Have you ever noticed that some bags of coffee in stores have espresso written on them? I’ve noticed this for years now, wondered what the difference was, and just never looked into what made an espresso bean an espresso bean. Let’s find out!
Simply put; espresso beans are roasted darker and ground much finer than regular coffee beans. Espresso is not just in the brewing process. Espresso also depends on the bean blend, the roast, and the grind.
The Difference Between Espresso Beans and Regular Coffee Beans
So what really makes an espresso bean and a regular coffee bean different? They’re both coffee after all!
Coffee bean sellers will take beans from different growers, and even different species of bean themselves (arabica or robusta), and mix them together in different proportions. They aim to get a really consistent flavor of blend. So that customers know what to expect from their product.
Having so many different blends of coffee to choose from really opens up a new dimension to coffee flavors.
Both espresso beans and regular coffee beans will be blended in a particular way by the seller.
Espresso beans are roasted for a much longer time, at higher temperatures, than regular coffee beans. So they become a much darker roast. The flavor is much stronger
As well as being simply darker, these beans are much more oily. They have a much stronger flavor. Pretty much just as you would expect from an espresso.
Higher temperatures and a longer roast time also breaks down caffeine in the beans. So as strange as it might sound; espresso beans actually have lower amounts of caffeine. That said, it probably won’t be significantly less. We all know espresso can really make you get up and go!
Espresso beans are ground into a much finer powder.
To make an espresso, the ground beans need to be compacted tight before water is pushed through it as high pressure. To make them hold together when compacted, a finer grind is key.
With a drip or immersion coffee, the brew takes much longer. People usually opt for a coarser grind. A bag of regular pre-ground coffee will definitely be coarser than a bag of espresso coffee.
So, in a metaphorical sense. The difference in the two coffee grinds is a bit like the difference between sand and gravel.
The difference between Espresso and Regular Coffee
Now we know what makes an espresso coffee bean and a regular coffee bean, the next step in the coffee process is brewing the mud itself.
Drip, Pour Over, and Immersion Brews
These are essentailly anything that don’t involve pressure to make your coffee
Whether it is letting the beans stew in water like with a french press, or letting it trickle through the ground beans, these methods make a slow and milder flavored coffee. They are also usually made in much larger volumes than an espresso
Espresso is all about speed. Express-o. How can you speed up brewing a coffee? That’s right, ram the water through those ground beans with as much pressure as you can! About 9 Bars of pressure to be exact.
An espresso is always made quickly and in small quantities. Surely that can’t be all that makes an espresso an espresso though! You’re right!
Crema is possibly the most essential aspect of an espresso. It is the light-colored frothy layer on top of an espresso that looks like, well, cream.
What is Crema?
The crema is made when the hot pressurized water hits the compacted coffee grounds. The hot water causes a load of CO2 to be released from the ground beans. The combination of heat and CO2 causes oils in the grounds to emulsify.
Simply put, crema really is very similar to cream. It’s essentially whipped fats.
Don’t be worrying about calories though. An espresso still only has about 1 calorie.
Without crema espresso would just be a small shot of drip coffee.
Can I Use Espresso Beans to make Regular Coffee and Vice Versa?
You can absolutely use espresso beans to make any kind of regular coffee. Likewise, no-one is stopping you from using regular coffee beans to make an espresso.
These different beans are just made to be slightly better at making the different types of coffees. The coffee you would get if you, for example, used espresso beans in a french press would be more likely to be particularly strong and maybe a bit over-brewed.
Because the espresso beans are finer, the coffee goodness is going to brew out of them much quicker. You will probably not want to brew it as long in a french press. Also, Because the grounds are finer, they will be more likely to leak out through the mesh-filter and end up in your mug. Chewy.
So, What Have We Learned?
So, in conclusion, we have learned that there is actually quite a significant difference between espresso and regular coffee beans.
Espresso beans are usually a different blend, they are roasted longer and ground finer. Espresso coffee produces a drink that tastes much more intense and powerful despite the smaller volume. The ideal espresso is brewed quickly and at high pressure and the presence of crema is a good indicator we have a perfectly brewed beverage.
There are (thankfully) no laws when it comes to coffee brewing so you can choose whether or not you are happy to mix and match beans or just stick to the recommended blends. Ultimately, as long as you are pleased with the final product, then that’s all that matters. It’s your cup of coffee after all!