A question that surfaces often for beginner and novice barista is “can you use any beans for espresso?” and if you do, what is the result? Is it palatable? Or is it better thrown away…
I’ll cut the chase and get straight to the answer.
You can use any beans to make an espresso, but the result is going to be less than palatable and can even end up with a sour, ash-like taste depending on which beans you use and most likely without the famed rich crema on top.
While it is possible, at Latte Love Brew we do not advise you to do so for the aforementioned reasons.
In the remainder of this article I will talk about espresso beans, how to use espresso beans in your coffee making quest, with a couple of step-by-step guides to making a couple of delightful coffee drinks with espresso roasted beans.
I’ll also talk about the best light roast espresso beans, what the best coffee beans for espresso are and what as a home barista the best espresso beans are for you to use in quest to make magnificent coffee.
Espresso Beans – Can You Use Any Beans For Espresso?
Let’s start off with discussing what are espresso beans before I detail the answer to the posed question.
“Espresso beans” are simply coffee beans that have been roasted at a specific temperature and duration to create the famous espresso roasts.
There is no specific bean type, be it arabica or robusta prior to roasting, that cannot become an espresso roasted bean or used in an espresso roasted blend.
More often than not an espresso blended roast contains a mix of high and low altitude beans with robusta added in to boost the caffeine content.
Espresso shots are much more than the beans used as to get that distinctive espresso intense flavor.
A specific method of elaboration and machine is used to make that authentic espresso as a particular water pressure is needed and 1.5:1 or 2:1 coffee to water ratio is required, with one exception the ristretto, which is what I like to call a concentrated shot of espresso due to the 1:1 hot water to coffee ratio.
It is much more than the roasted coffee beans and the brew process on their own; it is all aspects together that make an espresso what it is which is why you really can’t use any beans for espresso, but you can make coffee with espresso beans and still end up with a decent pot of coffee when you do it well with the right coffee gear and grind.
If you use a non espresso bean you will end up with a shot that is tart, ash-like and sour and without the rich creamier taste.
Read: make coffee with espresso beans
How To Use Espresso Beans To Make Coffee!
Espresso roast beans, especially a darker roast like French or Italian Roast, are good as a multi-purpose bean and can make all kinds of coffee drinks.
Here is how to make a pour over coffee step by step with espresso beans.
- 1. To brew an Americano, use your digital coffee scale to measure 18 grams of water for every gram of espresso bean used. A good medium roast or darker roast will work well.
- 2. Grind your coffee beans.
- 3. Rinse out your coffee filter paper. This is especially advised if you taste the paper in your brew. This step is often skipped over. Do not skip this step.
- 4. Slowly and steadily pour your freshly ground coffee into your rinsed-out coffee filter.
Read: Does Eating Espresso beans Give You Energy?
- 5. Either heat your water to 205F (96C) maximum or boil the water and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes. You don’t want to use boiling hot water as this will be detrimental to the flavor.
- 6. Bloom your coffee grounds in an even fashion with only enough water to saturate them.
- 7. When you are blooming, have patience as you must let the gas bubble out for 60 seconds. This blooming step is very important as it helps you in the preparation of the final pour of your water and to move your coffee grounds in an even fashion.
- 8. About 30 seconds after the blooming, steadily pour a controlled and even amount of water in a circular fashion over the grounds.
- 9. When your cup of coffee is ready it is time to taste test it to ensure you have got the coffee to water ratio correct.
If necessary and as per your own taste requirements, add milk, sugar and enjoy your pour over coffee.
You can also make a good Japanese flash cold brew with espresso coffee beans by following a method similar to the above, with the exemption you should use 55 grams of coffee beans per liter of cold brew coffee.
This should result in a neat 18:1 coffee to water ratio and is best made with a dark roast coarsely ground espresso bean. A lighter roast will not work so well with a Japanese flash cold brewed coffee.
This particular method of cold brew results in a less acidic taste and a stronger caffeine content.
- Boil your water and let it cool down for a minute or two. While you are waiting, get your ice ready and fill your coffee container with the ice.
- As above, rinse out your coffee filter and ensure it fits tightly and put your dripper over your container with ice.
- Weigh and grind your coffee and add to your filter.
- Evenly, slowly pour the hot water over the coffee with just enough to let your coffee expand (bloom). Stop for about a minute to allow the gas to escape and bubble out.
- Pour your water slowly, evenly and smoothly in a circular fashion in a stop-start-stop manner, taking your time while filling in stages while ensuring the grounds are saturated but not drowning in water.
- As your coffee drips ensure it hits the ice and gets “flash” cold brewed.
- Once you are finished, simply stir and enjoy! A Japanese flash cold brew is best enjoyed fresh.
A cup of drip coffee can be made in a very similar manner, just minus the ice, as demonstrated in the pour over coffee method.
Best Light Roast Espresso Beans
It is viable and completely feasible that you can use a light roast espresso bean to make an espresso. The end result will be a flat shot that lacks the rich, intense flavor and velvet-like finish of an authentic espresso.
While any roast can be used in any brewing method, using a light roast to make an espresso will produce a disappointing result. An espresso made with a light roast will produce a coffee that is flat and lacks the richness and velvety finish associated with an authentic espresso.
The only exemption to this is the famed Starbucks blonde espresso shot, which is made with a lightly roasted bean. However, this elaborated with a special espresso machine and is made with cold water taking up to an hour to make. This blonde espresso tastes great taking on the full flavor of the beans since none has been roasted out during the roasting process.
