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The Difference Between Espresso and Filter Coffee

The Difference Between Espresso and Filter Coffee

Both espresso and filter coffee are two very different extraction methods and are just as fascinating as one another. One of the main differences between espresso and filter coffee is the brewing method, including the coarseness of the grind, amount of water used and the brewing time. Here is a low down of the many differences between espresso and filter coffee.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is the answer to your immediate caffeine needs, as it is quick to make and consume, giving you the ultimate caffeine buzz. To put it simply, espresso is a brewing process.

It is brewed at high temperatures with pressurised water running through your finely ground coffee beans and is far more concentrated than filter coffee. It acts as a base for a huge variety of coffee types, from Americanos, to cappuccinos, flat whites and lattes. It can be constructed in so many different ways. All you have to do is add steamed milk, hot water and any other sweeteners and you are ready to go, for a premium cup of coffee.

ground coffee beans in group head

The Crema

The first layer of espresso coffee is the Crema, a golden-brown layer of a shot, made up of proteins and oils. The crema layer is always the sign of a good espresso shot. The second layer is the liquid layer, which brings acidity and sweetness to your coffee. The body of the espresso is a caramel-brown colour, and the base is a richer, darker shade of brown. Here is how the process of creating the top layer of crema works:

  • Delicate coffee oils blend with the hot water.
  • The exposure to pressure degasses the coffee beans and any carbon dioxide that is trapped from the roasting process escapes.
  • Bicarbonate ions in the water undergo a chemical reaction.
  • The change from a high pressure environment (the machine) to a low pressure environment (the cup) allows the carbon dioxide to break through the espresso walls and bubble.

When brewed properly the espresso under the crema will have a rich, velvety taste and aromatic scent and preserves more volatile and aromatic coffee oils not found in a regular cup of coffee.

espresso in glass

What is Filter Coffee?

The brewing process for filter coffee is longer than the process of making an espresso. When making filter coffee, hot water runs through the coffee grounds because of gravity, rather than being pushed through with pressure. Also known as the ‘pour over and drip’ method, filter coffee draws less acidity and is a more popular brewing choice for single origin coffees, as it allows the drinker to appreciate all the flavours and aromas.

Filter coffee usually has a clean body with a rounded, simple flavour profile and is far less intense than espresso coffee. It is a single mug of coffee that you can add cream or sugar to, but is not as versatile as espresso.

cafetiere on a table next to mugs and scones

How to Make Filter Coffee

Drip or filter coffee is made by dripping boiling water over ground coffee which is ground more coarsely than espresso coffee. This process is slower than making an espresso, and hot water is in contact with the ground coffee for much longer. You can use a French Press or Cafetiere to make filter coffee, which work by extracting and plunging the coffee beans.

The process begins by pouring hot water over the coffee grounds and waiting for the coffee to bloom, using the appropriate filter equipment. This process takes up to 30 seconds and allows the release of carbon dioxide to facilitate better water. Then, you leave the coffee to set, which takes no longer than two minutes. The end result is a smooth, lighter coffee.

To find out more about the filter coffee process, read “How to Make the Perfect Coffee With a Cafetiere” here.

pouring filter coffee into cup

What Equipment Do I Need?

When making espresso coffee, you will need to invest in a suitable traditional coffee machine that can deal with high pressure work environments. Traditional or bean-to-cup espresso machines provide you with everything you need to make any variety of coffee.

For filter coffee, you will need a bulk brew machine. Filter coffee brewers are suitable for medium to high volume filter coffee requirements, and come with manual and automatic fill options to suit your preference.


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