If you have an espresso machine at home, you've probably thought of using regular coffee grounds in it, especially if it's all you have left in your pantry. Can you use regular coffee instead?
The short answer is yes, but it’s not that simple. Of course, as a temporary fix, it will work.
However, there are other things you need to know before you stuff your espresso machine with regular coffee beans. So, let’s begin!
Can Regular Coffee Beans Be Used In An Espresso Machine?
You can use regular coffee grounds instead of an espresso grind. However, it will not produce the best-tasting espresso shot.
To understand why we must first discuss how the espresso machine extracts coffee from the beans.
An espresso machine is a brewing device that uses pressurized hot water into finely ground espresso coffee beans to produce strong and flavorful espresso shots.
The grind size of the coffee bean plays an integral part in the flavor of the coffee. Unlike filter coffee brewed for a few minutes, espresso machines make an espresso shot in under a minute.
So, it requires a finer, almost sugar-like grind to extract the oils and flavor of the coffee beans.
If you use a coarse grind, it'll be hard for the pressurized water to extract the coffee, which results in a weaker cup.
Why? Since the espresso process is quicker, the water needs to be in contact with more coffee.
With finely ground coffee beans, smaller gaps are created between the coffee, allowing the water to pass through them slower and more thoroughly, but at high pressure.
This lets the water absorb more flavor in a shorter span.
Store-bought ground coffee beans are often coarser than fine, which doesn't work well with the extraction process of an espresso machine.
This grind size is made for brewing filtered coffee, whose preparation method requires the beans to be submerged in the water longer.
When you use regular pre-ground coffee in making espresso, the water will pass quickly around the beans, interfering with the brewing process.
The water will then fail to absorb all the oils and flavors, resulting in a weak espresso shot that tastes watery.
There's no rule saying you should only use fine-grind coffee in an espresso machine. It still boils down to personal preference and the availability of coffee beans.
Still, remember, if you plan on using coarse or medium-grind coffee beans, you won't have a perfect espresso shot. The taste may not even come close to a shot made with an espresso bean.
If you really need an espresso shot but don't have the right grind size, a dark roast coffee can be a solution. Darker roast beans brewed in a drip coffee maker can resemble the taste of an espresso.
While it doesn't have the crema, the flavors won't be as disappointing as using a coarsely ground coffee for espresso brewing.
The impact of your grind level does not only apply in brewing espresso. It is also the same with other brewing methods, such as the traditional drip coffee machine and French press.
For example, if you use a finely ground espresso roast in your drip machine, the resulting cup will taste very bitter. It can also clog up the filter, which can be messy and harder to clean.
In some cases, it won't only be bitter, but it will also taste sour, which many coffee drinkers hate.
In a nutshell, the grind size is the most critical factor you need to know when brewing coffee. Espresso requires fine-grind beans and brewed coffee needs coarsely ground coffee beans.
What Kind Of Coffee Is Best For Espresso Machines?
Of course, you don't want to waste your new brewing device, so you want to ensure that you're making the best espresso shot every time.
Therefore, what coffee is best for a home espresso machine?
Coffee can be classified into three categories: species, grind size, and roasting process.
The coffee plant has three common varieties: Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica. Arabica beans are the best for espresso making.
We've already discussed the importance of grind size, and we know that espresso coffee needs a finer ground.
On the other hand, there are three kinds of roasts: light, medium, and dark. These can also affect the taste of your espresso.
In general, it is recommended to use darker roasts to make espresso shots. Since they're fully roasted, they can make a more powerful, flavorful, and intense shot.
If you need to learn how to find this kind of roast, many beans in your supermarket coffee aisle are packaged as espresso beans.
Compared to regular ground coffee, espresso beans are mostly made with dark roasts. These types of beans are made specifically for your espresso machine and have been fully ground.
Since they're roasted darker, they can give a different crema than other beans.
Medium-roast coffee beans can also make a good cup, but ensure it's ground fine. This coffee works well for those who love a quick caffeine hit but without the strong taste of espresso.
