Hi, I’m Jon, a coffee and espresso lover. I brew fresh coffee and espresso daily, and I know all the key differences between espresso and coffee beans. So I made this guide to help explain their differences.
In this article we will go over the following:
Let’s dive in.
- Espresso beans are roasted longer and at higher temperatures than coffee beans. This removes more oils and makes the beans have a richer and bolder flavor.
- Espresso beans are best for high-pressure brewing (i.e., espresso machines).
- Coffee beans range from light to dark roasts and have shiny/oily surfaces. They are best for brewed coffee drinks.
- Espresso beans are best for brewing espresso drinks, and coffee beans are best for coffee drinks. But you can swap beans if you’re in a pinch.
Espresso Beans and Coffee Bean Differences
Here is an overview of the key difference between espresso and coffee beans.
|Best for||Espresso shots, Americanos, Lattes, Cappuccinos, Mochas, Flat Whites, etc.||Drip coffee, French press, cold brew|
|Caffeine content||Less (per bean)More (per drink volume)80 mg per 2 oz||More (per bean)Less (per drink volume)120 mg per 12 oz|
|Flavor profile||Bolder, more concentrated||Milder, less concentrated|
The preparation of espresso beans and coffee beans is mostly the same. You grind both types of beans. But for espresso, you typically use a finer grind than for coffee (which is best with a medium or coarse grind).
The difference in preparation lies in the brewing method. Espresso beans are best for high-pressure brewing (i.e., espresso machines). Coffee beans are best for brewed coffee drinks from a French press and drip coffee machine.
If you are using an espresso machine (which requires a finer grind), then you will want to grind your espresso beans as finely as possible. For drip coffee makers or French presses, most presses need a medium to coarse grind.
Espresso beans are roasted for a longer time and at higher temperatures than coffee beans. The roasting process removes more oils from the coffee beans, making them have a bolder flavor.
Coffee beans come in a wide range of roasts, from light to dark. Light roasts are brighter, more acidic, and have more caffeine. 
Dark roast coffee beans are smoother, smokier, and have less caffeine. Espresso beans are darker than coffee beans as they are roasted longer.
The way you grind the beans is another important difference between coffee and espresso beans. You should always use a fine grind for espresso beans, which is what high-pressure espresso machines need.
For coffee beans, the coffee grind size depends on the brewing method. For drip brewers, a medium grind usually works best. For French presses, I recommend a coarse grind. Otherwise, the grounds will get through the press’s filter and into your drink.
Espresso beans are roasted for longer at higher temperatures and use a finer grind size, resulting in more concentrated flavors.
It might surprise you, but espresso beans have less caffeine than coffee beans. Since they are roasted at higher temperatures and longer times, more of their natural caffeine is “burnt” off. 
But since espresso beans use finer grinds and higher pressure brewing methods than coffee beans, an espresso drink yields more caffeine per volume than coffee drinks.
Coffee beans are typically roasted for less time and use a coarser grind size, resulting in lower caffeine content (per volume) and milder flavors in the coffee drink.
Amount of Natural Oils
Espresso beans have fewer natural oils than coffee beans. Espresso beans lose more of their natural oils in their higher temperature and longer roasting times (which also gives them a stronger flavor).
Coffee beans, on the other hand, retain more of their natural oils due to the shorter roast time and lower temperatures.
If you compare espresso and coffee beans side-by-side, you will notice that coffee beans are shinier due to having more oils.
How You Use Them
Of course, how you use coffee and espresso beans differ.
Espresso beans are best for espresso-based drinks like:
- Flat Whites
- Espresso shots
The crema (a flavorful froth that rises to the top) that brewing espresso produces is creamy and rich, making it perfect for these beverages.
On the other hand, coffee beans are typically best for brewed coffee drinks like cold brew, French press, traditional coffee, and pour-over coffees.
Espresso beans generally are more expensive than coffee beans since they require a longer roasting process and higher temperatures.
Coffee beans tend to be cheaper because they need less processing.
Espresso Vs. Coffee Grounds
As you might have gathered by now, espresso grounds are finer than those used for regular coffee, while regular coffee grounds are coarser.
Espresso grounds should generally be very fine, like powder, while regular coffee grounds can range from medium to coarse.
This difference in texture is necessary because espresso requires a higher pressure of water to properly extract, while regular coffee uses lower-pressure drip methods.
Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans Vs. Coffee Beans
As you know by now, espresso beans undergo a longer roast at higher temperatures than regular coffee beans.
This yields a stronger, more concentrated flavor. When coated in chocolate, the bitterness of the espresso is balanced out by the sweetness of the chocolate, creating a unique and delicious taste.
Coffee beans, on the other hand, are typically ground and brewed to make only coffee and are not usually coated in chocolate.
That said, you can still find chocolate-covered coffee beans at a few retailers; they are just not as common and typically use dark roast beans. They are chewier than chocolate-covered espresso beans and are less bitter.
Here are some common questions about the differences between coffee and espresso beans.
What’s the difference between espresso and coffee beans?
The key difference between espresso and coffee beans is their roast time. Espresso beans are roasted at higher temperatures for longer, giving them a bolder flavor and more concentrated profile.
Coffee beans are typically roasted for a shorter time and at lower temperatures, resulting in a less intense flavor with lower caffeine content.
Additionally, espresso beans are best suited for high-pressure brewing (i.e., espresso machines), while coffee beans are best for brewed coffee drinks (from a French press or traditional coffee machine).
Can I use coffee beans to make espresso?
Yes, you can use coffee beans to make espresso. It is possible to use a coarser grind of coffee beans when using an espresso machine.
The result may be slightly less concentrated and intense than that of espresso beans, but it may still be satisfactory enough for your taste.
When using coffee beans to make espresso, you should use a higher temperature setting on the machine and increase the pressure to get a more concentrated shot.
Can I use espresso beans to make coffee?
Yes, you can use espresso beans to make coffee. While espresso beans are traditionally used for making espresso shots, you can also use them for brewed coffee drinks.
You will need to grind the beans more coarsely than you would for espresso drinks and also reduce the water temperature on your brewing machine.
This will help create a less intense flavor profile and lower caffeine content than an espresso shot. You can still get a great cup of coffee from espresso beans with the right brewing method.
Are espresso beans stronger than coffee beans?
Yes, espresso beans are generally stronger than coffee beans.
Espresso beans are roasted for a longer time and at higher temperatures than coffee beans, which results in more concentrated flavors and higher caffeine content.
Additionally, espresso beans use a finer grind size than coffee beans, increasing their flavor intensity.
Do espresso or coffee beans have more caffeine?
Espresso beans have a higher concentration of caffeine than coffee beans.
This is because espresso beans are roasted for a longer time at higher temperatures, which removes more oils from the bean and increases the caffeine content.
Additionally, the finer grind used in espresso beans also helps to concentrate the flavor and increase the caffeine content.
On average, 2 oz espresso shots contain around 60-80 mg of caffeine per serving, and a 12 oz cup of coffee has 100-140 mg.
The main differences between espresso and coffee beans are the roasting time, grind size, caffeine content, natural oils, and best drink use.
Espresso beans are typically darker and stronger than coffee beans as they are roasted for longer at higher temperatures and have a finer grind size.
Espresso drinks also have more caffeine content than coffee (per volume) due to the higher roasting temperatures and grind size. Finally, espresso beans are best for making espresso shots, while coffee beans are best suited for brewed coffee drinks.