Espresso vs

Espresso vs "Classic" Drip Coffee: Which is Stronger?

Jake Bonneman Jake Bonneman
4 minutes of coffee drinking

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We all know that caffeine is the lifeblood that keeps the world moving. It powers our brains, fuels our workdays, and keeps us alert during even the most pointless Monday morning meetings.

As coffee connoisseurs—and if you're reading this, I'd submit that you are one—we demand nothing but the best when it comes to our daily dose of liquid motivation. So naturally, the question of which coffee packs the strongest "punch" (i.e. the most caffeine) is a matter of utmost importance.

There are many categories of coffee you can compare: the beans, the blends, the brewing methods. But for this outing, we're going to focus on comparing the caffeine strength of espresso to standard drip brewed or "filter" coffee.

We may never know the meaning of life, but by golly, we're going to figure out which coffee will give us the strongest jolt for our caffeine buck.

Let's take a closer look at these two—and settle this caffeinated rivalry once and for all.

How Strong is Espresso?

First up, we have espresso—a concentrated shot of coffee that's made by forcing hot water through very finely-ground beans. Because it's so concentrated, it's typically served in a small shot glass and consumed more quickly than a cup of drip brew.

When it comes to caffeine content, there's been a long-standing myth that espresso is the strongest coffee. Probably due to its intense, bold flavor.

But, as most coffee connoisseurs know, strong flavor doesn’t equal a strong energy boost. And in reality, espresso is actually quite weak compared to other types of coffee.

How much caffeine is actually in an espresso shot?

On average, a single shot of espresso contains around 60 mg of caffeine. One thing to keep in mind is that, here in the U.S., a lot of coffee shops serve double shots of espresso as standard. If you're drinking a double shot, you're looking at around 126 mg of caffeine per drink.

How Strong is Drip Brewed Coffee?

Next up, we have drip brewed coffee—the classic, reliable workhorse of the coffee world. Except unlike a workhorse, coffee won't kick you in the face if you stand too close. 

Drip coffee is made by pouring hot water over coffee grounds in a filter, and then letting the coffee drip through and into a carafe below.

How much caffeine does a cup of drip brewed coffee contain?

Technically, this depends on a few factors: the type of coffee beans used (Robusta vs Arabica), how long the water was in contact with the grounds, and the ratio of coffee to water used per cup. But on average, an 8 oz cup of drip brewed coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine.

Which Type of Coffee is the Strongest?

Now, the moment of truth—which of these brewing methods produces the strongest coffee? 

It’s pretty simple:

  • A standard cup of drip brewed coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine
  • A double shot of espresso contains around 126 mg.

If we're going purely by caffeine content, drip brewed coffee comes out on top. 

Results: Drip Brewed Coffee is Stronger

Despite what your espresso-loving friends might tell you, drip brewed coffee is actually the winner when it comes to sheer, unadulterated caffeine strength.

Who knew that the humble, unassuming, everyday drip coffee packed a bigger punch than espresso? Drip brew is the Rodney Dangerfield of the coffee brewing world—it just can't get no respect, here.

But hey, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Drip brewed coffee may have the most caffeine of the two, but espresso is still a force to be reckoned with in numbers.

An espresso shot is like that scrappy underdog—sure, it doesn't have the most impressive stats on paper, but it's got heart, determination, marketing, and a bunch of its friends waiting in the wings for good measure.

But if you're looking for the strongest coffee out of the two, this day has been won by drip. 

So next time you encounter some misguided soul proclaiming the superiority of espresso, don't be afraid to speak up and spread the good word: Drip brew is stronger.

In the end, whether you're Team Espresso, Team Drip, or even Team Cold Brew, one thing's for sure: All are delicious, and deserving of our adoration.

So go ahead and pick your poison—but don't actually pick any poison, pick coffee preferably—and savor every caffeinated drop.

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