If you’re shopping for coffee beans at a local supermarket, you might notice bags labeled as espresso beans, light roast, dark roast, breakfast blends, etc. But what exactly is the difference between regular coffee beans and espresso beans?
With so many terms and labels on coffee bags, it can be quite confusing trying to decide what beans to buy and how to use them correctly. It turns out, there is no difference between espresso and regular coffee beans. If you’re wondering why they’re labeled differently, it’s simply because of the brew method they are best suited for.
Labeling beans as espresso is a recommendation from the roaster on how to best consume the coffee. Espresso is not actually a roast, it’s a coffee extraction process where fine grinds are run through with hot water at a high pressure. Because of this, companies label their coffee bags espresso roast as a marketing tool, much like the well-known French or Italian roasts. It’s often not made clear whether an espresso roast is a dark, light, or medium roast and espresso becomes interchanged with dark roast when it can be applied to any roast. Let’s delve into what roasts are defined as and what espresso is in more detail (source).
What does “roast” mean in coffee terms?
Coffee comes from a cherry, and in order for those cherries to become coffee they have to be processed and roasted, which physically and chemically change the cherry or green coffee into the coffee we know and love. It is the roasting that brings out the flavors and aromas of the coffee cherry and allows for a variety of coffee tastes. Watch this video for an in depth explanation of coffee roasting.
What are dark roasted coffee beans?
As mentioned before, dark roasted coffee beans spend the longest time roasting compared to light and medium roasted coffee and are roasted at the highest temperature possible. Additionally, dark roasted coffee beans tend to have less nuanced flavor and more emphasis on the roast character. For example, smoky and sweet as opposed to fruity and floral. Over the years, dark roasts have become very popular to use for espresso because it has a nice, bitter flavor that people are looking for in their cup of coffee. However, espresso can be made from virtually any roast of coffee but is often made from dark or medium roast coffees.
What are espresso beans?
Bags that are labeled as espresso beans are most likely dark or medium roast, especially at the grocery store. Many specialty coffee shops enjoy using a light roast coffee for making espresso if their target customers enjoy a complex cup of coffee. The average consumer probably doesn’t notice or can’t taste the nuanced flavors of light roast coffee and have a preconceived idea of what coffee should taste like — strong and bitter — which is a hallmark of dark roast coffee. There is nothing wrong with that and people can enjoy whatever coffee they like. But large companies that sell coffee know that people making coffee at home would probably enjoy a dark roast, so they market their product as espresso to simplify the buying experience.
Is espresso stronger than dark roast?
As a recap, espresso is a coffee extraction method while dark roast coffee is coffee that has been roasted at high temperatures for a long time. “Stronger” coffee can mean many things: high in caffeine, bitter, flavorful, etc. To the coffee experts at Bean & Bean, a strong cup of coffee will have a lot of flavor and be high in caffeine.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine content between different coffee roasts is actually the same. What makes a more caffeinated cup of coffee is actually the way you brew it, both in method and how you measure your coffee out.
Sometimes, espresso shots can be “stronger” than dark roast that was brewed using a French press, but not “stronger” than a dark roast coffee that was brewed using a drip method (source).
Ultimately, whether you want a strong brew or not, taste is subjective and you’ll discover — or already know— what you like best.
What are the best coffee beans for espresso?
Here are our recommendations for making espresso at home! If you’re looking for a more bold, strong, and bitter cup of coffee, use a dark or medium roast for espresso. We recommend trying a blend of coffees for optimal flavor, like our Downtown Blend that’s fueled New Yorkers for 12 years! If you’re looking for a more fruity and floral flavor in your coffee, our Santa Felisa Gesha Washed is your best bet.
Picking a roast is only the first step to a great cup of coffee. You can experiment with single-origin coffee or blends, different origins of said coffee beans, different types of processed coffees, and more.