If you’ve been wondering why some coffee beans are labeled as such while others sport the espresso bean label, you’re not alone.
I am here to tell you that yes, there is a difference but it may not be what you were expecting.
Below, I will explain the key differences between these blends are and go into detail about what really matters when you’re trying to purchase the perfect bag of coffee beans.
What is the difference between coffee beans and espresso beans?
Espresso beans and coffee beans are basically the same thing, however, espresso beans are usually blended and roasted in a manner that’s optimized to taste better when brewed with an espresso machine.
Light Roast, Dark Roast… What’s Best For Espresso
Coffee beans start out as freshly picked coffee cherries. They’re then dried and roasted to impart those tantalizing aromas and bold flavors that you love.
Green coffee beans are like seeds with not a lot in the way of flavor and almost no aroma.
The roasting process transforms the beans by unlocking key oils and sugars inside of each bean. That’s where that coffee taste comes from.
Coffee beans are extremely temperature sensitive. They’re porous and full of organic compounds like lipids, acids, minerals, and sugars. and The longer they’re roasted, the darker they get.
Light roasts are roasted for the shortest time periods while dark roasts have been heated longer.
Lighter coffee roasts tend to have distinct aromas, lots of acids, and a bright flavor profile.
Dark coffee roasts are somewhat more bitter, less acidic, and smooth in flavor.
All of these beans are still coffee beans from the same sources, they’ve just been roasted for different lengths.
- Light-roasted beans won’t have much of an oily sheen and are best for mild-flavored coffee beverages or white coffee.
- Medium-roasted give you stronger coffee and are a rich brown color.
- Dark-roasted beans will look almost black and have a shinier texture than other roasts.
In espresso, you want to get smooth and rich undertones with bright and bold flavors.
The darker the roast, the easier it is to brew into a shot of espresso.
That’s why companies like Starbucks tend to always use dark roasted beans in their espresso blends.
The problem is, blends that only use dark roasted Robusta beans can be overly bitter.
They may lack flavor notes and brightness.
The solution? Mix a few different roasts and bean variants together and grind them uniformly before brewing an espresso shot.
While you definitely need the dark roasted beans for easy espresso shot brewing, having those medium and lighter notes in your espresso blends will make things taste better ultimately.
You’ll have a lighter and brighter aftertaste and a creamier shot of espresso.
The Most Common Types of Coffee Beans Used in Espresso
It’s helpful to know that there’s no such thing as an espresso bean. What I mean is, there isn’t a Coffea plant out there that is utilized specifically to make beans just for espresso.
A coffee bean is a coffee bean, plain and simple.
However, there are a variety of different coffee bean blends or mixes. When a package of coffee beans says “espresso beans” on it, it’s simply trying to tell you that the blend of beans in the bag is perfect for making shots of espresso with.
Espresso blends will usually have multiple roasts and sometimes will also be made up of two of the most common types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica beans are harvested from Coffea plants grown in wetter and more shaded regions.
They’ll be flavorful, clean tasting, and somewhat tart. Arabica beans don’t go as well with cream and sugar due to their more delicate oil makeup.
Robusta beans are smaller and pack more of a punch.
They come from regions where there isn’t that much rainfall and can be grown under harsher conditions.
As a result, these beans can offer coffee drinkers more caffeine and denser flavor profiles.
Apart from Arabica and Robusta beans, there are also Liberica and Excelsa variants. These are great but pretty uncommon.
Also, within the actual bean types are literally hundreds of different blends with multiple roasts and processing specifications.
I personally prefer dark roasted Arabica beans with medium roasted Robusta beans mixed in for my espresso blends.
Both beans have their uses and can be enjoyed in various ways. Good espresso blends combine the smooth boldness of the Robusta bean as well as the flavorful melody of the milder Arabica bean.
Additionally, true coffee lovers should know that Arabica beans aren’t good for cold brewed coffee.
Robusta beans are better for espresso shots that are going to be used in iced coffee or an iced blended coffee drinks.
Understanding Why Espresso is Different Than Other Brew Methods
Drip coffee is created when hot water runs over ground coffee beans. Usually, a drip coffee machine will be used, though coffee can be brewed in a few other ways as well.
Espresso is made differently.
To make espresso, finely ground coffee beans are packed tightly into a fine sieve with a handle known as a portafilter.
Very hot pressurized water is run through the portafilter to create one or two shots of espresso.
This espresso may be drunk on its own or mixed with milk, cream, or water to create a Latte, Brave, or Americano.
The ideal shot of espresso will be thick, full-flavored, and have just the right amount of espresso crema.
For the perfect shot to be created, the coffee beans must be blent correctly, ground evenly, and packed tightly.
