Last Updated on September 25, 2021 by John Moretti
There is a lot of confusion surrounding coffee beans and espresso beans. There is always a distinction made between the two, but is there really a difference? Let’s take a deeper look to understand coffee beans vs. espresso beans.
Espresso beans is a term used to describe coffee beans that are roasted and prepared specifically for brewing Espresso and espresso-based drinks with the espresso brewing process. The term “coffee beans” is used to describe any roasted coffee beans that can be used for any brewing process.
There is are significant differences between these two types of roasted coffee beans, but they can be a little tricky to define. Let’s get into the specifics of coffee beans and espresso beans to better understand how they are different and how they should be used.
Coffee Beans Vs. Espresso Beans
We often see bags of roasted coffee beans marked as either coffee beans or espresso beans. This can be very confusing, and the difference between the two is not properly understood by everyone.
Let’s define coffee beans and espresso beans, and the differences between these types of roasted beans will hopefully become clearer.
Coffee beans is a term that is used to describe any roasted coffee beans.
This means that “coffee beans” is a very broad term that can be used to describe a vast variety of types of coffee. Coffee beans does not refer to the origin or type of beans such as Arabica or Robusta. Coffee beans can mean any type of coffee beans.
Coffee beans refer to beans that have been roasted or prepared in any way. This generally includes the 6 different coffee beans roasts:
The 6 commonly known coffee bean roasts include:
- White roasted coffee beans.
- Light roasted coffee beans.
- Medium roasted coffee beans.
- Medium-Dark Roasted coffee beans.
- Dark roasted coffee beans.
- Coffee beans roasted for espresso.
Each type of coffee roast is a unique preparation that drastically affects the way the coffee tastes and performs when brewed.
The various adjectives in the coffee roasts describe the color of the coffee beans after they have been roasted for particular amounts of time.
The longer coffee beans are roasted, the darker the beans become. White roasted coffee beans are barely roasted, while dark roasted coffee beans are roasted for a long time.
The coffee roast affects both the way the coffee tastes and performs and the way the coffee should be brewed. The lighter roasts are best brewed with long, non-pressurized brewing methods, and darker roasted beans are best for short, high pressure, high-temperature brewing methods.
Light roasted beans taste less intense than dark roasted beans, but they are more acidic, and more varied flavors from the coffee beans themselves can be tasted.
Dark roasted beans are richer in oils and taste more caramelized and bitter than lighter roasts and taste far more intense.
All espresso beans are coffee beans, but not all coffee beans are espresso beans.
The term “espresso beans” is used to describe a particular type of roasted coffee beans that are roasted carefully with intent for use in the espresso brewing process.
Espresso refers more to a brewing process than a type of coffee beans or a particular roast, but espresso beans have come to be a term on their own used for beans that are specially prepared for this particular brewing process.
The brewing process referred to as espresso subjects the coffee beans to high pressure and high heat and forces water through the coffee beans in a short amount of time. The word “espresso” comes from Italian words that translate to “quickly” and “pressure.”
Coffee beans that have been roasted with the intention of being used for espresso are roasted for a longer time and are generally very dark roasted beans.
This is because dark roasted beans are more porous, which is better suited for short brewing processes such as espresso.
Espresso beans are roasted for use in this brewing process, but they are carefully chosen by roasteries to be paired well with milk coffee drinks such as Cappuccinos, Lattés, and Macchiatos.
There are some beans that lend themselves better to espresso than others based on their flavor profiles and tasting notes.
For example, high-quality Robusta coffee beans are not generally used for any brewing method other than espresso due to their high caffeine content, strong and bitter flavors, and the thick texture of the espresso and crema that they produce.
These beans cannot be used for other brewing methods as they are simply too strong and will be too bitter if over-extracted in slow-brewing methods such as pour-over and French-press.
Is There Really A Difference?
From the above descriptions of coffee beans and espresso beans, it is clear to see that there is are significant differences between the two terms.
The difference between the two terms is that “coffee beans” can be used to describe any roasted coffee beans that can be used for any brewing method.
The term “espresso beans” is only used to describe coffee beans that have been specially roasted and prepared for brewing espresso.
Espresso beans are prepared to create the very best espresso flavors, crema, richness, intensity that has come to be a staple of espresso and espresso-based coffee drinks.
Can Coffee Beans Be Used For Espresso?
Coffee beans can be used for espresso because the term is used to describe any type of roasted coffee beans.
However, only espresso-type beans should be used for brewing espresso.
If general coffee beans are used for espresso, it may not produce coffee that is what is expected of espresso. Lighter roasted beans will not produce the intense, rich flavors expected from espresso and will create little or no crema, which is an integral part of espresso and espresso-based brinks.
Lighter roasted coffee beans will also not pair well with the steamed milk used in espresso-based drinks due to the lower oil content and higher acidity of these beans.
With that being said, espresso beans can be used for other brewing methods if the drinker is prepared to have some intensely strong and bitter coffee.
The Final Word
Coffee beans is a broad term that is used to describe all roasted coffee beans, but espresso is only used to describe beans that are intended for the espresso brewing process.
The next time you are buying some coffee beans, consider the brewing method that you are using. If you use an espresso machine, use espresso beans. If you use other brewing methods, then it is best to use coffee beans that are a lighter roast or beans that are not specifically intended for making Espresso.