I’ve found that the simple questions asked by beginners are usually very common. Most beginners have the same questions.
For instance, at the store you will see all the big brand ground coffee containers and near the top shelf in inevitably a group of coffees labeled Espresso. In most cases these are perfectly fine to be used in an espresso machine but the ground coffee from the big brands are going to be ground to coarse for your machine not to mention the flavor is just not going to be up to snuff.
If you are one of those people wondering what coffee to use in an espresso machine then keep this in mind. An espresso machine will make excellent coffee (espresso) from freshly ground beans. Anything you buy at the store that is pre-ground will not be fresh compared to buying whole beans and grinding the beans yourself at home.
When beans are ground the oils are released. It is the oils that makes espresso great and in many cases it’s the oils that make french press coffee great too. The problem with these oils is that once they are released they start evaporating and oxidizing. In layman’s terms the flavor of the oils loses it’s potency in short order.
If you use a standard drip coffee maker you may not be able to tell the difference but in a fancy espresso machine you need to use the correct beans otherwise the quality of your espresso will be noticeably lower.
Yes, you can buy the espresso grind found at the supermarket but the better option is to grind your own espresso with a quality coffee bean grinder. I have a post on hand crank grinders here. Just make sure to use a coffee bean that has been roasted quite dark as this is the traditional way of drinking espresso.
Whatever you do, don’t use coarse grind in an espresso machine or a standard pre-ground coffee like Folgers. The final product will just not turn out right at all – no matter how expensive your espresso machine was when you purchased it.