Imagine this: You wander through the grocery store and you are set on buying a bag of coffee beans. You pass by the coffee aisle and get overwhelmed by the number of choices. Then, you come across a pack that says, Espresso roast beans. What are they? How are they any different from regular coffee beans?
It's time to put an end to this confusion. So, what exactly is the difference between espresso beans vs coffee beans?
The short answer is none. Espresso beans ARE coffee beans. If espresso beans are just the same as coffee beans, what’s the deal with the beans being labeled as espresso roast? Well, it’s all about the brewing method.
What is an Espresso?
An espresso is prepared by putting pressure (at about 9 to 10 bar) on water that's nearly boiling in order to create a rich, dark, flavorful and caffeine-rich shot of coffee.
The grind to be used in an espresso is fine, which is similar to that of refined sugar. Make the grind much finer, and your espresso will have difficulty coming out of your machine. Conversely, make it too coarse, and you'll get bland watery coffee.
Espresso has a much more intense taste compared to brewed coffee. Espressos also tend to be more oily and have darker colored coffee beans. The white foam-like substance on top of your espresso is called crema.
What is an Espresso Coffee Bean?
If the difference between espresso beans vs coffee beans lies in the preparation, then why are some beans specifically labeled espresso roast? Does it mean that you can't use them on your drip coffee maker or French press?
The answer is: of course you still can! You can use your espresso beans on any coffee maker, as long as you have the proper filter for the grind size. Otherwise, you'll end up with insoluble coffee grounds in your coffee.
Espresso beans rose to popularity at a time when coffee makers didn't have the right equipment to refine coffee beans. Since the method of brewing espresso tends to bring out unique flavors, it became the preferred coffee brewer.
Light and medium roasts tend to make inconsistent tastes between similar coffee beans. Both types of roasts bring out the character of a particular coffee, depending on their origin. Most lighter roasts usually have tea-like, fruity, floral and earthy tones. Even so, they are likely to have more acidity - something that some people would rather do without.
Back then, the only way to make a uniform blend that's good enough for espresso was to roast beans for a longer period of time. The darker the roast, the more chances that the unique flavors will be subdued. Thus, the more consistent the taste of the coffee will be.
What Makes a Good Espresso Roast Coffee Bean?
There are two things that make a good espresso roast coffee bean. These are the amount of solubility and a balanced acidity.
The coffee-making process happens rather quickly. During that time, the amount of coffee grounds that dissolve in water should have a relatively high concentration. Espresso beans requires a solubility of about 18-20% to hit the right spot. Below that, and you are left with a bland tasting coffee.
When we think of espresso, we think about rich and flavorful coffee. This also means that espresso has a good level of acidity. If you have ever tried drinking sour coffee, chances are that coffee was highly acidic. Having an acidity level that’s too high results in an intense and sour flavor.
The Espresso Roast is Not Limited to Espresso
Espresso beans can also be used on a pour-over or a French press. Coffee producers continue to label their coffee espresso roast as a mere suggestion for what they think is the best way to consume their product. They normally find the right combination of Arabica and Robusta beans to achieve the best flavors.
With advances in coffee production, we no longer need to mask the nuances found in lighter roasts. In fact, the unique and subtle flavors are what make coffee drinking such a pleasurable experience.
Preparation: Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans
While you are truly free to experiment on different coffee beans with different coffee makers, you should remember that it is much easier to under-extract and over-extract an espresso than a regular coffee.
It is much harder to achieve a perfect espresso than to brew a typical cup of coffee. That's why manufacturers are committed to make it more convenient for espresso aficionados to make one by creating a blend of beans that are espresso-ready.
While it is true that espresso beans are simply coffee beans with a darker roast, you should not be afraid to try out other blends. There are plenty of ways and combinations for you to explore as you embark on your coffee adventure.