Espresso Beans vs. Coffee Beans: What's the Difference?

One of the beautiful things about coffee is that it can be crafted to suit any time of day. Perhaps you love an espresso shot first thing in the morning and a warm cup with the perfect balance of milk and sugar to round out your afternoon. Rich flavours and notes envelop the senses, creating an experience you just can’t get with every hot drink. It’s the beans that make coffee special, through the ways they are grown, picked, and roasted into the perfect combination for any brew. 

Whether you are an espresso enthusiast or a coffee connoisseur, you likely have a preferred blend you reach for when it comes time to stock up the pantry. However, you may wonder, what is the difference between espresso and coffee? Why are these products labelled differently? In this post, we’ll boil it all down for you.

What are the Origins of Espresso Beans?

While the use of coffee beans can be traced back centuries and began in Ethiopia, espresso is considered a more recent concept, developed in the early 20th century as an all-Italian invention. Luigi Bezzera is known as the father of espresso, and he found a way to make coffee production faster and richer in quality. The drink would ultimately produce a distinguishable aroma and texture, creating a full-bodied effect and fully encompassing the palate. This is partly due to the blending of beans, a traditional component that highlights the characteristics of different varieties. These unique circumstances helped the humble espresso flourish in popularity and thus refine into the process we see today.

Are Espresso Beans Different than Coffee Beans?

Fundamentally, all beans that make your preferred caffeinated beverage come from the coffee plant and are either of the robusta or arabica variety. The difference starts with roasting, where espresso beans tend to be roasted for slightly longer. This helps enhance the oils so that they produce a beautiful crema when they come into contact with boiling water. After this process is complete, these beans are ground very finely, making them ideal for compacting when it comes time to brew. An espresso pull requires a slightly different, more pressurized process to gain the ideal flavour and intensity that the drink is known for, making the beans have unique characteristics compared to coffee beans.

Can You Use Regular Coffee Beans for Espresso?

If you’ve recently run out of your favourite espresso beans and only have the coffee variety lying around, they can still be used to create your preferred hot drink. Where possible, grind the beans down a bit finer, so they are better suited to your machine. Medium roast beans will work best, and likely have some of the similar flavours you are used to once you take a sip. You can also use espresso beans to make drip coffee, should you find yourself in the opposite situation. Since both types of beans are essentially labelled to suit their best brewing method, not necessarily their required one, you may find it intriguing to experiment with new techniques to find your new favourite taste and olfactories. At ORO Caffè, we roast different kinds of espresso beans so that you don’t have to feel limited in your options.

Can You Use Any Coffee Beans for Espresso?

Medium roast beans work best if you are substituting them for espresso. Simply put, their roast has a rich, caramel flavour that closely resembles the techniques used for espresso beans. However, it is best if you avoid light roast coffee beans. Without an extended roasting period, an espresso pulled with these types of beans will be acidic, lacking the proper oils to create a crema and possibly tasting watered down. 

What Methods Can You Use for Brewing Coffee and Espresso?

The difference between espresso and coffee drinks comes not only from their beans but also from their brewing methods. For a proper espresso pull, a specialized machine is typically preferred. This is because hot water must be shot through tightly packed grounds to achieve the correct crema and depth of flavour. However, several possible brewing methods can help coffee shine. French press, Aeropress, pour-over, cold brew, and siphoning all involve specialized equipment that can take your drip coffee machine experience to the next level. 

Each brewing method highlights the unique flavours and mouth feel that make coffee lovers enjoy. If you are looking to experiment, the pour-over method closely resembles the drip coffee machine but enhances the end result. It’s relatively easy to find a pour-over coffee maker online as it is the oldest way of brewing this drink. Boil your kettle, and ensure you rinse the filter before adding the grounds. Pour the boiling water over your desired amount of grounds slowly, allowing gas bubbles to form and release. Once fully coated, take note of the scents arising from the coffee. Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy!

Can You Mix Espresso and Coffee?

Throughout this article, we have discovered that although there is a difference between espresso and coffee beans, the two are closely linked and can be substituted for each other as needed. However, mixing these two types of beans together is not recommended since they require specific brewing processes to bring out their unique characteristics. In spite of that, the brewed versions of these beverages can be mixed together to make a distinctive drink known as a red eye or a shot in the dark. 

You can create this drink at home by taking a brewed cup of coffee and simply adding an espresso shot to it. It combines the mild sweetness that you get from black coffee with the kick and strength of espresso. Any specific flavours or olfactories you detect will depend on the types of beans you use for each drink.

What Kind of Drinks Can You Make with Espresso?

Italian bars showcase years of expertise when it comes to crafting hot and cold beverages that highlight the flavour of espresso. Slightly different than western coffee shops, ordering a caffè in Italy will get you an espresso. For a cup of coffee, you’d have to ask for a caffè americano. Italians hold coffee culture near and dear, and it is not uncommon for them to drink an espresso at any time of day. Additionally, they have perfected various drinks that incorporate this beverage that we know throughout the world.

The cappuccino is perhaps the second most recognized Italian espresso drink, just after espresso itself. Traditionally, it is crafted using one-third each of espresso, milk, and foam. Ordering one of these after 11 a.m. in Italy is sure to denote your tourist status, as locals consider it a strictly morning option.

Macchiato is also a well-known drink and means “stained” in Italian. Its appearance is exactly what you would expect after learning the meaning of the name of this beverage. A caffè macchiato starts with espresso and is coloured by drops of warm milk. A latte macchiato is the opposite, starting with warm milk that is coloured by drops of espresso.

The ORO Caffè Difference

There doesn’t need to be any debate over espresso beans versus coffee beans when you are buying from an experienced and established roaster. At ORO Caffè, we believe that it all boils down to a matter of preference, which is why we provide each of our customers with numerous options to suit their caffeine needs. Experimenting with different brewing methods and our roasts and blends may help you discover your new favourite way to enjoy coffee.

We roast our beans with the knowledge of tradition and the additive of innovation, making our products stand out from the rest. We also love to provide our customers with insights into best brewing practices and the right beans for them. Contact us to learn more.