Once at a specialty café, my friend asked me what drink he should get if he didn’t want a strong espresso. Milk-infused drinks were also out of the question because he was lactose intolerant, so I told him to just pick Lungo or drip coffee.
However, he looked even more confused than before 🙂
If you’re in the same situation, let me help you the same way I helped my friend. I’ll explain to you the differences and similarities of these drinks from their ingredients and recipes to their flavors. After reading, you should be able to tell them apart and make your choice just like a pro.
Key takeaway: What’s the difference between Drip Coffee and a Lungo?
Lungo is essentially a longer-pulled espresso shot, aiming for a 1:4 to 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio, which produces a 2 oz (60 ml) drink with a strong yet slightly bitter taste and a fuller body than an Americano. Drip Coffee, on the other hand, utilizes a 1:16 to 1:17 coffee-to-water ratio, resulting in a 6 oz (180 ml) beverage with a milder, more nuanced flavor and a lighter, watery texture.
What is Lungo?
Embraced by many in Europe, lungo means “long” in Italian which hints at how it is made. Lungo has a longer extraction time and a larger volume than espresso, meaning more water passes through the bed of ground coffee.
When making a Lungo, you use the standard amount of 7g coffee grounds (9g for third-wave coffee) to pull the shot. However, you’re aiming for a 1:4 to 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio so you pull the shot longer, about 35-45 seconds, to get 2 oz (60 ml) of coffee into your demitasse.
Talking flavor, lungo retains a strong and somewhat bitter flavor profile. It’s less concentrated than espresso, and the longer extraction time allows some bitter notes to come through. This is why it’s a good idea to grind your beans a bit coarser than espresso fine, which reduces extraction time, but still achieves the desired yield.
As for the texture, it offers a fuller body than an Americano but it’s less syrupy than espresso. And like the espresso, each Lungo shot will give you 60 to 80mg of caffeine and 2 calories.
Here’s a simple guide to making your own lungo:
- Grind coffee beans using a slightly coarser setting than what you’d use for an espresso.
- Use a timer and scale to measure your yield as you brew.
- Stop brewing after about 35 seconds, targeting a 1:4 to 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio.
It’s easy to get the lungo wrong because of its bitterness. Check out my step-by-step guide on how to make a lungo to pull it off.
Now let’s explore what drip coffee is.
What is Drip Coffee?
Also known as filtered coffee, drip coffee has been a staple in households since the 1900s. The process is pretty simple – pour hot water over a bed of coffee grounds, let it pass through a filter, and the coffee drips down thanks to gravity into your cup (or pot) underneath.
When brewing drip coffee, the coffee-to-water ratio is 1:16 to 1:17, which is also called the “Golden Ratio”. This is the real “black gold” in my opinion 🙂
To make a serving of 6 oz (180 ml), you need 10g of ground coffee. You will be using medium-size coffee grinds here, unlike the finer lungo.
So how about the taste? Drip coffee offers a milder and more subdued flavor compared to the lungo. It has a clean taste that lets the subtle nuances of the coffee beans shine so you can detect notes of citrus, chocolate, or even floral undertones depending on the beans used. Drip coffee also has a light and watery texture, which I really like because I can sip more coffee over longer periods of time.
Here’s an overview of how drip coffee is brewed using a machine, but you can also use a V60 or Chemex in a similar way:
- Grind your coffee to a medium coarse consistency
- Fill your machine’s water reservoir with water.
- Place your filter and pour the coffee grounds.
- Hit the brew button and patiently wait for your aromatic cup to drip.
Brewing drip coffee is very easy. Read my detailed guide on how to use a drip coffee maker to get started.
Lungo vs Drip Coffee: Which Brew is For You?
Let me give you a clearer picture by laying out a side-by-side comparison of lungo and drip coffee:
|Taste and Texture||Strong, somewhat bitter flavor. Fuller body than an Americano but less syrupy than an espresso.||Milder, subdued flavor. Clean taste with potential notes of citrus, chocolate, or floral. Light and watery texture.|
|Coffee-to-Water Ratio||1:4 to 1:5||1:16-1:17|
|Ingredient Ratio||Traditional Italian: 7g of coffee; Third wave specialty: 9g of coffee.||10g of coffee per 6oz cup.|
|Typical Serving Size||2 oz (60 ml)||6 oz (180 ml)|
|Caffeine Content||60-80 mg per single shot||50-90 mg per 6oz cup|
|Calories||2 calories per shot||2 calories per 6 oz cup|
|Bean Roast||Light to medium roasts||Light to medium roasts|
Here’s a detailed comparison of the two coffee drinks:
- Ground Coffee Weight & Ratios: Lungo uses 7g of ground coffee (9g for specialty coffee) with a 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio, while drip coffee uses 10g of coffee and a lot more water, brewing with a ratio of 1:16 to 1:17.
- Taste: Because of its espresso base, lungo is stronger but it comes with a slightly bitter profile. Drip coffee is milder with a more straightforward taste that highlights the beans’ origin flavor notes. Unless you’re using dark roasted beans, in which case, it doesn’t matter.
- Volume, Calories, & Caffeine: While it has more water than the usual espresso, a lungo is only 2 oz per serving which is less than drip coffee’s 6 oz servings.
Both drinks’ caffeine contents are close to each other, with lungo having 60 to 80mg of caffeine while drip has 50 to 90mg. Both have the same amount of 2 calories, which is too little anyway that I just consider it zero.
- Bean Roast: When I’m brewing lungo, I use light to medium roasts which help balance the method’s slightly bitter taste. Meanwhile, drip coffee shines with light to medium roasts that are just right for emphasizing the bright flavors in your cup.
- Serving Suggestions: Honestly, I’m not a fan of lungo because of its bitterness. If I want a milder espresso, I choose Americano instead. As for drip coffee, it’s such a classic that’s just perfect for breakfast. It’s also versatile with seasonal variations. Come the fall, I like fixing myself a cinnamon coffee 🙂
Lungo and drip coffee are options for coffee enthusiasts who seek a less potent espresso that they can also sip on longer. But when it comes to the brewing process and the final flavors, these two drinks really differ.
Between lungo and drip coffee, I definitely prefer the latter. I’ll choose the mild and nuanced flavor of drip coffee over the bitter notes of the lungo any day.
But hey, that’s just my cup of joe. What’s yours? Feel free to share which coffee drink you like better in the comments section below.