What Is The Difference Between Espresso Beans And Coffee Beans?
What is the difference between espresso beans and coffee beans? This is a question that I hear in various forms all the time. Fortunately, I have a few different ways to answer it. In this post, I’ll address the question from a number of different perspectives. Now let’s get started.
Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans: An Overview
There are many types of coffee beans. They come from different coffee species. After choosing a specific type of bean, the next step is the roasting process. It is the roasting process that that contributes the most to the final taste of the bean. Although this isn’t always the case, the longer you roast a bean, the darker in color it gets. Longer roasting times also typically lead to a richer and bolder flavor.
This does not mean that dark roasted coffee is inherently better than light roasted varieties. In fact, many people prefer the subtle flavors and textures that only a light roast can produce. However, it’s a different story with espresso beans. Espresso beans are dark roasted almost by definition.
But here’s the bottom line: espresso and regular coffee originally come from the same type of bean. It’s in the roasting and preparation methods that the differences emerge. Next, let’s compare the beans used for ‘regular’ coffee to what we think of as espresso beans.
The So-Called ‘Regular’ Coffee Bean
First, almost all coffee beans-- regular and espresso-- come from one of two types of beans. These types are Arabica and Robusta. While some coffees come from a blend of the two, Arabica beans are largely considered superior in flavor.
As you’ll see in the next section, there are certain restrictions in the way that espresso beans are roasted. However, this is definitely not the case with so called ‘regular’ coffee. This fact plays a large role in the question ‘what is the difference between espresso beans and coffee beans?’
You can roast regular coffee beans in a number of different ways, but the simplest way to think about it is on a spectrum of light to dark roast. These different roasting methods help determine the flavor, texture, and appearance of the coffee they eventually produce.
Here are some other characteristics that this range of roasting methods can produce:
- Can be roast from light to dark
- Powerful aroma
- Wide range of flavor from mild to rich
As you’ve probably noticed, the roasting process is probably the most important determining factor in a given cup of coffee’s eventual results. This fact will emerge even further when we take a deeper dive into the character of espresso.
A Longer Look at Espresso
With its bold flavor and rich complexity, a shot of espresso can be the perfect start to your day. Espresso is often categorized as a dark, bold coffee with a very concentrated smoky flavor. The medium roast to dark roast beans are the best kind for making espresso. However, espresso must also be ground very finely to achieve its hallmark flavors.
Here are some other qualities you’ll commonly find in espresso:
- Its long roasting time produces a caramelized texture
- Espresso has a robust body and a smoky flavor
- Its flavor is further characterized by its strength and relative bitterness
Different Methods of Preparation
The way you prepare espresso and regular coffee beans is the next most important difference between them. These differences in preparation begin during the grinding process. Grinding espresso is fairly straightforward. It must be very finely ground to qualify as espresso in the first place. This is because a smaller grain size allows for more extraction.
On the other hand, there is a much larger range when it comes to grinding regular coffee. The best method depends on your taste/texture preferences and the equipment you’re using to brew it. Generally speaking, regular coffee beans should be ground to a point somewhere between ‘coarse’ and ‘fine.’ A coarse ground is required if you’re using a French Press, for example. But with a standard drip coffee, a medium grind is usually best.
It’s All in the Extraction
In addition to the way that you grind your beans, the extraction method you use is another way espresso bean are different than regular ones. While there are many details to consider, you can explain the bottom line as follows. No matter what kind of equipment you’re using to make espresso, the goal is to extract as much as possible from your beans.
This is usually accomplished by pushing highly pressurized water through tightly packed grounds. This is what’s happening when you see your barista tamp espresso grounds tightly into the small brewer and attach it to the dedicated espresso machine. It’s also what you have to do with a standard home espresso maker.
There is substantially less extraction needed for regular coffee. Obviously, stronger coffee will result with higher levels of extraction, but a drip coffee maker simply pushes hot water through medium sized grounds to achieve the ‘average’ coffee flavor.
What is the Difference Between Espresso Beans and Coffee Beans?
Again, the key here is understanding that there is no essential difference between espresso and coffee beans. They do not come from distinct parts of the world or from specific varieties of plants. Therefore, you should not think of espresso beans as being something entirely different than ‘regular’ beans.
The best way to approach the question ‘what is the difference between espresso beans and coffee beans?’ is in terms of the roasting and preparation processes involved in brewing them. Yes, espresso is a very different drink than a drip cup of coffee, but this difference emerges long after the beans have been picked.
How many espresso beans in a shot? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, this post will provide you the answer. Here’s the short version.