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In US coffee shops, espresso costs more than drip coffee (say, $3 for espresso vs. $2.50 for drip coffee where I live). Is that because espresso is seen (in the US) as fancy? Or does it actually cost more to brew?

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The primary factor is that it takes considerably more effort and skill to make an espresso than drip coffee.

A good espresso requires a far more expensive piece of machinery which requires greater upkeep and the barista needs to pay far more attention to what he is doing. The barista needs to pack the coffee correctly; pay attention to the water pressure and the resulting crema.

Outside of grinding the coffee and putting in the correct amount of water a drip coffee does not require much work or attention.

So, if you're providing espresso for your customers you need a far more expensive grinder, an expensive and finicky machine (the espresso maker) an employee who has had to undergo far more extensive training and said employee needs to be paying attention to what he is doing for each and every cup of espresso he is making.

All this adds to increased cost. Plus customers are willing to wait, and pay a few cents more for an espresso done right. As opposed to paying less and having an espresso in name only.

  • it should be said though that cup price of espresso vs drip coffee or else is mostly determined by a general accepted price and does not fully reflect cost, in the OP prices example, there is a 50c difference which is not realistic. Espresso is generally recognised as one of the most overpriced items you can get in a bar, even here in italy where you pay around 90c for a shot – Edoardo Jun 27 '18 at 20:03
  • I agree, the above explanation is not entirely correct in my opinion. Will try to write something eventually. Why exactly it is more expensive I'm not sure, I can speculate, but I'm fairly certain that the costs of production for espresso are not higher (under the assumption that espresso roasted beans do not cost more in wholesale than filter roasts). – avocado1 Jun 28 '18 at 11:57
  • @avocado1 - I don't know prices paid by coffee shops for their beans. I do know that one uses somewhat more coffee per serving for espresso; and, as far as I know, one need not use the best beans for such a heavy roast. Ultimately it's the market that determines the price, but, as stated in the post, I think it's the required effort and time involved in making an espresso that puts an upward push on the prices. – Mayo Jun 28 '18 at 12:57
  • Well it really depends. Are we talking single shot or double shot prices? I can only talk about specialty coffee, but there you would usually use around 18g for a double shot (ratio 1:2). For a hand brewed pour over can be anything between around 15g and 21g for a single serving (50g for the large Chemex which gives probably 3 cups). So I would say on average that's not the issue. And time is actually reverse. An espresso takes all included around 1min, a hand brew at least 3 and easily 5min. Skill wise I would say it's as difficult to brew consistent hand brews than make espressi. – avocado1 Jun 28 '18 at 23:15
  • All this changes of course for batch brew. That's why they are usually around the price for an espresso or slightly more expensive. Anywhere I've been anyways. Which doesn't include the States recently anyways. – avocado1 Jun 28 '18 at 23:17
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I can brew drip in a $20 machine from GW. I need a $1000-$2000 plus semipro machine to brew a consistent decent spro (plus a Macap grinder)(and good pressure and temp monitoring gear), and a $10,000-$20,000 plus plus machine (plus grinder) if I have a shop. Somehow, I would have to recoup the price of that machine. Don't forget that you also have to have a maintenance contract with the big machines and that also is a continual cost. The temp that the spro is brewed at is all important (and very contentious!!!) and temp and pressure need to be constantly checked/adjusted. Yes, choice of beans and fresh brewed and fresh ground is important, but not as big a cost factor. (from a person who has gone through a bunch of semipros and Cimbali Jr's.)

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