Is Coffee Concentrate the Same as Espresso? A Complete Guide

is coffee concentrate the same as espresso

Nowadays, there are many ways to brew a cup of coffee. That fact is true whether you’re brewing at home or getting coffee from a coffee shop. 

You’ll see coffee shops use two main options for lattes, cappuccinos, and other concentrated beverages. Those two are coffee concentrate and espresso. Since they can be used for similar drinks, it’s common to wonder, is coffee concentrate the same as espresso?

Coffee concentrate and espresso are not the same. They are both concentrated forms of coffee but have different characteristics. Coffee concentrate comes in liquid form. It is highly concentrated and potent. Espresso comes in traditional coffee beans. It is less potent than concentrated coffee.

While that covers the main differences, there’s much more to break down here. I’ll cover everything you need to know here. So stick around until the end to get all the information. 

Key Takeaways

  • Coffee concentrate and espresso are both effective. 
  • Many coffee shops prefer using concentrate because it is easier for cold beverages.
  • Brewing concentrate is a much slower process than espresso. 

Coffee Concentrate vs. Espresso: A Comparison

To provide a quick overview, here’s a table comparing both options.

Coffee ConcentrateEspresso
TasteMuch less acidic More acidic 
Brewing ProcessCold brew (very slow process)Pressurized hot water (very fast process)
Caffeine ContentBefore dilution: 100-200mg per shot After dilution: 30-50mg per shot30-50mg per shot
UsesPrimarily iced coffee, can also be used in hot lattes or cappuccinosPrimarily hot drinks like espresso shots, cappuccinos, or lattes

Both espresso and coffee concentrate can have their use cases. If you want a quick, hot beverage, espresso is the way to go. If you want a slow-brewed, cold beverage, concentrate is a great choice. 

What is Coffee Concentrate?

Before getting into more details, you’ll want to know exactly what coffee concentrate is. Coffee concentrate comes in a very potent liquid form. It’s a versatile form of coffee that can be brewed through several methods. It’s a great option for coffee shops and roasteries that offer a variety of beverages.

What is the Difference Between Coffee and Coffee Concentrate?

There is a big difference between traditionally brewed coffee and coffee concentrate. The main ways coffee concentrate differs are:

  • It comes in liquid form rather than ground coffee beans
  • It is much more potent
  • It needs to be diluted before use
  • It is much less acidic
  • It can be used in beverages like cappuccinos and lattes

Traditionally brewed coffee is great for a simple cup of coffee. But you’ll want to use concentrate or espresso for more complex beverages. 

What is Coffee Concentrate Used For?

Coffee concentrate is typically used for iced coffee. If you like to order iced coffee from your favorite shop, just know they likely used cold brewed concentrate to make it. That said, coffee concentrate is versatile. It can also be used for hot beverages like cappuccinos or lattes. 

The one thing you wouldn’t typically use it for is a regular black cup of coffee. It wouldn’t taste as good that way. So it’d be better to opt for traditional coffee beans for that purpose. 

Is it OK to Drink Coffee Concentrate?

It is safe to consume coffee concentrate. Like any caffeinated beverage, make sure you drink it in moderation. It’s recommended to limit caffeine intake to 400mg per day. So check labels and caffeine content in all of your coffee-related beverages. 

What is a Concentrated Coffee Shot?

A concentrated coffee shot is typically the amount you would put into common coffee beverages. A shot of coffee concentrate is usually diluted before use to make it taste better. And you usually wouldn’t straight up drink a shot of it like you would with espresso. Although, some recipes, like a nitro cold brew, use a straight shot without dilution. 

What is Espresso?

Now that you know about coffee concentrate, you likely still want to know exactly what espresso is. Espresso is made from traditional coffee beans. It is finely ground and made through pressurized brewing to create concentrated beverages. Personally, I prefer the taste of hot beverages made with espresso much more than ones with coffee concentrate. 

How are Espresso and Coffee Concentrate Different?

There are a handful of ways that espresso and coffee concentrate are different. The main ones are:

  • The process of brewing espresso is much quicker
  • Espresso uses traditional coffee beans, where concentrate is a liquid formula
  • Espresso usually has a more acidic flavor
  • Concentrate is usually used in iced coffee
  • Espresso is usually used in hot beverages

Overall, both options have their place and use cases in the coffee world. 

Can I Use Coffee Concentrate Instead of Espresso?

You can use coffee concentrate instead of espresso in many instances. Many coffee shops even use concentrate instead of espresso since it is very versatile. 

Benefits of Concentrates for Coffee Shops

One of the main benefits of concentrates for coffee shops is their versatility. It can be used effectively in hot and cold beverages. Using it for both can often streamline the training process for employees. 

Concentrate is also much easier to use in cold beverages. It limits the amount of labor, technical skill, and space needed to make high-quality iced coffee. 

