Espresso Explained: What's The Difference Between Espresso And Filter Coffee?

Contents

  1. What is Espresso?

  2. What is Filter Coffee?

  3. The Key Differences Between Espresso and Filter Coffee

  4. Espresso Explained: Brewing Methods

  5. Filter Coffee Explained: Brewing Methods

  6. Advice for Espresso Drinkers

 

What makes an espresso different to filter coffee? The major difference between these drinks is of course the brewing method used to create them, but when comparing the finished product side-by-side, multiple factors distinguish them from one another, including the size (volume) of the drink, the caffeine content, the taste, and even the aroma. 

A common misconception is that only certain coffee beans can be used to make espresso, when really any beans can produce both espresso and filter coffee. The difference is simply in how the coffee is treated:

  • Espresso is produced by finely grinding and packing beans into a disc, before forcing pressurised hot water through them

  • Filter coffee is made through either immersion, pressure, or drip/pour over methods of brewing 

Essentially, espresso is a more concentrated and intense version of a filter coffee, primarily because the ground coffee is brewed using pressure to rapidly extract sugars, oils, solids, and other flavour compounds from the coffee, resulting in a concentrated shot of espresso.

Explore Our Selection Of Espresso Colombian Coffee Beans

What Is Espresso?

What Is Espresso: Explained

Many drinks that you can order in a cafe will be espresso-based, such as an americano or latte, although a lot of specialty coffee shops will also offer filter coffee, made with a French Press, Chemex, or V60, for example. 

The main difference between a filter coffee and espresso, explained in basic terms, is that it is not the beans themselves, but the way that they are ground and treated. 

A common misconception is that only certain coffee beans can be used to make espresso, when really any beans can produce both espresso and filter coffee. The difference is simply in how the coffee is treated.

The Coffee

To make an espresso, finely ground coffee is packed into a disc using a tamper, and then hot water pushed through it.

Generally speaking, a shot of espresso will taste like a “stronger” or more potent version of a filter coffee, and have a slightly thicker consistency. Whatever tasting notes are present in a specific bean, such as acidity, sweetness, bitterness or woodiness, can be identified in a well-poured espresso, but more delicate tasting notes may be harder to pick up.

Tip: Certain coffee beans are more suited to either espresso or filter coffee drinks because of the kind of results you can achieve when brewing them in a certain way. For instance, some will unleash subtle fruity notes when you use filter methods, which may be lost if they were brewed as an espresso and then diluted with milk.

Some coffee beans will unleash subtle fruity notes when you use filter methods, which may be lost if these same beans are brewed as an espresso and diluted with milk.

The Crema

A shot of espresso should have a small layer of thick, brown crema sitting on top. Crema is a result of several processes that take place whilst an espresso is being poured. 

The ground coffee is pressurised, causing trapped carbon dioxide inside the bean from the roasting process to be released, which triggers a chemical reaction. Moving from the espresso machine, a high pressure environment, to the shot glass, a low pressure environment, allows the carbon dioxide to break through from the cell walls of the espresso and bubble on the surface — in other words, forming a crema on top of the coffee!

Read Our Advice On Buying Specialty Coffee Beans For Espresso 

What Is Filter Coffee?

Espresso Explained: Filter Coffee Being Poured

To make a filter coffee, hot water and ground coffee beans are combined in some way and left to brew for anywhere between 1-5 minutes, meaning it does take a little longer than making a coffee using an espresso machine.

Filter coffee can be made using a number of different brewing methods and apparatus (more on this below), and is a great way to enjoy the natural flavours of your coffee beans. 

Initially, it can be tricky getting the more technical elements right, such as ratios of ground coffee to water, but it’s simple (and worth it!) once you get the hang of it.

Explore Our Brew At Home Guide

The Key Differences Between Espresso and Filter Coffee

Filter Coffee Vs. Espresso Explained Infographic

Espresso

Filter

Grind Size

Fine

Immersion: Fine (AeroPress)/Coarse (French Press)

Drip/Pour Over: Medium/Medium-Coarse

Pressure: Fine

Taste

Bold and intense

Less intense, light but complex flavour profiles

Brewing Method

Espresso machine

Moka Pot

Immersion: French Press, AeroPress

Drip/Pour Over: Chemex, V60

Caffeine Content

Between 30-80mg per 1oz

Between 80-200mg per 8oz

Quantity

Single shot of espresso: 30ml (1oz)

Double shot of espresso: 60ml (2oz)

Between 8-12oz

 

Espresso Explained: Brewing Methods

Differences Between Filter Coffee And Espresso Explained

Espresso Machine

Although not the only way to make espresso, using a machine does make the process much simpler and more efficient. An espresso machine works by filtering highly-pressurised hot water through packed coffee grounds.  

For best results, we recommend finely grinding approximately 19g of beans for a double espresso and leaving the machine to run for 25 seconds, which will leave you with a yield of 48ml. 

