Is Espresso Stronger Than Drip Coffee?

The deep whirring of the espresso machine starts. Highly pressurized hot water is forced through compacted, finely ground coffee beans. Then comes the slow, calculated drip of the dark espresso into a tiny (and rather cute) mug. 

It’s the morning ritual many look forward to as soon as they hit the snooze button on their alarm—sipping on a strong espresso with its deep, robust flavor. It’s a flavor that most would agree is stronger than regular drip coffee, but does bolder in flavor mean more caffeine?

While espresso has more caffeine per ml, it’s not necessarily true to say that an espresso (or an espresso-based drink) has more caffeine than a cup of regular drip coffee.

Wait, so is espresso stronger than drip coffee or not? Let’s dive in.

A Shot of Espresso vs a Cup of Drip Coffee

As you walk into a cafe, you notice an espresso-based menu and a drip coffee menu. You have a massive project delivery on the horizon, so you’re looking for the toughest, strongest jolt to wake up your brain and perform at your best.

So, which do you choose—a latte with a shot of espresso, or a cup of drip coffee with some cream?  

The amount of caffeine will be dependent on the bean type, grind size, and how it’s brewed. However, in this case, the cup of drip coffee would provide more caffeine. Let’s break down the math between espresso vs. drip coffee:

● Shot of espresso – One shot of espresso is about 1.5 ounces of liquid (some argue a shot is one ounce and a double shot is two, but you’ll often find a spectrum). In this dark, bold cup is about 65mg of caffeine.

● Cup of drip coffee – One serving size of coffee is deemed about 8 ounces (the key term to note is “serving size”). In that 8 ounce cup, it’s estimated that there’s about 95 mg of caffeine.

It seems like drip coffee is the clear winner in terms of strength. But there’s more to the story. 

When you order a mug from the coffee shop, you’re typically served 10-12 ounces of liquid. That means that “cup” of drip coffee is almost double that of a shot of espresso.

Yet let’s flip the math world on its head and compare them on equal grounds (equal coffee grounds, if you will).

● 1 oz of espresso – Around 45 mg of caffeine

● 1 oz of coffee – Around 12 mg of caffeine

So how much stronger is espresso than brewed coffee when compared ounce-per-ounce? About four times as strong.

For this reason, drip coffee can contain more caffeine, while espresso is clearly the stronger punch.

How to Maximize the Strength of Your Morning Cup

Dark roast coffee lovers, don’t let that bold, delicious flavor fool you. The science is out, and dark roasts actually contain less caffeine than light roasts. So while a medium to dark roast may be robust in flavor, this strength doesn’t equate to a higher caffeine content. 

With that said, the flavor profile and caffeine content of an espresso or cup of drip coffee can vary greatly depending on the beans, roast, and extraction method. 

The Beans

The two main species of coffee are arabica and robusta. Arabica coffee is the most popular for its flavor and aroma. At the same time, robusta, as its name suggests, has a bolder and bitter taste, and it trumps arabica in caffeine content. 

A caffeine isolation study using arabica green coffee and robusta green coffee found a caffeine content of 182 mg per 100 g for the Robusta green coffee sample and 154 mg per 100 g for the Arabica green coffee sample.

The Roast

This is where the magic happens. The roast is crucial to determining flavor and caffeine content. A coffee bean starts out green and then is roasted at high heat to produce a chemical change that releases the rich aroma and flavor we associate with coffee.

A light roast will have a golden color, higher acidity, and milder flavors. Medium roasts will be slightly darker with a more balanced flavor. In contrast, dark roast coffee beans will be polished onyx with a distinct bitterness. 

The Extraction

Espresso is brewed by pushing pressurized hot water through fine grounds with a quick contact time. This process creates the most concentrated coffee type, espresso.

Drip-style coffees have a longer brew time. The process consists of pouring hot water through ground coffee, and gravity does the rest. This pulls less flavor and caffeine when compared to espresso coffee.

Breville: Refining the Brewing Process for Coffee Lovers Around the World

When talking strength of a morning brew, there’s flavor and caffeine content to contend with. Anyone who is familiar with the two sips—drip coffee and espresso—recognizes that expresso is a clear winner in flavor power. As for that infamous caffeine buzz? The story is a bit muddled.

If you’re only offered a cup of drip or an espresso shot —stay true to the tall mug.

If you’re offered equal amounts of drip coffee or espresso—the tiny mugs take the coffee cake.     

The good news is that you never have to choose between the two for your morning routine. Breville offers the finest drip-style coffee maker and espresso machine options on the market.

With cutting-edge technology built-in, you have full control over your drip coffee or espresso brewing process. So pull that perfect shot of espresso with confidence and experiment with making different types of espresso drinks. Or, master your drip skills for a smooth cup of coffee every day. 

Grind your beans with precision. And enjoy your caffeine however you choose.

That’s the Breville way.


Smithsonian Magazine. The Long History of The Espresso Machine.

European Journal of Natural Sciences and Medicine. Determination of Caffeine Content in Arabica and Robusta Green Coffee of Indian Origin.

Harvard School of Public Health. Coffee.

 Harvard School of Public Health. Caffeine.

FDA. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

 Biohazard Coffee. Why Are Coffee Rocks.

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