Tips for Using Concentrates

The main tip for using coffee concentrate is that it usually needs dilution. The table below will break down the necessary dilution ratios for different types of concentrate. 

Type of Coffee ConcentrateRecommended Dilution Ratio
Cold Brew Concentrate1:1 to 1:3
Espresso Shot Concentrate1:1 to 1:2
Nitro Cold Brew ConcentrateStraight or 1:1

Other than dilution, the other thing that needs to be considered is the amount of time needed to prepare cold brew beverages. The cold brewing process takes about 12 hours. That means you need to prepare ahead of time when using concentrate in this method. 

Is Coffee Concentrate Stronger than Espresso?

In non-diluted form, coffee concentrate is 4 or 5 times more potent than espresso. If you drink most types of concentrate undiluted, many will find it to have an unpleasant taste. 

Does Concentrated Coffee Have More Caffeine?

If it isn’t diluted, coffee concentrate does contain 4 to 5 times more caffeine. However, once it’s diluted and added to a recipe, it’ll have a similar caffeine content as a beverage made with espresso. 

Does Cold Brew Espresso Need To Be Brewed With Espresso Beans?

Cold brew espresso doesn’t need to be brewed with espresso beans. Using coffee concentrate for cold-brew espresso is actually much easier. Cold beverages which use concentrate may also have a more consistent taste.

Can I Substitute Cold Brew Concentrate for Espresso?

In many recipes, you can substitute cold brew concentrate for espresso. It’s especially effective to substitute cold brew espresso in iced coffee beverages. However, you may notice a difference in taste due to the lack of acidity in cold brew concentrate. Some people enjoy its taste, whereas others prefer the flavor traditional espresso adds. 

Brewing Process: Cold Brew And Espresso

There are also some differences in the brewing process. The table below will break it down for you. 

FactorEspressoCold Brew
Grind sizeFineCoarse
Brew time25-30 seconds12-24 hours
Brewing methodPressureImmersion
Water temperature195-205°FRoom temperature or cold
Caffeine content (per shot)30-50 mgBefore dilution: 100-200 mgAfter dilution: 30-50mg

Espresso is much faster and great for hot beverages. Cold brew is a slower process, but it can be easier for cold drinks. 

Taste Difference: Cold Brew Vs. Espresso

As mentioned earlier, cold brew is less acidic. Due to the lack of acidity, you’ll notice beverages using cold brew concentrate don’t always have a traditional coffee flavor. Those who like that flavor find it worth the extra effort of preparing drinks with espresso. 

What Has More Caffeine: Cold Brew Or Espresso

Typically, once it is added to a cold brewed beverage recipe, both will have similar caffeine content. The only difference is cold brew concentrate is stronger initially and needs to be diluted down. 

Using Cold Brew Concentrate Instead of Espresso For Iced Lattes

Making an iced latte with cold brew concentrate is usually a simpler process than with espresso. You’ll want to start the cold brew process the evening before. In the morning, you can then prepare your iced latte by mixing your cold brew with other ingredients like sweetener and milk. 

How Much Cold Brew Concentrate Equals a Shot of Espresso?

5-10mL of cold brew equals the average 30mL espresso shot in terms of caffeine content. So if you were substituting it in a recipe, that would be the ratio you should aim for. 


There you have it. That’s everything you should know about the differences between coffee concentrate and espresso. 

Whether you’re brewing coffee at home or trying it at coffee shops, you can always try different recipes using concentrate and espresso to see which you like better. 

Some people love the experience of drinking and brewing traditional espresso. 

Others love the simplicity of coffee concentrate. 

Whichever you choose, just be sure to use proper guidelines to get the best results. 


How Long Does Coffee Concentrate Last?

You want to avoid storing coffee concentrate too long in the fridge. The quality will start to degrade after one week. Two weeks is the absolute max you should store it before use. If you cut the concentrate with water, that decreases its shelf life to 2-3 days. 

Can I Make Coffee Concentrate at Home?

You can make coffee concentrate at home. You can even use common coffee-making tools like a french press to make a cold brew

What is the Difference Between Coffee Extract and Coffee Concentrate?

The main difference between the two is coffee concentrate uses water, and extract uses alcohol in the brewing process. Using alcohol and coffee extract creates a different flavor profile when used in common beverage recipes. 

Can I Use Coffee Concentrate for Hot Coffee?

Yes, you can add coffee concentrate to hot coffee. The best way to do so is to add 1 part coffee concentrate to 2 parts boiling water. 

Is Coffee Concentrate More Expensive Than Regular Coffee?

Coffee concentrate can be more expensive than using regular coffee beans. In coffee shops, recipes that use concentrate are often priced with an increase of $1 or more per serving compared to recipes using coffee beans.

Christopher Mize

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