Coffee is easily the most popular hot drink in the world, and rightly so. People like coffee their way, which means there’s plenty of space for healthy debate. Espresso is a coffee shot created by pressing pressurized water through finely found coffee. The strong drink is used as a base for the majority of milk-based drinks available in coffee shops. Given how popular coffee is, people try to make their espresso at home using espresso machines and other tactics. The problem most people face is knowing which coffee to buy, regular or espresso specific. With this in mind, we explore the type of espresso to use in your machine as well as alternative methods of making espresso in a pinch.
What Is Espresso?
Espresso refers to the method used when brewing a coffee shot. First, coffee beans are finely ground and compacted. Then, pressurized hot water is forced through it, which results in extremely strong and thick coffee being produced. The liquid is typically dense with a layer of crema over the top, which is a foamy layer that’s vital to the overall aroma. If you order a straight espresso shot, you can expect to have it served in a small pre-heated cup. If you visit Italy or Spain today and ask for regular coffee, you will be given an espresso instead of a regular coffee.
What is Regular Coffee?
Regular coffee is a fairly non-descript term, given the enormous variation in people’s coffee orders (caramel lattes, soy milk cappuccinos, pour-over coffee, etc.). However, “regular coffee” actually refers to filtered coffee, which is the most basic coffee no matter where you are in the world.
In America, you will be served filter coffee whenever you order at a diner. Filter coffee has been around for centuries, even if its invention isn’t attributed until 1908, after the trial and error of Melitta Bentz. However, it is likely only traditional filter papers that were invented then.
Filters come in different varieties including metal filters, paper filters, and cloths, which all alter the taste of the coffee. This type of coffee is easy to make no matter where you are, which is why it’s still used. If you head to your shop for coffee and there are no special directions on the packet, you can safely say that it’s designed for filter coffee.
Barista Style Espresso
Baristas use dark-roasted coffee and espresso maker to create the majority of their drinks. During the preparation process, water is heated to a sweet spot sitting between 88°C and 94°C before being forced through fine coffee grounds; the pressure typically sits at around 9 bars.
Coffee machines need to be set up correctly, which means the pass-through time is as near to 25 seconds as possible. If the drink is made faster, there isn’t enough time for all of the flavors to be released. Alternatively, if the water is pressed for too long it will weaken the end flavor. For making coffee at home, you will typically use a simpler version of the giant machines found in coffee shops.
Espresso Machine History Glimpse
When espresso machines were first made in 1884, they looked very different from the ones we’re all used to. To generate pressure, users needed to pull down on a lever, which made it difficult to get accurate timings. Now, espresso machines work using an electric pump configured correctly. Instead of using manual espresso machines, strong powerful shots can be made using an automated machine. This is convenient and is a fantastic idea for restaurants that serve coffee as an afterthought. However, you can never expect to get the same level of quality as when a barista makes an espresso.
Differences Between Espresso and Regular Coffee
There are several differences between regular coffee and espresso, apart from the way the drinks are made. For starters, regular coffee can be made using medium ground coffee, because you don’t need any pressure for the result. As well as using different grind levels, coffee beans for espresso have a darker look because they’re roasted for longer. If you’ve got a yellowish bean in your grinder, you can assume that it’s designed for filter coffee instead of espresso.
When bean roasters are preparing beans for regular coffee, they don’t need to be roasted for any more than 15 minutes. When beans are being roasted with espresso in mind, 15-18 minutes is the standard roast time. Although this doesn’t feel like an enormous difference, even 30 seconds of additional roasting time alters the flavor of the coffee bean.
Espresso can’t take any longer than 30 seconds to make, although closer to 25 seconds is preferred. When it comes to regular coffee, it can take up to 8 minutes to prepare. Further, the temperature of water used for regular coffee is between 85 to 91°C, which is significantly less than the required 88 to 94°C for espresso.
Per 100 milliliters, regular coffee has around 80 mg of caffeine. Espresso, on the other hand, has around 100 mg of caffeine to the same amount of liquid. When compared at even quantities, espresso has more caffeine in it. However, when you take into consideration that espresso is served in a 30ml cup, regular coffee has higher caffeine content.
Finally, when you taste regular coffee and espresso, you will notice immediate differences. Espresso is strong and has a more tart taste, whereas regular coffee is much more aromatic. To enjoy a straight espresso, you need to be a true fan of the coffee taste.
Can You Use Regular Coffee for Espresso?
After looking into the background of espresso and regular coffee, it’s time to answer the question on everyone’s lips: Can regular coffee be used for espresso? The basic answer is that no, it can’t. If you use anything but dark-roasted and finely ground coffee in an espresso machine, the resulting drink will taste too bitter.
This concept is the same as with other foods, for example, white and dark chocolate. Both of these can be defined as chocolate, but their taste is completely different. Alternatively, Granny Smith apples are sour, while golden delicious apples are extremely sweet, but they’re both apples.
What About Regular Coffee in an Espresso Machine?
Well, what about using regular coffee in a coffee espresso maker at home? Technically, the answer to these questions is still “no”. However, there is a gray area because, at the end of the day, you need ground coffee to make an espresso.
If you went to the store and got your hands on regular coffee pre-ground, you could theoretically use it. However, this doesn’t mean that you should use it. For starters, the ground level will be off because the coffee is supposed to be filtered, which typically means a coarser grind. Secondly, the water will find some resistance from any compact coffee, but that doesn’t mean it will run for the correct amount of time.
As well as having an awful tasting “espresso”, using regular coffee can break your espresso machine. The holes in the basket and where the water comes from can become clogged with loose coffee grinds.
The Best Coffee for Espresso Machine
Best Full Bean Coffee Brand
If you’re searching for coffee for espresso machine, you should use a reputable brand and do your homework. If you ask us, the best whole bean espresso coffee comes from Stumptown, which is one of the most well-known roasters in America. Their beans come from only the most quality farms worldwide, which include those in Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia.
When it comes to flavor, their coffee beans are packed full of citrus and tones of dark chocolate. According to Stumptown themselves, this bean is versatile and can be used for espresso and alternative brew styles. If you’re looking to drink straight-up espresso, this bean is great. However, if you’re wanting to make milk-based drinks like lattes, you’re best off doing further research.
Best Pre-Ground Brand
If you’re trying to find a pre-ground coffee that lends itself perfectly to espresso making, look no further than Illy. You’ve likely noticed their stylized branding on coffee mugs used in cafes across the world. Their bean selection has a lot of care poured into it, and their grinds typically taste like sweet cherries.
For the coffee afficionados out there, this coffee won’t win any awards because the coffee landscape has changed too much over the last decade. However, if you’re at home looking for a decent pre-ground coffee to make espresso, Illy will do the trick.
Coffee is arguably the world’s favorite drink, which is why so many people try to make it at home. Espresso is used as a base for the majority of drinks and can be enjoyed as a powerful energy boost on its own. Espresso has a very strict preparation method that involves dark-roast coffee grinds, pressurized hot water, and around 25 seconds. This strict method means that regular coffee shouldn't be used in espresso, as you can damage your machine and the drink will taste awful.