The second-best light roast espresso bean is White Knight Light Roast, an arabica blend of single origin beans with bold flavors with hints of cocoa and bing cherry. This blend stands out due to their excellent packaging which is designed to ensure their product stays fresh. The best light roast espresso bean, my own particular favorite is Tanzania Peaberry Mount Kilimanjaro Whole Bean. This light roast is grown on a volcano, which is always a winner for me. The mineral rich volcanic ash brings out the best flavors in a coffee.
This particular coffee can be best described as crisp, clean with a great lingering taste that you expect from a gourmet coffee.
The best light roast espresso bean, my own particular favorite is Tanzania Peaberry Mount Kilimanjaro Whole Bean. This light roast is grown on a volcano, which is always a winner for me. There is something with the mineral rich volcanic ash brings out the best flavors in a coffee.
This particular coffee can be best described as crisp, clean with a great lingering taste that you expect with a gourmet coffee.
Coffee Beans For Espresso
While an espresso is a complex coffee brewed in a very specific way with a set requirement for water pressure and thus equipment used during the process a large factor is the coffee beans that are used for making an espresso.
I’d go as far as saying that the main difference between espresso and coffee is the need for a particular bean in order to get that perfect shot.
Beans for espresso should be dark roast almost to a similar color as dark chocolate. If you are not using beans that are an espresso roast you are simply not going to obtain a cup of espresso that is of coffee shop quality.
Can You Use Coffee Beans For Espresso?
No, Strictly speaking no. While other websites, coffee shops baristas and experts will say that you can they are only basing their answer on the technicality that you can use coffee beans for making an espresso.
By the same logic and thinking, it is technically possible that I use olive oil in my car and cook with motor oil after all oil is oil.
Naturally, the resulting espresso made with regular coffee beans is not the same quality wise and my car is not going to chug along nice while using olive oil. It is the old adage of needing the right ingredients or right tools for the right job.
For the record, and to be clear, it is not a case of using bad beans and getting a bad coffee or in our case a bad espresso. It is simply a case of using the wrong beans that just don’t have the correct or idea chemical composition for the task at hand.
Think of it as using the right beans for the right kind of coffee and get that delicate flavor which is very distinctive amongst coffee lovers and espresso aficionados.
Best Coffee For Espresso
Now that we are crystal clear on your need for using only espresso coffee to make an espresso. I’ll talk a little here about what I consider to be the best coffee for making espresso shots.
The second-best coffee for espresso, the runner-up if you want to consider it that way is Sumptown Hairbender espresso beans.
This particular and rather famous roaster is famed for only using the highest of quality beans from the very best coffee farms in the world. Their Hairbender blend has a touch of African, Latino and Indonesian tones with citrus zest and dark chocolate hints.
The roaster assures you that this blend is good for making espresso and other coffee’s.
The very best coffee for making espresso is Illy Classico — seriously, would it be anything less than the age old Italian masters of coffee?
Illy is synonymous with espresso and great ones too. As an espresso aficionado, I love their products. Their classico espresso blend has a sweet hint of cherries. This is the very coffee that world barista champions use and can be adapted to make any type of coffee.
What Coffee To Use For Espresso Machine?
As I have stated above for the best results you need the best coffee and since it is an espresso machine we are talking about here, and you want to make a top quality espresso a ristretto to be proud of you will need fresh coffee beans as regular coffee beans just won’t cut it quality wise.
Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Use Any Beans For Espresso
Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee?
An espresso has a stronger, bolder and more prominent taste than a regular coffee and while it does have more caffeine on a per-volume basis, typically 65 mg to 75 mg per ounce (per 30 ml) it does not have a higher total caffeine content than other coffee beverages like a drip coffee, percolator coffee or cold brew for example.
A cup of drip coffee has around 120 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce (360 ml) serving.
Do I Need Special Beans For Espresso?
Although in reality and in theory you can use any coffee for espresso be they a light roast, medium roast, medium dark roast or a dark roast you will undoubtedly get a much better results from your dark and medium-dark roasted coffee beans due to this type of bean having more oil.
You need oily beans to produce the thick, rich crema on top.
What Will Happen When I Make An Espresso With Regular Coffee Beans?
You can use regular coffee beans to pull an espresso, but unfortunately you will be lacking the distinctive and strong, bold coffee taste and thick rich crema on top of your shot. You might, depending on the beans, end up with a sour and tart taste.
Which Coffee Beans Are The Best For Espresso?
The best coffee beans for a top quality espresso are the darker coffee roasts. You can get away with using medium-dark with skillful brewing and pulling of your shot.
Lighter roasts due to their flavor profile lack the bold taste and are light in body and tend to produce a light creama on top.
Frapp-ing It Up – Can You Use Any Beans For Espresso?
While it is entirely possible that you can use any beans for espresso, it is highly unadvisable and to be frank bad advice to do so.
If you are asked that question, can you use any beans for espresso, you know what the correct answer is if your goal is to make an amazing shot that you will enjoy.
You simply must use espresso beans for making an espresso and make sure they are quality espresso beans as these tend to be versatile where you can in turn use those beans for making different coffees and different brewing methods and still end up with a great tasting coffee.
What beans did you use for your espresso, Dark, Medium or a light roast?
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