7 Key Differences Between Espresso Beans and Coffee beans

9 min read MAR 22, 2023

Understanding the subtle nuances between espresso beans and regular coffee beans can be enlightening for coffee aficionados. While both are integral to brewing your morning cup of joe, several factors make each type distinct.

Let's look at what sets them apart so you can better inform yourself next time you go bean shopping.

We'll compare things like flavor profiles, caffeine content, grinding process, size, and more.

So, grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew, and let's start discovering what these two types of coffee have to offer.

What Are Coffee Beans?

A coffee bean is a seed from the Coffea plant, which is the source of everyone's favorite cup of joe. While it looks like an ordinary bean, it grows inside a red or purple fruit known as a coffee cherry. The coffee cherry is similar to other stone fruits and contains what we know as the pip - or coffee bean. Even though it isn't technically a bean, the name still stuck due to its similar shape and size.

The world of coffee beans is filled with various delicious flavors and aromas. From light to dark, the roasting process enhances these tantalizing characteristics responsible for that perfect cup of joe. Light roast coffees have a distinct flavor profile - usually mild yet flavorful.

On the other hand, medium roasted beans produce strong brews, ideal for those looking for something bolder on their palate.

Finally, darker roasts possess an oiliness in both texture and taste. They tend to be less acidic with lower sweetness levels due to longer caramelization times at higher temperatures during roasting.

What Are Espresso Beans?

Espresso beans are coffee beans specifically selected, roasted, and ground for use in an espresso machine. Different espresso varieties are available, often related to origin and roast profile.

Generally, espresso beans are darker roasted than typical drip coffee beans because darker roasting helps bring out richer flavors. Whole-bean espresso is often more desirable for those making it home, but you can also find pre-ground options for convenience.

With both varieties, proper storage away from direct sunlight and high temperatures is key for maintaining optimal freshness levels of flavor and aroma.

Coffee Beans Vs. Espresso Beans - 7 Differences

Below are the seven key differences between coffee beans and espresso beans.

Concentration Level

Coffee beans create a smooth and balanced flavor profile, while espresso offers an intense taste experience. Espresso's higher concentration of bitterness gives it its characteristic thickness, strength, and rich notes – though sometimes the intensity is too much for those looking to enjoy their brew without any additional flavors.

Natural Oil Content

Espresso and ordinary coffee beans are like night and day - the former is highly rich in natural oils, producing a glossy sheen on the bean. These same oils emulsify with other compounds during brewing to make crema, something that non-espresso beans can't replicate.

As such, if you want an authentic espresso experience complete with its signature creamy top layer, go for those oily espressos instead of your run-of-the-mill brews.

Preparation Method

Compared to everyday coffee, espresso is an intensity level up. While the beans used in regular joe are roasted briefly and ground coarsely, those that go into espressos receive a longer roasting session at scorching temperatures. And in this process, oils are extracted that give espresso its signature strong taste. This extreme process guarantees that each sip of your brew will be packed with rich flavor.


When it comes to usage, it's pretty straightforward. Espresso coffee beans are used for preparing espresso. On the other hand, regular coffee beans are generally used for any type of coffee drink - from a latte to an Americano.

If you want the perfect espresso shot, ordinary coffee beans won't get the job done. Espresso-specific roasted beans will give you that sought-after taste with a body to match. Where normal roasting retains maximum flavor for general brews, it's worth going beyond standard when striving for an authentic cup of espresso.

Grinding Process

When making the perfect cup of joe, the grinding process used for your beans makes a world of difference.
Espresso and coffee beans require different grinding levels to pull the best flavors from each blend. The finer the grind, generally speaking, is needed for espresso beans, while coffee beans are better served with a more coarse grind. This helps espresso extract more flavor and provide more creaminess with a smooth finish.

Coffee, on the other hand, benefits from larger particles that allow for more surface area when exposed to water during extraction and create an overall richer flavor. Both options offer their share of deliciousness if you bring them to life through proper grinding - even the most discerning connoisseur's taste buds will be delighted.

Size & Density

Roasting coffee beans is an easy way to reduce their weight. Through evaporation, the water content inside each bean evaporates, making them less dense and much bigger. And since espresso beans are roasted for longer durations, they're larger than regular varieties.

Caffeine Content

Espresso beans boast a robust flavor thanks to their lengthy roasting process, but that deep roast also leads to less caffeine content than regular coffee. The longer the bean is roasted, the more caffeine it loses.

