temperature, and time used to complete this process.

Minor tweaks to the brewing process have an outsized impact on the resulting cup. For many baristas and engineers like me (..nerd alert!), this is all part of the fun. 

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

In truth, “espresso beans” are no different from standard “coffee beans.” In fact, beans from the same coffee plant can be prepared using any brew method. 

Roast level isn’t a defining factor either. 

Espresso can be prepared using light, medium, or dark roast coffee. Most professional shops prefer a darker roast coffee for espresso because it provides a heavier body, less acidity, and more crema.

It’s all a matter of personal preference.

What is a dark roast? The higher temperature achieved during roasting, the darker the roast.

cup of coffee in white mug on table

*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 coffee beans under pressure.

Looking to learn the difference between espresso and cold brew? Check out our full comparison guide here!. The result is a thick, dark shot that has an intense flavor.

For espresso, the grind size of the beans is far more impactful than their roast level or place of origin. Beans should be ground to a very fine diameter (slightly finer than table salt) for espresso, compared with regular coffee. 

Using smaller grains (and more of them) maximizes the surface area of the coffee that is exposed to the water rushing through it. This leads to a faster extraction and more flavor.

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

Want to know even more about espresso? Head here for a deep dive in to what espresso is and how you make it.

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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