Espresso vs Drip Coffee: All The Differences Explained!

By Evelina •  Updated: 11/06/22 •  9 min read

Do you love the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning? Do you enjoy the taste of a strong cup of espresso? Or maybe you prefer a milder drip coffee?

Whichever type of coffee drinker you are, you’re probably wondering what the differences between espresso and drip coffee are.

Wonder no more! In this blog post, I’ll break down all the differences between these two types of coffee. So sit back, relax, and enjoy learning about your favorite caffeinated drinks!

What is Espresso?

espresso shot

Espresso is a delicious, strong coffee that has become an icon of modern day culture. The rich flavor and deep color are what make it so popular amongst enthusiasts who appreciate its bold taste in addition to the complex aroma which is often described as earthy or chocolatey.

Espresso is brewed by forcing hot water under high pressure through a small amount of finely ground coffee beans. This process extracts more flavor from the beans than other brewing methods, resulting in a strong cup of coffee with a slightly higher caffeine content.

How to Make Espresso

The steps for making espresso may sound easy, but it’s actually a pretty complicated process. Before you get started, you’ll need to invest in an espresso machine.

Coffee grinders are also a necessary tool for making espresso, as the beans need to be ground very finely in order for the water to extract all of the flavor. Once you have your beans and your grinder, follow these steps.

1. Grind Your Coffee to A Fine Powder

First and foremost, you need to grind your coffee beans into a very fine powder. The grind should be even and consistent, with no large pieces of bean remaining.

A high quality burr grinder is your best bet for achieving the perfect grind. If you don’t have a burr grinder, you can use a blade grinder, but be warned that it will be more difficult to get a consistent grind.

There are electric and manual burr grinders available, so choose the one that best suits your needs and your budget.

2. Measure Out Your Coffee and Add it to the Portafilter

Next, you need to measure out your coffee. A general rule of thumb is to use 18-21 grams of coffee for a double shot of espresso.

You can use a kitchen scale to be more precise, or you can eyeball it and wing it. Once you’ve measured out your coffee, add it to the portafilter.

Interested to use the bottomless portafilter method? Check out our article on bottomless portafilters for more information!

3. Tamp the Coffee

After your coffee is in the portafilter, it’s time to tamp it. This simply means to press down on the coffee so that it’s tightly packed.

The tool you use to tamp espresso is called a tamper, and it’s an essential part of making espresso. A good tamper will be at least 1 pound and have a flat, even surface.

To tamp the coffee, hold the tamper in your dominant hand and place the portafilter on a steady surface. Apply gentle pressure to the tamper as you press it into the coffee.

Once the coffee is tamped, twist the tamper a quarter turn and lift it straight up. Be sure not to jiggle or move the portafilter at all, as this can disturb the coffee and affect the quality of your espresso.

TIP: Putting a lot of pressure on the tamper isn’t necessarily better. Just apply enough pressure to evenly pack the coffee without crushing it.

4. Attach the Portafilter and Brew Your Espresso

Now it’s time to attach the portafilter to the espresso machine. Make sure that it’s locked in place before you begin brewing.

Place a coffee cup or mug under the portafilter and hit the brew button. Depending on your machine, it will take anywhere from 20-30 seconds to brew your espresso.

5. Enjoy Your Espresso!

Once your espresso is brewed, it’s time to enjoy it! If you want to add milk, steamed milk is best for espresso drinks.

Read Also: Can You Use Regular Coffee For Espresso?

What is Drip Coffee?

drip coffee maker v60

Drip coffee is a popular way of brewing coffee that involves slowly dripping hot water through freshly ground beans. The process creates a cup of aromatic, richly-flavored coffee that is perfect for enjoying on its own or adding milk and sugar to taste.

Unlike espresso, drip coffee makers do not rely on pressure to brew the coffee. Instead, the hot water drips through a paper filter (or metal), extracting all the natural flavors and oils from the grounds.

This results in a cup of coffee that is full of delicate notes and subtle undertones, making it an extremely satisfying choice for any caffeine lover.

How to Make Drip Coffee

Differences Between Espresso And Drip Coffee

espresso vs drip coffee differences

Now that you know how to make each coffee, you probably understand that there are many differences that make each brew unique.

1. The Caffeine Content

Caffeine is a key difference between espresso and drip coffee.

An espresso has about 60mg of caffeine per fluid ounce while drip coffee has about 11mg.

Espresso is the ultimate test of caffeine endurance. The high pressure used to make espresso creates a more concentrated cup of coffee with higher levels of caffeine. That’s how you also get that golden crema on top of your espresso.

This means that espresso will give you a bigger energy boost, but it also means that it’s easy to overdo it and end up with the jitters. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, stick to drip coffee!

2. The Acidity Problem

If you have issues with acidity, you’ll want to stay away from espresso. The high levels of caffeine in espresso can aggravate your stomach and make acidity problems worse.

Drip coffee, on the other hand, is much less acidic and is a gentler way to start your day. So, if you’re looking for an easy on the stomach coffee, drip is the way to go.

3. Which One is Best For Your Health?

Both espresso and drip coffee have health benefits, but which one is better for you?

Espresso is a great source of antioxidants, which can help to protect your cells from damage. It’s also been shown to improve cognitive function and memory.

Drip coffee also has antioxidants, but since its have lower caffeine levels, it’s less likely to cause the jitters.

So, if you’re looking for a healthy cup of coffee, both espresso and drip coffee are good choices. Just be sure to drink in moderation!

4. The Grind Size

Notably, the grind size is different for espresso and drip coffee. Espresso requires a very fine grind while drip coffee uses a medium-coarse grind.

The reason for this difference is that the water needs to travel through the coffee grounds at a different speed for each brew. For espresso, the water needs to travel through the grounds quickly to extract the maximum amount of flavor.

For drip coffee, the water slowly filters through the grounds, extracting a more mellow flavor.

5. The Flavor

Flavor is different for each coffee as well. Espresso has a bolder, more intense flavor while drip coffee is more mellow.

The type of bean you use will also affect the flavor. For espresso, I recommend using a dark roast bean while for drip coffee, you can use a light or medium roast bean.

So, if you’re looking for a bolder coffee, espresso is the way to go. If you want a more mellow flavor, stick to drip coffee.

6. Which Brewer is More User Friendly?

When it comes to the espresso machine, there is a bit of a learning curve. It takes some practice to master the art of making espresso.

That’s why I recommend the drip coffee maker for those who are new to brewing coffee at home.

If you have the budget though, a super automatic espresso machine is a great investment. These machines do all the work for you and make it easy to get a perfect cup of espresso every time.

You can check the article I wrote about Breville and Gaggia super automatic espresso machines to learn more.

7. The Brewing Time

As I covered in the grind size section, the brewing time is different for espresso and drip coffee.

Espresso needs to brew for about 25-30 seconds while drip coffee needs to brew for 3-4 minutes.

So, if you’re looking for a quick cup of coffee, espresso is the way to go. If you have time to relax and enjoy your coffee, drip is the better choice.

Which One is Better?

So, which one is better? Espresso or drip coffee?

It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a quick cup of coffee with a strong flavor, espresso is the way to go.

If you want a mellower cup of coffee that’s easy on your stomach, drip coffee is the better choice.

No matter what you choose, just be sure to enjoy your coffee!

Happy Brewing!


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.

Keep Reading