This is why the coffee beans you use are so important. Espresso beans are coffee beans that can be more easily ground to produce the right flavors and oil concentrations when exposed to very hot water and lots of pressure. Any barista can tell you that your coffee beans will have a big impact on how your espresso shots will come out.
Robusta beans are great for getting what looks like the perfect shot of espresso, however, when it comes to flavor, you’ll face some big issues. For this reason, the best espresso comes from a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans that have been roasted for longer.
This makes them able to more easily impart their flavors into a shot of espresso.
Since very hot water is shot so quickly through the portafilter, the beans inside have to be flavor packed and roasted properly. Otherwise, your espresso shot will be weak, watery, or bland.
Drip and Pour-over Coffee
Drip coffee is a lot easier to make than espresso. You can use either Arabica or Robusta beans depending on the taste that you’re looking for.
The roast that you use won’t take away from your ability to make coffee. The roast will only have an impact on the overall flavor of the coffee itself.
So, with drip coffee, no matter what kind of roast you use, you’ll still get some kind of coffee after brewing.
Drip coffee takes longer to create. In the coffee filter, the coffee beans get saturated and steeped in hot water for a few minutes at least.
This makes it easier to get flavors and oils into your cup of coffee.
So what does this mean to you? Well for one, you shouldn’t use regular coffee beans to make espresso.
A light roasted Arabica bean won’t give you the rich flavor and full body that you need in a shot of espresso.
To get good espresso, you need the flavor notes offered by both Arabica and Robusta beans.
Beans For Espresso Or Other Coffee Brewing mehods: What To Choose
To get the best coffee, you’ll need the best beans.
This means that you not only will want to get high-quality coffee beans, but also coffee beans that have been roasted and blended with other beans so that when you grind them, you’ll be able to brew coffee or espresso with the best taste.
I recommend using a blend of dark roasted Arabica beans with a few medium-roast Robusta beans mixed in.
This will allow you to get a full flavored and richly textured shot of espresso more easily. You can find espresso blends like this at most grocery stores or in most coffee shops.
Darker roasts are ready to be exposed to high heat and heavy pressure. This makes them the ideal candidate for espresso.
Additionally, make sure that you are getting a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans.
While Arabica beans make the best espresso, adding in Robusta beans makes it easier to ensure that you’ll get a lot of crema, flavor and caffeine.
For Drip Coffee
Drip coffee can be made with Arabica or Robusta beans that have been roasted at any level. I do want to say, if you use your espresso beans to make drip coffee, things might not taste as good as they ought to.
Espresso bean blends are meant to give you the best flavors when they’ve been heated and pressurized.
This means that in drip coffee, espresso blends won’t be able to give you the best flavors.
You’ll mainly get bitter and bland flavor notes instead of sweet and rich ones.
Understanding beans for coffee and espresso
When you’re trying to wrap your head around espresso and coffee bean blends, things can get a bit complicated.
Since espresso beans are just coffee beans that have been roasted and combined with other beans for the ideal espresso blend, you’re going to want to understand the differences between roasts as well as how coffee beans are actually produced.
This way, you’ll really see why getting a quality espresso bean blend matters.
Coffee beans can be roasted in a few different ways. Coffee beans also come in different types depending in the species of Coffea plant they’ve been harvested from.
When you blend the right roasts and types of coffee beans together, you get espresso blends.
The way that beans are roasted can have a big impact on how they ultimately taste in espresso.
The specific type of coffee bean that you’re dealing with also matters. To really get the optimal espresso bean blend, you’ll want to combine the right roasts with the best beans for a powerful combination that works well for the beverage you’re trying to craft.
You already know that the way that you brew your coffee matters. However, the way that your coffee beans have been roasted can also have a big impact on how your coffee or espresso is going to taste.
Generally, espresso beans are really blends of coffee beans that have been roasted differently. For example, with espresso blends, you may get two different roasts of the same kind of bean in one bag.
You may also get two different types of coffee beans roasted in the same way.
You could even get a combination of the two with different beans and different roasts all in one espresso blend. It will all depend on the espresso itself.
To summarize, the difference between coffee beans and espresso beans has to do with the roast and the blend of the beans in the bag.
While all coffee beans come from the same sources, espresso bean blends have been optimized to produce the best flavors when heated and pressurized by an espresso machine.
This means that dark roasted Arabica beans will usually be used in correlation with Robusta beans in most quality espresso blends.
I’m curious to know what espresso blends you prefer.
Do you like Arabica or Robusta beans better for drip coffee? What espresso making tips have you found useful?
Please feel free to share, leave your comments, and give me your feedback!