Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: How Are They Different?

Written By Seren N.

Seren, a Turkish-American, has 23 years of experience traveling to and around Turkey and is now happy to help others learn more about Turkey.

Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Caffeine

Turkish coffee is definitely stronger than espresso. You might think there’s a similar level of caffeine in espresso as there is in Turkish coffee, but Turkish coffee actually has more than double the amount of caffeine! In about 1.4oz of Turkish coffee (a traditional cup), there’s an average of 165 mg (milligrams) of caffeine and in a one-ounce shot of espresso, there’s an average of 63 mg (milligrams) of caffeine.

How can they be so different? Well, Turkish coffee is 100% unfiltered so with every sip you ingest actual small particles of the coffee beans. Espresso is filtered coffee so you don’t get that extra kick of caffeine.

So if you really want to wake yourself up, then a cup of Turkish coffee is the better choice!

Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Health Effects

Because Turkish coffee has much more caffeine than espresso, drinking it a lot can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety, restlessness, headaches, insomnia, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. So if you’re known to be sensitive to high caffeine, then you might enjoy the aftereffects of a cup of espresso more.

But good news for coffee lovers! In general, scientific research has shown that moderate daily drinking of coffee with average levels of caffeine can be beneficial for your health. According to Harvard University, the consumption of 3 to 5 standard cups of coffee daily has been consistently associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.

But wait, this doesn’t mean you should start drinking coffee every day! If you always add a lot of creamer and sugar to your coffee or experience uncomfortable side effects of high caffeine, then picking up the habit of drinking coffee wouldn’t be good for your health in the long-term.

Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Taste, Flavor, & Aroma

Taste & Flavor

If you’ve never tasted espresso before, imagine it’s the bold, velvety smooth cousin of your regular cup of coffee. Made right, espresso shouldn’t be too bitter or too sour. But it is highly concentrated coffee, so you can definitely expect a strong coffee flavor and subtle hints of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and saltiness.

An espresso machine-made cup of espresso will also usually have a thin layer of crema (made up of bubbles and oils from the coffee beans) on top. This happens naturally through the high-pressure mechanics of the machine and while it doesn’t really add much flavor, it does give espresso that signature milky smooth finish and aftertaste.

When it comes to coffees, Turkish coffee tastes relatively similar to espresso. The main difference comes from the fact that coffee granules aren’t removed in Turkish coffee like they are with espresso.

That means you get a full, intense flavor of coffee with every sip. The granules do settle to the bottom of the cup, so it’s less strong when you start and gets stronger as you get closer to the bottom. Typically, you don’t drink the last bits at the bottom because it’s actual coffee bean granules so the flavor and mouthfeel aren’t that enjoyable.

For this reason specifically, restaurants and cafés almost always serve a small cup of water alongside a Turkish coffee so that you can cleanse your palette often as you drink or at the end of the cup.


If a cup of espresso doesn’t smell anything like coffee with notes of chocolate, caramel, and/or fruitiness, it’s more than likely it’s not a good cup. Espresso is also known to have a complex, smoky, nutty, floral, herbal, or fruity aroma.

Evangelos Koulougousidis, eighth place finisher in the 2022 UK Barista Championships, says “Aroma is one of the key indicators of whether the espresso is going to taste good or bad”. That means if your espresso smells tangy, sour, or burnt, that’s more than likely not a good cup. A well-made, fresh cup of espresso should smell tantalizingly amazing (if you like coffee, of course!).

Turkish coffee, on the other hand, has a more simple aroma. Done well and without any other added ingredients, it should smell like coffee, of course, with hints of nuttiness and bitterness. It smells strong and has a full-body presence, meaning you’ll always know if there’s Turkish coffee brewing somewhere nearby.

If it’s lightly roasted Turkish coffee though, you should also smell a bit of sweetness and fruitiness mixed in with the fragrant coffee aroma. If you’re a fan of coffee, you’ll 100% love the smell of Turkish coffee!

Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Cups

Traditional Turkish coffee cups and typical espresso cups are similar! They’re almost identical in size and shape, but differ in artistic style, colors, and symbols.

Unlike your average espresso cup, Turkish coffee cups are almost always covered in art. They can be colorful or have more neutral colors, and they come in a lot of different artistic styles and designs.

Turkish people will almost always have a set of Turkish coffee cups in their home to both enjoy it themselves and offer coffee to guests. And a lot of Turkish people enjoy collecting different cups because some can be really artistic and beautifully designed.

Turkish Coffee vs Espresso: Grind & Brewing Time

Between Turkish coffee and espresso, Turkish coffee has a much finer grind. The reason behind this is because its coffee bean granules aren’t filtered out like they are in the espresso-making process. Imagine it for yourself – it wouldn’t be enjoyable at all to drink semi-big coffee bean granules. Also, the highly fine grind of Turkish coffee gives it that really bold, rich flavor. Because this is unique to Turkish coffee, it can be difficult to find where to buy the right grind.

The grind for espresso is still fine, but much less than the almost powder-like coffee beans needed for good Turkish coffee. Getting espresso right means a brewing time of about 20 to 30 seconds. But these days, espresso machines have a setting for espresso that ensures you get the perfect cup, so that helps make it a lot easier to brew.

Getting a cup of Turkish coffee right isn’t as easy! First, you need to boil the water and then once you add in the fine coffee bean granules, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for it to brew. And unfortunately, most coffee-making machines don’t have a setting for Turkish coffee so it takes a good eye, a bit of patience, and a timer.

Is Turkish coffee better than espresso?

Because “better” depends on who you ask, no type of coffee is 100% better than another. If you prefer a stronger, bolder coffee, then you’d like Turkish coffee more. But if you prefer a more mellow, more complex taste profile, then you’d like espresso more.

Try the best (in my opinion!) Turkish Coffee brand here (from Amazon). Curious about espresso instead? Try one of the best Italian espresso brands here (from Amazon).

Can you use Turkish coffee in an espresso machine?

No, you can’t use Turkish coffee in an espresso machine because its coffee is much more powder-like and a key part of Turkish coffee is the fact that the coffee isn’t filtered out like it is with espresso.

If you really wanted to, it would probably be fine but you’d end up with something that’s not really Turkish coffee so it wouldn’t be authentic or the intended taste and consistency.

If you want to make your own Turkish Coffee on top of a stove (the modernized traditional method), you’ll need your own cezve (get it here from Amazon).