Can you use any Coffee for Espresso?

When it comes to pulling a good espresso shot, choosing the right coffee beans makes all the difference. As a beginner barista, you might be wondering if you really need to use coffee beans meant for espresso shots. The answer to that is no, but keep reading why it isn’t recommended to use just any coffee beans.

Coffee Types

An espresso is a highly concentrated form of coffee generally brewed with espresso machines. It has a foamy layer on top called the crema. It forms because of the chemical reaction between the hot water, carbon dioxide trapped inside the beans, and the oils that seep out of the coffee beans.

The main difference between an espresso shot and a regular coffee is in their concentrations. Usually, the espresso has a higher density of caffeine per ounce compared to a normal cup of coffee. Still, a regular cup of coffee can have more caffeine per cup compared to an espresso shot.

This difference in crema and caffeine concentration is what makes dark-roasted coffee beans the recommended choice. Roasted coffee beans have excellent compatibility with the espresso-making process so using those results in more flavorful shots. 

What Roast Is Best For Espresso?

When brewing espresso, you need to pay attention to how the coffee beans were roasted if you aren’t roasting them yourself. This is because not all types of roasted coffee beans have good compatibility with an espresso machine.

The roasting process generally involves heating that brings out the flavor of the beans. While the process itself involves several stages, you only need to pay attention to the end result when selecting the coffee beans.

Roasted coffee beans are divided into three main categories according to their roast types: light-roasted beans, medium-roasted beans, and dark-roasted beans. Each of these roasts is best suited for a different kind of coffee. The light-roasted beans are best for non-pressurized brewing methods and beverages like white coffee.

Medium-roasted beans, on the other hand, can bring out a variety of flavors depending on the country of origin, making them fit for many different kinds of coffee. However, dark-roasted beans are most suited to espresso brewing and almost all commercial espresso beans are dark-roasted. 

Can You Make Espresso With Regular Coffee?

Technically, you can use regular non-dark roasted coffee beans to brew an espresso shot but the resulting shot will not have the same texture, taste, or concentration as that of a genuine espresso shot.

Unless you prefer the taste of non-dark roasted espresso shots, it is recommended you use dark-roasted beans only. Making the perfect espresso shot is a delicate process and even a slight variance can significantly affect the taste of your espresso.

Moreover, there are also differences between the grinding of regular coffee beans and espresso coffee beans. A fine ground of dark coffee beans is better for fast extraction methods like an espresso. Regular coffee beans are more suited to slow extraction methods.

Using a fine ground of regular coffee beans will lead to over-extraction and in turn, make your coffee very bitter.

Can You Use Ground Coffee for Espresso?

You absolutely can use pre-ground coffee to pull a shot of espresso. However, it is important to use dark roasted ground coffee to make the best espresso shot. Espresso coffee with a high concentration of caffeine is the norm among espresso lovers. Still, you can use other types of roasted grounds to suit your tastes.

Remember that freshly ground coffee beans can enhance the taste and texture of an espresso shot. Therefore, it is advisable to buy a fresh batch of coffee grounds and use them as early as possible. Still, we recommend grinding the coffee beans yourself to make the optimal brew.

Can I Use Regular Coffee Beans for Espresso?

You can use any coffee beans you like as long as you don’t mind the taste difference. Making an espresso using lightly roasted or medium roasted beans will result in a less flavorful shot. If you finely ground light and medium roasted coffee beans, your espresso shot will taste very bitter.

Espresso experts prefer dark-roasted coffee beans or espresso beans to other types to pull the ideal shot. Keep in mind that there is no actual difference between dark-roasted coffee beans and espresso beans other than their names.

Sometimes you can feel a slight difference in taste between the two coffee beans. However, the difference can be because of the coffee bean’s place of origin. The time and method of roasting and grounding the beans can also create a difference in taste.

Final Thoughts

Pulling an espresso shot is an art that takes much practice and experimentation to master. You can use any kind of coffee beans to pull your espresso shot but only dark-roasted coffee beans will give you the authentic espresso experience.

home > Perfect your Brew > Can you use any Coffee for Espresso?

Evelyn J Stafford

Evelyn is a Coffee enthusiast and writer for Wins Coffee Bar. Her work has appeared in Bean Scene, The Home Kitchen and other publications.

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