SUMMARY: When comparing Turkish coffee vs espresso, it may seem like they are similar drinks. However, despite the similar serving sizes, they are quite different. In short, Turkish coffee is a full immersion method that boils extra-fine grinds for several minutes and is served unfiltered. But espresso brewing happens within 30 seconds as a machine forces pressurized hot water through a tightly packed puck of coffee. Does Turkish coffee taste better than espresso? That answer comes down to preference, but in my opinion, espresso has more complex/nuanced flavors whereas Turkish coffee is bolder. However, I drink them both regularly and think there is a time and place for each!
It’s easy to understand why people assume Turkish coffee and espresso are the same basic drink. The cups, serving size, and overall appearance are quite similar. Plus, espresso crema can look almost the same as the thick foam of Turkish coffee.
But as someone who drinks both regularly, I can say, even though they share much, they are fundamentally different coffee drinks.
So in this article, I’ll explore the similarities and differences between espresso and Turkish coffee. I’ll also link to some recipes so you can dial in each brewing method at home!
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Is Turkish Coffee Better than Espresso?
Turkish coffee often has a mysterious allure for people, which makes them wonder how it compares to espresso and other coffee drinks. Of course, such a question relies too much on subjectivity to give a firm answer either way.
But you may be able to answer that question for yourself. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on espresso basics if you are inexperienced. There is also an article that more generally explores Turkish coffee vs American coffee.
Otherwise, let’s dive into the specific differences between these drinks!
Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Similarities and Differences
On the surface, it is easy to think that Turkish coffee and espresso are pretty similar brewing methods. But even though the serving size is quite similar, they have different preparation techniques, flavor profiles, and histories.
So let’s break down these two beverages by exploring their differences and similarities.
The Main Difference Between Turkish Coffee and Espresso
Why does Turkish coffee taste different than espresso and other coffees? The full immersion brewing and unfiltered serving account for the primary differences.
You prepare Turkish coffee by boiling extra-fine coffee grounds in a specially designed pot called a cezve. After heating on the stovetop, you pour the brew unfiltered into a small cup. As you slowly sip, the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup.
On that note, read more about why you should drink Turkish coffee without filtering.
But espresso uses a complicated machine with high temperature and pressure. The grind size for espresso is similar (although slightly coarser). But you make espresso by forcing hot water under pressure through a compacted puck of coffee grounds. The result is a thick and highly concentrated beverage, usually with a layer of foam called crema on the top.
Note: Turkish coffee foam is distinct from espresso crema.
Turkish Grind vs Espresso
The grind size plays a crucial role in both Turkish coffee and espresso. You might be familiar with the small grind size for espresso that basically resembles a powder. Finely ground coffee has much more surface area, meaning you can extract coffee in the short time (30 seconds) of pulling an espresso shot.
But the Turkish grind size is even smaller. Ground Turkish coffee resembles powdered sugar, resulting in the typical thick texture and intense taste of Turkish coffee. Boiling coffee on the stove with such a fine grind makes Turkish coffee extraction one of the most intense methods.
Turkish Coffee vs Espresso Caffeine Content
How much caffeine is in Turkish coffee, and is it stronger than espresso? Since Turkish coffee boils such a fine grind, it is easy to assume that the caffeine content will be much higher. But the comparison of caffeine between these methods might surprise you. Let’s explore each drink and see how they stack up.
Turkish Coffee Caffeine
While Turkish coffee has a reputation for having a high caffeine content, per its serving size it has less caffeine than a standard drip coffee. Since the standard serving is only 3 ounces, expect about 50 milligrams of caffeine for each cup of Turkish coffee. However, Turkish coffee is strong in terms of caffeine concentration. So if you were to drink eight ounces of Turkish brew, you would be consuming much more caffeine than a typical American coffee or espresso.
Also, keep in mind that caffeine levels can change depending on the specific coffee and how a person prepares it.
Espresso’s caffeine content gets more complicated since the serving size is not as standardized as Turkish coffee. On average, a 1-ounce espresso shot gives you 60 milligrams of caffeine. But people often consume espresso in 2 ounces or more.
