When you work in the industry you assume that everyone understands the differences between brewing methods for coffee. A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of how, although coffee is so much more popular and understood than it used to be, many consumers are not 100% clear about the differences.
Let’s start with Espresso- Italy’s favourite brew. Originally designed for speed rather than flavour or quality, its quick to make and on its own its drunk fast.
It’s brewed with pressurized water at high-temperature using coffee that has been roasted to caramelise sugars and develop sweetness. It is more rich, concentrated and thicker than Filter.
Let’s not forget, this concentration also means it serves as the base for your classic coffee shop menu: cappuccinos, flat whites, etc.
Once extracted there are two parts to espresso:
Crema and liquid. Crema is the subject of much debate in the industry, some (especially traditional Italians) consider it vital and a sign of a good shot. In reality, it tastes bitter, is more prevalent in lower grade Robusta and when spooned off doesn’t, in our view, negatively affect flavour at all!
Then we have Filter coffee…
The basic ideas of both espresso and filter are the same. You are dissolving ground coffee in hot water the main difference is that with espresso you use pressure and the grind is fine, with filter the grind is more coarse, the water stays in contact with the coffee particles for a longer time and it is just gravity that cause the water to pass through the coffee. It is sometimes called a contact time brew.
Consequently, filter coffee uses more coffee and more water.
Filter coffee has a few subtle variations. You may hear it called drip brew (v60, Hario, Tiamo, Clever dripper) or pour. These are the same in principle with subtly d8ifferent end products. In general filter coffee brewing draws less acid from the coffee leading to more complex and delicate flavours and aromas, hence its popularity with single origin specialty lots which have more of these layered flavours.
The longer you spend exploring coffee, in my experience, the more you gravitate towards complex and exalting filter coffees, but for the latte drinker they might be an acquired taste.
So there you go, a quick rundown on the key differences between Espresso and filter. Hopefully that’s perked you up a bit!