One extremely common question people have when buying coffee beans is if they can use espresso beans for their drip coffee machine in the home. They also wonder what beans are appropriate for making espresso.
The short answer to any version of these questions is that the beans are exactly the same in every way. Espresso roasts are no different than other roasts either – it’s just a really dark roast which is fine to use for any other coffee brewing method.
The long answer is that espresso is frequently brewed with a bean that is dark roasted and drip coffee is usually quite balanced. It’s frequently a blend meaning some beans in the roast are better light while others may be better darker roasted. To balance it all out a medium roast is quite common.
Many espresso blends are simple blends or even single origin coffees. Because brewing espresso is such an art form a lot of precision goes into selecting the right beans for the job at hand. Beans destined for the espresso can be used for any particular brewing technique but the roaster, channeling all his experience, has found these particular beans to be particularly good for espresso machines.
This is not to say this is what they are only good for but it is what they were selected for.
If you are in a store and looking at the selection of whole bean coffee on the shelf and see an espresso blend know that it may be a great option for espresso machines but that it will work just fine for other brewing techniques such as drip or french press methods. You can usually assume the espresso beans will be a bit darker than other coffees and if the beans are preground they the grind itself may be a little finer than you are used to.
For espresso machines you need a fine grind to make a good shot of espresso and most pre-ground coffee is set to medium before packaging. Medium is best for drip coffee makers and since they are the most commonly used coffee makers in America this grind size is the most common options on store shelves.
Good coffee bean suppliers or roasters will grind beans to whatever size you need them at but in a store setting you should assume coffee beans will be roasted medium (unless otherwise stated) and espresso beans only may be ground to a finer particle size. Your mileage may vary of course.
The following video covers all you need to know about coffee versus espresso. The best quote from the video is when he says the word espresso is not a type of coffee but a brewing method. Any kind of coffee used in an espresso machine will make espresso and vice-versa.
So if espresso beans are really the same thing as coffee beans just ground into a smaller particle size you will want to learn about grinding them. I’d encourage you to see this article on grinding coffee beans without a grinder as many people simply don’t own a nice burr coffee grinder.