Can Espresso Machines Make Regular Coffee?

by Véronique Raymond
white ceramic mug on black and silver coffee maker

If you have an espresso machine, you probably want to know just how much you can do with it. Though espresso-based iced coffees and hot coffees like Lattes, Cappuccinos, Americanos, Mochas, and others are very manageable with an espresso machine, you’ve probably wondered if normal coffee is also possible. After all, how great would it be to make every kind of coffee out there under your very own roof?

We’ll discuss what types of coffee are and are not possible, as well as why some coffee types are impossible with an espresso machine. Sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t all-powerful appliances after all.

 

What Is The Difference Between Espresso Coffee and Drip Coffee?

Espresso coffee and regular coffee are two very different things. They vary in a number of ways, from brew process to caffeine content to size to taste. Let’s dig a little deeper:

Caffeine Content

The caffeine content of an espresso is very different from that in a standard cup of coffee. The average shot of espresso has between 60 and 65 mg of caffeine. In contrast, the same amount of coffee has only about 10-12 mg of caffeine. Of course, no one stops at just one ounce of coffee – the standard is an 8oz cup. Following this logic, your average drip coffee serving has up to 128 mg of caffeine, with the average being around 110. Of course, many factors will influence the caffeine content of these two coffees such as roast type, bean type, brand, amount of coffee used, method of brewing (espresso machine, drip coffee machine, French press, cold brew, etc.), and more.

Size

Espressos and regular coffees also vary in size. While your classic cup of coffee can range anywhere from 8oz to 30oz or more, espressos, on the other hand, cap out at 2 oz for a double shot. A single shot is only 1oz. So, espressos are certainly the way to go if you need a large dose of caffeine without drinking a ton of coffee.

Taste

The taste of regular coffee versus. espresso coffee is quite different as well. Espresso is described as being a stronger coffee flavour, most likely because the coffee beans are roasted, ground more finely, and brewed differently. It is very rich, bold, and tastes less acidic than standard coffee. Since many espresso drinks use steamed milk or milk froth, or develop crema on top, the taste that way varies as well.

Brew Process

The brewing process for espresso is much more complicated than for regular coffee. To make espresso, you must tamp down the beans so they form a kind of firm puck. Another difference is that espresso is made using pressure while regular coffee is brewed using gravity and pouring hot water over more coarsley ground coffee. The brewing temperature between the two coffees is also different since coffee water is usually boiled while espresso uses water at a lower temperature. Espresso brews at 85-95 degrees C while coffee should be brewed between 91 and 96 degrees celsius.

espresso machine

Can You Make Regular Coffee With an Espresso Machine?

Unfortunately, normal espresso machines cannot make regular coffee. There are a handful of espresso machines that have a drip coffee maker built in, but these models are likely much too expensive for the average homeowner. So, why can’t espresso machines make regular coffee? The answer is simple.

The process for making espresso is completely different from that of regular coffee. There are many differences between the brewing processes for these types of coffee, so one is undeniably incompatible with another.

The only way to achieve a similar taste to a normal coffee is by brewing a normal espresso, adding hot water as well as cream or milk and sugar to taste. Though it won’t be the exact same as a standard coffee from a drip coffee maker, it is as close as you’ll get when using an espresso machine.

 

How To Make Espresso vs. Regular Coffee

The differences in brewing method for these two types of coffee are what make them taste so different from each other.

Grind Size

For the best espresso, you’ll need to use finely ground coffee beans. Most espresso machines have a built-in grinder if they are super-automatic, but you can use a standalone grinder as well for a higher-quality fine grind. If the grind is too large, it will brew too quickly and lose flavour and potency.

Coffee uses a coarser grind since the water is in contact with the beans for up to 7 times as long. However, some coffee types such as Turkish coffee uses beans ground so finely they resemble a powder, so you’ll need to know what size coffee grinds your specific type of coffee requires.

Most of the time, the best coffee uses medium roasted beans while espresso makers require a dark roast bean for more flavour.

Brew Time

Since espresso machines use significant pressure during brewing, water is forced over the beans at a much higher rate. Thus, a shot of espresso brews within 25 seconds. Coffee, on the hand, brews gradually without any force, so it takes several minutes for a decently-sized cup of joe.

Extraction

The extraction methods for regular coffee and espresso are very different. When brewing espresso, pumps are used to apply high pressure that forces water over the beans very quickly. When brewing coffee, the hot water will pour over the beans slowly and drip down through the beans gradually, relying on gravity rather than an external force. Espresso drinks and coffee drinks both use a portafilter for soaking the beans with hot water, but an espresso maker uses a much smaller amount of water and may have two spouts for a double shot rather than a single spout that drains into a carefe or coffee mug like a coffee maker.

Accessories

Regular coffee doesn’t really require any additional accessories, but espressos do. The most popular of these is a milk frother if your espresso maker doesn’t have a built-in steam wand for milk. Good espresso has crema on top, with many people adding specialty milk froth designs to be fancy and compete with the barista at your local coffee shop.

One accessory a coffee maker needs that many espresso makers don’t is a coffee grinder. A drip coffee maker is much less likely to have a built-in grinder on board the appliance, so you’ll need to grind your beans before you can enjoy any brewed coffee.

An espresso machine from a brand like Keurig or Nespresso may also require pods to make coffee rather than coffee grounds.

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