Coffee contains more caffeine than espresso, but espresso is stronger because it's more concentrated. According to Mayo Clinic, 8 ounces of brewed coffee contains 95-165 milligrams of caffeine, which equals 12-21 milligrams per ounce. At the same time, a single shot of espresso has 47-64 milligrams of caffeine per ounce.

How To Make The Perfect Espresso Shot At Home?

Making espresso at home can seem intimidating, but with the right tools and technique, you can whip up a rich shot of espresso in no time.
When making a shot of espresso, be sure to choose carefully. The secret lies in the beans: opt for ones roasted longer as they bring out necessary oils and create an aesthetically pleasing crema - essential components of any delicious espresso.


Next, you'll need to take care of the grind size. Finely ground beans produce the best results for espresso. They create more pressure when water is forced through them, creating a richer crema.

However, be careful not to make the grounds too fine. It can cause a blockage that prevents water from passing through at all.

Grind your coffee beans on the finest setting of your grinder to get a powdery and fine texture. For one or two espresso shots, you'll need 9-10g (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) of dark roast beans. To measure the grounds accurately, weigh them by placing the portafilter on the scale. Then, add the desired amount of coffee grounds to reach the right weight.

Tamp The Grounds

Transfer the filled portafilter to a flat surface. Use your finger to spread the grounds evenly, then take your tamper and firmly press down on the grounds to create a dense disk of espresso. That's it. You're ready for extraction.

Finally, pop the portafilter into your espresso machine and select the single or double shot option. The final product should be a sweet, rich, creamy cup of espresso you can enjoy any time you please.

Differences Between Coffee Beans And Espresso Beans - Final Verdict

A common misconception is that espresso beans are an entirely separate variety. However, the truth is they're all simply coffee.

While it's easy to assume there must be more complex distinctions between them, ultimately, it comes down to one factor: roasting. Espresso beans are roasted longer than coffee beans, resulting in less caffeine content. As such, understanding what kind of roast you prefer will help you decide which type suits your uniquely palatable tastes best.

Note that espresso beans are expertly crafted, specially roasted and finely ground, to create a balanced yet intense flavor that regular coffee just can't match. The extra pressure needed for an espresso shot means standard beans won't be suitable; only the robustness of specialty drinks-beans will do.

When it comes to espresso, you'll want to go for a darker roast and grind your beans finely. And for regular coffee, try a medium-light roast and coarsely ground beans. Easy. Now you know the basics of making a delicious cup of joe. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I feel tummy aches when consuming coffee beans but not espresso beans?

If you've experienced digestive upset after enjoying a cup of joe, it may be due to the high acidity in traditional coffee beans. Instead, choose espresso roast or an alternative brewing method to reduce your body's reaction.

Can I use coffee beans to make espresso?

For the perfect espresso experience, it's essential to use only espresso beans. With these specialty beans, you can craft a delectable shot with a strong aroma and complex taste - topped off by that desired golden crema layer.

Can I use espresso beans to make coffee?

Espresso beans are perfectly suited for more than just espresso – you can use them to make any kind of coffee beverage you like. These special beans have been roasted in a unique way, allowing them to bring out their bold, complex flavors and smells when brewed.

Just consider the grind size and brewing method depending on the type of coffee you're after.

What type of bean is best for espresso?

When crafting the perfect espresso, selecting the right bean is key. A medium or medium- dark roast blend will provide a unique flavor profile with an intense taste and velvety crema. For any barista aspiring to create that ideal cup of espresso, selecting quality beans should be at top priority.

Arabica beans tend to create a smooth and sweet espresso without any hint of bitterness. Robusta beans, on the other hand, produce heavier body espressos with a strong flavor.

So, if you're looking for the perfect espresso bean for your home or cafe, consider using high-quality Arabica roasts to create drinks that are complex in flavor and consistently full-bodied.

Which of the two - coffee or espresso beans - taste better?

When it comes to coffee, everyone has their preference. Some people like a strong hit of espresso, while others may prefer the smooth and mellow taste of regular coffee. Ultimately the choice between espresso beans and regular coffee beans can come down to personal taste.

Just note that espresso beans are generally more intense in flavor than regular ones and use a much finer grind. They tend to be bitter with nutty undertones due to the roasting process that darkens them significantly. On the other hand, regular coffee beans are slightly roasted for a milder flavor that is often sweet or caramel-like.

How to differentiate real and fake coffee?

First, look at the beans – genuine coffee will be quite uniform in size, whereas fake coffee might contain many different sizes of beans. Fake coffee may also have a more muted hue than good-quality coffee should. Additionally, you can even give them a scent test; good quality coffee should have an amazing aroma, while bad quality coffee won’t have any smell at all.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Espresso.


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