Espresso vs. Drip Coffee: What’s The Difference?

Whether you’re searching for a new way to brew at home or headed to the coffeehouse, espresso and drip coffee are two exceptionally popular choices. Espresso supplies you with a small, concentrated shot the Italian way, while drip coffee offers a more traditional, approachable brew. 

So, let’s take a closer look at espresso and drip coffee, two of the most popular caffeinated drinks in the world, to see if we can spot the big differences.

What Is Drip Coffee?

Drip coffee is the most popular way to brew coffee, at least in the Western world. Walk into any café, professional workplace or home in the U.S., and you’ll likely find a traditional drip coffee machine. That’s because the process is one of the easiest, most efficient ways to produce a sippable beverage. The type of machine used to make drip coffee is one of the main differences between drip and espresso, followed by the type of grind used and mixing potential.

Drip coffee machine

The biggest difference between drip coffee and espresso is the way it’s brewed. Drip coffee is made with a traditional coffee machine. They work by releasing hot water over coffee grounds contained in a filter. The grounds impart their flavor as liquid passes through the filter and into the carafe below. The coffee is brewed very hot, so the user generally slowly sips on the beverage until it reaches an acceptable temperature level.

Drip coffee grind

Drip coffee can be brewed with almost any ground size or consistency. If you’re searching for the freshest cup of coffee, grind your beans before inserting them into the drip brewer. Generally, a coarser grind will be more mild and bitter while a finer grind will be more complex and acidic. Pick up a burr grinder to ensure your grounded coffee stays at a uniform coarseness for the most even flavor extraction.

Drinks to make with coffee

Coffee is great on its own, but it’s also the base of almost every delicious drink you’d find at a café. To start, coffee beans are the basic ingredient of espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, cold brews, cortados and many other popular recipes. However, some of these drinks, espresso in particular, can’t be brewed in a drip machine. 

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is an Italian-inspired drink that’s defined by its characteristically small quantity, high flavor concentration and heavier-bodied finish. It is a great option for when you’re on the go and need a quick, effective pick-me-up before you head off on your next adventure.

Espresso machine

A special machine makes it much easier to correctly brew espresso. Espresso machines are capable of producing the high amount of pressure needed to extract flavors from the compacted coffee grounds. Unlike drip coffee, espresso machines generally don’t require boiling water. After the machine finishes brewing, you can drink your single- or double-shot espresso right away or wait a few seconds for the more complex flavors to evaporate.

Espresso grind

Beyond the machine, the biggest difference between espresso and drip coffee is the grind size. Brewing an espresso almost always calls for the finest coffee grounds possible. This is part of what gives the drink its intense flavors. By forcing near-boiling water through the pressure of the grounds, it creates a small amount of crema that then forms a foamy head. 

Espresso drinks

Espresso is also used as a base for many popular drink recipes. For example, it’s used in lattes, macchiatos and americanos, although we think it’s best in single-serve shots. You can expect a higher-than-average amount of caffeine in an espresso-based drink compared to drip machine coffee, particularly if you ingest more than a single one-ounce shot.

Espresso vs. Drip Coffee: Who Wins

Drip coffee is best when you’re in the mood for a casual sipper that can be made in coffee machines found in homes, workplaces and cafés around the world. You’ll find a traditional taste combined with comforting warmth in every mug.


Espresso, on the other hand, is a quick, easy and energizing way to consume a high-viscosity, flavorful coffee beverage. Served in single- or double-shot sizes, or often as a base ingredient in popular drinks like lattes and americans, espresso is always great for a quick, intense pick-me-up.


So, whether you’re trying to improve your at-home brewing setup or are making a trip to the coffeehouse, know the differences between espresso and drip coffee so you can experiment with these exciting drinks – have fun!

Searching for the best beans for espresso?

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