The real difference between coffee and espresso

The differences between coffee and espresso might seem pretty clear if you are considering the drinks themselves. One is bigger, not as strong, and offers a more leisurely sipping experience with more liquid to go through. On the other hand, espresso is smaller, a more compact experience, and stronger. But if you ponder the differences between the ground beans that make both coffee and espresso, you will find a more nuanced answer. 

While you could certainly use the same coffee beans to make both coffee and espresso, the end result has a lot to do with how the beans and the coffee are prepared. Of course, you want to begin with good beans whatever you are making for a flavorful and robust caffeine jolt. But, to get an espresso from coffee beans, the grind must be very fine and packed tight. Regular coffee can be made by filtering through the same beans that are more loosely packed. Coffee also uses a larger, coarse grind (via My Recipes).

Comparing how coffee and espresso are made

Though the size of the ground beans and the degree to which the ground beans are packed are both major differences between making coffee and espresso, there are a few mechanical differences too. It's true you don't have to have an espresso machine to make shots, but it will make the job easier and more precise (via Roasty Coffee).

One key difference between the processes is that espresso calls for very hot water to be rapidly filtered through the tightly packed coffee grounds. It can actually take as little as 30 seconds. To do this requires quite a bit more pressure than regular coffee. Doing this helps form the layers of the espresso shot like the top crema as well as distributes the coffee oils throughout the liquid. However, regular coffee relies on gravity to filter the water through the coffee grounds which means it requires more time.

So, however you prefer your morning pick-me-up, you can understand the fundamental differences between coffee and espresso and order with authority.