If you are a coffee expert, you probably have a favorite type of beans to use for every brewing method. But for others, with so many ways to differentiate coffee beans, it can be confusing to figure out what type can you use to brew espressos. While you can find bags of beans labeled as “espresso” in the shop, can you use regular coffee beans to prepare an espresso shot too?
The short answer is yes!
If you want to further understand the difference between espresso and regular beans, the factors that make a great espresso coffee, and a guide on how to make espresso with regular coffee, read this article.
What Is An Espresso?
Before we go into the ins and outs of the question: “Can you use regular coffee in espresso machine?” Let’s first find out what exactly is an espresso.
Espresso comes from Italy and was discovered with the invention of the first espresso machine patented by Angelo Moriondo of Turin in 1884. It is a 1-ounce (30ml) shot of concentrated coffee that is prepared by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure. This brewing method typically takes around 30 seconds and requires 9 bars of pressure in the machine in order to classify as an espresso.
This is why, even though Moka pot prepares a coffee that tastes similar to espresso since it generates only around 1 bar of pressure, it is technically not an espresso.
Regular Coffee Vs Espresso Coffee Beans
With some coffees labeled as “espresso” and others just passing as regular coffee, it can be easy to assume that they are different beans. The opposite is true. Even though espresso and regular coffee are not the same, they can come from the same type of beans. The difference is in the roasting process.
The roasting process makes each type of beans best to use for a certain brewing method, which then results in the subsequent difference in taste. Further, if you buy pre-ground beans, the regular coffee beans will come in a coarser grind than those ground for an espresso method, which affects the taste too.
Let’s look at these differences more closely:
Espresso beans are usually roasted dark, beyond the second crack. This results in less acidity, a fuller body, and a deeper flavor that has a heavier mouthfeel. The dark roast helps to achieve good consistency and balance between body, acidity, and sweetness in your shot. The dark beans have lots of oils on the surface of the beans that help to produce crema on top of espressos, which enhances the textural experience of the coffee.
In comparison, regular coffee can be roasted light, medium or dark, depending on the particular product. Light roasts don’t have an oily surface on the beans and are more suited to slower manual brewing methods. They can showcase a more nuanced taste profile, are brighter and more acidic. Medium roast beans are characterized by medium-brown color and a taste that is stronger than light roasts and more mellow than the dark roast. They are not too acidic and have a decent body, typically with no oil on the surface of the beans. They are versatile and can be used for a variety of brewing methods.
When it comes to regular coffee beans, you can use them with any brewing method. They are suitable for preparing coffee with French Press, Kalita Wave, V60, Drip Machine, AeroPress, and others.
By adjusting the grind, you can use regular coffee beans for different brewing methods and mix up the way you make your daily cup. If you have beans with a lighter roast, slower extraction methods such as Chemex or Hario V60 will produce the most flavorful cups.
As the name suggests, espresso beans are best suited in your espresso machine. They have usually been tested to produce the best-tasting results by being prepared with this highly pressurized method.
Even though the beans that are meant to be used for regular coffee will produce a good-tasting espresso shot, if they are pre-ground for regular coffee, you’re in trouble.
The grind is even more important than the roast and should always be suited to your brewing method, not only when making an espresso.
Preparing coffee in an espresso machine requires that the water is pushed through tightly packed fine coffee grounds in a short period of time. Can you use regular coffee in espresso machine, if it’s pre-ground? No. This is because when the grind is too coarse, the water passes through the coffee too quickly, resulting in an under-extracted shot.
Since regular coffee is usually pre-ground for a drip machine, you won’t be able to make a good-tasting espresso shot with it. If you’re buying regular coffee to prepare an espresso, make sure that you select whole beans and grind them at home to a consistency of sand, suitable for an espresso machine.
Espresso coffee is small, strong, intense, and has a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel. The coffee displays a balance between sweetness, acidity, and body and its highly concentrated flavor is perfect to be mixed with hot water or milk. In comparison, regular coffee uses more water and a longer extraction method, which results in a more mellow taste, and a brighter brew that can display a delicate flavor profile inherent in the coffee bean.
What Makes A Great Espresso Shot?
Even though brewing an espresso takes 30 seconds and only produces around 30ml of liquid, this process is more delicate than you might think. A good espresso shot requires precise measurements with a coffee scale, consistent grind, a good espresso machine that can generate enough pressure, and fresh coffee beans.
Perfecting Your Espresso: How Much Coffee Per Shot?
As mentioned, precise measurements are important for brewing a good espresso shot. While the grams of coffee in espresso depends on the type of beans and the particular recipe, the general guidelines about how much coffee in grams of espresso is to use are around 18-21 grams of coffee grounds for a double shot.
Can You Make Espresso With Regular Coffee Grounds?
Since the espresso coffee beans are typically tested using an espresso brewing method, they will produce the best espresso shot. If you choose different beans, you are not guaranteed a perfectly balanced shot but you can certainly brew espresso with regular coffee beans.
To increase your chances of success and better consistency of your shots, select high-quality Arabica beans, dark roast, and avoid pre-ground coffee. Many people choose to brew espressos with lighter roasts or single-origin beans. When experimenting with those, be prepared for more wild and funky flavors and less consistent crema.
How To Make Espresso Out of Regular Coffee
When using regular ground coffee in espresso machine, follow this brewing guide:
- Make sure your machine is pre-heated to a correct temperature of around 90-96°C (195-205°F) and your cup is warm.
- Clean your portafilter and fill it in with finely ground coffee beans (measure the amount with a coffee scale).
- Tamp the coffee by applying pressure and clean the surrounding surface of any remaining coffee grounds.
- Rinse the ground head to remove any old coffee.
- Brew for around 30 seconds for a perfect espresso.
- If the brewing time is less than 25 seconds, make the grind finer. And if the brewing time is longer than 35 seconds, grind the coffee more coarsely.
The Verdict: Can You Make Espresso With Regular Coffee?
While espresso beans have been typically tested to produce the most consistent espressos, you can still brew your morning espresso using regular coffee. If you like the classic espresso flavor, select Arabica beans that have been roasted dark and grind them to a consistency of sand. If you want to experiment with espresso brewing, you can try lighter roasts or single origins for more funky flavors.
And if you’re asking yourself, “how much espresso grounds in a shot?” weigh out 18-21grams of coffee grounds for your double shot of espresso for the best results.