Coffee vs. Espresso

I've noticed over the years that there is a lot of confusion around these two terms. A lot of people seem to think that they are the same thing, when the truth is their relationship is kind of like the square and the rectangle. While all espresso is coffee, not all coffee is espresso.

So what's the difference?


A beverage made by percolation, infusion, or decoction from the roasted and ground seeds of a coffee plant.


Espresso is coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.

espressoTypically, espresso is made using a very dark roasted bean and it is ground very finely to extract as much of the flavor out of the beans as possible. The grounds are then packed down very tight (approximately 30 lbs of pressure by hand) and small amount hot water/steam is forced through the puck. 


The result of this process is a small cup (at the Comfort Zone a tall shot of espresso is 2oz) of potent, rich, and bright coffee that can be drank by itself of turned into drinks such a lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, and more. Another important difference between coffee and espresso comes with the presence of something called "Crema". Crema is formed during the process of brewing a shot of espresso, it is a result of the air bubbles combining with the oils from the coffee and resting on top of the liquid.  Here's a quick description from "CoffeeGeek":

"Hot water hits the ground coffee and interesting things start to happen. To many who talk and write about espresso, the pump pressure of 9 bars is most relevant to emulsifying the otherwise insoluble oils in the coffee. It has another use as well, because it allows water to become supersaturated with the CO2, dissolving far more than it could if the water is at normal atmospheric pressure. This is why the thousands of tiny bubbles appear as soon as the liquid escapes the pressurised basket. In the cup, these thousands of tiny bubbles settle out, much like a pint of Guinness when it is poured (where the same thing is happening, just for slightly different reasons). Hence the term the 'Guinness effect'”  - Read more at CoffeeGeek

Fun Fact: Crema is what allows people to make "latte art" in a drink. It's the crema that floats on the top of the froth to make the brownish-red design!

coffeeCoffee on the other hand can be brewed in a number of different ways. Whether you're using a perculator, a drip coffee maker, a french press, or any of the other types of coffee makers, you can create a tasty cup of coffee. The grind you use will vary depending on the machine you're using, but a cup of "regular" coffee will not have crema, and you'll probably pour a larger cup than 2 ounces! The flavor of a cup of coffee is not as concentrated as a shot of espresso. 

At the Comfort Zone we serve a wide variety of drinks using both "regular" coffee and espresso, and we love them both. I hope you can take this knowledge and feel a little more comfortable next time you're faced with a question like: "Did you want a Mocha Latte (using espresso) or a Comfort Mocha (using coffee)?"

All Wired-up,



# Ilaria Pellini 2016-04-17 12:43
I love coffee
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Comfort Zone Cafe, Hamburg, NY