What’s the difference between espresso and coffee beans? Actually is the brew method. General a coffee bean is a coffee bean. It’s nothing more than a matter of taste, but we’ll differentiate what’s suitable for espresso versus what’s right for any other brew method. However, there are all kinds of myths associated with what is best for espresso and otherwise.
Some people believe it’s a particular roaster blend, but these are just all ways of thinking that came about through different stages of the quality the evolution that coffee has undergone since it was first discovered.
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First, let’s discuss the flavor differences between coffee and espresso. When you brew a pot of coffee, you may notice some slight nuances in your cup based on the coffee that you’ve used. Maybe it’s sweet and fruity with a rich chocolate tone, perhaps it’s light and tea like with a citrusy kick, and perhaps it just tastes like a cup of coffee maybe nutty with a caramel finish if you were to really try to break it down.
None of these descriptions are a direct indicator of quality but a product of the coffee beans background. Growing region and processing for example and you can’t change these things about the coffee it is part of the beans chemical makeup.
So when you put a bean with a particular flavor profile under pressure as you do with espresso, you’re going to have the same experience, but the nuances are much more forthcoming and intense. Sort of like the difference between a blueberry tea and a spoonful of fresh blueberry jam. So what’s the deal with espresso roasts? When espresso was first popularized, we hadn’t quite achieved the refinement of farming and buying practices that we see today and because of the intensifying effect of espresso flavor defects are painfully noticeable.
Dark roast for Espresso
In order to provide a more consistent flavor that will satisfy most palates our darker roast was embraced as darker roasts will break down plant compounds provided dark caramelized sugar flavor and you’ll taste where secondary compounds that are a result of the roasting process than organic compounds. Giving the roaster more control over the way your coffee tastes. However, this method does tend to create a more bitter coffee as the majority of bitterness and coffee is a result of these secondary compounds formed during roasting. Because of the high standards that specialty Roasters now hold for the coffee’s they use it’s no longer necessary to use a dark roast to mask potential flavor defects or inconsistencies. In fact, a light roast will provide a sweeter and more complex flavor profile.
You’re probably saying great, so why do these specialty Roasters still sell espresso blends or drip blends? Well believe it or not the writing on the bag does not have to dictate how you brew at home. Again it’s all a matter of personal taste and perception. If a bag state said, it’s an espresso blend or drip blend it, generally means the roaster believes that the flavor profile really shines when brewed in that manner. However, it can absolutely be equally enjoyable when brewed any other way. So take their suggestion with a grain of salt and feel free to experiment with different brew methods to find out what works best for you.
Single origin coffee
You can also experiment with single origin coffees. Many believe that single origins should be left to be brewed in a pour-over, but they are worth experimenting with as espresso as well. A single origin coffee will typically have a more delicate and complex flavor profile, making it very easy to cross the line of over or under extraction. So they do require more attention to get a really great shot but you can look forward to a moment of all when you get there, and with steamed milk, they can be even more decadent and dessert-like.
There is one exception to this some Roasters still utilize for booster coffee beans in their espresso blends. We discussed the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans in a previous article and noted that Robusta beans produce a dense, long-lasting crema. So it can be worth it to use these in an espresso blend.
To be fair, these are not considered specialty coffees, but that doesn’t make them any less popular. It is worth mentioning that a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans is less than ideal for brewing as a drip. The bold and earthy flavor of robusta beans can easily drown out any nuance is offered by the Arabica bean. So they really need to be brewed under pressure to intensify the more delicate flavors that an Arabica bean brings to the table.
That being said and have fun playing with all kinds of coffee beans.