Espresso has become a popular beverage with the rise in coffee shops, such as Starbucks. Espresso may appear to be a different drink than coffee because of the special way it is prepared and served. Some stores sell special "espresso beans" or "espresso blends" of coffee. However, there is no difference between the beans used to make espresso and those used to make coffee.
Espresso is coffee made by forcing hot water through about a tablespoon of tightly packed and ground blend of coffee beans using an espresso machine. People serve espresso by itself or in a blend of milk or other ingredients, creating cappuccinos, lattes and other drinks. When served by itself, espresso ideally features a creamy froth on the top, called crema.
Growers harvest coffee beans from coffee berries grown in tropical regions across the globe. Similar to grapes used to make wine, the same species of coffee bean grown in different areas have different properties that change the taste of coffee made with them. Coffee-sellers combine different types of beans to make their own blends. Before you can use a coffee bean to make coffee or espresso, you must roast the bean. The amount of time the beans are roasted also affects the taste of the coffee. Coffee-makers may have opinions about how to make the best espresso, but they can use any blend or roast to make espresso.
Arabica beans are a species of coffee bean especially popular for coffee and espresso. Many people believe that Arabica beans produce better-tasting coffee and espresso, and so will try to use blends of 100 percent Arabica beans. However, they are delicate and susceptible to disease, making them more expensive.
Robusta beans come from the Canephora species of coffee and coffee-makers also use these beans regularly to make coffee. Robusta beans are hardier and easier to grow than Arabica beans, making them cheaper. They also contain more caffeine. Many coffee connoisseurs believe that Robusta beans make inferior-tasting coffee and so coffee producers often use Robusta beans for instant coffee where taste is less important. However, Robusta beans also produce a frothier and richer crema, so some espresso makers, especially in Italy, will include some Robusta beans in their espresso blends.
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