Is espresso healthier than coffee?
If you regularly drink coffee, you’ve probably stopped and asked yourself this question to see whether you should switch to one or the other for a healthier lifestyle. After all, while drinking coffee – whether espresso or drip – has some health benefits such as lowering heart disease and antioxidants, you still want to err on the side of caution if you’re drinking the stuff on a daily basis.
Trying to decide between espresso or drip coffee as a healthier choice is a legitimate question.
Espresso vs. Coffee: What Is the Difference?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: espresso is coffee. Some people mistake espresso as being a different animal from coffee, but the main difference that separates espresso and other types of coffee is the brewing process.
To make things simple, let’s define espresso and drip coffee.
To make espresso, hot pressurized water is forced through a compact puck of grounds. The whole process takes 20-30 seconds and results in a dark brew with a golden-brown oily layer on top called the crema. The traditional size of an espresso shot is 1 oz. However, most coffee shops in the USA serves it at 2oz.
For drip coffee, only gravity does the work of forcing the hot water through the grounds. This means that the water comes into contact with the grounds for a longer period of time, and no external pressure is used. Drip coffee does not have a layer of crema, and unlike espresso, it does not have a standard size. However, most coffee shops serve 8oz. as the regular size for drip coffee.
Filtered vs. Unfiltered Coffee
It’s significant to note that drip coffee uses filters while espressos do not. Some argue that this makes espresso healthier since the liquid will not come into contact with any chemicals or foreign compounds that may be found in the filter paper. This is why it’s important to use food-grade, FDA-approved filter paper for drip coffee.
On the other hand, not using filter paper means that you’re drinking compounds in the coffee called diterpenes. Studies have shown that consuming diterpenes elevates your cholesterol, particularly your LDL-cholesterol, which is the bad kind of cholesterol. Since espresso requires the extraction of the soluble fat on the grounds, drinking large amounts of espresso on a regular basis can be unhealthy.
The Caffeine Showdown
Now let’s tackle one of the most common misconceptions that a lot of people have in the espresso vs. drip coffee debate: which one contains more caffeine.
Most people know that too much caffeine is bad. It causes jitters, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea, just to name a few. In fact, an overdose of caffeine is what most people are trying to avoid when it comes to choosing between espresso and drip coffee.
Chances are, you may think that espresso contains more caffeine than drip coffee.
Simply put, is espresso healthier than coffee when it comes to caffeine content?
Well, no …and yes.
If you use the standard serving sizes used by coffee shops to serve espresso (2oz) and drip coffee (8oz), it appears like espresso has more caffeine. A typical shot of espresso contains around 70 mg of caffeine, while the drip coffee contains about 90 mg of caffeine.
However, you need to keep serving sizes in mind. Most people happily upsize their coffee, easily doubling or even tripling the amount of caffeine that they consume.
Think about it: when was the last time you ordered a triple or quad shot of espresso versus the last time you had a Venti at Starbucks?
When it comes to caffeine, the serving size is key. Since most people don’t regularly order additional espresso shots, it’s far easier to consume large amounts of caffeine when drinking drip coffee.
Turning Up the Heat: What About the Roasting Method?
You might already be familiar with the different coffee roasts: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roasts. When it comes to espresso, only dark roast beans are used, but for drip coffee, you have more freedom and can use virtually any type of roast you want.
Which type of roast is healthier?
According to a study from the Journal of Medical Food in Korea, the findings suggested that light roast beans have higher antioxidant properties compared to dark roast beans due to the higher chlorogenic acid content. Chlorogenic acid has long been known to be an antioxidant, suggesting that light roast beans are better for protecting cell damage and inflammation.
In this case, drip coffee is healthier compared to espresso simply because espressos do not use light roast beans.
The Kicker: Coffee Add-Ons
In the purest sense, espresso is made from only two things: hot water and coffee grounds. If you add anything else to the drink, it’s no longer technically an espresso. It becomes an espresso-based drink.
On the other hand, drip coffee does not have the same rigid definitions as espresso. This means that you can add a wide variety of different ingredients, flavorings, and topping to your drip coffee, and it will still be considered drip coffee. Whether you add milk and foam to make a cappuccino or milk and chocolate to make a café mocha, it can still be considered as a drip coffee.
In this context, espressos are healthier than drip coffee because of their simple and rigid definition. Learn more about espressos.
Is Espresso Healthier Than Coffee? The Bottom Line
Okay, so we’ve covered quite a few things in this article – from the brewing process to the amount of caffeine, and even the serving size of the coffee. What have we concluded?
Is espresso healthier than coffee? It all depends on what context you’re using to decide. If you are drinking a traditional 2-oz shot of espresso compared to a 16-oz. café mocha with extra whipped cream, then, yes, espresso is healthier. However, if you’re drinking the same amount of espresso and plain drip coffee, the light roast beans have more antioxidant properties. The important thing here is to drink in moderation, whether you’re drinking espresso or drip coffee.