Can you Make Espresso with Coffee Beans?

If you’re anything like me, mornings are rough, and that regular cup of coffee doesn’t quite cut it. So what do I do? Go for that espresso. If you don’t have time to visit your local coffee shop before work, you must make it at home. But can you make espresso with coffee beans? 

Yes, you can make espresso with regular coffee beans. Espresso has two ingredients: water and coffee beans. If using regular beans, it’s best to use a dark roast to emulate the natural oils of espresso beans.

So, how exactly do you do this? Below is a quick guide explaining what an espresso is and how to grind beans to make an espresso. We’ll also look at how to make an espresso with or without an espresso machine.

What is an Espresso?

So, how exactly do you do this? Below is a quick guide explaining what an espresso is and how to grind beans to make an espresso. We’ll also look at how to make an espresso with or without an espresso machine.

Espresso is a small (usually between 36 – 60ml) coffee most coffee shops offer. It can be drunk like a short, strong, intense coffee without accompaniment. Although, it is more often than not used as a base to make drinks such as cappuccinos, flat whites, and americanos.

Making espresso is more complicated than making regular filter coffee. Rather than submerging ground coffee in hot water like in a French press or AeroPress, with an espresso, hot water is forced through a bed of finely ground coffee in an espresso machine.

In cafes, espresso machines and grinders are expensive equipment that brews espresso precisely under high pressure. Starbucks uses a high-quality espresso machine in almost all of its drinks. Click the link to read more about what exactly they use. 

Are Coffee Beans and Espresso Beans the Same?

You may surprised to learn that there is big difference between regular coffee beans and espresso beans. So why do some bags of coffee make a point to say “espresso” on them?

Let’s take a closer look at how these beans differ.

  1. How they are roasted: Espresso beans are typically roasted for longer times and at a higher temperature when compared to regular coffee beans. This is why they are darker in color.
  2. Beans’s natural oil:  Espresso beans have an oily sheen. This is the reason why coffee drinks with espresso can have crema. Cream emerges when the espresso bean’s natural oils are emulsified in the coffee. Click the link to read more about making crema for your espresso.
  3. Grind size: Espresso coffee beans are ground very fine like, table salt, while regular coffee beans are typically ground more coarse.
  4. Caffeine content: Espresso contains a higher caffeine content. According to consumer reports, espresso usually has 63 mg of caffeine per ounce, while regular coffee averages 12-16 mg of caffeine per ounce.

Can you Use Other Beans for Espresso?

While espresso beans are optimal for making your favorite drinks, they aren’t an absolute necessity. You can use a typical coffee bean. The critical thing to remember is to set your coffee grinder to fine when grinding.

Although any roast level can be used, it is more common that darker roasts are used. They are the darkest brown and will have an oily surface.

Dark roast coffee will also have the least acidity and the heaviest body compared to the other roast levels. Many people do prefer a medium roast, though. There is no wrong way, really; make it how you like.

Using a dark roast regular coffee beans when making espresso is better because they have the heaviest body.

Arabica Beans vs. Robust Beans for Espresso

The type of coffee bean will play a role in the flavor and body of your coffee. Choosing the best coffee beans will ensure your coffee is consistently good. I always recommend using high-quality Arabica beans when brewing coffee. 

To know why Arabica is considered the best, we first need to understand why Robusta is considered less superior. It all comes down to taste; Robusta doesn’t taste as good. It’s a bit woodier. However, it’s a much hardier plant than Arabica. 

Coffee made with Robusta beans can taste stronger and earthier. If you like your coffee to boost you in the morning, you’ll be happy to hear Robusta contains about double the amount of caffeine than Arabica. Traditionally though, Robusta has been used in many Italian espressos.

How to Make Espresso with Regular Coffee Beans?

To create an espresso from coffee beans with an espresso machine, you first have to grind the coffee beans with a coffee grinder. If you think you can simply purchase pre-ground coffee, think again. To read why coffee grinders are essential when brewing, click here. 

Coffee has to be ground into tiny grains, so when the espresso machine forces the water through the coffee under pressure, there is resistance from the finely ground coffee. This is how the intense flavor (and that little tan-colored layer called Crema) are created.

