| Dominik Osele

The ultimate guide to strong espresso: beans, roasting, preparation

Espresso - this small but powerful drink has captured the hearts of coffee lovers around the world. But what exactly makes an espresso "strong"? Is it the intense flavor, the high caffeine content or a combination of both? In this ultimate guide, we take you on a journey through the world of strong espresso. We explore how beans, roasting and preparation methods work together to create this unique coffee pleasure.

The role of espresso coffee beans

The magic of every espresso begins with its base - the coffee beans. The choice of beans is crucial because it fundamentally determines the taste, aroma and of course the strength of the end product. At the heart of strong espresso are often Robusta beans, which are known for their strong taste and high caffeine content. Compared to the finer and fruitier Arabica beans, Robusta beans bring a clear intensity and a characteristic crema that espresso lovers particularly appreciate.

Robusta beans grow primarily at lower altitudes and in harsher conditions than Arabica beans. These tough growing conditions give the Robusta bean its namesake resilience and result in a coffee that is not only stronger in flavor but also has a higher caffeine content. Caffeine, a natural alkaloid found in coffee beans, acts as a defense against pests for the plant. It is this natural defense mechanism that leads to one of the most valued characteristics when selecting coffee beans for strong espresso.

But you don't necessarily have to choose between Arabica and Robusta beans, because the importance of Robusta blends cannot be underestimated. Many baristas and coffee experts experiment with different blend ratios to achieve the perfect balance between strength, body and flavor. A well-balanced blend can combine the robust intensity of Robusta with the subtle, fruity notes of Arabica to create a complex yet powerful flavor profile. Such blends are particularly popular when making strong espresso, as they offer a deeper flavor dimension and a richer crema.

So choosing the right beans for strong espresso is an art in itself, requiring knowledge of the different types of beans, their characteristics and the effects of roasting. For coffee lovers on the hunt for the perfect strong espresso, this process offers an exciting way to explore the variety and depth of coffee.

If you want to learn more about the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans, check out our Blog post on the topic.

Arabica Robusta
discovery 7th century at the end of the 19th century
Cultivation 600 – 2,300 m altitude 300 – 600 m altitude
shape elongated and curved cut small, round and straight cut
Oil content 15 – 17% 10 – 12%
Chlorogenic acid content 3 – 6% approx. 10%
Sugar content 6 – 9% 3 – 7%
Caffeine content 1.1 – 1.7% 2 – 4.5%
Important characteristics of the coffee types Robusta and Arabica in direct comparison.


Espresso roasting and its effects

The degree of roasting of the coffee beans plays a crucial role in developing the flavor profile that makes an espresso strong and unforgettable. During the roasting process, the beans undergo a complex chemical transformation that releases hundreds of aromatic compounds. It is this transformation that shapes the characteristic taste and aromas of the coffee. The degree of roasting - whether light, medium or dark - determines which flavor notes dominate and how intense the final product will be.

Light roasts often accentuate the bean's original flavor notes, including fruitiness and acidity, while darker roasts bring out deeper, often perceived as "stronger" flavors such as bitter chocolate, nuttiness, or even smoky notes. A darker roast results in oil oozing out of the surface of the bean, giving the espresso additional complexity and a rich crema. However, a roast that is too dark can also introduce unwanted bitterness that disrupts the finely tuned balance of espresso flavor.

It is a common myth that dark roasted coffee has a higher caffeine content. In fact, the roasting process slightly reduces the caffeine content of the beans, with the difference between light and dark roasts being minimal. So the perception that darker espresso is "stronger" comes from its intense flavor rather than a higher caffeine content.

The art of roasting for strong espresso is finding the perfect balance where the beans are roasted enough to develop rich and complex flavors, but without masking the more subtle notes or introducing unwanted bitterness. This is where small traditional roasters score points over the large industrial roasters. Professional roasters achieve the desired flavor by carefully monitoring the roasting temperature and time to ensure each bean reaches its full potential.

When making strong espresso, it's best to experiment with different roast levels to suit your own taste preferences. Some people prefer the bold and smoky notes of a dark roast, while others appreciate the subtle and complex flavors of a medium roast.

Methods for making strong espresso: choosing the right espresso machine

Choosing the right espresso machine is crucial for the quality and strength of the espresso. Each type of machine offers different advantages and requires a specific level of interaction and knowledge from the user. We want to give you a brief overview of the most common models:

Manual espresso machines (lever machines)

Manual espresso machines, often known as lever machines, require the user to manually create the pressure for extraction by pushing down a lever. These machines require practice and finesse, but offer unparalleled control over all aspects of espresso extraction. The result can be an exceptionally strong and customized espresso that perfectly matches personal preferences.

Semi-automatic espresso machines – portafilter machines

Semi-automatic machines are arguably the most popular choice for coffee lovers who want to achieve barista-like results at home. They automate water pressure and flow rate, but require the user to manually add and tamp the coffee grounds. The ability to choose the grind size, dosage and tamping makes them ideal for those who like to adjust their own espresso strength.

Fully automatic espresso machines – fully automatic machines

Fully automatic espresso machines minimize manual effort while still providing excellent results. With built-in grinders, automatic tampers, and programmable settings, they eliminate many steps for the user. While they are valued for their convenience, they offer less scope for customization compared to semi-automatic or manual machines.

Capsule machines

Capsule machines are a popular choice for making espresso quickly and conveniently at home. They use pre-portioned coffee capsules that provide consistent quality and no need for manual preparation such as grinding or tamping. Although they are praised for their ease of use and consistency, they offer fewer options for adjusting espresso strength and often come with a higher cost for the capsules. The sustainability of many models is also questionable.

