There are numerous differences between filter coffee and espresso, but the most obvious ones are the grinds’ fineness and brewing times. Espresso coffee is finely ground and is in contact with boiling water for a short period, while filter coffee has a coarser ground. As a result, it is brewed for longer at a much lower temperature.
The average cup of filter coffee ( 8 fluid ounces or 236.5 ml) has about 150 to 250 mg of caffeine. A single espresso shot (33 ml) has about 63 mg of caffeine. However, the average espresso shot is about two fluid ounces which bring its caffeine content to around 125 mg, so espresso has a higher caffeine concentration per fluid ounce, but filter coffee has more caffeine per entire serving.
We will explore all the differences between filter coffee and espresso to help you decide what coffee to have.
Why Does Filter Coffee Contain More Caffeine Than Espresso?
Espresso has a higher caffeine concentration than espresso because you grind espresso to a smaller size than filter coffee.
If you grind beans for filter coffee in an espresso grinder, you would have bitter-tasting coffee.
Espresso takes less time to brew, with the average brew taking 20 to 30 seconds. This means more time for the ultra-fine ground coffee to deliver an excellent espresso.
While brewing filter, coffee may take several minutes before reaching its final flavor.
Espresso machines have the pressure and temperature facilities to reach higher temperatures when compared to standard coffee makers; also, most coffee makers don’t have the pressurizing unit.
Differences between Espresso And Filter Coffee
It’s essential to know the brewing processes of the two coffees, as this is where all their differences lie:
What Is Espresso?
Espresso is a shot of coffee brewed at a high, almost boiling, temperature, pressurized water runs through finely-ground coffee beans, and it is more concentrated than filtered coffee.
As a result, espresso is more concentrated and thicker than a filter, and it has many layers.
The crema is the top layer of a shot; it is golden brown and made of oils, proteins, and melanoidins.
The liquid can be characterized by two different parts, the body, and the heart. The body is in the middle of the espresso, and it is a caramel-brown color.
The heart of the espresso is a richer shade of brown. This is the main component of an espresso shot and in it lies acidity and sweetness.
What Is Filter Coffee?
In theory, you could say espresso and filter are the same concepts as the fundamentals are the same.
Both drinks involve pouring hot water over coffee grounds. Hot water passes through coffee grounds and a filter and falls into a vessel.
The main difference between filter and espresso is that water flows through the grounds by gravity rather than being pushed with pressure.
Because of this, filter requires more coffee grounds and more water. As a result, the brewing process for filter coffee takes longer than espresso, but the resulting beverage is still pretty decent.
Filter coffee is also known as pour-over and drip, and this method draws less acidity and enhances the more intricate coffee flavors.
For this reason, filter coffee is a better brewing choice for single-origin coffees, as it enables the drinker to enjoy all the aromas and flavors.
Decent filter coffee doesn’t have layers like espresso, but it is clean and consistent, the reason being more water can absorb coffee oils and fragrances in its own time and pressure, rather than force.
Also, the lower acidity gives the coffee a milder mouthfeel than espresso.
Differences In Taste
One of the most significant differences between filter and espresso is the taste. Espressos generally have a complex flavor consisting of body, sweetness, and a finish. In addition, the thick crema on top has excessive acidity.
As a result, it’s a more miniature drink with more complex flavors, and it contains more of a kick due to its highly pressurized brewing method.
These flavors are perfect with steamed milk for drawing out the mild sweetness of cappuccinos and lattes.
Filter coffee has more subtle tasting notes, delicate acidity, and a consistent taste. In addition, black filter coffee is easier to drink and allows for the development of complex flavors from different single-origin beans.
How Long Is The Brewing Time For Espresso And Filter Coffee?
The brewing and steeping time for filter coffee is what draws out the complexities. The process begins by saturating the grounds and waiting for the wet coffee to “bloom” for a minimum of 30 seconds.
This helps release carbon dioxide, improving the water flow during the process. Then there is a waiting period of 1.5 to 2 mins for the coffee to pour into the vessel.
Making espresso is a faster way of getting your hands on a coffee. In contrast, the gold standard is the traditional Italian shot time of 25 to 30 seconds.
Using an espresso for a milk-based drink, steaming and pouring milk takes only seconds. Grinding takes a little time, and preparation takes about one minute.
What Brewing Equipment Do I Need For Filter And Espresso?
Filter coffee doesn’t require as much equipment as espresso, making it a cheaper way to make coffee. For espresso, you need an espresso machine that can set you back hundreds or even thousands, depending on the model.
An espresso machine will also take up more countertop space and electricity. You also need numerous tools, such as portafilter baskets, spouted or naked portafilters, shower screens, etc.
All you need is a dripper, a cup, and filter paper; however, you may need items like a thermometer and a scale to help you achieve more accuracy.
Many drippers like the Clever Dripper, Chemex, V60, Kalita Wave, etc., come in various materials and have minor differences.
Can I Use Filter Coffee For Espresso?
If you are lucky enough to have both a filter coffee maker and an espresso machine, you may wonder if you can use filter coffee to make espresso.
First, you can use filter coffee in an espresso machine, although the size may not be at the necessary fineness and may result in the espresso tasting bitter.
As ground coffee is used to make standard black coffee, you must do some things to draw out the best qualities fully.
With espresso, hot water is in contact with the ground coffee for only a short period, so the coffee needs to have a very fine grind size.
A fine grind size means more of the coffee will come into contact with the hot water because of the greater surface area, and the smaller gaps between the coffee grinds mean that the water takes longer to flow through.
If you use pre-made coffee, it will have a coarse grind size as it is designed to make coffee that tastes better when made with coarse coffee.
When using filtered coffee for espresso, the water tends to flow through it too quickly and will contact less of the grounds, which will result in a watery and sour espresso.
If you can get a decent grinder, grind the coffee more finely. You can minimize the sourness of espresso by tamping it with more force, although not too hard, as this can also make the espresso too bitter.
Brewing The Perfect Cup
Manual methods are best for both coffee types, as they give you more control over the different parts of the brewing method to create a balanced and tasty cup.
To brew the perfect espresso shot, these include the correct grind, accurately measured grams, and the right brewing time.
Brewing the perfect shot of espresso may be difficult at home, given the price tag on many decent espresso machines.
For that reason alone, it might be better to work with a filter brewer like a Chemex or V60 as they are user-friendly and produce a pretty decent cup of Joe.
The Future Of Filter Coffee
For too long, filter coffee has been looked down upon and considered an inferior brewing method; however, with the upsurge of third-wave coffee, manual brewing methods have become more prevalent in recent years, and filter coffee is seeing a comeback.
Filter coffee is becoming popular because coffee connoisseurs worldwide can taste more refined flavors in their cups due to the longer brewing time of single-origin coffee with a subtle flavor.
Espresso is stronger in caffeine; it has a higher caffeine content than filter coffee. If you wonder which coffee is better, truthfully, neither is better than the other as either method can deliver a delicious coffee.
With that said, filter coffee is ideal if you want to experience single-origin coffees and their delicate flavor notes. It also has a cleaner taste.
On the other hand, espresso is a faster way of getting your caffeine kick, and it is better if you wish to mix it with steamed milk. Ultimately, the choice between the two beverages comes down to your preferences.