The optimum extraction time for espresso is 25 to 30 seconds.

How do You Grind Coffee Beans to Make Espresso?

If you have a bag of coffee beans and want to make them into an espresso, you can only grind them. Think of lemonade. You would not get lemonade if you had a bunch of lemons and just poured water over them. It’s the same for coffee. Instead of squeezing the coffee beans, you have to grind them up to extract the flavor from them.

If you have a coffee grinder, great, you need to grind your coffee fine like salt (not as fine as a powder, and not as coarse as granulated sugar, just in the middle). Only grind as much as you need for the espresso you’re making now. Brewing espresso with freshly ground coffee is unnecessary, but it tastes much better.

How to Make Espresso with Coffee Grounds?

If you have no choice but to buy pre-ground coffee, look for “espresso ground” or “fine” on the bag, like these Illy Classico Espresso Beans. French Press or coarse-ground coffee will let the water through the coffee too quickly, and you’ll get a thin, grassy-tasting brown liquid, not a tasty espresso.

Related Reading: What is the Right Way to Grind Coffee Beans?

How do You Make Espresso with an Espresso Machine?

If you’re lucky enough to have an espresso machine and finely ground beans, you can put them in your device and pull an espresso. To pull one double espresso, you want to take between 15 and 18 grams of ground coffee (if it doesn’t hold that much, fill it till it’s full) and put it into the basket in the handle.

You then use the little tamp you will have gotten with your espresso machine to compact the grounds in the basket. Once this is done, the handle goes back into the espresso machine, press the button, and outcomes the espresso.

Your espresso should take between 25 – 30 seconds to run through. If it comes out quicker than 25 seconds, grind your coffee beans a bit finer next time. If it’s too slow, grind your coffee a little coarser next time.

Still having trouble with the espresso running too slow? And you’re compacting that coffee with every muscle you have (go easy, don’t press down so hard)? Give the water a chance to get through the coffee and into your cup.

Our Top Picks For Espresso Machines

BEST For Value

De’Longhi Stilosa

BEST Overall

Breville Bambino Plus

How to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine?

There are still options if you’ve managed to get your coffee ground but need an espresso machine. Although, it will taste different from an espresso you would get from your favorite coffee shop.

The closest things I’ve found to an espresso machine I can use at home are a Moka pot or a Brikka. You can buy these on Amazon, and they’re around $20 to $50. Here is the Moka I use and love, and here is an excellent Brikka. To learn more about your preference, check out our article, Brikka vs. Moka: Which Unit Is Better for You? 

To make an espresso with a Moka pot, unscrew the bottom and fill it with water. I prefer to use hot water, but you can use cold and heat it on a cooktop.

In the middle of a Moka pot, you’ll find a little basket similar to the one you see in the handle of an espresso machine. Once the water is in the bottom and the coffee is in the middle, place the jug on the top and then on the cooktop. Again, around 15 to 18 grams of ground coffee here is about right.

The heat from the boiling water forces the water up through the coffee grounds. You’ll see espresso come out of the top and into the jug. Once you have the quantity you’re looking for, take it off the heat, and you have your espresso (be careful not to burn yourself, it will be hot!).

Don’t have Any Equipment and Want an Espresso?

So, you’ve got a bag of beans and no grinding or brewing equipment at all. Is there anything you can do with your beans? Well, you could try crushing them in a pestle and mortar or sticking them in a blender, then making some kind of filter coffee. But I wouldn’t recommend going that route. Your coffee is going to be pretty disgusting that you’re probably not going to want to drink it.

If you’re in this unfortunate situation, give your beans away to someone who you know will use them, and go to your favorite coffee shop. It’s best to spend your hard-earned cash on an espresso made in a costly espresso machine by an expert. It’ll be far less disappointing!

Final Thoughts

The espresso machine is one of my favorite brewing methods and is great at making all sorts of drinks, including my choice, the latte.

Whether you enjoy a shot of espresso, pour-over coffee, or your drip coffee maker, choosing the right type of bean will elevate the taste and body of your favorite cup of coffee.

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