Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans: What’s the Difference?

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In this post, we’ll explore the differences between espresso and coffee beans. So put on your sweatpants, grab a glass of rose, and join me as we dive into the world of caffeine!

Are espresso beans and coffee beans the same?

Let’s talk about two main players in the coffee world: espresso beans and coffee beans.

You might wonder, “Aren’t they the same?” Well, kind of. Both come from the same coffee plant, but they’re roasted differently, which changes their flavor and how we use them.

Espresso beans are roasted for a longer time and at higher temperatures. This makes them darker and gives them a strong flavor. If you’ve ever seen an espresso shot, you might notice a creamy layer on top – that’s called ‘crema.’ It’s a sign of a good espresso and comes from the way these beans are roasted.

Espresso Beans Vs Coffee Beans
Espresso Roast
Medium Roast Coffee Beans
Medium Roast

Now, coffee beans cover a lot of ground (pun intended!). These can be roasted lightly or to a medium level, which keeps more of their natural flavors. This means you can get a variety of tastes from these beans, everything from fruity to chocolatey, depending on the type of bean.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky: even though there are specific beans for espresso, you can actually make espresso with any coffee bean. And, you can use espresso beans to make regular coffee too. An example? Starbucks sells something called Blonde® Espresso1. Instead of being dark and intense like regular espresso, it’s made from beans that are roasted lighter, giving it a milder flavor.

So, whether you’re grabbing an espresso shot to kickstart your morning or sipping a leisurely cup of coffee, remember: it’s all about how the beans are roasted.

Here’s a table that breaks down the key differences between espresso beans and coffee beans:

Espresso beansCoffee beans
Roast LevelDark roastLight to medium roast
Roast Temp460º to 470º F (238-243º C)356º to 460º F (180º to 243º C)
Roast Time10-15 minutes7-10 minutes
FlavorRich, smokey, thick, intenseNotes of fruit, cocoa, wine
Caffeine30 mg per ounce136 mg in 12oz cup
Grind SizeFine grindCoarser grind
Brew MethodEspresso machine, Moka potDrip, pour-over, french press

Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

I’m not good at talking about flavor profiles, tasting notes, and things like body, mouth-feel, blah blah. Here are what I consider the most notable differences between espresso beans and ordinary coffee beans. (So this isn’t a complete list.)

1. Roast Level

One of the main differences between espresso beans and coffee beans is the roast level. Beans for making espresso are roasted at 460º to 470º F (238 to 243º C) for 10 to 15 minutes. This results in a bean with a dark, oily sheen.

Beans used to make coffee are typically roasted at 356º to 460º F (180º to 223º C) for 7 to 10 minutes. They usually stay within the light-to-medium roast range since this retains their unique flavor characteristics.

2. Grind Size

Espresso beans are ground into a fine powder, while coffee beans are ground more coarsely. There are a ton of methods to make coffee, some requiring a unique grind size.

As a rule of thumb, coffee grounds will always be coarser than espresso grounds. If you’re looking to up your grind game, you’ll want to invest in a burr grinder.

These grinders are more expensive than blade grinders, but they produce a consistent espresso grind. Here are a few entry-level coffee grinders that I highly recommend:

Brewing methods for espresso beans

To truly appreciate the flavors of espresso beans, it’s important to use the right brewing method. While espresso machines are the most common way to make espresso shots, there are alternative methods that can achieve similar results. Let’s explore some popular brewing techniques for espresso beans.

Brewing ProcessEspressoCoffee
Espresso Machine (true espresso)x
Moka Potx
French Pressxx
Pour Overx
Coffee Machine (home drip)x

1. Espresso Machine

Espresso machines use high pressure to extract rich and flavorful shots from ground beans. For a genuine espresso experience, you need the right equipment. While commercial machines can exceed $20,000, there are quality home options between $500 and $1,000.

I found a great deal on a Breville Pro for $500 on Facebook Marketplace. In the world of espresso machines, quality often comes with a higher price tag. It’s best to avoid the budget-friendly $50-$100 options, as they can’t deliver the real deal.

2. Moka Pot

A Moka pot is a stovetop coffee maker that uses steam pressure to brew coffee. They cost about $20 on Amazon and are great for brewing small, intense portions of coffee, similar in strength and flavor to espresso.

Moka Pot Espresso Maker
Moka pot espresso maker

To brew coffee using a Moka pot, fill the bottom chamber with water and the filter basket with finely ground espresso beans.

Place the Moka pot on the stove and wait for the pressure to build, pushing the brewed coffee into the top chamber. The result is a rich and bold coffee that resembles an espresso shot.

