Espresso is regular coffee.
Whether you are getting it whipped up by a barista at your local coffee shop or making it at home, the base of espresso is still just coffee.
So, the answer is ‘Yes! You can use regular coffee for espresso!’
In fact, you use regular coffee every time you make espresso.
Coffee as Espresso
What separates coffee from espresso isn’t the coffee beans themselves, but the way those beans are prepared.
To make espresso, you need one thing in your coffee beans – a finer grind.
That is the only thing that absolutely must differentiate the coffee you use in your espresso.
But you can use any coffee that you like.
Generally speaking, the espresso you get at a coffee shop or the roasts you see labeled as “espresso” in stores are darker roasts with deeper flavor profiles.
It’s generally accepted these roasts make the best-tasting espresso, which is why they are so widely used.
(For more on espresso roasts, see Is There A Difference Between Coffee Beans And Espresso Beans?)
But that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Espresso is a method of making coffee, not a roast or a blend, so, technically, you can use any type of coffee you like to make it.
The secret is in the grind.
The Grind of Espresso
Coffee grind is a big part of what makes espresso, well, espresso.
While you can use any type of coffee you like, that coffee does require a much finer grind for the espresso process to work.
The fineness of the coffee grind is what allows the water and pressure to reap so much flavor and caffeine out of coffee as it passes rapidly through.
Can you use regular coffee in an espresso machine?
Absolutely. Because espresso is just coffee.
If by “regular coffee” you mean ground coffee, the answer is still yes, but gets a little more complicated.
“Regular coffee,” or coffee roasts meant to be used with traditional slow-brew methods, like a coffee maker or French press, are ground more coarsely than the coffee used for espresso.
You can always put one of these coarser grinds of coffee in your espresso maker – it shouldn’t do any damage to your machine – but what you will end up with will be a weaker drink with less flavor.
Basically, not what you’re likely looking for when you’re looking for espresso.
Can you use regular coffee beans for espresso?
Yes. Without caveat.
Because espresso is just coffee.
While beans sold as “espresso” are thought to have the best flavor profile for espresso, any coffee roast can be made in the espresso style.
Making Espresso With Regular Coffee
If you want to start using regular coffee (coffee roasts not specifically labeled as espresso) in your espresso machine, simply follow these basic rules:
- Buy whole beans and grind the coffee yourself (or grind at the grocery store)
- Use a burr or espresso grinder if grinding at home (most blade coffee grinders cannot produce a fine enough grind for espresso)
- Put your grinder on a fine setting (or use a fine setting at the grocery store)
- Adjust as needed (the best grind for your espresso is dependent on the roast)
The important things to keep in mind when working with different coffees in your espresso maker are:
- Not all coffee roasts will make good espresso (some will taste thin or acidic)
- Grind matters a lot
- You may have to make adjustments in grind to get certain roasts to taste “right” as espresso
On Second Thought, Make That Coffee an Espresso
While working with different coffee roasts in your espresso machine can take some experimentation, if you’re willing to do your own grinding and adjust as needed, when it comes to what coffee roasts you can use for espresso, the only limit is the number of coffee roasts themselves.
So, if you’ve been wondering if some roast you love would make a good espresso, why not grab some whole beans, set your grinder to fine, and give it a whirl?