Can You Use Regular Coffee for Espresso? The Right Coffee Beans!

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A group of people standing in front of a coffee machine discussing using regular coffee for espresso.
Table of Contents
A group of people standing in front of a coffee machine discussing using regular coffee for espresso.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can use regular coffee in an espresso machine as long as it has the proper grind size and you adjust the brewing parameters for flavor and extraction differences.
  • Adjustments may include using a fine grind size, increasing extraction time, setting the correct water temperature, experimenting with brew ratios, adjusting tamping pressure, and utilizing pre-infusion if available.
  • Espresso beans are preferred over regular coffee due to their specific roast level and flavor profilehigher oil content for crema production, and ability to enhance the overall taste experience.
  • When using regular coffee in an espresso machine, consider blending different types of coffee to create unique flavor profiles and try using a pressurized portafilter for better extraction results.

Can You Use Regular Coffee for Espresso?

Yes, you can use regular coffee in an espresso machine if it has the proper grind size for espresso and you adjust the brewing parameters to account for differences in flavor and extraction.

Have you ever found yourself wondering if regular coffee can be used in your espresso machine? It’s a common question, considering the cost of specialty espresso beans. This article demystifies this quandary, providing in-depth insights into what happens when you use regular coffee in an espresso machine – from taste variations to potential adjustments.

Let’s delve into the world of coffee and discover how to make every cup count!

Proper grind size for espresso

Grinding your coffee correctly is the decisive step towards brewing an exceptional cup of espresso. The fine grind size required for optimal espresso extraction might seem almost powdered, likened to confectioner’s sugar in its consistency.

This fineness allows pressure from the espresso machine to extract all desirable flavors within a quick span of around 30 seconds – that’s what we want in a perfect shot of espresso. Regular pre-ground coffee often lacks this type of consistency, putting your dreamy crema at risk and potentially offering a less flavor-packed beverage.

Experimenting with grind sizes enables you to find the perfect balance between taste and strength when using regular coffee beans for an intriguing play on traditional espresso shots.

Differences in flavor and extraction

When using regular coffee in an espresso machine, the flavor and extraction can differ from using espresso beans. Regular coffee often has a less intense flavor profile compared to espresso-specific beans.

The brewing process for regular coffee may not result in the same rich and bold flavors that are characteristic of an authentic espresso shot. Since regular coffee is typically ground coarser than espresso beans, it may not extract as efficiently, leading to a weaker and less concentrated cup of coffee.

It’s important to keep these differences in mind when deciding whether to use regular coffee in your espresso machine.

Adjusting brewing parameters

To achieve the best results when using regular coffee in your espresso machine, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your brewing parameters. Here are some tips:

  1. Grind size: Use a fine grind size for regular coffee in your espresso machine. This helps to increase the surface area of the coffee grounds and allows for better extraction.
  2. Extraction time: Increase the extraction time when using regular coffee. This can help compensate for any differences in flavor and intensity compared to espresso-specific beans.
  3. Water temperature: Ensure that the water temperature is set correctly according to your machine’s specifications. The ideal water temperature for brewing espresso is typically around 195-205°F (90-96°C).
  4. Brew ratio: Experiment with different brew ratios when using regular coffee. A common starting point is a 1:2 ratio, where you use twice as much water as the amount of coffee grounds.
  5. Tamping pressure: Adjust the tamping pressure if necessary. The goal is to create an even and consistent level of resistance for the water during extraction.
  6. Pre-infusion: Some espresso machines have a pre-infusion feature, which wets the coffee grounds before full extraction begins. This can help improve flavor extraction when using regular coffee.

Why Use Espresso Beans Instead?

Espresso beans are preferred over regular coffee for use in espresso machines due to their specific roast level and flavor profile, higher oil content, and ability to produce a rich crema.

Roast level and flavor profile

Different roast levels of coffee beans can greatly affect the flavor profile of your espresso. Lighter roasts tend to have a brighter and more acidic taste, while darker roasts have a bolder and more robust flavor.

