Can You Make Espresso With Regular Coffee Grounds?

Can You Make Espresso With Regular Coffee

Quite a common question in the coffee world, individuals wonder everyday if they can make espresso with their regular drip coffee grind.

The shortest answer is yes, but it’s not going to taste right.

Of course you can do it but no one will recommend it because using regular coffee beans in an espresso machine will leave the drinker with one “sour” or “bitter” cup of coffee. The grind is simply not suited for pressurized brew techniques.

See this post for an explanation of sour vs bitter coffee.

The longer answer, the one which explains the differences between espresso and filtered coffee and ends with a “no” is this:

Filtered Coffee Vs. Espresso

What exactly are the differences between filtered coffee and espresso?

Well, for starters filtered coffee is most commonly brewed using a drip coffee machine, a pour over method, or via a french press.

Espresso, in the other pot, is brewed using an espresso machine which brews with much less water and under great pressure.

An espresso machine, unlike a drip coffee maker or a french press, brews coffee very quickly by forcing high pressured water through the coffee grinds at a high temperature. This action produces the concentrated, often referred to as “syrupy” or “thick,” espresso.

The high pressure also causes the formation of crema which is impossible to get with any other coffee brewing technique. You can see this post for more details on how crema is made.

The espresso can be consumed straight just like black filtered coffee, though it is also used in popular drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, where milk and other flavorings accompany it.

Filtered Coffee in an Espresso Machine?

So, can you put normal coffee grounds in an espresso machine?

The answer is yes, but you shouldn’t. Just like before.

Overall, a coffee bean is a coffee bean, and therefore you can use any type of bean you desire in your espresso machine.

That doesn’t mean you will want to though.

Overall, espresso beans are labeled as such because the producer certifies and has tested that the flavor of the beans is better accented by the espresso machine’s brewing method.

Espresso beans are also often higher quality, which is why they may be slightly more expensive.

This higher quality means the beans will also probably be a little thicker. This thickness allows the beans to hold up under the immense pressure of the water in the espresso machine. Remember, this water is highly pressurized, and just any old filtered coffee bean may break or crumble during the pulling process.

How About Espresso Grind in a Regular Coffee Maker?

So, is it okay to put ground espresso beans into a regular coffee maker.

Yes, it may just take some getting used to.

Espresso beans tend to be a little oilier than any other type of coffee bean. This concentration of oil and the fine grind means that the cup of coffee you brew in your regular coffee maker with espresso grounds may be overly “bitter” for your tastes.

Overall, whether you are trying your first cup or perfecting your latest brew, coffee is meant to be interesting and playful. In a way, brewing coffee is very much an art form. Just as much as cooking or even brewing beer.

All this however has to do with the grounds themselves.

Let’s now consider the roast profile.

Why Would You Use an Espresso Roast in a Drip Coffee Maker?

It may seem strange to think about putting espresso beans in a regular coffee maker since coffee bags all around the world are labeled “espresso beans” and “regular filter beans”, but there is in fact no major differences between the two coffee’s.

Sure one may be better for espresso than drip but the difference isn’t that great.

The only significant difference between bags labeled “espresso” and bags labeled “regular” is that espresso beans have been prepared in a way that supports the brewing process of an espresso machine.

At the end of the day, a coffee bean is still a coffee bean, and there are no differences between the beans in an espresso bag and the beans in a regular coffee bag.

The main reason coffee drinkers opt to brew espresso roasts rather than medium or light roasts out of their drip coffee makers is the difference in each flavor profile.

Regular Coffee’s Flavor Profile

Coffee brewed using regular filtered coffee beans tends to have a mild intensity. This flavor profile is sometimes referred to as balanced or regular.

This balanced flavor profile is loved by many drinkers because it makes it easy to achieve consistent results using the same machine and ingredients.

Regular coffee beans can be used by a wide variety of coffee machines and makers. These machines include everything from drip coffee makers to the pour-over to the french press.

However, regular coffee beans are not recommended for use in an espresso machine, as the beans size and quality may not stand up to the espresso brewing process.

Espresso’s Flavor Profile

Espresso beans and roasts tend to have a very intense flavor. This profile is sometimes referred to as strong or heavy.

This intense flavor profile is loved by many drinkers because it requires a bit of work but produces the most potent cup of coffee when correctly brewed.

