With the invention of the modern café, the espresso drink rose in popularity right alongside it and quickly became a staple of coffee culture. Thanks to its high level of caffeine, thicker body and sweet finish, it’s hard to pass up a beverage straight from the espresso machine. If you’ve fallen in love with this Italian-based drink, then you may be wondering what type of beans they use in such a marvelous concoction.
Today, let’s answer your burning questions about espresso – from the beans to the flavors to the health benefits and beyond.
Do You Need Special Beans For Espresso?
The simple answer is no, special beans are not needed to whip up a shot of espresso. Since espresso refers to a type of drink, not any one bean, you can use almost any type of coffee for the brewing process. That said, there are some whole bean coffees that tend to work better under the high-pressure espresso machine.
Best whole beans for espresso
People tend to gravitate toward medium and dark roasts for espresso recipes because their flavors can be extracted more efficiently. In addition, unlike the majority of other popular coffee drinks, espresso normally calls for Robusta-style beans rather than Arabica. The beans are more oily which leads to a fuller-bodied viscosity, better consistency and a characteristic taste. If a manufacturer claims their beans are “espresso beans”, then they’re simply indicating that it’s a darker roast coffee.
Ultimately, espresso’s flavor relies more on how the beans are ground up than using any specific bean type.
How to grind espresso beans
One of the key components to the espresso brewing process is the bean grind. When preparing your coffee for the espresso machine, it calls for very finely ground and tightly compacted beans. Your grind size should have the same consistency as sugar, as this provides more surface area for the high-pressure water to begin the infusion process, resulting in a tastier end result.
What does espresso taste like?
Espresso is ground and brewed differently than other types of brewing methods, so it has a flavor profile that’s completely unique in the world of coffee. It’s usually bolder, low in acidity and offers a full-bodied finish with similar consistency to a cup of warm honey. The aromas you get from an espresso will change depending on the bean type you use, but generally you can expect sweet overtones, hints of caramel and a delightful smokiness to round it out. A low-quality espresso may taste more bitter or sour, indicating the extraction of the beans was too long or too short.
Does espresso have more caffeine than coffee?
Espresso averages over 60 mg of caffeine for every one ounce (the amount in one shot), according to the Department of Agriculture. Regular coffee, by contrast, averages 12 to 16 mg of caffeine in every ounce. That means ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine. However, remember that you usually consume only one to two shots of espresso at a time, so it’s easy to stay within safe boundaries.
How To Brew Espresso
The easiest way to make a delicious espresso is to invest in a specialized machine built specifically to make this classic brew. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest drinks to make without an espresso machine, so you can’t use any old coffee pot.
An espresso machine works by forcing hot water through fine, compacted coffee grounds under intense pressure of 150 psi. This results in a one to two ounce shot of coffee that’s much more highly concentrated than a traditional cup of coffee. You can expect a thicker body and foamier head. If you don’t want to invest in an espresso machine, there are a couple other pieces of brewing equipment you can try to whip up a few energizing shots.
AeroPress And French Press
These plunger-piston brewing machines work by forcing high pressures of water through a specialized coffee filtering system. These two methods are a good candidate for making espresso, although you won’t get as clean of a finish. Most likely, grounds will make their way into your finished cup.
This classic coffee maker is the workhorse of the brewing world. This super-small kettle produces a worthy café drink that will provide the perfect pick-me-up and taste like the real thing. The heat of the water and compact size of the pot causes a build up of pressure, a key action needed in the preparation of espresso.
Try making espresso at home!
Espresso takes some skill and experience to master, along with some important pieces of equipment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try brewing up your favorite coffee concoctions at home. Pick up an espresso machine, and it’s as simple as dumping beans into a container and pressing start in most cases. Even with a little experimentation and ingenuity however, it only takes a few tries to end up with coffeehouse-level espresso.
Are Espresso Beans Worth It?
Ultimately, almost any bean will work in the espresso brewing process. If you come across “espresso beans” in the grocery store, they’re likely just regular medium or dark roasted coffee beans and aren’t manufactured in some special way. With that said, the best beans for espresso are normally robust and full-bodied with sweet undertones. This is sure to provide you with the tastiest shot – have fun with this new drink!
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