Here in the states, we’re not quite as familiar with espresso as they are in Europe, but it’s common enough that you might feel silly asking basic questions. That’s why we’re offering this guide. Here, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about espresso. And you’ll learn it from some very serious espresso addicts (that’s us).
Here, we’ll cover:
- What is espresso?
- What’s the difference between espresso and coffee?
- How much caffeine is in espresso
- Are there different roasts for espresso?
- What type of beans are best for espresso coffee?
- How to grind coffee beans for espresso
So, grab your favorite brew and get cozy because we’re about to cover the ins and outs of espresso.
What is espresso?
Ah, espresso. It’s probably the most misunderstood type of coffee out there, but it’s definitely worth getting to know. Let’s start with the name. Espresso (ess-PRESS-oh) is not spelled or pronounced with the letter x. If you’ve been saying expresso, you’re not alone, but it’s time to stop. Expresso was a Donkey Kong character; it is not a beverage.
Now to the nitty gritty…
Espresso is a type of coffee, but it’s quite different from the rest. There are three things that make espresso unique:
- Roast – Most of the time, the coffee beans used to produce espresso are roasted with a dark espresso roast. Still, roast does not determine whether a coffee is espresso. You can use any type of roast you’d like.
- Grind – Grind is the only factor that actually creates espresso. Espresso grind is the finest or second-to-finest grind setting on your coffee grinder. Oftentimes, the finest setting is Turkish, which is fine like powder. Check the settings on your grinder to see which to use for espresso.
- Brewing and serving – Espresso is a full-flavored concentrated type of coffee that you make by forcing pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. The process is called “pulling a shot.” You can do this with a stovetop espresso maker or a fancier espresso machine. The process produces a reddish-brown froth at the top of your espresso shot that’s called crema. The crema comes from air bubbles that combine with the oils in your fine-ground coffee.
What’s the difference between espresso and coffee?
There are two differences between espresso and coffee: Grind and brewing process.
Espresso beans are always ground finely. There can be no exceptions. If you coarse-grind and brew a bean that was labeled as espresso, you’ll get dark coffee. It doesn’t matter if you stick it in an espresso maker (but don’t ever do that!). The grind is what differentiates espresso from coffee.
The brewing process also differentiates espresso from coffee, but not quite as much. It’s possible to brew finely ground coffee beans like you would brew coffee. You’d get something that resembles espresso, but you wouldn’t get the crema or the full flavor, so this definitely isn’t recommended.
How much caffeine is in espresso?
Each individual brew may have varying levels of caffeine, but a good answer is: not as much as you’d think. People tend to think of espresso as being extremely strong because it is concentrated in a small shot and has a strong flavor. And that’s true. A shot of espresso may also provide more of a boost than a filtered cup of coffee, but that doesn’t mean it has more caffeine.
According to data from the Department of Agriculture, one ounce of espresso has 63 mg of caffeine. In comparison, an ounce of filtered coffee has 12 to 16 mg per ounce. If you look at it this way, espresso clearly has a lot more caffeine.
But does anyone drink just one ounce of coffee? No.
Multiply an average of 14 mg per ounce by 8 ounces, which is a more reasonable cup size, and you’ll get 112 mg of caffeine per cup of coffee.
A cup of coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso. It may or may not even have more caffeine than a double shot, depending on the caffeine content and cup size.
Are there different roasts for espresso?
There most certainly are different roasts that you can use for espresso. Different people have different preferences, so you may want to try various roasts before you land on one.
Remember that espresso has a bolder flavor than coffee, so what you like in filtered coffee may be different than the espresso roast you like.
Feel free to use any type of coffee bean for your espresso. There are no limits here!
But if you’re new to drinking coffee this way, you may want to start with a dark espresso roast and experiment from there. This way, you’ll get a good base for traditional flavor.
What type of beans are best for espresso coffee?
When it comes to filtered coffee, you may know that single-origin coffees are typically best. But with espresso, that’s not always the case.
You see, with drip coffees, beans are selected for things like complexity or balance. Single origins are always great for drip coffee because you can taste the flavors that are unique to a region. And if you add specialty coffee to your list of qualifications, the flavors will be even more pronounced. Because espresso is concentrated, though, those varietal flavors may sometimes be overwhelming. This is why one of our favorite espresso coffees, Ritual Espresso, is a blend of 6 beans from around the world. Each varietal was carefully chosen specifically to blend with the others in a complete and balanced cup.
How to grind coffee beans for espresso
As with any coffee bean, it’s best to grind your espresso at home.
Check your coffee grinder’s settings to see which is recommended for espresso coffee. It may be the finest or second-to-finest grind. The finest grind is often for Turkish coffee.
If you don’t have a coffee grinder, simply choose espresso grind when buying your espresso coffee beans. We offer various grinds that are the right size for your brewing method. We don’t recommend buying ground coffee anywhere else unless you get to grind it yourself. Its crucial that your beans are freshly ground to get a good cup of coffee. We roast and grind your coffee after you order, so it’s always perfectly fresh.
Go forth and enjoy!
Now you know just about everything you need to know about espresso. It’s time to go forth, experiment and enjoy!