They’re both methods for brewing coffee, but they can yield very different results, from the intensity of the coffee flavor to its texture. Here’s a closer look at the key differences between espresso vs pour over.
I’ve made my fair share of both of espresso and pour over coffee over the years. The latter was especially true during college as it was usually the cheaper option!
And while both methods involve passing hot water through coffee grounds to make coffee, the brewing process is ultimately very different.
In this article, I’ll cover how to make both espresso and pour over coffee, the equipment used to create them, and how they differ when it comes to taste.
- What is espresso?
- What types of drinks can be made with espresso?
- What equipment do you need to make espresso?
- How to make espresso
- What is pour over?
- What equipment do you need to make pour over coffee?
- How to make pour over coffee
- Espresso vs pour over: taste
- Which one has more caffeine?
- More coffee answers
What is espresso?
Espresso is made by forcing hot water under high pressure over finely ground coffee. The result is a very rich, small amount of coffee, “called shots,” that can be drunk on its own or used as a base for other coffee drinks.
The technique was developed in Italy in the early 20th century as a way to make coffee more quickly.
You need a special machine to make espresso. And while there are specific coffee bean roasts intended for espresso, these are typically medium or darker roasts.
What types of drinks can be made with espresso?
As most coffee lovers know, espresso is used in a wide range of popular drinks, from Americanos and cappuccinos to lattes and cortados. Some feature a more prominent coffee flavor. Others can be more milky or chocolatey. Here are a few of the most common.
- Americano – This drink is made with espresso and water. The water is used to dilute the espresso, but the drink as a whole has a stronger coffee taste than regular drip coffee.
- Cappuccino – Among the most popular espresso-based drinks, this is made with equal amounts espresso and steamed milk, then topped with a thick layer of airy milk foam. That can sometimes be topped with cinnamon or cocoa powder for some added flavor.
- Flat White – A flat white consists of milk that’s gently steamed to produce tiny microbubbles. That’s then poured over espresso. The microfoam combined with the espresso creates a rich, creamy, coffee beverage.
- Mocha – To make a mocha, steamed milk and chocolate syrup are added to espresso. The result is a sweet and rich coffee drink.
- Latte – This milder coffee drink uses espresso mixed with a large amount of steamed milk. You still have a coffee flavor, but it is muted by the milk.
- Cortado – Consisting of equal parts espresso and steamed milk, typically two ounces of each, this intense coffee drink is usually served in small glass cups.
What equipment do you need to make espresso?
You need an espresso machine to make true espresso coffee. And they come in a variety of styles with different features with can help you not only make the espresso itself, but also steam milk for espresso drinks. Costs can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand.
That said, you can make espresso-like coffee without an espresso machine with various types of equipment. Two common ones are a French press and a Moka Pot.
A French press works by placing ground coffee and hot water in a carafe, then letting it steep. A plunger with a metal filter is then used to separate the grounds from the resulting coffee.
A Moka Pot is a type of kettle with 3 chambers. The bottom holds the water and the coffee grounds go in the middle. When the pot is heated up on the stove, steam from boiling the water forces the water up into the chamber with the grounds. Then it brews the coffee and it collects in the top section.
How to make espresso
To make traditional espresso with an espresso machine takes under a minute. Here’s how to do it.
1. Start with very fine coffee grounds. Since espresso machines work by forcing hot water under pressure through the grounds, the finer they are, the more resistance they can create during extraction. That results in richer-tasting coffee. You’ll need about 20 grams for a double shot.
2. Add the grinds to your portafilter and even them out. This device holds the grounds as the espresso machine pumps water through them.
3. Compress the grounds with a tamper. Simply press straight down in an even fashion.
4. Create your espresso by the placing portafilter in the espresso machine and pressing the button to pull the shot. This should take about half a minute. That’s it!
What is pour over?
If you have a coffee maker at home to make your morning cup of Joe, pour over uses essentially the same process. The main distinction is that you manually distribute the water over the coffee grounds rather than having a machine do it.
It works by adding paper filters or a metal one to a specially-designed, conical cup, which itself is placed over a coffee mug or carafe. Next, the grounds are added to the filter, then you slowly pour hot water over them. It passes through the grounds and the resulting coffee is deposited into the mug on the bottom.
The pour over method can give you more control over the strength and temperature of your coffee. And you can also better manage how much coffee you make, as this method generally makes only a few cups at a time.
