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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Non-espresso...  
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nkbsbl
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Posted Thu Jan 2, 2014, 1:04pm
Subject: Non-espresso beans?
 

I'm still new to this, and so far I've only used beans labeled as "espresso". (I have an Elektra SemiAutomatica machine and Baratza Vario grinder).

Is it possible to make an espresso with other kinds of beans (e.g., standard coffee beans)? Would the result be too weak? Does anyone ever do this? Thanks!
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CMIN
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Posted Thu Jan 2, 2014, 2:43pm
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

You can use any bean, there's a misconception that people must use "espresso beans" for espresso lol, generally products labled as "espresso" blends are darker, and others call their dark blends whatever as well. Long as the beans are fresh, doesn't matter.
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Burner0000
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Posted Thu Jan 2, 2014, 2:52pm
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

Yes you can!  I exclusively use single origin coffee for espresso.  Usually bags labelled "Espresso beans" are blended and roasted specifically to shine when brewed as espresso. The main reason I abandoned blends (even tho some out there were awesome) was consistency.  You won't always get the same amount of each blended bean in each brew.  With your favorite single origin each shot will taste the same. :)  I am a big fan of Full City - Vienna roasts (Medium - Medium Dark).  Brazil's, Sumatra's and Columbia's make good single origin espresso due to it's larger body.  If a coffee brews "weak" it's usually a brew technique issue.
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qualin
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Posted Fri Jan 3, 2014, 3:14am
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

I just thought I'd add in something here...

I've noticed that some (Not all) single origin coffees can have a fairly weak flavor. Especially if they have a light roast. They may make for great straight shots, but could
demand an aggressive extraction if you enjoy drinking cappuccinos or lattes. Again, that's a matter of personal taste. Try as many different single origin coffees as you can
and maybe you'll find one with a flavor profile that you'll really enjoy. I'm personally a big fan of Ethiopian Yirgecheffe coffees myself.

Conventional espresso blends have a very aggressive flavor profile and tend to be dark roasted, in some cases to the point where the beans are shiny. When
they get to that point, they are bordering on being charcoal and the roast flavors are immense, usually dominating over the natural flavors of the bean itself.
I personally cannot drink straight shots made with this kind of coffee.

Now in my humble opinion I don't think that conventional dark roasted espresso blends make for good straight shots, unless you like drinking that. They do
make for good milk drinks though. You can use a fairly tame extraction and it'll still shine in a milk drink. (Which is why a lot of shops use 14 gram doses with
this kind of coffee.)

If you are anything like me and have your coffee first thing in the morning before anything else, a conventional espresso blend will wake up your taste buds fast.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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paulnewport
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Posted Mon Jan 6, 2014, 6:18am
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

Of course, you can go with other beans too. Espresso is not a bean, but it says bean blend or roasting level to produce perfect espresso. Make sure beans are fresh to brew.
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NobbyR
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Posted Mon Jan 6, 2014, 7:26am
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

Even though there is an espresso roast, espresso is no variety of beans but a way of preparing coffee. You can brew espresso with any kind of coffee beans. Results may vary, i.e. not every blend tastes best as espresso.

 
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"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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Posted Mon Jan 6, 2014, 8:31am
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

NobbyR Said:

Even though there is an espresso roast, espresso is no variety of beans but a way of preparing coffee. You can brew espresso with any kind of coffee beans. Results may vary, i.e. not every blend tastes best as espresso.

Posted January 6, 2014 link

+0.95

This is a good synopsis, but could use a little filling in.

So called "espresso roasts" are almost always unsuitable for making good espresso.  Typically they're roasted to mimic espresso's punchy flavor when brewed in some other way.  Naturally, brewing them as espresso makes them too aggressive and bitter to be pleasant.  Ironic, but avoid "espresso roasts," when brewing espresso.

But there are few rules of coffee without exception.  Here:
  1. A few commercially roasted "Latin" coffees, which make okay Cafe espresso Cubano aka Cafe espresso Latino, like Las Llaves and Bustelo; and
  2. Beans from some of the Italian roasters like Lavazza and Illy who mean "espresso," when they say "espresso."

However, I strongly urge against buying canned coffee beans from any roaster; and only buying beans with a roast date (not a "use by" date) on the bag.  

Speaking of freshness, for espresso to be anything other than one-note, the beans must be ground within -- at most -- a thirty minutes of brewing, because it loses such a high percentage of delicate volatile oils so quickly.  The barista rule is 30 seconds from ringer to dinger, and from basket to gasket. That's 30 seconds from starting the grind to starting the shot.  ("Ringer" is the power button; "Dinger" is the doser's sweeper lever -- which is like a bicycle bell's lever; "Basket" is the pf basket and here includes distributing and tamping the grinds into it; and, "Gasket" is the gasket inside the group head the pf locks against).  For most of us, that kind of speed is only something to shoot for, but you get the idea.  Seconds count.  

On the basis of freshness alone, if you're not grinding your own beans you're losing a lot of what espresso has to offer.  And there are other just as compelling reasons to grind your own. One of the few hard and fast rules of coffee is that to make passable espresso, you need a decent grinder next to the machine.  No exceptions!  

Even if you're brewing pour-over or FP, the flavors the grinds bring to the pot begin to noticeably deteriorate within a two or three minutes. Grind fresh!

One more thing worth adding to Nobby's remarks is that many commercial "blends," are not only lousy for espresso, but pretty grim for any other brewing method as well.  

BDL
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TimEggers
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Posted Mon Jan 6, 2014, 10:32am
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

Reputable coffee roasters will often create blends and roasts that work best as espresso, so the espresso label can be useful.  Then again the "cheap coffee" market uses it as a sale buzz word too.

Seek out reputable roasters and talk with them, ask questions, most will be excited to help you select something to brew with.

 
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NobbyR
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Posted Mon Jan 6, 2014, 11:50pm
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

boar_d_laze Said:

So called "espresso roasts" are almost always unsuitable for making good espresso.  Typically they're roasted to mimic espresso's punchy flavor when brewed in some other way.  Naturally, brewing them as espresso makes them too aggressive and bitter to be pleasant.  Ironic, but avoid "espresso roasts," when brewing espresso.

Posted January 6, 2014 link

I partially agree. An espresso roast would never do for 3rd wave coffee, all those fruity flavors being lost. But traditional espresso used to be made fromthose beans and still is in many coffee shops around the world. It's just that most coffee gourmets don't find that very palatable.

boar_d_laze Said:

One more thing worth adding to Nobby's remarks is that many commercial "blends," are not only lousy for espresso, but pretty grim for any other brewing method as well.

Posted January 6, 2014 link

I wasn't referring to commercial blends. A blend of arabica and robusta doesn't need to be from an industrial roaster. At least here in Germany, I know a few microroasters who offer freshly roasted espresso blends like that come with a roast date and are neither burnt nor stale.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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nkbsbl
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Posted Tue Jan 7, 2014, 1:33pm
Subject: Re: Non-espresso beans?
 

Thanks to everyone for the valuable information. I'm looking forward to picking up new beans soon - and I will be trying something different. Right now I'm using Whole Foods Allegro "Espresso" beans (roasted on 12/23), but I'm not impressed at all.

If anyone has a recommendation for a local roaster in Morris County, NJ that would be much appreciated.
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