Have you ever wandered down the coffee aisle in your local supermarket and noticed that there are bags that are labeled “espresso beans”? This might have gotten you thinking, “Are espresso beans the same as coffee beans if there’s a specific label for them?”
Now, you might be hesitant to ask this question because you might feel like you’re a novice when it comes to coffee. However, there’s no shame in wanting to learn more about coffee so that you can choose the right beans to brew the perfect cup.
With that in mind, this article is dedicated to exploring the difference between coffee beans and espresso beans, and which one you should choose to brew a specific type of coffee.
So, Are Espresso Beans the Same as Coffee Beans?
The simple answer to this question is that there is NO fundamental difference between espresso beans and coffee beans. The label is simply there as a recommendation from the roaster to let you know which type of brew the beans will best be used for, whether as an espresso or a drip coffee.
How are espresso beans and coffee beans different?
Well, it all comes down to two things: the beans used and the roasting process.
What About the Coffee Beans?
In general, the most common type of coffee beans used for ANY brew is Arabica, Robusta, or a blend of these two varieties. Between the two, Arabica beans are far more common because they are easier to grow and have sweeter, more mellow flavor compared to Robusta beans. Depending on the roast and where the beans are grown, they can also have notes of other flavors such as chocolate and caramel. Robusta beans, on the other hand, have a higher caffeine content and are not as widespread.
Thus, you can use Arabica, Robusta, or a blend of these varieties for making either coffee beans or espresso beans. However, it’s more common to see pure Arabica beans or a blend that features more Arabica compared to Robusta.
There is one exception to the rule: the Italian espresso. Pure Robusta beans are used to make a cup of traditional Italian espresso.
Getting to Know the Roasting Process
This is it: where espresso beans are separated from espresso beans. The roasting process. The bottom line is that it’s the type of roast that will differentiate espresso beans from plain coffee beans.
First, let’s begin at the first step, which is coffee plant cherries. These are the green beans that you might sometimes find at a store. Coffee cherries are the raw stage of coffee beans, and you will rarely find them used for making coffee as they have not developed the rich flavor profile that most people look for in a cup of Joe.
To get the cherries ready for brewing, they undergo a roasting process, which will then dictate how they will ultimately be used in making coffee. During the roasting process, the beans will be subjected to varying degrees of heat and time, resulting in four different roasts:
- Light – light-roasted beans contain the highest amount of caffeine and have produced the least amount of oil. They are also the most acidic type of beans. You generally use light-roasted beans for non-pressure brew styles such as cold brew and pour-over coffee, as well as for white coffee.
- Medium – medium-roasted beans have a more balanced flavor between acidity and intensity, although the brewing process has still not extracted much of the oils from the beans. Medium-roast beans have a richer body and fuller flavor compared to light-roasted beans.
- Medium-Dark – for this type of roast, the oils of the beans have been somewhat extracted, resulting in a comparatively richer and fuller flavor. You will begin to notice the different notes of the flavor in the beans, and this is the most commonly used roast for various types of brews.
- Dark – you can distinguish dark roasts from the deep and vibrant color of the beans as well as the sheen of oil on the surface. These beans will have a rich, almost bitter and smoky taste, although the caffeine has significantly decreased.
Espresso beans are produced when the beans are dark-roasted.
So How EXACTLY are Espresso Beans Different from Coffee Beans?
Okay, so we’ve established that espresso beans are not the same coffee beans. They differ mainly from the roasting process used.
So how does that affect the beans?
Here are three main differences between coffee beans and espresso beans:
- Level of Caffeine – in general, the average cup of drip coffee contains more caffeine compared to a shot of espresso, where the former contains around 85-180 mg of caffeine compared to the latter’s 40-75. However, this is also because people typically consume much less espresso compared to drip coffee in one sitting.
- Flavor – Since espresso beans are dark-roasted, they will have a deeper, richer, and more robust flavor compared to other types of beans. Thus, any brew made using espresso beans will have a stronger flavor compared to brews made from coffee beans
- Grind – While the type of brew will dictate the grind you will use, espresso beans work best with a fine grind to extract the most flavor and aroma from the beans.
The Distinct Brewing Process of Espresso
Now that you know the distinction between coffee beans and espresso beans, you should also know the brewing process for making espresso.
After the beans have been finely ground, they are packed tightly into a portafilter. The portafilter is then fitted onto an espresso maker, and pressurized hot water is forced through the grounds for around 30 seconds.
The result is a thick, rich liquid with a creamy foam on top. The foam is called the crema, while the liquid is the actual espresso.
Why are Companies Insistent on the Different Labels?
If the only difference between coffee beans and espresso beans is the roasting process, why do coffee makers go through all the trouble of labeling their products?
Think about this way: coffee makers go through a lot of trouble to make sure that you get that perfect cup of coffee, and the only way to do that is to be able to use the right kind of beans.
Sure, you can technically make a cup of espresso using coffee beans, but you won’t be able to enjoy the full aroma and flavor of the brew because you used the wrong type of roast. Conversely, you can use espresso beans to make brews other than espresso, but you might end up with a bitter, undrinkable mess!
The labels will help you choose the right beans for making that delicious cup of coffee. Find out more about espresso beans.
So, Are Espresso Beans The Same as Coffee Beans?
After all that information, let’s get down to the bottom line. Are espresso beans the same as coffee beans? No, they are not the same. While they can come from the same blend of beans, the roasting process that espresso beans undergo makes them different from coffee beans. So always pay attention to the labels when you shop and pick the right beans for making espresso!