What equipment do you need to make pour over coffee?
Making a great cup of coffee with the pour-over method requires a few basic tools.
Coffee grinder – If you have whole beans, you’ll first need to grind them using a coffee grinder. Typically, you should aim for a medium grind. You want the grounds to be big enough that the hot water can pass through them while still imparting good coffee flavor, but not too small where they could seep through the filter.
Coffee filter – The filter is where you’ll put your grounds before you pour over the hot water. It sits inside a pour over cone and keeps the grounds from ending up in your coffee cup. Paper and metal are the two most common filter materials.
Pour over cone – You’ll place the pour over cone directly over your coffee mug. Then add the filter and grounds. This device essentially holds the filter in place as you pour in the hot water.
Mug or carafe – You’ll need somewhere for the brewed coffee to go, so placing your mug or carafe right under the cone allows the coffee to collect directly into it.
Kettle – For heating your water. You don’t need a special kettle. Even a stove pot would work. But there are specific ones called gooseneck kettles which can make the pour over process easier. As the name implies, they have a long, curved neck that allows you to pour the hot water with more control and precision.
How to make pour over coffee
1. Gather all of your equipment and grind your coffee. Then add it to the filter resting in the pour over cone. Each scoop of ground coffee is about 2 tablespoons, which will make one cup of brewed coffee.
2. Heat water temperature to about 200° Fahrenheit. For every scoop of ground coffee, use about 12 ounces of water. For stronger coffee, you can use less water.
3. Slowly pour a small amount of the hot water over the cone containing the filter and allow the grounds to “bloom” or bubble. After about 30 seconds, pour over the rest of the water. For best results, you’ll want to make sure you distribute the water evenly over the grounds, so you may need to use a spiral or criss-cross motion.
Espresso vs pour over: taste
While both espresso and pour over will result in a satisfying coffee taste, you’ll likely notice some differences between the two.
Due to the intensity of the extraction process and the small amount of water needed for espresso, it will have a richer, more intense flavor and texture.
On the other hand, pour over coffee will taste a bit milder, but you also may sense more acidity and a more complex layering of flavors, as the extraction and brewing process takes more time.
The type of beans, along with how you end up using your coffee, can also affect its taste. Some bean roasts are stronger and more flavorful, for example. And if you add milk or sweeteners to your pour over, that can mellow out the coffee taste.
Similarly, if you use your espresso to make other drinks like lattes or mochas, that will alter the coffee flavor profile.
Which one has more caffeine?
A single shot of espresso shots packs about 65 milligrams of caffeine. By contrast, an ounce of drip coffee has about 12 mg of caffeine.
So an average 12 oz drip coffee contains around 144 mg of caffeine.
If you used a double espresso shot for drinks, that would make it virtually even to drip in terms of caffeine content, depending on the size of your drip coffee — roughly 130 mg vs 144 mg.
Of course, if you opt for more shots of espresso or a larger drip coffee, your caffeine levels will rise.
In general, pour over equipment will be more affordable than buying an espresso machine.
A good-quality set up of a pour over cone, filters, mug, and kettle combined will generally cost around $150. Though than can edge closer to $200 if you opt for specialty cones or a gooseneck kettle.
Home espresso machines can be much spendier. A good basic model will start at around $150. Expect to pay several hundred dollars for a mid-level espresso machine and several thousand dollars if you want a professional grade one like you might see at your favorite coffee shops.
These usually come with specialized equipment and settings that can give you more control over the espresso and can produce other coffee drinks.
From heating the water to the finished brew takes about 4-5 minutes. That can depend on how hot you want your water to be and how slowly you pour it over your ground coffee.
Allowing coffee to bloom involves pouring a bit of hot water over coffee grounds to allow CO2 and some oils to be released. That reaction creates a layer of bubbles on the surface of the grounds as the hot water hits it. This also opens up the grounds and allows for more flavor to be extracted from them more evenly. It usually takes about 30 seconds. Once you see those bubbles forming, you can pour over the rest of the hot water. Using the pour over brew method is ideal for controlling coffee bloom.
While some coffee beans may be labeled espresso roast, they are actually typically dark roast or medium roast. These beans are roasted for longer periods of time. That gives the resulting coffee a deeper flavor. And the additional roasting removes some of the acidity and oils from the beans so your coffee will have a smoother, less astringent feel.
More coffee answers
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