What is the difference between espresso and filter coffee?

Difference between espresso and filter coffee

You step into any coffee bar and you will find many different drinks based on espresso . Including cappuccino, flat white, Americano, latte and espresso macchiato.

If all these options make your head spin, don't worry. Fortunately, you are not the only one who does not know exactly what the difference is between all these types of coffee and filter coffee.

By learning and discovering the main differences between espresso and filter coffee, you will always be able to make the right choice in the future that offers exactly what your taste buds need.

What is espresso and how is it made

Before I can tell you what an espresso is, there are first 2 espresso myths that I want to bust. 'Espresso is a coffee bean, isn't it…' No espresso is not a bean.

You can make an espresso drink from any bean, whatever it says on the package. But this also applies the other way around. If it says on the package, roasted for espresso, you can also make a 'normal' coffee with this. Second.

Espresso is also not a style of roasting coffee. Usually, coffee beans that are recommended for espresso are roasted a little darker. This makes the beans more porous, making it easier to get a good, balanced extraction.

Espresso is a concentrated coffee brewed under high pressure. This concentrated coffee is often no more than 40 ml and has a thicker, more viscous texture than a 'regular' cup of coffee.

Due to the high pressure and concentration, a crema forms on top of the espresso, which is formed by air bubbles that are mixed with the oils from the coffee.

Do you want to know how to make the perfect espresso? Then read this blog .


What is filter coffee and how is it made?

Filter coffee, or better known to some as 'regular' coffee, is a much simpler way (in terms of gear) of making coffee in terms of technology.

No use is made of an espresso machine that can run water through the coffee under the right pressure in a very short time. Instead, hot water is added to the coffee and slowly sinks through the ground coffee.

With the right technique, you are also able to extract the ultimate taste from your coffee with this method.

View some filter setting methods here:

Hario V60: instruction

Chemex: instruction

Aeropress: instruction

filter coffee

What are the differences between espresso and filter coffee?


Perhaps the biggest difference between espresso and filter coffee is the grind, or more commonly known as grind.

For an espresso you need a very fine grind that serves as a barrier for the water, so that the pressure of the espresso machine can build up and the desired, concentrated espresso can be made.

For filter coffee, you want a somewhat coarser grind. Start with a medium grind to make them the perfect filter coffee. If you use too fine a grind for filter coffee, you will get over-extraction and this over-extraction will give you a very bitter cup of coffee.

2. Roast type

In principle, you can use any coffee bean, regardless of the roast, for any brewing method. A coffee roaster usually has a goal with a coffee bean and also gives brewing advice.

For example, Zwarte Roes Coffee is always provided with brewing advice and it is recommended which brewing method our team likes best for the specific coffee.

But to stay with the differences... A coffee roasted for espresso is usually roasted a bit longer and sometimes a bit darker.

This makes the extraction of the espresso easier, creating a balanced espresso.

Coffees roasted for filter brewing methods are often roasted lighter and shorter so that you can taste more of the delicate flavors of the origin of the coffee. And to avoid over-extraction.

So pay close attention to what is written on the packaging, otherwise you can always ask your coffee roaster for advice.

Also read: which coffee beans should I buy

3. Taste & texture

As you have understood, an espresso is much more concentrated and therefore a lot more intense in taste. Due to the intensity, the texture is more viscous and thicker than a cup of filter coffee. 

This is because an espresso is often 6-8 times stronger than a regular cup of coffee. This also affects the perception of bitterness and acidity, as this is naturally present in the roasted coffee. You will experience this much more intensely when drinking an espresso.

Filter coffees keep the flavors in check a bit more and provide less expressiveness in the taste experience.

This is also the reason why many coffee roasters roast coffee for a shorter and lighter time before filtering, so that the desired acidity and sweetness come out more prominently.

In terms of texture, compared to an espresso, you will always find a cup of filter coffee a bit waterier because there is simply more water in your cup compared to coffee. This does not mean that the taste is also watery.

In addition to the taste and texture differences, with a perfectly brewed espresso you also get a beautiful hazelnut-colored crema layer which provides a more creamy texture and taste experience.

4. Caffeine content

Although an espresso is known to be stronger and contain more caffeine than 'regular' coffee, in reality this is a bit different. Yes, the amount of caffeine per drink is a lot higher, but because an espresso is so small, it is actually comparable in practice.

Of course there is a big difference between bean type and size that also determine how much caffeine ends up in your cup.

5. Brewing time

Also a nice one. An espresso goes really fast. Then you have to disregard the grinding of the coffee, weighing your shot and tamping your coffee.

A perfect espresso takes, in terms of extraction, 20-40 seconds. Find your sweet spot here and you will never want anything else.

For a filter coffee, you will soon be busy for a few minutes instead of half a minute. This of course depends on the brewing method and the amount of coffee you are going to brew, but for the sake of convenience, assume between 3-10 minutes.

6. How do you use it?

This way you can turn your 'regular' coffee into a cold brew and ice coffee or process it into a beautiful cocktail. But that's where it ends with the options you have with a regular coffee.

On the other hand, espresso is really the basis for almost all coffee drinks that you will find in every coffee bar and restaurant.

So if you think espresso isn't my cup of tea, don't forget that your espresso is used to make at least one, if not more, of the drinks you drink every day.

So it is the basis for:

  • Cappuccino , a shot of espresso with steamed milk
  • Latte/ latte , double shot of espresso with steamed milk
  • Americano , shot of espresso with hot water
  • Espresso Martini, shot of espresso with coffee liqueur, vodka and syrup
  • Flat White , shot of espresso with 2 shots of steamed milk
  • Affogato , shot of espresso with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

7. Price

Where you can start for filter coffee with a simple V60 and some filters for less than € 15, with an espresso set up you will soon lose several hundred euros.

The biggest stumbling block to making the best espresso at home is often the investment for all the gear you need to make an espresso.

Do you still want that espresso experience at home, but don't want to make the big investment right away? Then you can make an espresso in a cheap way with a Mocha pot.

With a filter method or an espresso method you can both make a fantastic cup of coffee. Always make sure you buy freshly roasted coffee beans, which are sustainably sourced and preferably traceable back to the coffee farmer. Then you're always right.

Read also: What is espresso?