Typical Espresso Beans?

doni90

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Dec 2, 2014
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My wife and I got an espresso machine a while ago as a gift. I just unpacked it two days ago, and I've begun making espresso... I love it!

One question, though. There are no "coffee stores" where I live, so the coffee available is kind of limited to what you'd normally find in an ordinary grocery store (flavored beans, Columbian, French, etc).

I know the grind (i.e. really fine) is what makes espresso into what it is, but at the same time I'm wondering if the type of beans matter? I've just been buying a standard Columbian dark roast and grinding it into espresso at the store.

Is this Columbian dark roast similar to "regular" espresso flavors you'd normally find in respectable espresso serving establishments? Or what should I go for? (Preferably something I can find at my local grocery store - I like espresso, but not so much that I'd drive for an hour to find a specialty store).

Thanks
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shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Bean origin/roast level/freshness are the most important factors to look for in coffee for espresso. The term "espresso bean" really is overused and ridiculous as any coffee can be used for any brew method. Just that some bean origins/roast levels are better suited for espresso. I personally have found most Colombian coffees to be quite boring for espresso and is more than likely used as a base in blends much like many Brazilian varieties are. Due to the pressure created when extracting whatever coffee you use will be amplified and any flaws are quite apparent.

For espresso you really should seek out a roaster or order online as there are literally tons of options available.

Once you experiment you can break it down into single origin, blends, etc. Single origin means one particular coffee is roasted to bring out the best flavor profile a particular bean may have and will stand on its own quite well. A blend is 2 or more coffees that might be inferior alone, but go really well when paired with a bit of this/a bit of that. Some are blended before roasting and some after. Some people think a single origin coffee is one-sided and can't possibly offer a truly outstanding profile, but I beg to differ. My favorite coffee for espresso of all time is a single origin Brazil Ipanema that the roaster splits into a 50/50 mix and roasts half a bit lighter to highlight the acidity and nuttiness and the other half is roasted a bit darker to bring out the sweetness, then blended afterward. Technically it's a single origin coffee as it is one bean variety used for the batch. Of all the nationally recognized artisan roasted coffees I've sampled (and there have been LOTS) this is still my favorite, is local to me and very affordable. Even used it commercially with fantastic results.
 
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IDrinkPurelyCoffee

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Some thoughts on making espresso: use enough coffee to fill the tamper properly, darker roasts should work well, but you might note some unpleasant flavors from time to time (some roasts aren't best suited for espresso), ... the best thing you can do is try to find espresso made & served in a coffee shop while you're on trips, so you can discover the kind of flavors that you like & what constitutes espresso.

I have a friend in the UK whose wife gave him an espresso maker, too. But his espresso is weak and insipid, without real body, depth or flavor. It's not his fault, he has never drunk good espresso, I think. But he uses a supermarket pre-ground espresso coffee, not sure which one.

Oh, and if you're still not successful, buy some online pre-ground espresso, and see what shots you can pull. It does take practice, and a certain amount of patience! Good luck!
 

Coffeefix

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Dec 17, 2014
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Best tip: save up and buy a grinder.
Every espresso machine likes the coffee ground a little different, and every shop sets the grinder a little differently!
Start of with a blend, try a well known Italian brand and go from there. Don't start playing with expensive single variety Arabica beans until you start making decent shots.
IMO espresso coffee does not benefit from being roasted too dark or ground too fine - I just don't see really dark oily roasts used in Italy for instance.
Try this with the grind - a good starting point for espresso is found like this: Grind up some beans until you think it looks about right - take a couple of shots in the palm of your hand, squeeze it by making a fist then open your hand out flat. Your hand will be a little messy but you should find a lump of coffee on your hand that gently falls apart with one or maybe two cracks.
Pack plenty of this grind into the filter and give it a try. Time it coming through - hopefully around 25 seconds for a shot just under a fluid ounce, say 25ml in metric. If it's a bit fast the "cream" will be pale and the taste probably bitter (under extracted) - adjust the grind a little finer. If it's slow, the cream will be much darker, and you'll probably find a strong burnt flavour (over extracted).
Somewhere in between you should find it tastes pretty fine! Look for a rich crema, mid Browns, a "marbled" appearance and you won't be far out. If you add sugar to your espresso the crema should be thick enough to support it before it slowly folds down through - a good indication that you have extracted all of those lovely aromatic oils.
A common quote on the web: 7 grams of espresso coffee, 9 bar of water pressure at 89 degrees C for 26 seconds/26 ml = a perfect shot. No, it doesn't! But it's not a bad place to start...
Ground espresso coffee is considered best when used within 40 minutes (buy an on-demand grinder if possible).
Clean the group and filter holder regularly - old coffee and oils ruin the flavour.
All coffee and machines are different so experiment with the above "rule".
Keep your shots small, experiment with shorter "ristretto" shots rather than long.
Trust your senses, if it tastes good, it probably is.
If you figure this lot out, rest assured that you are on a road to finding espresso perfection that eventually leads to tamping pressure, weather conditions, PID systems... Don't become a coffee "snob" though, please.
 
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