A staggering 150 million Americans drink coffee daily—anything from lattes, cappuccinos, filter coffee to espresso, and everything in between imaginable. For many, the first thing in the morning is a strong cup of java to kick the body into gear. As a coffee lover, you might appreciate the delicate roasting process, but have you ever wondered if espresso beans and coffee beans are the same things?
In short, coffee beans used for espresso are the same beans that would be used for regular coffees like filter coffee, cappuccino, and latte. The distinct difference would be the type of bean and how dark it’s roasted. Generally, dark roasted Arabica beans make the best espresso.
The delicate process of roasting beans for coffee is what gives the coffee its distinct flavor. The reason Arabica is preferred for espresso is due to its full flavor. The high altitude growing Arabica makes the best quality beans, while the Robusta is more bitter and has a rubbery aftertaste. The coffee bars that insist on using Robusta for espresso say it gives the espresso a better crema or appearance. Espresso needs to taste good, not look good. Let’s look at espresso and coffee beans more in-depth.
Can Espresso Beans Be Used For Regular Coffee?
Since green coffee beans are all the same when they start out and then get roasted for different periods, espresso-strength beans can definitely make regular coffee. You will get a darker, fuller taste to the coffee that is typical for espresso.
Espresso is typically 5 to 10 times stronger than a regular cup of coffee. It is ground and extracted at a temperature of between 195- and 205-degrees Fahrenheit. If the roasting temperature is any higher, it will result in a burnt coffee. The extraction time for the perfect espresso should be no more than 30 seconds.
Where Are The Best Coffee Beans For Espresso Grown?
There are a few countries in the world where you will find the best Arabica coffee beans. The altitude makes a big difference to the quality of the beans.
Calles the birthplace of coffee as we know it today and famous for Harrar coffee, Ethiopia produces the best beans globally. Grown in the Eastern part of Ethiopia, the fertile soil and high altitudes give the coffee its robust, spicy, and fruity flavor.
Costa Rican beans have to adhere to strict regulations. The country has banned the production of poor-quality coffee since the ’90s. Most of Costa Rica’s beans are wet-processed Arabica beans. Costa Rica has the perfect altitude and climate to produce excellent beans.
Currently, the largest producer of coffee globally, Brazil produces 1/3rd of the total consumed coffee, in bag terms that are around 61.3 million 60kg bags per year. In Brazil, every quality of bean is grown. All varieties from the lower quality used in instant coffee to very high-quality beans. Brazilian coffee is fruity and sweet.
Colombian coffee is praised for its full flavor, and this is thanks to the highly fertile ground, the right amount of rain, and the high altitude. Colombia grows nearly 15% of the global coffee supply.
The Blue Mountain variety of coffee is one of Jamaica’s most premium exports. It is a rare and exquisitely flavored coffee. Grown exclusively in the Blue Mountain region at altitudes of between 2000-5000 ft above sea level. Definitely, a coffee to buy when you find it.
Yemen has been growing coffee since the 1500s, and their beans became famous in the surrounding countries through Turkey and Persia. Arabian Mocha is a renowned coffee with its origins in Yemen. So little of it is grown annually that it doesn’t make the export market.
Other Countries Famous For Coffee
Grown in smaller volumes but worth mentioning are;
- Vietnam – one of the larger growers in the world
- Ivory Coast
Each of these countries’ coffees will have a very distinct taste and body. This is directly linked to the condition of the soil, altitude, and rainfall.
How Are Coffee Beans Roasted?
Down to the brass tax of how beans are roasted for espresso. Let’s take a look at the process the bean takes from the tree to your cup;
- Washed and clean, green coffee beans are placed into a drum inside the roaster.
- The roaster rotates on the gas burner and agitates the beans constantly.
- The beans start to turn yellow when they take up heat and expand.
- The beans become exothermic and stop expanding.
- All the natural oils and sugars are now being developed.
- The heat gets adjusted.
- The beans begin to brown.
- They expand further and produce a crackling sound known as “The First Crack.”
- Beans for Espresso roast will be heated a little longer until a dark color is achieved.
- The beans need to cool off the heat.
- Sorting and checking for broken or deformed beans.
- Leave the beans for a week to 15 days before grounding.
Roasting Your Own Coffee At Home – What To Know
A color chart indicates different stages of roasting, which will help you find the perfect strength for your coffee. For successful home roasting of coffee beans, you will need a few supplies;
- Green Coffee Beans – If you can get your hands on a good supply of green coffee, the hardest part is over. You can contact a local importer or specialty deli and purchase directly.
- Bean Roaster – Your local coffee reseller should have access to a few models of bean roasters, and there are many to choose from.
- Storage Containers – after roasting and cooling the beans, you will need airtight containers to store your beans. This ensures they keep flavor, oils, and aroma.
The roaster will have the heat settings you need for each specific roast strength. The color chart is as follows;
- Green – This is the virgin bean color before heating.
- Yellow mottle – The bean turns yellow with a mottled appearance.
- Steaming bean – The beans start to produce steam as they push water out.
- Cinnamon Roast or First Crack – The beans start to crack as they expand. The roasting is beginning now.
- City Roast – This is the most acceptable roasting stage for most coffee drinkers.
- Full City Roast– Just before the second crack, this is a full-body roast.
- Full City Plus/Espresso/Second Crack – Not every brewer will take their espresso past the second crack to avoid bitterness.
- French Roast – This is a very dark roast; the smell will be strong as the last sugars burn. This is where you should stop to avoid a burnt bean.
After the roasting, you need to cool the beans properly and store them in an airtight container. Roasting your own beans for espresso or coffee guarantees the same taste every time.
Coffee beans are the same whether you use them for general ground filter coffee, in a plunger, or in your espresso machine.
The difference comes in the quality of the bean, the variety, and the roast. The best beans to use for espresso will always be the Arabica variety due to its full body and smooth flavors.