Are espresso beans and coffee beans the same? This is a question I hear a lot, especially from people who are just discovering their love for coffee.
I can understand the confusion between espresso beans and regular coffee beans, and I partly blame the coffee companies for how they market their bags of coffee.
In this article, I will help clear up any confusion surrounding regular coffee and espresso coffee. By the end of this post, you will know the key differences, from the blend, roast, and grind, and when one must be chosen over the other.
Let’s get started!
Espresso Beans vs. Coffee Beans: Are They The Same?
There are four primary types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. For commercial consumption, Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are the two common types of coffee beans that you will find on supermarket shelves.
But in reality, it doesn’t matter which type of coffee bean you use for either espresso or regular coffee. The key differentiator is how the coffee has been roasted.
This is where the difference in the taste will become apparent, and the type of roast will also help you determine the best brewing method for your coffee beans.
For example – lighter roasts tend to work better using a slower extraction method, such as a pour-over or regular filter coffee. In contrast, darker roasted coffee beans are more suited to espresso.
The coffee beans can be the same – it’s the roast profile that helps and guides you to determine how they should be brewed for the optimum flavor. The espresso roast is a coffee bean that’s typically roasted longer, ground finer, and brewed using an espresso machine.
Here’s a closer look at both espresso and the ordinary coffee bean.
Espresso Coffee Beans
Now that we understand that there is no real difference between the types of coffee beans used for brewing, either an espresso or a regular cup of coffee.
Let’s take a closer look at the roast.
As I have briefly mentioned, espresso coffee beans are typically found in the darker roast category. At this stage of the roasting process, coffee beans tend to have the least acidity and offer a more fuller body.
It’s the darker roasts where you will unlock more of the coffees’ natural oils that are locked deep inside the bean; when you open a bag of dark roast coffee, you can see the oily sheen on the surface of the coffee beans.
It’s the Emulsification of these flavourful oils combined with other elements in the coffee beans that aid in creating the espresso crema that adorns the top of the classic shot of espresso; it’s the one thing most baristas strive for when pulling a shot of espresso.
But that doesn’t mean you can use regular coffee beans for your espresso. Remember, the coffee is the same; it’s just the roast profile that changes.
However, if you use ordinary coffee beans, say a light roast, you won’t get the same body, flavor and you can forget about that rich, fluffy crema.
As with all things, coffee taste is subjective. Where one coffee drinker might like a particular roast profile or how the coffee has been brewed, the other person will turn their nose up.
So go ahead and experiment. If you like using a lighter roast in your espresso machine, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.
Regular Coffee Beans
When we talk about “regular coffee beans’ I’m referring to any bean that has been roasted, albeit light or dark.
We’ve already determined that darker roasts are best suited for espresso due to their unique taste profile and characteristics, leaving the other roast profiles for everything else.
A light roast will highlight the distinct flavor of your particular coffee bean, which by the way, can change depending on the origin of the coffee bean. Also, you won’t find much of an oily shine on lightly roasted coffee.
Lighter roasts are best prepared in non-pressurized coffee brewers such as a regular drip coffee machine, pour over vessels like the Hario V60, or even in cold brew coffee – the flavors really shine in cold-brewed coffee!
Typically medium roasted coffee is the middle ground that all supermarkets stock – it’s the crowd-pleaser, a safe bet, and the taste everyone is accustomed to.
Medium roast coffee can be used in almost all brewing styles – and yes, you can use medium ground coffee in your espresso machine too; just don’t expect great results!
Coffee roasters love to mix different origins of coffee from various parts of the globe to produce unique tasting blends.
A blend can be a combination of Robusta, Arabica, or any other type of coffee bean species. These can be light, medium, and dark roast blends depending on the flavor profile that particular coffee roasting is looking for.
Both espresso beans and regular coffee beans will be blended in a particular way by the seller.
Blended coffee takes regular coffee beans and opens up a new dimension of coffee flavors that can be enjoyed with different brewing methods.
What Have We Learned?
So espresso beans and coffee beans are the same thing. There is no difference apart from how they have been roasted.
When you pick up a bag of coffee and read “espresso blend” or “drip blend,” the coffee beans inside are the same. The roaster has simply indicated the brewing method that they believe will highlight that particular roast profile.
The rules aren’t cemented in stone with coffee, and you can do whatever your personal taste profile enjoys.
You want a dark roast in your French Press – why not. Fancy a medium roasted coffee bean in your espresso machine – go for it. It’s your cup of coffee, after all!
Likewise, you can also choose whether or not you are happy to mix and match beans or just stick to the blends coffee roasters have recommended.
Nothing stops you from making espresso with regular coffee beans, but the pulled espresso will more than likely be lacking a good crema and may taste sour and tart.
We recommend that you use darker roasted coffee beans to make better-tasting espresso with a rich golden crema.
Reality is that you can use any coffee for espresso. It can be a light roast, medium roast, or dark roasted coffee, but darker roasts are preferred for the best taste experience.
Darker coffee roasts are typically the best choice for espresso because they tend to taste the most consistent. Lighter roast coffee tends to change quite dramatically as they age, making them a challenge when using in an espresso.
Dark roasted coffee beans have less noticeable changes, so they’re a more reliable choice for espresso machines and busy baristas.
Espresso is often assumed to contain more caffeine than regular coffee, but the reality is that a cup of standard drip coffee has a higher caffeine content than a shot of espresso.
One 1.5-ounce espresso shot typically has around 90-100 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, your standard cup of drip coffee contains roughly 128 milligrams.
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