One of the best things about making espresso is the fact that it does not dictate the kind of coffee to be used or the roast level. It all depends on your taste preference and the strength that you want, and you can even experiment on different flavors that different coffee beans and roasts can bring.
The kind of coffee bean that you choose will give your espresso its distinct flavor, so choosing the exact bean that would suit your taste can be a bit of a challenge at times. Two types of coffee are grown for commercial use:
Arabica. This is cultivated in the Americas and in parts of Africa and Asia, and can only grow in places with high altitude. Arabica comprises 75% of the total amount of coffee grown today, and are also called ‘Milds”.
Robusta. It has a bitter taste, contains more caffeine, and is cultivated in Africa. This is used for instant coffee because it is easier and cheaper to grow, with less flavor and aroma compared to other coffee.
Brazils. From the name alone, you’d know where this coffee plant is grown. Although milds can also be grown in Brazil, they differ by the altitude, as Brazils grow in lower altitudes and are a little cheaper.
Coffee actually smells like grass and is naturally soft. The flavor and aroma comes when the coffee is roasted, depending on the way the process was done.
Light / Cinnamon Roast. The name is derived from the color of cinnamon, and does not mean that it contains any of it. Because of the light roasting, it produces acidic and highly caffeinated coffee. This is usually found in North America.
House / Medium / American Roast. This is the cheap kind of coffee used for regular drip coffee in coffee shops all over America.
Dark / City Medium Roast. The darker the roast gets, the less acidic and the sweeter it becomes. This is usually the lightest roast that is used for espresso.
French / City Roast. This is very dark and oily, and is used commercially.
Espresso / Italian / Full City / Very Dark Roast. This is the darkest and sweetest roast made, and is only used for making espresso.
Although these roasts are called and characterized differently, the distinction between each of them can still be a little vague. The only basis that you could use in choosing the right roast for your taste would be the color. Try to see how balanced the darkness or lightness is, and remember that it becomes sweeter as it becomes darker. You should also check on how shiny each bean is, as darker roasts should also have more oil compared to lighter ones, and should get shinier as they get darker. Darker roasts will also leave little to no bitter aftertaste, something that you should expect in much lighter varieties. Although espresso sold commercially normally uses darker roast, you can go lighter when you make yourself a shot at home if you like your coffee acidic and less sweet.
Once you have the perfect beans with the perfect roast level, grinding them can also make a big difference in making that perfect espresso cup. There are different factors that you would have to consider, especially if you want your coffee to be just as good as the espresso that you love getting from your favorite coffee shop. You have two options when it comes to grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders work the same way as food processors, chopping up the beans as they pass through two blades that spin rapidly. However, this is great for regular coffee, and not for espresso. It does not produce consistent grounds, and heats up coffee too much that the flavor sometimes ends up as being too bland, or too bitter. If you have one of these at home that you often use for regular coffee, make sure you purchase a burr grinder for your espresso needs. Burr grinders produce more consistent coffee grounds, and do not heat up the beans. This means that the flavor is preserved, and the coffee that it produces is sweeter and perfect for espresso.
With these different options, from coffee beans to roast levels to coffee grinds, making a perfect espresso shot is no easy feat. As long as you remember these basics and you are able to adjust accordingly to your preferred espresso taste, there is definitely no question that you can also make great tasting espresso shots right in your very own home.