3. Aeropress

Using an Aeropress, you can make espresso-style coffee. Put a metal filter in, add fine grounds and hot water, stir, then press. It creates a smooth coffee with a light espresso taste.

Brewing methods for coffee beans

While espresso beans are specifically tailored for espresso brewing, coffee beans can be used in a variety of brewing methods. Each brewing technique brings out different flavors and characteristics in the coffee. Let’s explore some popular brewing methods for coffee beans.

1. Pour Over

Pour over brewing offers full control and highlights coffee’s delicate flavors. Place a rinsed paper filter in a dripper, add medium-coarse grounds, and pour hot water in circles. This method produces a balanced cup, favored by coffee purists. The popular PureOver brand offers an all-in-one set for around $100.

The PureOver pour-over coffee maker

2. French Press

The French press creates rich, full-bodied coffee. Add coarse grounds, pour hot water, let steep, then press the plunger. This method yields a strong, textured coffee, ideal for those who prefer a bolder taste.

3. Cold Brew

Making espresso-like coffee with a cold brew method involves steeping grounds in cold water for an extended period, usually overnight. This extraction results in a concentrated, yet smooth brew.

To achieve this, mix coarse coffee beans with cold water, refrigerate for 12-24 hours, then strain. The outcome is a dense coffee concentrate that, when served over ice or diluted, gives an espresso-like richness with a cold twist.

Caffeine Content in Espresso vs. Coffee

If you’re looking for a caffeine boost, know this: A coffee cup has more caffeine than two espresso shots. Also, light roast coffee packs more caffeine than dark roast. Why? Dark roasting burns away more caffeine. So, for a real wake-up drink, choose a light or medium roast coffee.


  • Darker roast = Less caffeine.
  • Espresso is dark, so it has less caffeine.

Caffeine Content:

  • Espresso: 30 mg per shot
  • Coffee: 136 mg in a 12-ounce cup

Also, only espresso has a special golden foam on top called “crema”. This crema is made of:

  • CO2 gas: Makes the bubbles.
  • Oils & lipids: Give it a creamy feel.
  • Solubles: Boost flavor and smell.

Choosing the right beans for your preferred brewing method

Now that we have explored the flavor profiles and brewing methods for both espresso beans and coffee beans, it’s important to understand how to choose the right beans for your preferred brewing method. Here are some tips to help you make the best choice:

1. Consider the roast level

For espresso brewing, dark roast espresso beans are the classic choice, offering bold flavors and oils that make for a robust espresso shot. For those looking for a top-notch dark roast, I recommend trying the Dark Roast from Volcanica. If you’re leaning towards pour-over or French press brewing methods, medium to light roast coffee beans are typically preferred to bring out the beans’ subtle flavors.

2. Experiment with different origins

Each coffee-producing region has its unique flavor profile. African beans, for instance, often carry bright and fruity flavors, whereas beans from South America might remind you of nutty and chocolatey notes. If you’re looking to dive into the delightful flavors of Hawaiian beans, the Single Origin Kona Coffee Beans from Hawaii Coffee Company come highly recommended. Delve into various origins to add a dash of adventure to your coffee escapades.

3. Consider single-origin or blends

Single-origin beans hail from one specific location, allowing you to taste the unique flavors distinctive to that region. For a true coffee connoisseur experience, the 2022 Cup of Excellence Winner from Spirit Animal Coffee stands out as an exceptional single-origin choice. Alternatively, blends craft a harmony of flavors by combining beans from different regions, offering a balanced and steady taste. Try both and determine which speaks to your palate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does espresso have more caffeine than coffee?

No, espresso doesn’t have more caffeine than coffee. In fact, coffee has higher caffeine content than espresso. A 12-ounce cup of light-roast coffee has around 136 mg of caffeine, while a double espresso has about 60 mg of caffeine.

Can I use coffee beans for espresso?

Yes, you can use coffee beans for espresso and vice versa. For example, Starbucks has a Blonde Espresso roast, which is equivalent to a medium roast coffee.

Are espresso beans stronger than coffee beans?

Espresso beans are stronger in flavor vs. regular coffee beans. But coffee beans have more caffeine content than darker roast coffees, aka, espresso beans.

Can you use espresso beans to make regular coffee?

Yes, you can use espresso beans to brew regular coffee. Espresso coffee beans are simply darkly roasted coffee beans. So coffee made with espresso beans will be extremely rich and smoky in flavor.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, coffee and espresso beans are exactly the same when kids. Coffee beans spend their formative years weaving baskets and cross-breeding exotic fruits in a commune in Oregon. Espresso beans run away from home at 7 and spend their formative years apprenticing as a blacksmith at a traveling circus with headquarters in the Bronx.


Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.

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