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What’s the difference between coffee beans and espresso beans? Is there one?

The short answer to this question is that there is no actual difference. You could theoretically make coffee from beans meant for espresso or vice versa.

Where things differ is in the roasting style. Beans meant for espresso are generally much darker roasted than those meant for drip or pour over.

When you put beans under pressure to make espresso, the flavors become more intense and pronounced. A good roaster can extract a great espresso from even a light roast — and many now are! Historically, however, many roasters found light roasts showed more faults, so they preferred to use darker roasts to showcase the smoky, caramelized sugar notes that most of us now associate with classic, Italian-style espresso.

At the end of the day, though, there really isn’t a difference. A coffee bean is a coffee bean, after all. Labeling the beans as meant for drip coffee or as meant for espresso is just a recommendation from the coffee roaster as to which method they suggest using to get the most flavor out of the beans. But feel free to use any coffee roast any way you see fit. In the end, it’s completely up to your tastes.