Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans: What’s the Difference?

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When it comes to choosing between espresso beans vs coffee beans, it can be a bit confusing. Are they the same thing, or different? But don’t worry, we’re here to put your mind at ease over this question.

There is, in fact, no difference between the beans. Both espresso beans and coffee beans are one of two different types of beans – Arabica and Robusta. Either or, it doesn’t matter. Meaning that it’s not like espresso beans are always arabica. They can be either type.

4 different roasts on coffee beans

So what is the difference between espresso beans and coffee beans? Would we even be having this discussion if there wasn’t a difference at all? The answer to that is no. Clearly there is a difference between the two and it is based on the roasting and suggested brewing method.

Roasting causes the beans to release their natural oils and flavors. After the beans are roasted, they are ground into a powder and then used in various brewing methods. Different roasts lend themselves better to either an espresso or a brewed coffee.

What is Espresso?

espresso macchiato

Espresso is a type of coffee that is made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee under extremely high pressure. This process causes the water inside the bean to boil, and as it boils, it extracts the various flavors and chemicals that are in the bean. What you end up with is a black liquid that has a strong, bitter taste.

Espresso is usually served in a single or double shot. It’s a much smaller amount of liquid than a regular coffee, like an Americano. For this reason, it’s always much stronger and more robust.

When you put beans under pressure, like you do with espresso, the flavor profile becomes more intense. For this reason, espresso beans need to be used in a system that is specifically designed to make espresso – like an espresso machine. The beans that are used tend to have a darker roast with less acidity and a fuller body.

This is the bean that tends to give you the most consistent results that you expect from an espresso, that has a strong, robust flavor, less nuances, and a rich crema head on the shot. It’s what I use to make an Espresso martini, which needs a small amount of robust coffee.

What is Coffee?

a cup of coffee

Coffee, on the other hand, is brewed more slowly by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans without the high pressure of an espresso machine.

Because the brewing is less forceful, the coffee tends to be milder and sweeter than espresso, which is great for making a simple drip coffee, Americano, and coffee drinks like lattes or cappuccinos.

With drip coffee, you don’t have to worry so much about masking the intense flavor profile of the bean, and you can focus more on the depth of the roast – from light to dark. Coffee beans are thus better to use in various methods of coffee making, like pour over, French press or Aeropress.

Coffee beans are made around the world, from the very popular Colombian coffee to Kona coffee from Hawaii and Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica.

Coffee beans
Coffee beans

Which Should I Buy? Coffee Beans or Espresso Beans

Both varieties of bean can be found at most grocery stores, coffee shops, and specialty retailers. You might have already noticed that they are labeled specifically as either coffee beans or espresso beans. This is just a suggested brewing method that the producer has given. It’s what they think is the best way to brew those beans. You can take or leave that advice. Only you know what you truly like.

When you’re buying beans, it might be worth checking out specialty shops or online retailers to find the type of coffee beans and roast that you like best. Many avid coffee drinkers swear by a specific brand that they’ve tasted at a coffee shop, thus they buy that specific blend directly from the cafe.

If you’re not such a discerning coffee drinker or have just started drinking coffee, it’s probably best that you stick with beans that are labeled as coffee beans, since the resulting coffee will be milder and more enjoyable to your palate. As you get more familiar with the nuances of coffee, you might want to experiment with different beans and roasts.


Do I Have to Brew It As Recommended?

No, you don’t have to brew the beans the way they are labeled. If you buy a bag of espresso beans, you can use them to make drip coffee. If you buy a bag of coffee beans, you can use them to make espresso. Will that lead to the best cup of coffee or espresso shot? Only you can answer that.

Your own personal preference for coffee is what really matters when you make and consume coffee. Whether you prefer a bold coffee or something more subtle, different beans will give you the flavor profile that you desire.


So while espresso beans are used to make a particular type of coffee – espresso – coffee beans can be used in many different brewing methods, including traditional brewed coffee. So while there may be some subtle flavor differences between Espresso and Coffee, at its core they are both types of beans that are flavored with hot water and extracted with pressure.


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espresso vs coffee

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