Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee? Debunking the Myth

By Evelina •  Updated: 04/26/23 •  7 min read

Have you ever wondered if espresso is stronger than coffee? It’s a common question that coffee enthusiasts ask. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between espresso and regular coffee, and discover which of these caffeinated beverages packs a more powerful punch.

With the help of expert opinions and research, you’ll soon be able to determine the right choice for your daily caffeine fix! So let’s dive into the world of espresso and coffee to find the answer to this stimulating question.

Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee?

espresso drink

When comparing espresso and coffee, it’s important to consider several factors that contribute to their perceived strength.

These factors include caffeine content, concentration, serving size, and acquired taste. Let’s dive into each aspect to better understand the differences between these two popular beverages.

Caffeine Content

Surprisingly, espresso contains more caffeine per ounce than regular coffee. While a typical cup of coffee has around 12 to 16 mg of caffeine per ounce, espresso boasts a higher concentration of 63 mg per ounce.

However, bear in mind that espresso is served in much smaller doses than regular coffee, which affects its overall caffeine content per serving.

Concentration and Serving Size

Espresso is characteristically more concentrated than coffee, which contributes to its intense flavor profile. Since it packs more caffeine into a smaller volume, espresso usually clocks in at 47 to 64 mg of caffeine per 1-ounce serving.

This also explains why espresso is served in small demitasse cups, while coffee is generally enjoyed in larger mugs. In contrast, coffee’s caffeine concentrations range from 96 to 128 mg per usual 8-ounce serving, which actually provides more caffeine overall than a single espresso shot.

Strength and Acquired Taste

The strength of a beverage can be subjective, as it depends on personal preferences in terms of flavor and aroma. Espresso’s concentrated nature makes it sweeter, more bitter, and brighter with a powerful aftertaste.

Its complex flavor profile might not appeal to everyone at first, but it can grow on you over time as you develop an acquired taste for bolder coffee experiences.

Conversely, regular coffee is milder and easier to drink, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer a more subtle taste profile.

The Brewing Process

make espresso with a machine

In this section, we’ll discuss the brewing process of espresso and drip coffee, which plays a significant role in the difference between the two.

Espresso Machines and High Pressure

When brewing espresso, you’ll use an espresso machine, which plays a crucial role in creating the bold, concentrated flavor.

The espresso machine applies high pressure to force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, which are tightly packed into a small, dense puck. This process allows water to quickly penetrate the coffee grounds, extracting rich flavor components in around 20-30 seconds.

The high pressure also helps create a smooth, velvety layer of crema on top, which is the signature of a well-executed espresso shot.

Drip Coffee and Filter

Drip coffee, on the other hand, is brewed using a gentler process. To make drip coffee, you’ll need a drip coffee maker, which is designed to heat and distribute the water evenly over the coffee grounds, usually contained within a paper or metal filter.

The heated water seeps through the coffee grounds, extracting flavor compounds at a slower pace compared to espresso.

This brewing method takes around one minute to complete. As a result, drip regular coffee has a milder taste and lighter body compared to the intense flavor of espresso.

Understanding the brewing process for both espresso and drip coffee highlights the core difference between these two coffee styles. The pressure used in espresso machines and the steady drip method in drip coffee makers contribute to the variations in taste, strength, and caffeine content.

Coffee Beans and Grind

espresso beans to brew coffee

Let’s now explore the differences between coffee beans and grind for espresso and regular drip coffee. Understanding these differences will help you make the perfect cup of coffee suited to your taste.

Bean Types and Roasting

There are two primary types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are known for their mild and smooth flavor, while Robusta beans have a stronger, more bitter taste.

While both beans can be used for espresso and regular coffee, Arabica is more commonly used due to its superior quality and flavor.

The roasting process can have a significant impact on the taste of your coffee. Generally, there are three types of roasts:

When it comes to espresso, using a dark roast is more common due to the richer flavor it imparts. However, you can experiment with different roasts and beans to cater to your personal preferences.

Grind Size and Consistency

The grind size and consistency play a vital role in how your coffee tastes. For regular drip coffee, the recommended grind size is medium, resembling the texture of granulated sugar. This allows for a balanced extraction, yielding a flavorful cup without bitterness.

On the other hand, espresso requires a finer grind, similar to powdered sugar. This is because espresso machines use high pressure to extract the flavors, which demands a finer grind for optimal extraction.

Be sure to use a consistent grind size, otherwise, your coffee may taste over or under-extracted, resulting in either bitterness or watery flavors.

To achieve the desired grind size and consistency, invest in a quality burr grinder. Burr grinders provide a more consistent and even grind compared to a blade grinder, which can result in uneven, and sometimes bitter, coffee.

Factors Affecting Caffeine Content

caffeine in espresso coffee beans

Temperature and Extraction Time

The temperature at which you brew your coffee can significantly affect its caffeine content. Higher brewing temperatures lead to a quicker extraction of caffeine from the beans. However, you should be careful not to overheat, as it may result in a bitter and unpleasant taste.

Extraction time also plays a vital role in determining the amount of caffeine in your coffee. A longer brewing time would generally result in a higher caffeine concentration, but it may also affect the flavor profile.

As a rule of thumb, espresso typically has a shorter extraction time than drip coffee, causing it to have a more concentrated dose of caffeine per ounce.

Bean Brand and Type

The brand and type of beans you choose for your coffee can greatly influence its caffeine content. Some coffee bean varieties naturally have higher caffeine levels than others. For example, Arabica beans generally contain less caffeine compared to Robusta beans.

Therefore, you may want to consider the type of beans when selecting your coffee in pursuit of a desired caffeine kick.

Furthermore, the caffeine content can differ among brands, as the way beans are sourced, roasted, and processed may alter the amount of caffeine. When choosing a brand, it could be helpful to know their bean selection process and whether they focus on high or low-caffeine options.

Final Thoughts

In your quest to understand the differences between espresso and regular coffee, you might have discovered that espresso is generally stronger in taste and caffeine concentration per ounce.

However, do note that a full cup of coffee typically has more caffeine overall when compared to a single shot of espresso.

As you enjoy your coffee journey, remember that personal preference plays a key role. Some people love the intense flavor and concentrated caffeine dose in a small shot of espresso, while others prefer a more leisurely experience sipping a larger cup of coffee with a milder flavor.

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.

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