What are espresso beans?
Let me break it to you – there is no such thing as espresso beans or espresso blend. So why do we label coffee that way?
Espresso is a method of coffee extraction in which hot water under pressure passes rapidly through the grounds to extract the oils and other aromatic compounds from the coffee. Unlike other brewing methods such as Chemex, Aeropress, French Press that rely on gravity or gentle force for extraction, Espresso is nearly 10 times more concentrated. Therefore, you can add water to make an Americano or milk to make a cappuccino/Latte to the espresso.
So, why do we not have “French Press beans” or “Aeropress blend”? Espresso blend or espresso beans exist to accentuate the characteristics of espresso – the crema, the full body and balance. Although it is less common now in the world of specialty coffee, espresso blends usually contain Robusta beans that give espresso a fuller body and thicker crema.
Espresso is a volatile process. Slight variance in pressure, time or temperature might give very different results. That is why it is safer to use a blend as it maximises the chance of obtaining a consistent and balanced coffee. Coffee roasters have figured out a roasting style that works well for espresso – a longer development time or a certain development curve to achieve that flavor complexity, body, fruitiness and balance. In blends, they don’t just experiment with various origins but with different processing methods as well. You can add some Monsoon Malabar for heavy body and incredible crema or some naturals for more fruit-like sweetness or throw in some Ethiopian for acidity and floral aromas. Epiphany, a beautiful blend of Brazilian naturals and Indian washed makes for sweet & creamy espresso!
Nobody will send you to jail if you brew your espresso beans in a V60 or Aeropress or any other brewing method. It all comes down to what you like. Some coffee enthusiasts prefer single origin beans for espressos as they enjoy those nuanced characteristics unique to each coffee.
A curious coffee drinker with an acute bent for finding the best cup of coffee around, she went all the way to Rome (the espresso land) to do SCA Level 1 Barista Certification. In the last 4 years in specialty coffee, she has trained Baristas, tasted more than 100 different coffees, interacted with all kinds of coffee lovers and made so many cappuccinos! Her favorites include coffees from Ethiopia and Indian naturals.