Espresso beans can be used in almost every coffee machine. These machines include the espresso machine, the french press, the pour-over, and the common drip coffee maker.

Espresso beans can be used in every brewing situation because, the beans are produced at a higher quality which accepts any brewing process.

So Can You Make Espresso With a Light Roast?

Making espresso or an espresso based beverage using a light roast will produce very disappointing results for those who are looking for the oil and velvet richness espresso normally contains.

They will however be rewarded usually with increase in fruitiness and extra caffeine as these are common characteristics of lightly roasted coffee beans.

Looking further at at the flavor profile and characteristics of a light roast will help to explain why.

Light Roast Characteristics

The lightest of roasts end up appearing the palest or the lightest because they are in fact roasted for shorter periods of time than other roasts. The longer beans are roasted the darker they appear.

The “first crack” is the instance that coffee beans first start to experience the results of the roasting process. This process results in the cracking of the bean’s shell.

Light roast beans are hardly never heated past their first-crack.

Light Roast Flavor Profile

A coffee’s caffeine is minimized during the roasting process as the heat extracts much of the substance. Due to their limited exposure to the roasting process, lightly roasted coffee beans contain the most caffeine.

Lightly roasted coffee beans are also the driest of all the coffee beans. This dryness leads to lower oil levels and an earthy taste.

Since, the roasting process also distances coffee beans from their natural state, lightly roasted beans are also the most natural form of coffee beans. These more natural beans provide a more bitter taste, as they are closer to their green and fruity stages of life.

What You Should Expect Using a Light Roast for Espresso?

Light roast is not recommended for use as espresso because its flavor profile and characteristics clash with that of normal espresso beans.

Due to its overall dryness, lack of oils, and earthy taste, light roast will produce a flat shot of espresso.

Medium roasts or dark roasts are better suited for espresso, as their flavor profiles better match those of the espresso. The oils in a medium roast or a dark roast along with their mild bitterness provides and intense but solid shot of espresso.

Though, not usually suitable for traditional espresso, a light roast can provide a great pick-me-up as its caffeine levels out match any other roast.

Light roasted beans ground very fine can also be used to make an interesting alternative to espresso in a french press, moka pot, or an Aeropress.

Let’s compare.

How To Brew an Espresso Like Drink With a French Press

  1. Grind Your Beans

The first step to brewing espresso with your french press is to grind your dark roasted espresso beans.

It is important to make sure that when using a french press to make espresso roasted coffee that you get coarse grounds rather than fine grounds.

Using fine grounds can cause some of the beans to contaminate the coffee resulting in a muddied beverage.

If you do want to use fine grounds like espresso then you will probably do a fast brew and then strain your final coffee out again. See this post for info on double filtering french press coffee.

  1. Boil Water

The most important thing to remember when brewing coffee is to make sure your water reaches the brewing threshold. It may be handy to have a kitchen thermometer nearby when brewing by this method.

The brewing threshold for your coffee should be somewhere between 195 – 205 degrees fahrenheit or 93 – 96 degrees celsius. Let the water sit for 30 seconds.

  1. Add The Grounds

The next step in the process is to add the coffee grounds and a little of the water into the press. You should notice immediate smells and reactions between the two substances.

  1. Fill With Water

Adding the rest of the water is next. At this point, you also need to make sure you stir the grounds as they are brewing. It is important to maintain a balance when stirring; not to strong and not to weak.

  1. Let it Steep

Four minutes is the recommended amount of time needed during the brewing process of espresso with a french press. Any shorter or any longer could result in a bitter brew of espresso.

  1. Press the Plunger

The final step of brewing espresso with a french press call for the same grace used in step 4. The plunger must be pushed in smoothly but gently.

If the plunger stops at any point along the way it should be brought back up and then forced back down slowly.

  1. Pour the Espresso

It is important to pour the espresso right away to avoid bitterness.

Other Methods For Brewing Espresso

Besides the french press which makes something closer to strong coffee, other methods for brewing espresso without an espresso machine are also available and perhaps better.

The moka pot and the aeropress are also common alternatives to brewing espresso with its namesake machine.

You can see this post for more on how to brew coffee in a moka pot and this post for more on using an Aeropress.

If you want to experiment with putting regular coffee beans in an espresso machine or espresso grounds in a french press, then go ahead. It’s your coffee maker, and your beans, enjoy the process of experimentation!

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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