Bitterness is the peculiar sensory characteristic of coffee. But why is coffee bitter and why do we like this typically unpleasant taste in our favorite drink?
Yes, there’s a difference between coffee beans and espresso beans! They are not the same thing!
Well, for making your espresso you could use any kind of coffee beans you like.
After all, espresso is just another brewing method.
But is it really, though?
Compared to other brewing methods, the water temperature is lower, and the contact time extremely short. That’s because the brewing process takes place under pressure (of at least 9 bar).
And that’s what makes espresso unique.
Because of this, most espresso beans lean toward the darker roast profiles since they are easier to extract in these conditions than lighter roasts.
Espresso beans require particular attention in the selection of coffees to be used in the blend and in the choice of roasting profiles.
In order to ensure optimum extraction while maximizing the taste, roasters develop espresso blends.
The blending of coffee beans good for espresso
First of all, what makes coffee beans good for espresso is the selection of coffees to develop the blend.
Not all coffees are created equal and there are certain criteria we have to consider when looking for the best ones for espresso extraction. Bitterness, sweetness and mouthfeel all come into play.
There is middle ground to be found across the espresso flavor spectrum. Whether you enjoy fruited and wild, or bitter and mild, how well a shot is perceived has a lot to do with the interplay of bitter and sweetness in the cup.
Coffee has to take well to darker roasting. Bitter is good to a point and works well as a base that cuts through milk in a cappuccino.
Sweetness should be present too with a varying degree from one coffee to the next.
However, flavor is only one part of what’s enjoyable about espresso. The other part is its tactile appeal.
Viscosity of the espresso itself has to be pleasing in mouthfeel.
That’s why, from the selection point of view, the best green coffees for espresso have big body, mild to moderate acidity, and heavy chocolate flavors when developed to roast.
At SpecialCoffee, we do our best to select the coffees that to us, are the best to pull espresso shots with.
The best roasting for espresso
For all types of coffee beans, the roasting process is the alfa and the omega.
This is where the difference in tasting, flavor and the choice of brewing method comes into play.
A general rule says that light roasts works best with a slower extraction method such as a filter coffee.
Conversely, darker roasts go with a quick method such as espresso.
As well as being easier to extract, developing a darker roast boosts body and round off the acidic bite.
The roaster has to choose the right roasting: lighter roast could not pair well with milk (cappuccino) while too dark of a roast can also cause problems and bitterness in the cup.
But, what is the difference between espresso coffee beans, and “regular” coffee beans?
Coffee beans refer to any bean roasted and readied for brewing.
You can choose a light roast if you want the full distinct flavor of your bean which can vary depending on which country it came from.
Light-roasted beans do not have an oily sheen and are best for mild-flavored varieties, white coffee, and non-pressure brew styles, like pour over coffee or cold brew coffee.
Medium-roasted beans can be distinguished by its medium-brown. They give you a stronger brew while they result in a different flavour profile and based on the bean origin, can be used for many styles of brewing.
On the other hand, dark-roasted beans stand out for their dark brown color and shiny, oily surface.
Most of the time, medium-dark roasts are used for espresso brewing.
Espresso coffee beans usually belong to the dark roast category since this is the stage in which the beans offer the least acidity with a fuller body. You will still be able to get hints of the bean flavour too.
The dark roast of espresso beans are richest in coffee’s natural oils, evident in the oily sheen you can see on the beans. Emulsification of these oils, along with other compounds in coffee, prove helpful in producing the crema.
However, you must be careful not to use beans that have been roasted too dark as the excess oil can clog up grinders, especially in super-automatic machines.
The espresso crema
Crema is often mentioned with reverence in relation to espresso.
It refers to the light-colored layer that forms on the surface of brewed coffee during the extraction stage.
While brewing espresso, carbon dioxide coming off the compacted fresh grounds meeting with hot, pressurized water cause the trademark “bubbles” to form.
The crema tells a lot about the coffee we are going to drink
Have we ever tried to observe it carefully?
Within the crema you have different colors. These slight differences show either the kind of roast used, how long the espresso shot was, or a possible problem with the consistency of your coffee grounds.
Too light means the bubbles are larger than usual: you may have under-extracted your espresso.
Too dark on the other hand can either be a result of over-extraction, or the use of a darker roast (which also usually produces less crema). Over-extracted coffee can result in a bitter cup.
The amount of crema you yield in a shot has as much to do with method (roast level, grind particulates, tamp, etc) as it does the coffee itself.
Sure, certain coffee types and post-harvest process methods are more conducive to creating that lush, golden layer of emulsified coffee oils.
Using regular beans to make espresso may not produce the kind of brew you expect in a “perfect shot“, no matter how good they are.
Some varieties are too light, others may be too charred or dark.
Here’s a quick rundown of why you must use the right beans for good espresso
Espresso coffee beans will give you the consistency, body, and flavour you want in your shot.
They usually produce a rich crema which enhances the whole drink and your espresso experience.
Regular coffee beans are great for a variety of brewing methods but espresso coffee beans hold up best with high-pressure methods.
In essence: making a good cup of espresso is not rocket science but it’s not exactly just about throwing ground coffee and hot water into the espresso machine.
Discover the SpecialCoffee’s espresso beans blends!