Explained: The difference between espresso beans and regular coffee beans

  • By Bradley Carter
Photo of espresso being brewed

As a coffee roaster, we get people all the time asking us what the difference is between an espresso coffee bean and a regular coffee bean.

Well, here’s the answer.

It's about how you brew it

The difference is not so much one of a coffee bean variety, it’s more of how the coffee is brewed. If it’s put through an espresso machine, it’s an espresso.

In fact, you can take any variety of coffee, even one you might use for your morning cup of joe, put a fine grind to it, tamp and distribute it in the portafilter, run it through your espresso machine and … guess what? You have an espresso coffee.

What made it different from your morning cup of regular coffee was two things: (1) You did a fine grind to the coffee, as it is best to do for making an espresso as a fine grind exposes the most bean surface area for better flavor extraction, and (2) you subjected that grind to the steam, hot water and pressure an espresso machine provides.

Now whether a regular coffee will taste good brewed as an espresso, that’s a whole other matter that brings up another difference between regular beans and espresso beans.

While technically you can make any regular coffee an espresso, not all regular coffees taste good as espressos.

It's about how it was meant to be brewed

You see, as roasters, we try to know and showcase the best features and flavors of each coffee variety through our roasting. Some coffee origins, such as Ethiopian and other African varieties are best roasted light. Others like our Brazil Cerrado is best roasted at a medium roast level. Other coffees, especially Indonesian varieties like our Sumatra or Java, are at their peak of flavor as dark roasts.

Likewise, we know how different brewing methods showcase those varying features, flavors and aromas we endeavored to emphasize through our roasting.

Espresso Blends
Using those two pieces of knowledge, and with some trial and error, we have developed special blends that work really well as espressos. These blends, made up of different coffee varieties roasted at different levels, such as our Heaven’s Blend Espresso, we call our “espresso” blend. Why? Because we fine-tuned it to be brewed as an espresso. That’s how its flavors are best exhibited — brewed through an espresso machine.

Single-origin Espressos
That brings up another point as well. Espresso coffee beans don’t need to be blends either. They can be single-origin coffees as well, but just roasted very particularly to be used as an espresso.

For example, we have a client that buys our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee to brew as an espresso. Initial roasts of the African variety brewed via the pour-over method made a very nice light, sweet cup with an overarching berry aromas and cherry flavor. It was very enjoyable. Sent through an espresso machine, however, the same roast, while still displaying the cherry notes also exhibited an astringency and lackluster quality we found not so “flavorable.” After few more batches though, plus some tweaking to our roasting methods and some tests, we were able to develop roast that tasted wonderful as an espresso — with all of the sweet tanginess, cherry and floral notes we were looking for.

So while Ethiopian may not be commonly thought of as an “espresso roast,” as it’s not a dark Italian-style roast as many espressos tend to be, this particular roast is an espresso roast because it was brewed as an espresso and dialed in during roasting to be used as an espresso.


So is there a difference between an espresso coffee bean and a regular coffee bean? No, not really. The only difference is how you use the bean and how it was meant to be used.

About G4C

Grounds 4 Compassion is an Oklahoma City-based company focused on providing freshly roasted quality coffee for our customers and investing back into our community. Our goal is ultimately to help improve our community and our world as we endeavor to make a good cup of coffee.

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