You may have once pondered the question, "What is an espresso bean?". Technically, there is no such thing as an espresso bean. Instead, there are coffee beans that are ground fine and used in making espresso.
However, the term “espresso bean” doesn’t actually refer to anything. The confusion has come from referring to the beans that are used more often in making espresso as espresso coffee bean. Because espresso has become such a staple part of the coffee culture and coffee shops, the term espresso has become a little watered down.
It’s difficult for those who are not as familiar with the coffee world to understand what really is espresso and what is not. In reality, an espresso bean is not a particular type of roast or coffee bean. According to Diffen, one can make an espresso from any kind of bean. Espresso is the concentrated beverage produced from an espresso machine when water is pushed through a porta-filter at high temperatures. This creates a drink that we can enjoy alone or along with milk to produce a latte.
What is Espresso?
Espresso is the name of a particular coffee beverage. The coffee shop on the corner most likely has an espresso machine. In that machine, water is forced – at high pressure and temperatures – through a porta-filter like the one pictured above.
Each “shot” of espresso is generally 1 ounce, so a double shot of espresso would be 2 ounces.
Some prefer to enjoy these drinks alone, in a small cup. This method allows the user to get the full effect of caffeine in a smaller volume of liquid.
It’s also an excellent way to see the flavor profile of a particular coffee bean. Others prefer to savor the flavor and effect of the espresso by “watering” it down with some steamed milk. That is how one produces the lattes and cappuccinos.
As you can see, espresso is a type of beverage, not necessarily a type of bean. With that said, the term “espresso bean” has become popular, so it’s necessary to establish what that would be referring to.
What Beans are Used to Make Espresso?
While the espresso coffee bean is not actually a thing, some beans are used for making espresso. The thing is, the type of coffee used for making espresso could be completely different as one goes from shop to shop.
Single-origin espresso is becoming more popular, which simply refers to having espresso made from one kind of coffee. Others prefer to enjoy a brewed espresso using a blend of several different types of coffee.
The Espresso Grind
To properly brew espresso, it is necessary to have the coffee beans ground to the proper setting. Coffee that is ground too coarse will be under-extracted, and the drink produced will not be as flavorful and will be watery.
Most grinders actually feature an “espresso” setting, which grinds the beans at a very fine level, which is optimal for producing an espresso drink.
So, while there is not necessarily an espresso bean, there is definitely an espresso grind, and coffee ground to that level of fineness suits for brewing an espresso drink.
Is there a Particular Roast for Espresso?
Another great question is if there is a specific roast level that is prime for brewing an espresso drink. The answer really depends on where you are. In some areas of the world, it is preferable to have a darker roast because of the flavor profile produced by that particular level of roast.
However, specialty coffee houses have begun trying a lighter roasted coffee for their espresso, which can give the drink a much different flavor.
Espresso vs. Expresso
There has also been some confusion over the spelling of the word espresso. Due to the closeness between the two words, businesses have taken "espresso" and mixed it with the word express to imply that, with them, the customer is getting espresso quickly.
However, according to the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style (2000), the spelling as expresso is explicitly wrong, and not a proper variation of the word.
What is an Espresso Bean - Conclusion
If you've been wondering what is an espresso bean, at the end of the day, the “espresso bean” is just the bean used for making the espresso. If someone asks to buy an espresso bean at a coffee shop, the shop may just sell them the type of bean used for brewing the espresso that particular day. Whatever someone is referring to when it comes to espresso and a bean, the important thing is that the beverage produced is flavorful and delicious.