Differences between espresso and filter coffee

Most of us coffee lovers have long thought espresso is the only coffee worth drinking. And in the case of not having an espresso machine at home, the Moka pot has been accepted as the only valid alternative, although this is also a filtering method.

Many people ask me: “What should I do to obtain a filtered coffee similar to espresso?” Nothing! Filter coffee differs completely from espresso, so you can’t imitate it, even with the Italian coffee maker.

Differences in the preparation of filter coffee and espresso coffee

The preparation of filter coffee involves a very simple procedure, but one capable of highlighting the unique characteristics of coffee. It is a system that extracts the coffee by “percolation”.

Unlike the espresso machine, which requires a pressure of 9 bar, filtered coffee is prepared only thanks to gravity.

Preparing filter coffee, the water “percolates” (drips through) the filter. The hot water drips over the coffee through the filter, dragging with it the water-soluble substances present in the ground coffee. The latter dissolve and pass into the water, giving rise to our beverage.

Filtered coffee is not an Americano

Filter coffee completely differs from the Americano, usually drunk in coffee shops. Americano is an espresso (or double espresso) diluted in hot water, while filter coffee is a coffee extraction method.

Different roasts

Filter coffee is typically made using coffee beans with a lighter roast profile as opposed to espresso coffee beans, which are known for their fuller roast and medium-dark color.

Different grinds

Filter coffee is a method that requires a long infusion, for which reason the grind should be medium, coarser than that suitable for espresso, which has a very short infusion time.

In filtered coffee, too fine a grind would result in excessive extraction, while too coarse a grind would produce a beverage that is too clear and light.

In espresso coffee, the grind should be fine since the short extraction time (25-30 seconds) requires that a larger surface area of the ground coffee be exposed to the passage of hot water.

Different ratios

For the preparation of filter coffee, the correct ratios are 1:16, that is, approximately 30 grams of coffee per 500 grams of the final beverage. To prepare our filter coffee, we will put 9 grams of coffee in the filter and obtain 25 grams of coffee, which translates into a ratio of 2:2.5.

Different water temperatures

To guarantee an adequate infusion, the water temperature should be around 198 ºF in both preparations, increasing a few degrees for lighter roasts.

While professional espresso machines maintain this temperature constant throughout the extraction, in the case of filtered coffee, it will drop little by little during extraction.

Therefore, the difference is not in the brewing temperature but in the difficulty of maintaining it constantly during extraction. Cheap espresso coffee makers that control the temperature with a thermostat are similar to filter coffee makers since they cannot maintain a constant temperature during the entire extraction.

The preparation of filter coffee in two steps

The extraction is carried out in two different stages to prepare filter coffee in an artisanal manner.

The first phase, called “Blooming, is what we usually refer to as pre-infusion:

  • After placing the filter in the coffee maker, we will put 30 grams of ground coffee beans.
  • We proceed with the “pour over”, pouring 60 grams of water at 198°F, ensuring all the coffee is submerged.
  • We leave it like this for 45 seconds.

It is in the second phase that the actual extraction of the coffee takes place:

  • We add the remaining water (440 grams) and thus reach the desired ratio.
  • The contact time between the water and the coffee should be approximately 4 minutes.

Preparation of the espresso coffee

On the other hand, the espresso extraction takes place in a single moment. Unlike the preparation with filter coffee, the coffee must be pressed and the beverage extracted between 20 and 30 seconds.

Differences in taste between espresso and filtered coffee

Filter coffee is lighter than we are used to drinking for espresso lovers, with less body and without the typical espresso crema. However, it has some unique characteristics.

  • Filtered coffee is tasted slowly, with a delicate aroma, in which the acidic notes prevail over the bitter ones and offer a unique flavor.
  • On the other hand, espresso is a drink suitable for a shorter but intense moment of pleasure thanks to its particular flavor and velvety body.

Is espresso the best way to extract coffee?

Honestly, no.

It does not mean that I am against espresso, but each extraction method is different, and they are not mutually exclusive. No coffee is tastier, nor a “real” coffee and a “fake” coffee. They are just different beverages with different characteristics and results.

Nor do I want to force you to like filter coffee. From experience, when a person tries a filter coffee extracted in the right way for the first time, with the right recipe, tools, and coffee, they immediately change their mind.

Although many say they have tasted it repeatedly, they assure that its flavor is not so good and that it is just “dirty water”. This problem can occur if there is inadequate preparation or when poor-quality coffee is used.

So, is filter coffee really good, or is it just dirty water?

If you’ve read this blog before, you probably know that I love coffee, and that’s why I often share various ways to brew it using different tools and types of coffee. So I don’t suspect any reason to defend or attack one extraction method over another.

We are so used to choosing an espresso that we deprive ourselves of trying something else. And that’s a shame because we don’t know what we’re losing regarding quality and flavor.

In fact, with espresso, our routine also flattens out in terms of taste. We consume it without worrying about what we are drinking and the characteristics it possesses:

The advantages of filter coffee over espresso.

Filter coffee, which is often confused with Americano, is really good for several reasons, and I will show you why:

  • It has zero bitterness. You’ll like this one if you don’t like your coffee too bitter.
  • Filter coffee offers a wide range of aromas, from citric, floral, and chocolate notes, to hints of caramel, nuts, and fresh fruit. It is interesting to note that these aromas can vary as the beverage is consumed and cools.
  • It is recommended to use Arabica and single-origin coffee for its preparation.


Filter coffee is an alternative to espresso, which offers advantages such as the absence of bitterness and a wide range of aromas.

To obtain good results, following a specific preparation with adequate tools and quality coffee is important. Coffee lovers can try different preparation methods to experience new taste sensations.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between filter coffee and Americano?

Americano is made by adding hot water to the espresso, while filter coffee is prepared by passing water through the ground coffee. Filter coffee has a smoother texture and flavor than Americano.

What has more caffeine in filter coffee or espresso?

The coffee that contains more caffeine is espresso. An espresso contains between 30 and 50 mg of caffeine per ounce, while filter coffee contains 8 and 15 mg per ounce.

Which is stronger, a filter coffee or an espresso?

Espresso can be considered a much stronger coffee than a filter coffee, but even an espresso with a TDS of 12% will be stronger than an espresso with a TDS of 8% or 9%.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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