Is there really a difference between espresso beans and coffee beans? Are they from the same places? Are they roasted differently? Are they brewed differently? Will one keep you up later than the other? Can you serve them out of the same machine? At Franke, we receive many questions about these similar yet different coffee styles, so let's take a look at each and bust some of the myths behind espresso and coffee.
BEANS AND ROASTING
First of all, it's important to understand what espresso actually is and isn't. While it is a style of beverage, contrary to popular belief, there's not a specific type of bean or style of roast that makes it "espresso." Many varietals and blends can be used to brew espresso.
Depending on the country and even the regions within that country, darker or lighter roasts can be more popular. The beans can be single origin or blended. But what is usually important in terms of "espresso beans" is the quality and consistency of the grind. In most methods for brewing espresso-based beverages, a fine grind is preferred in order to maximize pressure used in the brewing process and to increase the maximum flavor of the beans. The smaller the grind, the greater the surface area for coffee to make contact with heated water. This produces flavor.
One of the most important factors in differentiating espresso beverages from regular coffee varieties is the brewing process. And the principal difference in the brewing process is pressure. When espresso is made, hot water is forced through a fine grind under pressure. This leads to a thicker consistency, extraction of more gases and oils and concentrated flavor profiles as mentioned above.
Espresso does contain higher caffeine per volume than most coffee beverages, especially drip coffee. But because espresso is typically consumed in smaller quantities, the ingested amounts are usually less than a mug of standard brewed coffee. So depending on whom you ask (and how much they're drinking) espresso can have more or less caffeinated than regular drip coffee.
Here's the bottom line. If your perspective is based on your beverage, drip coffee has more caffeine because you're likely drinking more of it. If your perspective is based on caffeine per identical volumes, espresso has more caffeine. Caffeine in an eight-ounce coffee equals between 65 and 120mg of caffeine, where a single ounce of espresso contains 30 to 50mg.
Espresso beverages are quite different than standard brewed coffee beverages. Espresso tends to be thicker with a foamy crema on top and a higher concentration of flavors. Drip coffee tends to be better suited for high-volume consumption without additional caffeine. Either way, a quality cup of coffee or an espresso-based beverage can only be achieved with fresh beans, a quality roast and the right brewing equipment.
How to Define Your Coffee Flavors and Aroma Profiles
Take a look at the latest Coffee Flavor Wheel from the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and find out new ways to define your cofee.