Why are certain coffee beans labeled for espresso?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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#1: Post by kinda-niche »

Why do so many roasters (including third wave specialty) label certain set of their bean offerings as "espresso"? Does this concern the roast profile in any way, and if so, could you elaborate? One would imagine one can blindly dial in pretty much any bag of beans for espresso, so I'm trying to understand what is so special about espresso roasts.

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#2: Post by Doolittlej »

You are correct, there is no such thing as espresso roast. There are some beans that work better as an espresso and have a wider sweet spot for dialing in. At times, roasters will identify those as espresso roast. Among lower quality roasters, espresso roast refers to full city or beyond and doesn't tell you if it makes a good espresso at all. I appreciate it when the roaster will put info on the page that tells how they make espresso with a bean (aka: 20 grams in 35 grams out gave ....)

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#3: Post by Jeff »

Darker roasts tend to emphasize the more classic espresso flavors, "chocolate and nuts", which, for many coffees, are roast flavors.

As noted by Doolittlej, there may also be some selection of beans involved, or blending, with a coffee labeled "for espresso". This may be for classic flavor profiles, ease of extraction, "forgiveness" with extraction, or whatever the blender/roaster believes increases their profitability ("reputation" is an aspect, but. as a business, bottom line is the driver).

Lighter roasts tend not to have many of these flavors. Additionally, lighter roasts are often more challenging to extract well. Put a "drip" roast of today into an espresso machine and you are likely to get out what one reviewer has called "third-wave orange juice" for many years -- lots of acid.

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#4: Post by jpender »

It is not especially uncommon to find a roaster offering the same beans in two roasts, one designed for espresso and the other for drip or other brewing methods. Make of that what you will.

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#5: Post by mathof »

Tim Wendelboe says he develops his coffee slightly longer when roasting for espresso. Presumably that is to make it easier to extract. Users of high-extraction kit (eg, precision baskets, large flat burr grinders, flow profiling machines) will be able to get good results from roasts labelled filter, but they don't need to be told that.

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#6: Post by Randy G. »

There are a lot of reasons and some theories about that. A number of good ones precede my post here.

One theory is that people not so well involved with the world of coffee and make espresso at home believe (or were told at one time) that dark, oily beans are for espresso. Possibly from nothing more than the label stating "espresso roast" on the bin at the supermarket. You know the bin; the one with so much built up oil on the inside of the plastic that it is difficult to see the beans. "This must be for espresso- it says so right here." While there are good, dark roasted coffees, those are not among that group. Did you know that some of those store displays have an internal device that blows a coffee aroma into the aisle to entice buyers? [play Steppenwolf's "The Pusher" here]

A good number among that group have an espresso setup at home that even at full retail would not buy replacement burrs for many of our grinders. An $89 espresso machine and a $39 grinder can be fed just about anything and the product will differ only in the cost per cup. Something approaching 0% of those people have tasted 'real' espresso to even know the difference. And those who enjoy hot coffee milkshakes as well. And all bets are off for those consumers who grind their coffee in the tall, red grinders in the store. Lift the lid on one of these and look inside to see why.
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#7: Post by cafeIKE »

kinda-niche wrote:Why do so many roasters (including third wave specialty) label certain set of their bean offerings as "espresso"?
Marketing. Many's the time I've been told the difference is the label.

Six nines of coffee drinkers and espresso drinkers don't know diddly, and even less about coffee. They would never purchase the outside their comfort zone.

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#8: Post by chanty 77 replying to cafeIKE »

Over the last # of years, I have gone way out of what *would* have been my comfort zone to realize I love more fruit in my drink than I thought I ever would. Yet I do like certain comfort beans yet (Big Trouble, Gradient, Barrington Gold). I just can't fit in the so called "box" anymore. I probably have gone from years ago darker roasts to solely Mediums now.

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#9: Post by malling »

In Scandinavia it's common to see roasters offering the same beans with two roast profiles or beans they think suit a specific method best, Coffee collective, Wendelboe and April of the more known have a very distinctive filter and espresso offerings and generally advise you follow them. La Cabra and Coffea Circulor on the other hand doesn't and those are some of my other favourite roasters in my country.

Either they believe it doesn't work well or it's simply because it's hard extracting the "filter" labeled coffee well, I often had a version of both so it's not just a different label although I suspect that it is indeed for other roaster where I frankly could neither see or taste a difference. The "filter" is often far more challenging requires a machine that can profile and a more unimodal burrset to actually get tasty shot out from them and often also longer ratio and shots tend to not be as eye candy, their espresso roast typically is easier to dial in, less prone for error and you can pull them on most everything and as some say are typically slightly more developed this can actually be tasted in cupping.

But really you can fundamentally use all of it for everything I often done exactly just that. Right now I'm actually drinking a box from Coffee collective with two different processing methods and they work great for everything.

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#10: Post by Ypuh »

In our country the more premium roasters (e.g. €35/kg an up) do this as well; offering the same bean in filter and espresso roast level. I'm quite deep into the rabbit hole, but never really manage to extract the filter roast levels that well. My equipment is top-end, but simply not that suited for lighter roasts.

To be fair; I don't think I even like that direction of taste. You move from thick and creamy syrup to some funky flavours that some might say (a bit exaggerated) have little to do with coffee anymore. I do not like dark roast anymore, but espresso-roast from a good roaster usually means light-medium, mediumish, where filter is really pale. When roasters don't differentiate between the two of those, they usually roast a bit more on the darker side anyway.
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