What’s the difference between espresso and filter coffee?

Two different extraction methods and two very different experiences. Espresso and filter coffee are just as complex and fascinating as one another. Here’s why…

One of the main differences between espresso and filter coffee is the brewing method.

This combined with the coarseness of the grind, the amount of water used and the brewing time, leads us toward two very different experiences.

Espresso: versatile and intense

Espresso is brewed by forcing near-boiling water through fine coffee grounds using intense pressure (8-10 bars). This amount of pressure cannot be created by human hands alone.

The pressure causes the water to rapidly extract sugars, oils, solids, and other flavourful compounds from the grounds. The end result is a flavour-dense shot of espresso.

Because of the concentrated flavour, espresso is quite versatile. Though excellent on its own, it can be mixed with other ingredients to create thousands of espresso-based beverages, like the Cortado, Macchiato, Americano or Latte, for example.

What does Espresso taste like?

By design, espresso is intense, but balanced. Imagine taking a mug full of drip coffee and condensing it to 45ml. The flavours become far more concentrated, but they remain in harmony with each other.

Espresso, when brewed well, has a crisp acidity, a pleasant sweetness, a syrupy mouthfeel, and a symphony of flavours and aromas.

It’s bold, yet complex and nuanced at the same time, with a hazelnut brown coloured crema; a layer of oils and proteins that float to the surface of the shot.

Filter Coffee: smooth and pleasant

Filter coffee brewing  involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds. Gravity then pulls the water through the grounds, facilitating extraction, and dispenses it into a mug or carafe placed below.

Without pressure to quicken the extraction, it takes more time and water to produce a rich, balanced mug. The end result is a smooth, lighter coffee in three to five minutes.

Filter coffee is typically made in one of these devices:

  • Automatic Drip Machine – Brews as much as 10 mugs in minutes; electrically powered
  • Pour Over Cone – Brews only 1-3 mugs at a time; requires manual water pouring

What Does Filter Coffee Taste Like?

Filter coffee can be just as complex and fascinating as espresso, if not more so, because the flavour compounds have more water to spread out in. This makes the coffee less concentrated than espresso, and so the drink is less intense. This can make it easier to pick up on the intricate nuance flavours hidden in the beans.

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