At first glance, black coffee and espresso seem very similar. However, they are very different beverages, each with its own flavor profile.

Learning more about the two drinks can help you choose a favorite or experiment with various drink options.

Cup Size

Most often, only 1 ounce of espresso is served at a time. This is because espresso is so strong.

If you’re drinking plain espresso, it’s often served in a small espresso cup. You can drink coffee in any amount, but most often, black coffee is served in a mug or cup that holds between 6 and 12 ounces.

The most common coffee cup size is 8 ounces.

espresso in clear mug

Bean Type

You can make espresso and black coffee from either Robusta or Arabica beans.

However, although black coffee is often made from either, espresso is almost always made from Arabica.

arabica and robusta beans

Roast

Roast is essential when it comes to brewing both black coffee and espresso.

You can use either light, medium, or dark roast beans to make black coffee. Each type of roast offers a different flavor.

Light and medium roasts are usually ideal for slower brewing methods, as this helps to bring out all of the flavors of the beans.

Lighter roasts often have lighter, fruitier, or more subtle flavor profiles that can sometimes get lost in darker roasts.

Technically, any beans can be used to make espresso, but if you use light or medium beans, the espresso might not taste quite right.

Dark roast beans hold up best to the quick, high-pressure brewing style that espresso requires.

Darker beans are also a bit more oily, which gives espresso its signature creamy taste and texture.

When you purchase espresso beans, however, it’s important to look for a dark blend that hasn’t been over-roasted.

Over-roasted beans can taste bitter or charred, and the excess oils can clog the delicate parts of the espresso machine.

dark roast beans and coffee mug

Grind

Grind is also essential when it comes to espresso and black coffee. For a flavorful, strong cup of black coffee, a medium grind is best.

Fine grinds can slip through filters and clog brewing machines. For espresso, however, the grind must be very fine to work with the espresso machine.

espresso fine grind beans

Flavor

Both black coffee and espresso have bold flavors, but the flavor profiles of each are quite different.

The dark roast beans of espresso make it less acidic but give the coffee a fuller body. The flavor of espresso is often described as strong or intense because of how bold it is.

This coffee is also rich and creamy, even when no milk is added.

Black coffee also has a strong flavor, although it’s not as intense as espresso. It’s also not as creamy, but the flavor profile might be slightly more complex, especially if a light or medium roast was used.

woman drinking coffee outdoors

Brewing

Black coffee is brewed using a drip, percolator, or pour-over method.

Although these methods vary slightly, they all involve slowly pouring hot water over the ground beans to release the flavors of the coffee and create the drink.

Usually, a filter is placed into the coffee maker, and then the grounds are loosely poured over the filter. The water then drips over the grounds.

Most of the time, black coffee is prepared in batches, so you can brew several cups all at once.

It usually takes between five and 10 minutes to brew a pot of coffee, although different methods and how many cups you’re brewing can affect that time.

coffee maker

When brewing espresso, hot water is also poured over the coffee grounds, but the method is quite different.

First, the fine grounds are tightly pressed into a very small filter, which holds only enough grounds to make one shot of espresso.

The filter is then placed into the espresso machine, and very hot water, under high pressure, is forced through the compressed grounds.

The water penetrates the grounds evenly and extracts both dissolved and solid coffee components, giving espresso its signature taste, high caffeine level, and creamy texture.

It usually only takes about two minutes to brew a shot of espresso, but it can only be brewed one shot at a time.

espresso machine

Caffeine Level

One ounce of espresso has about 63 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, 8 ounces of black coffee contain about 95 milligrams of caffeine.

Most people drink only one serving of espresso because drinking more than that can cause a negative reaction due to the high caffeine level.

Black coffee, on the other hand, is a good choice for people who enjoy having more than one cup of coffee or prefer to drink coffee throughout the day, as the caffeine level is so much lower.

1 ounce of espresso contains 63 mg of caffeine. 1 ounce of black coffee contains 12 mg of caffeine.

Drinks

You can create different drinks with black coffee and espresso. A cappuccino, for example, is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

Lattes are very similar but have more milk than espresso or foam, and the ingredients are mixed instead of layered.

A steamer, on the other hand, is a latte made with black coffee instead of espresso.

Using the correct names can let your barista know whether you want coffee or espresso.

cappucino in white mug

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