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People often ask me, “What’s the difference between espresso and coffee”. Additionally, many people want to know the difference between espresso beans vs coffee beans.”  What many people are looking for is espresso or coffee that’s smooth. In other words, not bitter, but instead smooth and full of flavor.  

Difference between espresso and coffee

This article is going to be quite eye opening for most of you. You’ll learn a lot about the difference between espresso and coffee. Additionally, you’ll learn about:

  • Best espresso beans vs coffee beans
  • Right brewing techniques
  • Best roasts for espresso and coffee
  • Importance of fresh roasted beans
  • Why good grinding is so important
  • Most importantly what are the best beans for espresso.

Difference Between Espresso and Coffee

Espresso Beans vs Coffee Beans

Espresso is an Italian word, which literally means “Express”, i.e. quick or fast.  The espresso machine was not invented to create a better cup of coffee. It was in fact invented for the sole purpose of making coffee faster. But, leave it to the French to use it to make espresso into a gourmet cup of coffee. AND, leave it to the Americans to commercialize it into an entire industry.

So, just to be clear. “Espresso” is a brewing technique; period; end of story. It is not a bean; not a drink; not a roast, and most certainly not a blend. Espresso IS coffee. There is no difference. Sure there are many different ways to brew coffee. Espresso is just one of them.

What makes the espresso machine unique is that it brews coffee using high-pressure steam, which produces a very strong and quite bitter cup of concentrated coffee, which the American coffee industry calls “an espresso”.

Espresso vs Coffee Beans

Best Coffee Beans For Espresso

As I just said above, there is no such thing as an espresso bean. There is no such thing as an espresso roast. Nor is there an espresso blend. Espresso is simply a brewing technique. Therefore, every time you see a bag of “Espresso Beans” or “Espresso Roast”, just thing “Bullshit Marketing”.

So what are the best coffee beans for your espresso machine? The answer to that simply depends on what you like. You can, and should, put whatever bean you like into your espresso machine. If you like bold-slap-you-in-the-face coffee, then Ethiopian beans might be a good choice for you. If you like burnt and bitter industrial coffee, then anything from Yuban, Folgers, Costco, or Charbucks should work.

Smooth Coffee Beans

Smoothest Coffee Beans

Espresso is well known for producing strong bitter coffee. Yet, it is possible to get strong and smooth coffee out of your espresso machine. All you need is an exceptionally smooth tasting bean. I personally don’t like burnt and bitter industrial coffee. I like smooth coffee and smooth espresso. By smooth I mean zero bitter taste.

The smoothest coffee comes from Central America, especially from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I personally prefer Costa Rican coffee from the Tarrazu region. Coffee beans from this region are not only smooth, but they also have a rich bold flavor ranging from chocolate and nut to citrus and earthy. Costa Rican Tarrazu coffee is the only bean that we source here at Lake City Coffee.

Smooth Coffee Roast

fresh roasted coffee

If strong and smooth coffee is your goal, then after selecting a smooth bean, you want to select a roast that produces smooth coffee. For smooth coffee, you want a medium roast, i.e., medium brown in color.  If the beans are black you can expect a burnt and bitter taste. 

Here’s a truth that few people know. When coffee beans are roasted so dark that they look like charcoal a.k.a. “Charbucks”, that’s when all the oils are burned off. It’s these coffee oils that contain all the good stuff like: bioflavonoids, antioxidants, caffeine, and flavor. Therefore, a good medium roast is going to give you more of everything that you’re looking for.

Good Old Fashioned Coffee

Smoothest Coffee

Back prior to WWI nearly everyone purchased green beans and roasted them at home.  In the old days, coffee was nearly always roasted to a medium brown color, thus preserving all the good God given qualities of a good coffee bean.

During WWI the army wanted to send roasted coffee with the soldiers to Europe. In order to increase the shelf life, they burned the snot out of the beans and then vacuum sealed them in tin cans. Months, and some times years later when the coffee was brewed, it tasted extremely burnt and bitter.

The big problem was that the soldiers came home thinking that coffee should taste burn and bitter.

Fresh Roasted

fresh roasted coffee

Here’s another rule-of-thumb about coffee.  The fresher the bean, the better the taste. All coffee.  And I mean all coffee, even mine, will turn stale and bitter after 30 days. Unfortunately, no amount of space-age packaging can change that fact. What’s really sad is that a vast majority of coffee sold in the U.S. has been sitting in warehouses or on store shelves for months if not years. No wonder American coffee is known for being bitter.

Once again, if you’re looking for smooth tasting coffee or espresso (same thing), then you want fresh roasted coffee. As a master coffee roaster, I ask other roasters this same question. How long will good coffee stay fresh. I am told consistently, 30 days tops. Therefore when you buy coffee beans, make sure that the label includes the roast date. By the way, good luck on that. Very few roasters put their roast date on the bag.

Here’s The Point

conservative coffee roaster
Russell Roasting

The difference between espresso and coffee is zip. Espresso is coffee. It’s just another brewing method. As for espresso beans vs coffee beans, again the difference is zip. Whether you’re brewing with an espresso, drip, French Press, drip machine, slow drip, or my favorite AeroPress, use the beans and roast that you like best.

Lastly, if you’re sick and tired of burnt and bitter industrial coffee, then give my coffee a try. I source only one bean from the Costa Rican Tarrazu region and I only offer four roasts; White, Medium, Dark, and Decaf. Why such a limited selection? Because, when it comes to smooth coffee with a ton of flavor, what I offer is the very best.

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fresh whole bean coffee