Why Does Espresso Taste Different Than Regular Coffee?

crazy by Editorial Staff | Posted on January 14th, 2023

Do you love coffee but have always been curious about why espresso tastes different than regular coffee? You’re not alone!


This blog post will dive into the differences between espresso and regular coffee and what makes them unique. So grab a cup of your favorite brew, and let’s get started!

espresso cup

How it is brewed

Espresso is brewed differently than regular coffee. It requires finely ground coffee beans, pressurized hot water, and a special espresso machine. The pressure to brew espresso is much higher than that of regular drip-brewed coffee.

This pressure forces the hot water through the finely ground beans much quicker than drip-brewed coffee, resulting in an intense, rich flavor. The extraction process of espresso also pulls out more flavors from the beans than drip-brewed coffee does, making espresso a more intense and flavorful beverage.

The amount of coffee bean solids

One of the key differences between espresso and drip coffee is the number of coffee bean solids. Because of the pressurized way it’s brewed, espresso contains more than five times the amount of coffee bean solids than drip coffee. This results in a more concentrated and flavorful brew.

The total dissolvable solids, along with the evenness of extraction, are what determine the flavor of the espresso or brewed coffee. The coffee must be finely ground for espresso to get a proper extraction. This is because of the short time the coffee grounds are in contact with hot water during the espresso brewing process.

How much water is added

The amount of water used to pull an espresso shot affects the flavor. A normal shot is 7 to 9 grams of ground coffee and 30 milliliters of water. This small liquid yields a much stronger flavor than a cup of drip coffee.

It’s also important to note that espresso should be made with filtered or bottled water, as tap water can affect the taste. The low mineral content of espresso with distilled or sparkling water will produce a tasty cup of espresso, but it’s not ideal for darker roasts.

The impact of extraction time on flavor

The extraction time has a major impact on the flavor of espresso, as does the temperature at which it is brewed. If espresso is extracted too quickly, it will be lighter, more acidic, and have a more fruity flavor.

Conversely, under-extracted espresso will lack sweetness and bitterness and will taste sour. On the other hand, over-extraction can lead to an astringent taste. The optimal extraction time is when 20% of the soluble solids have been extracted from the grounds.

By contrast, pour-over coffee or drip brewed with a paper filter is typically extracted for longer. This produces a mellow cup of coffee with a smooth body.

Pressure and temperature affect taste

It’s not only the amount of water and pressure applied to the beans that make a difference in the taste of espresso. Temperature also plays a major role in the flavor of espresso. The bitterness and acidity of espresso were more pronounced at higher brewing temperatures.

On the flip side, when coffee is under-extracted, it can cause a sour taste and lack of body. This is because the oils aren’t extracted, which results in an acidic flavor. Under high temperatures and pressure, this acid can end up in your espresso and taste sour. An espresso brew should last between 20-30 seconds to extract the best flavors.

Roast and grind make a difference

Roast and grind size also play a crucial role in determining the flavor of both espresso and coffee. Espresso beans are roasted until very dark, increasing their capacity to withstand the high pressure they are brewed.

Furthermore, espresso is ground to a much finer consistency than regular coffee, which further contributes to its intense flavor. This finer grind also helps to extract more flavor from the beans during the brewing process.

By contrast, regular coffee beans are typically roasted to a lighter level and are ground to a coarser consistency, allowing for a slower flavor extraction during brewing. Ultimately, these differences in roast and grind size create two distinct flavors in espresso and coffee.

The paper filter and flavor

The paper filter used to pour over or drip coffee also influences the flavor of the resulting drink. The filter absorbs some of the oils in the coffee grounds, giving the resulting cup a cleaner and smoother taste. This is why many people prefer to drink black-filter coffee, as it can be easier to appreciate the delicate flavors and subtle notes.

In contrast, espresso does not use a paper filter, allowing more oils and solids to pass through and giving it a bolder taste. The lack of a paper filter also helps to bring out the intense flavors of espresso, making it a popular choice for coffee lovers looking for something more intense.

Caffeine affecting your taste buds

When it comes to caffeine, espresso and coffee are quite different. Espresso typically has 63 mg of caffeine in 1 ounce, while an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee contains around 95 mg.

This means that while an espresso shot has less caffeine than an 8-ounce cup of coffee, it still packs a punch. That’s because espresso is made with more concentrated coffee beans and less water than regular coffee. So, while the amount of liquid may be the same, the caffeine content is much higher.

Research from Aarhus University has shown that caffeine consumption can significantly affect one’s taste perception. The study found that caffeine reduces the sensitivity of our taste buds, resulting in a decreased ability to perceive the full sweetness of sweet foods.

Additionally, the research showed that coffee increases our sensitivity to sweetness, making sweet food appear even sweeter. This suggests that having a cup of coffee can bring out the flavor of sweet food even more. So, the next time you want to enjoy a sweet treat, consider having a cup of coffee first!

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Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.