Pressure

Pressure brewing is a great way to make espresso at home without needing to invest in a machine. Very different from other equipment, a Moka Pot is a stovetop coffee maker that pushes pressurised water through ground coffee and a filter screen, allowing through only the brewed coffee and not the leftover grounds.

We like to make our Moka Pot with 30g of fine-grind coffee and 375ml water (a 1:12.5 ratio), and allow it to brew for 1-2 minutes. You’ll know when your coffee is ready and needs to be taken off the stove when you start to hear a hissing sound!

Filter Coffee Explained: Brewing Methods

Filter Coffee Brewing Methods Espresso Explained

Immersion Brewing

Most common when using a French Press (Cafetière) or an AeroPress, immersion brewing involves submerging your coffee grounds in hot water for between 3-5 minutes, before it is separated from the liquid and served. Immersion brewing equipment is popular because it is easy to use and doesn’t require several different steps. 

If you’re using a French Press, we recommend 20g of coarsely-ground beans and 360ml water (or a coffee to water ratio of 1:18, unless you like your coffee particularly strong or weak), and to allow a brewing time of 5 minutes before plunging and decanting.

An AeroPress is a less common coffee brewing method, but is one of our favourites and is also a great option if you want quality coffee on the  go — making it a popular option for campers and hikers. Immerse 30g of finely-ground coffee with 100ml water (a ratio of 1:3.3, which can again be adjusted depending on preferences) for 1 minute before extracting and enjoying!

Tip: No matter what type of immersion brewing equipment you are using, decant the coffee as soon as it has brewed. Leaving it for too long can lead to over-extraction and cause bitterness.

Drip/Pour Over

Drip, or pour over, is the name given to coffee that has been brewed by hot water being poured over ground beans. It is more of a labour of love than immersion brewing, but the finished product is definitely worth the extra effort. 

It relies on gravity and involves hand-pouring water over grounds, which then gets passed through a filter into a vessel (for example, a V60 or Chemex) that collects the coffee. The key flavour difference between drip and other brewing methods is that it produces a more delicate and nuanced aroma and flavour profile, because the water is able to draw out coffee solubles and oils over a longer period of time. 

To make a V60 coffee, pour 330ml of hot water over 22g medium grind size beans (a ratio of 1:15) and leave to brew for 3-4 minutes. For a Chemex, opt for a medium-coarse grind size, but keep the coffee to water ratio the same and allow a brewing time of 4 minutes.

Pressure

Pressure brewing  is the most common brewing method for espresso, but pressure filter coffee can also be made using a Moka Pot. Very different from other equipment, a Moka Pot is a stovetop coffee maker that pushes pressurised water through ground coffee and a filter screen, allowing through only the brewed coffee and not the leftover grounds.

We like to make our Moka Pot with 30g of fine-grind coffee and 375ml water (a 1:12.5 ratio), and allow it to brew for 1-2 minutes. You’ll know when your coffee is ready and needs to be taken off the stove when you start to hear a hissing sound!

Advice for Espresso Drinkers 

Buying Guide For Espresso Explained

The way that you store your coffee beans can make a big difference in how quickly they deteriorate and in how they taste, so it’s important to look after them properly — especially if you’ve invested in single-origin specialty beans. 

Try to always keep them in airtight storage and in a cool room or cupboard with minimal light. Lots of coffee bags are resealable, so can be kept in their original packaging and tucked away in your pantry. Unless you have to, avoid keeping coffee beans in the fridge or freezer as it can make them lose a lot of their flavour. 

Check where your coffee has come from. It’s important to know where your coffee originates for a multitude of reasons, including the ethics behind its production and the flavour notes of the bean.

Espresso Buying Tips

You can buy coffee beans suitable for espresso in any supermarket and nearly every cafe. The accessibility is great but the choice can be overwhelming.

Here are some of our top tips for buying espresso explained…

  • When possible, shop for your beans directly from an independent specialty coffee shop or roastery, as these will most likely have been produced sustainably and be the freshest. Most of these companies will also have an online shop or subscription service, making it even easier for you to get quality coffee.

  • Check where your coffee has come from. It’s important to know where your coffee originates for a multitude of reasons, including the ethics behind its production and the flavour notes of the bean. Keep an eye out for single-origin coffees or coffees that are able to name specific regions or farms where the beans were grown — these are what we would go for. 

  • Choose a brand that cares about its coffee, and that is vocal about principles surrounding sustainability, environmentalism, and direct trade. At Hermanos, we’re proud about working alongside Colombian coffee growers and take time to build and nurture these relationships. 

  • Figure out what tasting notes you enjoy in an espresso, and find a bean that matches this profile. A good way to develop this understanding is by attending a coffee cupping session, or just brushing up on your coffee tasting vocabulary so that you can better understand and describe what you do and don’t like. 

Shop Our Full Range Of Colombian Coffee Beans





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