Some people prefer regular coffee, some like espresso bean better. But the question is, can I use regular coffee for espresso? People might think, “Of course not! Espresso needs espresso beans”. Absolutely not. Mainly because espresso beans are simply roasted coffee beans. A shot of espresso is brewed by running finely-ground coffee through hot water at extremely high pressure. The main idea here is that espresso is a way of brewing coffee and not a specific type or blend of coffee beans specifically and solely meant for espresso. No doubt that there are significant differences between the two, but a coffee bean is a coffee bean, and coffee is coffee after all.
Regular Coffee Beans vs. Espresso Beans
Coffee beans is an umbrella term used to define any type of coffee bean that has been processed for brewing through roasting. Roasting is where harvested seeds are toasted at different temperatures to achieve a specific taste, smell, and appearance from the beans. The term “espresso beans” is commercially used to refer to dark-roasted coffee beans. Dark roast coffee beans produce the least acidity and caffeine, which is preferred in the market.
The labeling of espresso beans as “espresso” is simply a recommendation on how to better use and best bring out the flavor of the coffee beans but not necessarily limits its use to one type of brew. Often, espresso beans cost a little more than regular coffee beans. So what exactly makes the two different from one another?
Type of Coffee Roast
Roasting a coffee bean develops the bean’s caffeine level, acidity, body, as well as the intensity of flavor. The art of roasting coffee beans occurs in stages as they are heated to reach an internal temperature between 356 oF to 486 oF.
- The light roast has a light brown shade and is preferred for milder coffee varieties. This variant is roasted the least amount of time, only until it reaches an internal temperature of 356 oF to 401 oF. Lightly roasted coffee beans are collected before any oil breaks out of the seed.
- A medium roast has a medium brown color and features a more balanced flavor, acidity, and body. It is commonly referred to as the American roast due to its popularity in the region.
- A medium-dark roast is achieved by roasting the coffee bean until it reaches an internal temperature of 410 oF to 428 oF. A medium-dark roast is characterized by a rich and full flavor with a lot less acidity.
- Dark Roasted coffee beans are cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 464 oF to 482 oF. It contains the least amount of caffeine and is also known for its sweet and buttery flavor due to the caramelization of the bean sugars.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are four main types of coffee beans commonly used in the coffee industry. Each one recognized for a particular taste or quality that makes that bean type unique and in demand. It is a common practice for producers to make a “blend” out of two or more types of coffee beans, which allows for a more complex and versatile brew.
Arabica coffee beans
- The most abundant type of coffee bean
- Used for over 60% of the world’s coffee consumption
- Flavor varies and depends on the region they grow
Robusta coffee beans
- Popular in the American region
- Contains twice more caffeine than Arabica beans
- Has a more stable flavor profile even when mixed with other ingredients
Liberica coffee beans
- Found only in the Philippines
- The bean has a notable floral and fruity aroma
- Liberica-based products have a woody and smoky flavor
Excelsa coffee beans
- Rarely used compared to the other types of coffee beans
- Can be found in the Southeast Asian region
- Has a notable tart and fruity flavor and aroma
Can I Use Regular Coffee for Espresso? Things to Consider
Pulling a perfect shot of espresso does not only depend on the type of coffee bean you use. Even if you use the best quality espresso bean you can find, but you still don’t know the proper way and technique of brewing an espresso shot, most probably you’d end up with a pretty bad brew.
When grinding your coffee beans, be it regular or espresso, it is essential to remember to use finely ground coffee when making an espresso shot. A whole part of the brewing process of the espresso is dedicated to ensuring that the ground used is smooth and level before letting it through the hot water to brew.
The espresso machine is built to make brewing a good shot of espresso easy. It has all the features needed to process the coffee grounds with ease rather than having two or three separate machines. Keep in mind, however, that not all espresso machines are made the same, and there are some features and qualities you should look for, such as its grinding capacity, water storage, frothing capability, durability, and user-friendliness.
The Brew Process
Brewing a perfectly good espresso shot takes more than just using premium quality coffee beans. Any budding barista or coffee enthusiast must learn the proper way of making espresso. Unlike brewing a pure drip coffee, making an espresso shot requires more effort, skill, and precision from the barista. Making an espresso shot involves finely grinding the coffee beans, properly measuring and tamping the ground, putting it to brew, and shutting the machine off at the right time in order not to under or over-extract the espresso. Find out more about espressos.
Bean there, Done that
Answering the question, “can I use regular coffee for espresso?” is easy. Any coffee beans can be used to make espresso. It’s just that espresso beans have been optimized to produce excellent results for different brewing methods. If you’re stuck choosing between regular coffee and espresso beans, keep in mind that both are just fine, and there are several other factors to consider, such as the quality of the coffee ground, the espresso machine used, as well as the overall brew process.