If you have found yourself browsing the coffee section at your local grocery store or café recently, you may have discovered that some beans are marked specifically as coffee or espresso. It makes sense that there is a different kind of coffee bean for different drinks, but have you ever thought about what distinguishes a coffee bean from an espresso bean?
Here is a hint: it is not the bean itself! The difference between ordinary coffee and espresso beans is the roast and how they should be brewed to extract the best flavor profile according to the manufacturer.
If you’re a coffee lover who wants to learn more about coffee vs espresso beans? Let us get into some detail:
Coffee Beans vs Espresso Beans – Roast
Both coffee and espresso beans are typically made up of either the Arabica bean or Robusta bean, so the difference comes down to the roast. While you can use light, medium, and dark roast beans to make both regular coffee and espresso, a certain roast can be more appropriate for one type of drink over the other.
Beans that are meant for regular coffee are of light, medium, or even medium-dark varieties. If you order a cup of regular coffee at a café, for example, you are almost certainly getting one of these types of roast.
Espresso beans, on the other hand, tend to be of the dark roast variety. These beans have been roasted longer than the other types, so they are more toasted and tend to have a stronger flavor profile. This longer roasting time allows the beans to release more oils while also removing a lot of the acidity that can come with the other type of roast.
You may lose some of the more delicate nuances of the coffee beans’ natural flavor when you choose a dark roast, but you will end up with a full-bodied taste that most are looking for in an espresso coffee.
Coffee Beans vs Espresso Beans – Grind
If you like to buy your beans pre-ground, then you may notice a difference between the grind of coffee and espresso beans. Ground coffee beans that are meant for espresso are typically ground much finer than those for regular coffee due to the brewing process.
When brewing espresso, the hot water is forced through the tightly packed grounds fairly quickly. A finer grind allows you to extract as much flavor from the grounds as possible during this time. If you were to use a coarse grind, your grounds may be under-extracted during the brewing process, which can lead to an espresso that tastes sour.
On the other hand, regular coffee brewing methods tend to have water pass through the grinds for a longer time, at least when compared with espresso brewing. This means that a coarser grind, usually a medium one, is more appropriate. If a fine grind is used to make regular coffee it could result in over-extraction of the grounds, resulting in a bitter-tasting coffee.
Coffee Beans vs Espresso Beans – Methods and Machines
You may be familiar with many of the different methods and machines used for brewing coffee, such as the French press, pour-over, percolator, and drip coffee machine. While your coffee maker of choice can produce subtle differences in taste and even texture, ultimately any of these can brew a decent cup of regular coffee.
With espresso, you have only two choices to make sure it is brewed correctly: an espresso machine or an AeroPress. Unlike the methods to make regular coffee, these can achieve the high pressure that is needed to heat and force the water through those fine, tightly packed grounds.
The extraction process used by these methods is responsible for not only the coffee but the layer of froth or crema that is on top. This bubbly layer is a result of the carbon dioxide from the coffee grounds coming together with the hot, pressurized water. Crema tells you a lot about your espresso. For example, a dark-colored crema could indicate that you over-extracted your grounds, or that you simply used a really dark roast.
Coffee Beans vs Espresso Beans – Taste
As previously discussed, there are some differences in how espresso beans are roasted, ground, and brewed when compared with regular coffee beans. It makes sense that there are also some differences in taste between an espresso and a regular cup of coffee.
Generally, espresso tends to have a stronger, bolder, and less acidic flavor and feel than regular coffee. It is also considered to be well-rounded and full-bodied, with a heavier feel due to the extra oil present in an espresso roast.
Some say that this oiliness is what gives the espresso its distinct flavor because the paper coffee filter that is often used for regular brew coffee absorbs a lot of the oil from the grounds, which means they never make it into your cup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Coffee Beans in an Espresso Machine and Vice Versa?
Yes, you can! Again, there is virtually no difference in the actual beans themselves. The labels of “espresso beans” or “coffee beans” are just recommendations from the manufacturer as to which brewing method will achieve the best flavor profile from the beans. Whichever brewing method you decide to use for your beans, just make sure the beans are an appropriate grind.
Keep in mind that your final drink may not taste as expected if you do not use the appropriately labeled beans for your brewing method. For example, if you use a regular brand of coffee bean in an espresso machine, you may not get that strong, bold taste that is characteristic of an espresso. It may taste more watered down and weak instead.
Is There More Caffeine in Espresso Than Regular Coffee?
Though the strong taste may make you think otherwise, the answer is no. Espresso does not contain more caffeine. In fact, a regular drip coffee usually contains a bit more caffeine than a shot of espresso due to the roast of the beans.
As discussed above, espresso grounds are typically from dark roasted beans, and regular coffee usually comes from light or medium roasted beans. To achieve dark roasted coffee beans and flavor, the beans must be roasted for a longer time than the light or medium roast. The longer the beans roast, the more caffeine gets burned off in the process, which ultimately results in a lower caffeine content in a shot of espresso.
Now, espresso does have a higher concentration of caffeine per ounce, but when comparing serving sizes (an 8 oz. cup of coffee vs a 1 oz. espresso shot) regular drip coffee will usually contain more caffeine than espresso.