What Does It Mean When A Bag Of Coffee Says "Espresso"?

Written by: Anne Mercer

What Does It Mean When A Bag Of Coffee Says "Espresso"?

For many, making espresso at home is a daily ritual. Coffee drinkers everywhere cherish waking up and preparing the perfect shot is a quiet moment of zen before the day begins.

Replicating cafe-quality espresso at home, however, requires a lot of patience, practice, and the right beans.

Beginners may think, “I need to buy espresso beans!” and sprint to their local coffee roaster, only to discover not a single bag on the shelf is an espresso bean.

Spoiler alert—there’s no such thing as an espresso bean!

Unfortunately, decades of marketing efforts have left customers confused about espresso.

Today, we’ll show you why you can use any type of coffee bean for espresso, plus:

  • What espresso is (+why you should never trust a bag labeled “Espresso Beans”)
  • How to select the best beans for making espresso
  • Everything you need for a solid home espresso setup

What is Espresso?

After years of widespread marketing strategies from industry giants and well-known corporations, the lines of what espresso is and isn’t have blurred in the minds of consumers. 

Some believe espresso is a type of bean with a super dark and smoky flavor. Others think it’s a way you roast coffee. Who’s right?

Sadly, neither. Let’s define what espresso truly is.

Espresso is... 

  • A Brew Method — Espresso is brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee with 7-10 atmospheres of pressure. Recipe variables such as grind size and dose can be altered to manipulate the taste of the final drink, but the principle of brewing a concentrated coffee through pressure remains the same.

  • This brewing process results in a tiny shot of coffee with abundant flavor. Espresso can be syrupy and rich with notes of caramel, vanilla, and red apple, or slick and vibrant with intensely aromatic floral notes. The possibilities are endless.

    Read: What is Espresso?

    Now, let’s cover everything espresso is not.

  • Espresso is not a type of bean — We’ll let you in on a little secret. Since espresso is a brew method, any type of coffee can be used! There’s no such thing as an “espresso bean.” All beans can be brewed as espresso. You can brew espresso with a smooth coffee blend that elicits sweet notes of almond and vanilla or a bright single origin coffee from Ethiopia with jasmine and blueberry notes. The choice is yours!

  • Espresso is not a roast level or style — Because coffees used in espresso tend to be roasted a little darker, people believe that there is a specific “Espresso Roast” they must buy. Nope! You can use any roast level to brew espresso. Although, opting for a medium roast coffee helps provide a balance of flavors during the brewing process.
  • Skip the “Espresso Beans”

    The next time you’re browsing the coffee aisle at the grocery store, you can confidently gloss over any bag labeled “Espresso Beans.” 

    However, there’s one small caveat.

    A bag labeled “Espresso” means that the roaster has roasted the coffee with the intention of it being brewed as espresso.

    Many roasters provide “Espresso Blends” or manipulate single origin roast profiles to coax out certain flavors during the brewing process.

    When choosing between a bag labeled “Espresso Beans” and “Espresso Blend,” opt for the blend—since espresso beans do not exist!

    How to Select the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso

    Shopping for coffee beans can be fun and overwhelming.

    There are so many blends, single origin coffees, and roasters to choose from. If you follow this quick three-step process, you’ll find the perfect beans for your home espresso drinks.

  • Think about flavors you like. Do you prefer espresso that’s syrupy and fruity? Rich and chocolatey? What about vibrant with a zing of acidity? All of these flavors can be accomplished with the right beans. Take a look at the flavor descriptors listed on the bag—do they match flavors you’d enjoy?

  • Pro Tip: if you’re unsure of your flavor preferences, take yourself on a coffee tour! Sample espressos from multiple coffee shops and ask them what beans and roaster they use. This experience will help you develop a flavor foundation for yourself.

  • Look at Roast Level — Yes, espresso is not a roast level. But, certain roast levels taste better as espresso! Most espresso lovers opt for a medium roast coffee. The extended time in the roaster leads to deeper, richer flavors and balanced acidity while still highlighting the complexity of the coffee.

  • Check Roast Date — With such an intense and aromatic brew method, you want coffee that’s been recently roasted and rested for the right amount of time. Too fresh and the espresso can taste carbon-y. Too old and you’ll have flat, stale espresso. Always double-check the roast date before buying coffee beans.

  • Over time, you’ll develop an understanding of what coffee beans to choose for your ideal espresso shot.

    6 Necessities for a Solid Home Espresso Setup

    Making espresso at home can be as easy or as complex as you desire. Some coffee drinkers want espresso at the push of a button, whereas others want full control over the entire process.

    No matter which direction you plan to take, these equipment necessities are a must.

  • Espresso machine — There are so many espresso machines to choose from. If you’re a beginner, start here. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line home machine, start here. Look for an espresso machine that meets your budget and produces enough pressure for a quality espresso shot.

  • Grinder — Many semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines come with a built-in grinder. However, these grinders are unreliable and often cheaply made. This lack of quality will be evident in your espresso when it tastes overly sour, bitter, or flat. Invest in a separate grinder capable of producing the super-fine grind size required for a delicious espresso shot.

  • Milk steaming pitcher — If you plan to make lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas at home, you’ll need a sturdy milk pitcher on hand to froth your milk.

  • Espresso cups — Espresso cups are designed to accentuate the tantalizing aromas from the first sip. Consider adding cappuccino cups to your home setup if you plan on making larger milk-based drinks, too.

  • Tamper — Some home espresso machines come with a built-in or separate tamper. Unfortunately, these tampers tend to be flimsy and cannot provide the necessary amount of force for proper espresso tamping. For balanced espresso, it’s worth purchasing a tamper of your own.

  • Microfiber towels — A clean espresso machine is a happy espresso machine. Keep your machine, grinder, and portafilters clean by wiping them down with a microfiber towel before and after each shot.

  • Each piece of equipment plays a critical role in helping you pull tasty espresso shots from home. 

    Brew Espresso at Home with JavaPresse Coffee 

    When it comes to brewing espresso at home, you can try:

    • Delicate and fruity beans from Ethiopia.
    • A rich, caramelly blend of coffee from Colombia and Peru.
    • Coffee beans from Sumatra bursting with a stone fruit sweetness.

    The options never end.

    JavaPresse Coffee makes trying new coffee beans fun and easy!

    Our specialty-grade single origin coffee and delicious coffee blends are expertly roasted and shipped to your door two hours after roasting, locking in those delicious flavors you want in each espresso shot.

    From our medium roast blend to the Brewer’s Choice featured blend, each of our coffees is roasted to accentuate the natural flavors and characteristics of a bean—taking you on a wild flavor ride with every espresso shot you pull.

    👉 Get your JavaPresse coffee today!