Myth: Espresso beans are different from ‘regular’ coffee beans.
Busted: ‘Espresso’ is a method of brewing coffee, not a type of coffee bean.
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When you think of ‘espresso beans’, perhaps it conjures up an image of deep, dark and oily coffee beans in the hopper of an espresso grinder next to a worn-in and well-loved espresso machine in a dimly lit Italian cafe patiently awaiting their destiny as a tiny concentrated beverage that you’ll happily pay €1 for and sip alfresco on a cobblestone sidewalk as you gaze out upon the city square…
Wow, ok, sorry; got a little carried away with that little day dream. But, let’s get down to it and talk about ‘espresso beans’.
While each coffee roaster may approach espresso and what coffee beans they use or market as espresso differently, there isn’t a specific type of coffee plant that produces an espresso bean. All coffee begins as a green coffee bean (seed) and that green coffee bean is, for all intents and purposes, the same regardless of the final brewed coffee product. (Of course there are many different varieties of the coffee plant/seed.) You can roast that bean different ways and brew it different ways, but you’re going to start from the same seed.
Espresso is a brewing method that is quite distinct from most others, which is why some roasters choose to roast coffees used from espresso differently. Because espresso is brewed at a higher pressure compared to other brewing methods, coffees used for espresso can be roasted differently, so that it will more easily extract at those high pressures. The traditional approach has been to roast longer (darker). But, in the last 30 years, roasters have developed alternate roasting techniques that preserve the subtle nuances of the coffees regardless of how they are brewed. So, you’ll find coffees used for espresso that run the gamut of roast levels.
Some coffee bags will have ‘espresso’ distinctly labeled on them, which is the roaster’s recommendation on the best way to brew that coffee. Some other roasters, like Crema, will recommend pretty much any coffee brewed as espresso, depending on your taste preferences. Give us a shout if you ever need a recommendation.
[Fun fact: When we first introduced Tres Banderas, we labeled it as ‘Tres Banderas Espresso’ on the bag. (Any long-time fans remember this?) Over the years, we’ve slightly tweaked how we roast the coffee and removed ‘espresso’ from the label. It’s become a favorite on all types of brewing methods. But, you’ll still see it in our cafes used as our standard espresso very often.]
The moral of the espresso-bean story is this: all coffee beans are born in a similar way and their true destiny is up to the hands they fall into. Wield that power with pride and thoughtfulness.
Now here’s where you come in! Have a coffee question, conundrum or curiosity you want us to investigate?