The Blend

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Blog

The Differences Between Coffee Beans and Espresso

The Differences Between Coffee Beans and Espresso

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Differences Between Coffee Beans and Espresso that Might Surprise You

Think there’s little to no difference between espresso beans and coffee beans? You’re far from alone but, believe it or not, there are some important differences.


Find out what sets these beans apart from one another and learn which ones to use for the type of coffee you’re making.


Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans: How They Are Different


When looking at espresso vs coffee beans, there are a few main differences:

1. How they are prepared

Espresso beans are traditionally roasted for a long time at high temperatures to facilitate the extraction of oils in the beans. This makes the flavor of espresso bolder, richer and more concentrated.

Coffee beans refer to any bean that is roasted and readied for brewing. Coffee beans for making ordinary coffee (vs espresso) are roasted for a short amount of time.

Roasting varies from light to medium to dark:

  • Light-roasted beans do not have an oily sheen and are ideal for making mild-flavored varieties and non-pressure brew styles like pour over coffee or cold brew coffee.
  • Medium-roasted beans have a medium-brown color and result in a different flavor profile depending on the origin of the bean. They are good for many styles of brewing, including strong brews.
  • Dark-roasted beans are dark brown in color and have a shiny, oily surface. Most of the time, dark roasts are used for espresso brewing

2. How they are ground

Espresso beans are finely ground to allow as much oil extraction as possible to take place during the short period of pressurized brewing. Coffee beans are coarse compared to espresso’s ultra-fine ground.


3. Amount of natural oils

Espresso beans are rich in oil and have an oily sheen. One of the defining characteristics of espresso is the crema produced during brewing, which results from the emulsification of natural oils with other compounds in coffee.


Regular coffee beans don’t have the same shine as espresso beans and may not be rich in natural oils so, when you use them to make an espresso, you will not get a crema.


4. How they are used

Espresso beans are the best coffee beans for espresso, as they will deliver the uniformity, body and flavor you expect in a shot of espresso.

Ordinary coffee beans are normally roasted lighter which makes them retain the full flavor of the beans. They’re good for various brewing techniques, but not for high-pressure ones. If you use regular coffee beans to make espresso, you may find it lacks the bitter taste that is distinct to espresso.


5. Concentration

Coffee beans have a medium or balanced concentration of bitterness and espresso beans typically have a high concentration. This makes espresso taste thicker, stronger and richer.


Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans in a Nutshell


The difference between espresso and coffee comes down to the way they are prepared, rather than the actual beans. In general, espresso beans are roasted for a long time (dark roast), have a fine grind and require high pressure to create an ounce or two of concentrated coffee. Regular coffee beans are roasted for a shorter time than espresso beans, have a coarse grind and are great for brewing techniques that don’t involve high-pressure.


Learn how to make espresso at home and, for really convenient brewing, get our CBTL Single-Serve Brewing System and stock up on espresso capsules. Shop for a variety of coffee beans in light, medium and dark roasts at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®.