So I would generally say espresso has more caffeine and is similar to standard drip coffee.
Does Turkish Coffee Taste Better Than Espresso?
With a similar serving size and caffeine content, it is easy to think that the taste of each drink is about the same. It is true that both are intense, but there are some noteworthy distinctions between them.
Turkish coffee has an intense flavor with a thick, full-bodied texture. The taste is rich and bold due to boiling a fine grind and creating foam. Many people add sugar or spices that add some complexity to Turkish coffee. And because it is unfiltered (the coffee particles end up in your cup), the texture is extra thick. If you tend to like this type of full immersion boldness, then Turkish coffee is probably better for you.
- Copper Turkish coffee pot (made in Turkey) and wooden spoon
- 2mm thickness (built for maximum durability)
- Wooden handle for comfortable use
- Engraved traditional floral pattern
- 12 fl oz capacity
Espresso also has an intense taste, but you will generally get more sweetness and acidity. Proper espresso extraction is all about balance, and the concentrated flavors should find this balance on your tongue. Coffee characteristics like fruitiness, nuttiness, and notes of chocolate usually mix into a rich balance of tasting notes.
Both Turkish coffee and espresso have layers of foam on the top. But the espresso foam, called a crema, usually lasts longer and contributes more to the overall taste.
Is Turkish Coffee Stronger Than Espresso
In one sense, the strength of Turkish coffee and espresso is similar since both use approximately 18 grams of coffee. But if you look more closely at the ratio, Turkish coffee uses 120 ml of water, resulting in a ratio of 1:6.
But espresso only puts out between 30-40ml of water, which is a ratio of 1:2. So, in terms of brew strength, espresso is stronger than Turkish coffee.
Turkish coffee, however, has a prolonged brewing time that involves even finer grinds and many cycles of boiling the mixture over 2-3 minutes. So you may feel a more intense flavor from Turkish coffee since the extraction yield is usually higher, along with a thick/foamy texture.
But in terms of caffeine and concentration, espresso wins.
Espresso vs Turkish Coffee: Which is Healthier?
You’ve probably heard typical health effects of coffee consumption, such as improved cognitive function and increased alertness. And medical evidence also suggests moderate consumption comes with plenty of other health benefits.
But which coffee method is healthier, espresso and Turkish coffee? First and foremost, consult your doctor to determine what specific dietary choices are right for you. But let’s can compare some general health trends between espresso and Turkish coffee.
Like most foods you consume in moderation, you are unlikely to see a negative effect from either option. But if you have concerns about cholesterol, you should know that unfiltered methods like French press and Turkish coffee are higher in cafestol, a substance that can raise LDL-cholesterol levels.
Other health facts between the two drinks include:
- Turkish coffee has more calories
- Espresso has less carbohydrate content
- There is 800% more fat in espresso than in Turkish coffee
But keep in mind that with the small serving sizes, these differences are negligible. You should probably brew more based on flavor preference than health concerns.
Espresso vs Turkish Coffee: Equipment Considerations
Both Turkish coffee and espresso require specific equipment, designed with features tailored to each brewing method. Let’s explore the primary considerations.
Turkish Coffee Cup vs Espresso Cup
You usually serve Turkish coffee in a small cup called a “fincan,” and it usually has traditional decorations on the side. Besides handling high heat, these cups also hold the ideal amount of water (120ml).
Espresso cups usually have a thicker wall, and the top is smaller so that the crema appears thicker. I personally love drinking Turkish coffee in traditional cups that my wife and I bought in Turkey as it connects us to the culture and sparks travel memories. But you can almost definitely use either cup for either method. Just be sure to check the cup size to avoid making a mess!
Turkish Coffee Cup Set
Espresso Cup Set
Cezve vs Espresso Machine
If you want to brew Turkish coffee traditionally, you use a long-handled pot called a cezve. It has a wide base and a narrow neck, specifically designed for brewing Turkish coffee, and the material is usually copper or brass (for example, this BCS 12 Oz Copper Cezve.) This metal type allows for efficient heat distribution during the brewing process. The narrow neck helps with the proper foam formation, and its long handle ensures a secure grip while pouring the coffee.