When it comes to making espresso, medium to dark roasts are generally preferred as they provide a balanced and rich taste that pairs well with the intense extraction process. These roasts also offer caramel and chocolate notes that complement the natural sweetness in espresso shots.

Using regular coffee with varying roast levels may not give you the same depth of flavors typically found in specialty espresso beans labeled specifically for this brewing method.

Espresso-specific beans often have a higher oil content compared to regular coffee beans. This is important because these oils contribute to the creation of crema – that luscious layer of foam on top of your freshly brewed shot of espresso.

Higher oil content and crema production

Using espresso beans instead of regular coffee in an espresso machine has its advantages, and one of them is the higher oil content found in espresso beans. These oils contribute to the rich and creamy texture known as crema that sits on top of a well-brewed espresso shot.

Regular coffee typically has a lower oil content due to differences in roast level and bean selection. This means that using regular coffee may result in less pronounced crema or even no crema at all.

For those who appreciate the velvety mouthfeel and visual appeal of a good crema, using espresso beans specifically designed for this purpose would be more suitable.

Tips for Using Regular Coffee in an Espresso Machine

Experiment with different grind sizes and extraction times to find the perfect balance for your regular coffee in the espresso machine. Blend different types of coffee to create unique flavor profiles, and consider using a pressurized portafilter for better extraction results.

Experimenting with grind size and extraction time

Achieving the perfect espresso shot requires careful experimentation with the grind size and extraction time. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune these crucial elements:

  1. Start with a finer grind: Begin by using a finer grind than you would for regular coffee brewing methods. This helps to increase the surface area of the coffee grounds, allowing for better extraction and stronger flavors.
  2. Adjust the grind size incrementally: If your espresso shot is too weak or acidic, try adjusting the grind size slightly finer. On the other hand, if it tastes too bitter or over-extracted, go coarser. Small adjustments can make a big difference in taste.
  3. Time your extraction: Most baristas aim for an extraction time of around 25-30 seconds for a balanced espresso shot. However, this can vary depending on personal preference and the specific coffee beans being used.
  4. Use a timer: Time your extraction with each shot to ensure consistency and track any adjustments you make to the grind size or other variables.
  5. Pay attention to flow rate: Ideally, your espresso should have a steady flow rate during extraction. If it comes out too quickly, it may be under-extracted and lack flavor. Conversely, if it drips slowly or unevenly, it may be over-extracted and taste bitter.
  6. Keep an eye on cremThe crema – that creamy layer on top of an espresso shot – is an important indicator of quality and balance. A well-executed shot should have a thick and caramel-colored crema with tiny bubbles.

Blending different types of coffee

Blending different types of coffee can be a fun and creative way to enhance the flavor of your espresso. By combining different beans, you can achieve unique tastes and aromas that are not possible with a single type of coffee. Here are some tips for blending different types of coffee in your espresso machine:

  1. Experiment with different ratios: Start by trying equal parts of two different coffees and adjust the ratio based on your preference. You can blend beans with contrasting flavors to create a balanced and complex espresso.
  2. Consider roast levels: Blending light and dark roasted beans can result in a well-rounded flavor profile. Dark roasts bring intensity and body, while light roasts offer brightness and acidity.
  3. Mix origins: Combining beans from different regions can introduce diverse flavor notes to your espresso. For example, Ethiopian beans may bring fruity and floral undertones, while Brazilian beans can add chocolatey richness.
  4. Try single-origin blends: Instead of using various blends, you can also experiment with single-origin coffees to appreciate the unique characteristics each bean has to offer.
  5. Grind consistently: Ensure that all the blended beans are ground to the same consistency so that they extract evenly during brewing.
  6. Adjust brewing parameters: Since blended coffees may have different densities and moisture levels, you may need to tweak your brewing parameters such as grind size, extraction time, and water temperature to achieve optimal results.

