In order to understand the difference between a coffee machine and an espresso machine we first need to understand the difference between espresso and coffee (also known as filter coffee, drip coffee or pour over coffee). Ultimately all coffee comes from the same place, the coffee bean. But each kind of machine has a different process and creates a different coffee experience. Which type of machine creates a better coffee? The coffee machine vs espresso machine debate has coffee connoisseurs divided worldwide. The goal of each machine is to create the best possible drink, but that of course, comes down to personal taste.
Coffee cups with espresso shots
What is espresso?
Espresso is a quintessential Italian drink that has now been adopted by coffee lovers worldwide. It is brewed by expressing or forcing out a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. The end product is known as a ‘shot’ and has a rich and creamy flavour. It can be consumed as it is or it can be used as the basis for other types of coffee such as cappuccino, latte, macchiato, ristretto or long black. The easiest way to make espresso coffee is with a Nespresso capsule machine.
Espressos are thicker in consistency than filter coffee and contain a higher level of caffeine. They also have layers known as the heart, body and the crema.
The heart is the bottom layer of the espresso shot that contains the bitter qualities of the coffee. The colour of the heart should be a deep, rich brown.
The body is the middle layer of the espresso shot and is caramel brown in colour.
The crema is the sweet golden layer that sits on top of an espresso shot. This is where the aroma comes from and some of the finest flavours. It is also the part of the shot that helps to create the coffee art that is often seen on barista cappuccinos and lattes.
What is coffee machine coffee?
Hot water is poured over ground coffee where it absorbs the flavours and oils of the beans. It then gradually drips through a filter into a mug or container below. It’s as simple as that. A premium option for anyone who prefers coffee maker style coffee is the Nespresso Vertuo machine. It has the ability to make larger volumes of coffee with less caffeine. It uses a similar brewing process to drip coffee known as centrifusion. The added bonus of this machine is that it can also make espresso for when you need a stronger drink.
Nespresso coffee machine extracting a coffee
The difference between espresso machines and coffee makers
It’s all in the brewing method
Filter coffee beans are roasted with the brewing method in mind. The beans tend to be much lighter which preserves the acidity of the bean. In contrast, espresso roasts are usually much darker, and richer in flavour. This creates the intense flavour that espresso is famous for and also provides the strength of coffee required for mixing with milk to create cappuccinos and lattes.
Espresso coffee machines use a fine, powder-like grind of coffee while coffee makers use a coarse, thick grind.
The finer grind of espresso coffee means that an espresso machine brews and pours within about 30 seconds. In contrast, the coarser grind of drip coffee means you may have to allow up to ten minutes of brewing time.
An espresso machine uses high pressure to force water through coffee within only a few seconds. Coffee makers rely on the power of gravity to gradually pull water through the filters.
The coffee maker is almost always the cheaper option due to its simple function and limited features. But if it is a barista style coffee that you are seeking it’s well worth investing in a quality espresso machine.
Coffee makers produce somewhere between 95mg and 165mg of caffeine per 225ml cup. Coffee can be made stronger by selecting a darker roast or by increasing the brewing time. Espresso machines produce between 375mg and 520 mg of caffeine per 225ml. Nespresso capsules cater to all tastes. Original capsules contain between 50mg and 120mg, Vertuo capsules range from 70mg to 150 mg of caffeine for Espresso and Gran Lungo pours, and between 170mg and 200 mg per cup for Mug and Alto coffee sizes.
Espresso machine vs coffee maker
Which is better?
Most coffee lovers world-wide would argue that espresso machines offer a more authentic, richer, creamier coffee experience. An espresso machine also allows you to select various types of coffee depending on your mood, taste or desired strength. In comparison, coffee makers are a one-function machine and will certainly produce a weaker coffee. If you are a coffee enthusiast, you will almost certainly prefer the end product delivered by an espresso machine.