The first misconception is that espresso is a particular type of bean grown in a particular country. In fact, espresso can be made using virtually any type of coffee bean from any country – Sumatra, Kona, Kenya, or a blend of beans from different countries like our own Classic Italian Blend, which is composed of Arabica beans from Brazil and Ethiopia. Coffee beans can be roasted in a variety of ways to create different tastes, so beans from any country can be roasted to suit the strong and intense espresso style.
The second misconception is that espresso is a type of roast. Bags of beans labelled “Espresso Roast” only means that the beans are more than likely a dark roast. Dark roasted coffees can make great espresso and might bring out flavours of chocolate, burnt sugar, and tobacco which are commonly associated with espresso. Coffee producers will often call these “Dark”, “French” or “Espresso” roasts.
The term “Espresso” is actually a specific process for making a strong coffee. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through a compact puck of finely ground coffee that creates an intense tasting shot. These shots will contain up to 12% of actual dissolved coffee solids, whereas a cup of brewed coffee through a filtered method will contain less than 2% of these dissolved coffee solids. Since our taste buds detect extremely small changes in the strength of coffee, it’s not surprising that the perceived flavour of an espresso is 10x stronger than a drip coffee.
What coffee roasters are looking for when they create a roast for an espresso is the perfect balance between high levels of sweetness and low levels of acidity. Too much acidity in a drip coffee can leave your mouth bursting with fruit, flavour, and brightness, but too much acidity in espresso can turn the taste sour.