Using a pressurized portafilter

To overcome the challenges of using regular coffee in an espresso machine, one effective solution is to use a pressurized portafilter. A pressurized portafilter helps compensate for inconsistencies in grind size and extraction by creating additional pressure during the brewing process.

This means that even if your regular coffee grind isn’t as fine as it should be for espresso, the pressurized portafilter will still allow you to achieve a decent shot.

By using a pressurized portafilter, you can have more flexibility when experimenting with regular coffee in your espresso machine. It allows you to adjust various factors like dosage, tamp pressure, and brew time without compromising the quality of your shot.

While using a pressurized portafilter may not produce the same level of complexity and crema as with espresso-specific beans, it’s certainly a viable option for those who are looking to make espresso-like drinks with their regular coffee beans.


While it is possible to use regular coffee in an espresso machine, it is not the ideal choice. Espresso beans are specifically designed for the intense extraction process of an espresso machine, resulting in a richer flavor and crema production.

If you’re in a pinch, experimenting with grind size and brewing parameters can help you achieve a decent shot using regular coffee. Remember to consider the taste differences and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Happy brewing!


What is the difference between espresso and coffee?

The main difference between espresso and regular coffee lies in the brewing method and the grind size. Espresso is made by forcing pressurized, hot water through finely ground coffee beans, resulting in a concentrated and robust flavor. Regular coffee, on the other hand, is brewed by allowing hot water to drip or steep through coarser ground coffee, producing a milder flavor.

What kind of coffee beans should I use to make espresso?

To make espresso, it is best to use specifically labeled espresso beans. These beans are usually dark roasted and specifically blended to provide a rich and bold flavor that suits the intensity of espresso brewing.

Can I use ground coffee for making espresso?

Yes, you can use ground coffee for making espresso, but it is important to ensure that the coffee is finely ground to match the required consistency for espresso. Using pre-ground coffee may result in a subpar espresso experience compared to freshly ground beans.

What is the difference between espresso beans and regular coffee beans?

Espresso beans and regular coffee beans may differ in the roast level and blending. Espresso beans are typically dark roasted to bring out a bolder flavor, while regular coffee beans can be roasted to various levels depending on the desired taste. Additionally, espresso beans are often blended to achieve a specific flavor profile suitable for espresso brewing.

Can I use espresso beans in a regular coffee maker?

Absolutely! Espresso beans can be used in a regular coffee maker, but keep in mind that the resulting brew will have a stronger flavor compared to using regular coffee beans. Adjust the amount of beans and your brewing preferences accordingly.

How can I make an espresso shot at home?

To make an espresso shot at home, you will need an espresso machine, finely ground espresso beans, and hot water. Fill the machine’s portafilter with the ground coffee, tamp it down evenly, lock it into the machine, and start the brewing process. The machine will force pressurized water through the coffee, resulting in a concentrated shot of espresso.

What is a shot of espresso?

A shot of espresso refers to a single serving size of concentrated coffee made using an espresso machine. It is typically served in a small cup and can be enjoyed alone or used as a base for various espresso-based beverages.

What is the best type of coffee for espresso?

The best type of coffee for espresso is a matter of personal preference. However, it is recommended to use specially labeled espresso beans that are dark roasted and blended to provide a bold and rich flavor that complements the concentrated nature of espresso brewing.

Can I use dark roast coffee for making espresso?

Yes, dark roast coffee can be used for making espresso. In fact, dark roast coffee is commonly preferred for espresso due to its robust flavor and ability to withstand the intensity of espresso brewing.


About the Author:
Sophia Lewis, a travel blogger with a focus on global coffee cultures, explores coffee traditions from Colombia to Turkey. Her expertise lies in understanding the cultivation, brewing, and enjoyment of coffee in different cultures. Through articles, travel vlogs, and tastings, Sophia brings a global perspective to coffee, emphasizing ethical and sustainable practices, and invites readers to join her community of global coffee enthusiasts.