Do You Need Espresso Beans to Make Espresso?

If you’ve just started making coffee at home, you may stumble upon some unclarities when buying the essentials for the purpose.

The large variety of coffee brands and blends makes things even more confusing, so it’s normal to ask yourself whether you need espresso beans to make espresso.

Many signs on the bags of pre-ground and whole coffee beans indicate that they are to be used for espresso. But can you use this kind of coffee to brew a cup in your French press?

On the contrary – can you use regular coffee to make espresso? What is the most adequate choice for your machine? Are there best beans for a homemade latte, or are there such that guarantee you’ll get a nice and thick crema layer? Do you really need to buy a certain kind of beans to pull a decent shot?

In this post, I’ll give you all the answers and introduce you to the basic differences between the so-called espresso beans vs. regular coffee beans.

So let’s dive in!

Do you need certain beans to make espresso?

So let’s jump to the essential part and quickly summarize whether you need espresso beans to make espresso:

The term “espresso” on a coffee bag’s label doesn’t indicate that the beans are to be exclusively used for making espresso shots.

You can make espresso with all types of coffee beans, as long as their grind size is adequate for the machine you’re using.

So it’s not necessary to look for whole or pre-ground espresso beans to make a shot or prepare an espresso-based drink, such as a latte.

To explain why you don’t actually need espresso beans to pull a great shot, we need to stress on the definition of what espresso actually is.

A photo of an espresso shot in a red cup.

Espresso is a term used to describe a specific concentrated coffee drink that originates from Italy.

It’s made by running hot water (190°F – 201°F / 88° C – 96° C) under pressure (9 bars) through a dose of very finely ground coffee beans.

Espresso beans vs. Regular Coffee

Coffee brands use the word “espresso” to market their product to consumers who want to make this Italian drink at home.

Generally, the beans in a bag that says “espresso” on its package are selected, roasted, and ground in a way that goes well with the espresoo extraction method.

There isn’t a defined difference between the so-called espresso beans and regular coffee beans.

With that being said, the word “espresso” on your coffee’s label may indicate the following:

  • The coffee beans are of a medium-dark or dark roast.

    Originally, espresso was predominantly made with darkly roasted coffee.

    That’s why the term “Espresso Roast” became somewhat interchangeable with the term “Dark Roast”.

    Nevertheless, in the world of specialty coffee, light roasts are often used for making the best espresso.

    So you don’t actually need to use the so-called espresso roast to pull a delicious shot.

  • The “espresso” beans are finely ground.

    Keep in mind though, that bags of pre-ground espresso can only be used in home-grade machines with pressurized portafilters.

    If you have a prosumer machine with a non-pressurized portafilter you need a finer grind that can only be achieved through the use of a high-quality grinder.

    Related post: Pressurized vs. Non-pressurized Portafilter

  • The coffee blend contains Robusta beans, that produce a thicker crema layer.

    You may also come across coffee packages that say “Espresso Crema” on their label.

    This sign indicates that your espresso shot will have more foam on its surface.

    It’s safe to say that Robusta (Coffea canephora) is the type of coffee that results in the best crema.

    If you want to learn more about different types of coffee beans, and why most passionate coffee lovers prefer Arabica beans, check out this post.

    It’s important to note that freshness is the most important characteristic of coffee beans when it comes to their ability to form crema.

    The sooner the roast date, the more CO2 gases get released during extraction.

    This leads to a formation of a thicker crema layer on top of your espresso.

    What’s also worth noting is that darkly roasted coffee beans generally result in less crema, compared to light roasts.

  • In specialty coffee shops “espresso” coffee beans and blends are crafted with care to produce an exceptional shot of espresso (balanced acidity and bitterness, nice texture, crema, pleasant flavor notes and aroma).

Can you use espresso beans for French press?

If you buy a bag of whole beans that says “espresso” on its label, you can, in fact, use these beans to make coffee in your French press.

Furthermore, you can use the same beans to make coffee in any coffee-making device you have at home.

Nevertheless, if you buy pre-ground espresso beans, they’ll likely be ground too fine for a French press maker.

Since this grind isn’t appropriate for this full-immersion brewing method, your coffee may turn out over-extracted, harsh, and bitter.

Moreover, the fine espresso grind can result in too many unfiltered coffee particles and sediment that will end up in your cup.

Final Words

Now that you know that you don’t need certain beans to make espresso, you can start switching things up and experimenting with different blends.

Still, you can go for “espresso” beans to stay on the safe side.

After all these blends are crafted to result in a cup that has the acidity, mouthfeel, and flavors required for a great espresso shot.

If you aren’t interested in buying specialty espresso beans from your local coffee shop, I recommend checking out the Coffee Bros Espresso Roast Arabica Blend, and the Stone Street Italian Style Espresso.

Of course, you can always get the staple in many US households – Illy Bold Roast Ground Coffee for Espresso.

Anyway, leave me a comment below if you have any further questions.

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