But if you want to get the best out of your express machine, it’s best to buy whole coffee beans and invest in a good coffee grinder.
Grinding coffee beans on your own is always the best way to make espresso. This produces a fresher cup every time.
Again, you can use any type of beans you want. The best way to find the right beans to make the perfect espresso is experimentation. Try different kinds of beans and see which one hits the spot.
Differences Between Espresso And Coffee
There are many reasons why espresso and regular coffee beans are not recommended to be used interchangeably. But here are their main differences:
The hotter the water, the faster the caffeine can be extracted from the beans. That’s why you need very hot water when making an espresso.
With a regular cup of coffee made from a pour-over, you don’t need water to be too hot. If it is, it will make the cup sour.
The Actual Coffee Grind
The main difference between espresso and a regular cup of coffee is the coffee grind size. The size of the beans has an impact on the extraction process and flavor of the resulting cup.
Since the process of making an espresso is quicker, the coffee should have finer grinds for the water to absorb all the flavors.
This process also produces more caffeine than brewing coffee in a drip coffee machine.
How To Best Use Regular Coffee In An Espresso Machine
Even though espresso machines require a different type of coffee bean, it doesn't mean that you always need to use that.
In situations where only regular coffee is available, there are still some things you can do to produce a good espresso shot. Here are some of them:
The best way to use regular coffee grounds to make espresso is by grinding them finely. So, it's best to invest in a good coffee grinder.
This device will allow any coarsely ground coffee to be used in espresso machines.
However, one thing to note: grind size matters, but it is also how the coffee is ground.
To make a great espresso shot, you need a powerful grinder that can grind the beans with more force in a shorter time.
The longer you grind the beans, the more acid will come out, making the shot taste sour.
If you don't have a grinder available, tamping your coarse beans harder can help make a better espresso.
Although tamping is an essential part of espresso making, when you do this too hard on espresso beans, the shot will turn out too bitter.
If you forcefully tamp coarse grinds, it will make it more difficult for the pressurized water to go down, allowing it to absorb more flavor.
Using Hotter Water
Another way to make regular coffee beans work in an espresso machine is by using hotter water.
Higher temperatures will extract more flavors from the coffee. Just be careful not to use something too hot, or you'll have a burnt-tasting coffee.
Out With Espresso, in With Ristretto
In some situations, you have to accept that you won't be able to make espresso, especially with the beans you have. So, brew a ristretto instead of being content with a bad espresso shot.
It's like an espresso but with a bolder and more intense flavor. And if you use coarsely ground coffee, you'll end up with a shot that tastes like an ordinary espresso.
Things To Keep In Mind
If you can, always use finely ground coffee on your espresso machine to make the most out of every espresso shot.
It's also best to use dark roast coffee, as lighter roast tends to produce a sour espresso.
Regular Coffee For Espresso Machine FAQs
Is espresso just a strong coffee?
Coffee and espresso are pretty much the same thing. The only difference is the brewing method. Because of how espresso is made, it produces a stronger and more intensely flavored cup.
Can you use regular coffee for espresso martinis?
Yes, you can. However, be sure to use dark roast coffee if you don’t have an espresso. The flavor may not be too intense, but it’s close enough.
Can you use Folgers in an espresso machine?
Folgers coffee is an instant coffee drink that can also be used for pour-overs and drip coffee makers.
While you can use this type of coffee in an espresso machine, it won't produce a good espresso shot.
Can you use espresso beans for regular coffee?
Yes, you can. However, if the espresso beans are finely ground, they might produce a bitter-tasting cup.
While you can use regular coffee in an espresso machine, it's best always to have espresso beans ready at home.
Regular pre-ground coffee won't make a good espresso, wasting your beans and effort.
If you only have regular beans, it's best to brew them in a French press or drip coffee maker for a better-tasting cup. It might not have the crema from an espresso, but it sure isn't too bitter or sour.