But compared to this traditional hand method, espresso machines are expensive and complex. The engineering and design of these machines lead to precise temperature and pressure control. The goal is to dial in these variables to make them repeatable and accurate shot after shot.
The high-pressure pump of an espresso machine forces hot water through the coffee grounds, extracting the flavors and oils quickly (in less than 30 seconds). The result is a concentrated shot of espresso. Advanced machines will even allow you to customize extraction variables such as temperature, pressure, and pre-infusion time, giving you more control over extraction.
Turkish Coffee Machine
- Perfect Turkish coffee every time, ready in 3 minutes.
- 120V machine designed for North American outlets
- Precise temperature to create extra foam
- Easy to clean
Electric Turkish coffee machines have become more popular and available over the past few years. These machines are nothing like and do not approach the high price of most espresso machines. But they make brewing Turkish coffee extremely simple by using a heating element and a pressure seal to brew quickly and consistently.
While I still love the historical connection of brewing Turkish coffee manually, most houses I visited in Turkey used Turkish coffee machines.
Can You Make Espresso with Turkish Coffee?
You certainly can try to make espresso with Turkish coffee grounds if you have the proper equipment. But it will be hard to get a proper extraction since the grind size will be too fine. You might have to change the dose or the tamp pressure to allow water to flow through the espresso puck.
You can also try other brewing methods such as AeroPress to make “fake espresso”. As long as you keep basic brewing principles like grind size and contact time in mind, you can also find a new and creative way to get a unique extraction. I love experimentation, so please let me know what you try in the comments!
Can You Make Turkish Coffee with Espresso?
Even though you cannot make espresso with Turkish coffee, you can probably make a decent cup of Turkish coffee with espresso grinds. If your espresso beans are still whole beans, then grind on the finest setting. And, even if the espresso is already ground, the full immersion of Turkish coffee should still produce a good flavor. Perhaps, since the grind of espresso is slightly coarser, you can brew it slightly longer to get the same extraction.
Common Question About Turkish Coffee vs Espresso
Before you leave, scan through the following common questions people have when comparing Turkish coffee and espresso. Hopefully, they will clear up any remaining confusion!
Is Turkish coffee strong?
Turkish coffee is known for its intense and bold flavor, and it tastes much stronger than standard drip coffee. It is also an unfiltered beverage, meaning the fine coffee grounds contribute to the perception of strength through a thick mouthfeel.
Is Turkish coffee espresso?
No, Turkish coffee and espresso are two distinct brewing methods with different techniques, flavor profiles, and cultural traditions.
Which tastes better, Turkish coffee or espresso?
Like any comparison between two brewing methods, choosing which one is better depends on preference. If you enjoy the intensity and bold flavor of full-immersion coffee with a thick mouthfeel, choose Turkish coffee. But if you enjoy more delicate acidity and flavor complexity, go with espresso.
Does Turkish coffee have more caffeine than espresso?
Turkish coffee has a higher caffeine concentration, but since the serving size is 2-3 ounces, it tends to have a similar caffeine content to a shot of espresso.
What is the difference between Turkish coffee and normal coffee?
Normal coffee usually refers to drip and filter methods, and the main difference between that and Turkish coffee is the brewing method and flavor. While drip coffee uses a filter to make a cleaner taste, you brew Turkish coffee by boiling finely ground coffee with water and serving it unfiltered.
Whether or not Turkish coffee is better than espresso comes down to preference. So, hopefully, reading this showdown brought you closer to an answer for yourself.
Either way, both Turkish coffee and espresso have their place, and it is fun to compare the distinct brewing methods. I love Turkish coffee for its intensity, subtle caffeine content, and its historical/cultural significance. But I love espresso for the concentration, nuance, and balance it can find. Espresso also tastes fantastic in milk drinks like a latte or cappuccino.
Hopefully, you can appreciate both methods like me. But if you have to choose, buying a Turkish coffee pot is a much easier investment. Either way, happy brewing!