Super fully automatic espresso machines

These machines offer the highest level of automation and convenience. Super automatic machines can prepare entire coffee drinks from bean to cup, including grinding, dosing, tamping, brewing and frothing milk, at the touch of a button. They are ideal for offices or homes where different people have different coffee preferences, but the scope for individual adjustments to the espresso is limited.

Choosing an espresso machine depends on personal preference, the level of control you want, and your budget. For strong espresso and a personalized coffee experience, manual and semi-automatic machines offer the greatest flexibility. Fully automatic and capsule machines, on the other hand, are perfect for coffee lovers who value convenience and speed.

Special techniques for strong espresso

To prepare a particularly strong espresso, the following techniques can be used:

Ristretto : A variation of espresso that uses less water for the same amount of ground coffee. The result is a more concentrated and stronger espresso.

Double portion : A double portion of ground coffee and appropriately adjusted water not only doubles the quantity but also the intensity.

Pre-infusion : Some espresso machines offer the option of pre-infusion, where the coffee grounds are slightly moistened before the actual brewing process. This results in a more even extraction and can improve the strength and aroma of the espresso.

VietBeans Filter Phin Coffee Hand Filter

Vietnamese coffee as a special espresso

Vietnamese coffee is known for its strong, intense flavor and special brewing method, making it a unique variation of espresso. This style of coffee offers a fascinating alternative for strong espresso lovers and is a testament to the diversity of coffee culture around the world.

The special nature of Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese coffee differs from traditional espresso in several aspects. First, the preferred coffee bean in Vietnam is the Robusta, which has a higher caffeine content and a bolder, more intense flavor compared to the Arabica bean. These characteristics make Robusta beans ideal for producing a strong, full-bodied coffee popular in Vietnam.

The traditional preparation method is another element that distinguishes Vietnamese coffee. Instead of an espresso machine, the coffee is prepared using a "phin", a small metal filter. This process is comparatively slow: hot water drips slowly through the coffee grounds and collects in a cup below. The result is a highly concentrated coffee, often served with sweet condensed milk, which gives it a special sweetness and creaminess.

Following traditional Vietnamese coffee preparation, coffee enthusiasts have begun to interpret Vietnamese coffee as "espresso," taking advantage of the strong, robust flavors of the Robusta beans and adapting the slow extraction methods of the Phin filter to create an intense, rich coffee experience similar to that of an espresso. These modern interpretations often combine the traditional elements with new techniques to provide diverse flavor experiences that appeal to both traditional and modern coffee lovers.

But Vietnamese coffee can also be prepared wonderfully as a classic espresso in a portafilter. The strong aromas and dark roast for which Vietnamese coffee is known give the espresso a particularly strong, full-bodied and chocolaty-nutty taste that is second to none.

Our recommendations for a Vietnamese espresso:

Our Black Dragon is an exceptional espresso with a particularly high caffeine content. Not only does it have a strong taste, it also gives you the caffeine kick you need to start your day successfully.

Our 100% Arabica is perfect for you if you are looking for a fruity, yet strong and slightly chocolaty espresso. It is a single origin Arabica from the highlands of Đà Lạt and makes an excellent espresso.

The Traditional is the classic in our line-up and represents Vietnamese coffee like no other. Strong, dark, pleasantly chocolaty and nutty, it impresses when prepared in the classic Phin, but also as a bitter espresso with a chocolate note.

Practical tips for the perfect strong espresso

Making a strong espresso is an art that requires both knowledge and experience. Here are some practical tips to help you create an espresso that is not only strong but also rich in aromas and flavor.

Choosing the right beans for a strong espresso

Robusta for strength: For a strong espresso, it is recommended to choose Robusta beans or blends with a high percentage of Robusta. Robusta beans offer a higher caffeine content and more intense flavors.

Freshness is key: Buy whole coffee beans and make sure to store them in an airtight container. Grind the beans fresh for your espresso.

Grinding level and dosage for the perfect espresso taste

Grind finely: The grind should be fine to ensure optimal extraction and strong flavor. Experiment with the grind setting until you find the perfect setting for your machine and beans.

Accurate dosage: A standard dosage for espresso is around 7-9 grams per cup. For a stronger espresso, you can increase the dosage slightly. Precision is important here, so use a scale for best results.

Tamping and extraction on portafilter machines

Tamp evenly: Even pressure when tamping is crucial for even extraction. Too much pressure can lead to over-extraction, too little pressure can lead to under-extraction.

Watch the extraction time: An ideal extraction time for espresso is between 25 and 30 seconds. A shorter extraction time will result in a weaker espresso, while a longer extraction time will result in a stronger and possibly bitter espresso.

Water quality and temperature for coffee preparation

Use filtered water: The quality of the water has a big influence on the taste of the espresso. It is best to use soft to medium hard, filtered water.

Optimal temperature: The water temperature should be between 90°C and 96°C. Temperatures that are too hot can burn the coffee and make it bitter.

Machine-specific tips

Know your machine: Every espresso machine is a little different. Spend time getting to know your machine - how it responds to changes in grind size, dosage and tamping.

Regular maintenance: Keep your machine clean and maintain it regularly to ensure the best performance and taste.

With these tips and a little practice, you can make a strong, flavorful espresso that will liven up your day and give you the energy you need. Making espresso is a constant learning process, with each cup offering the opportunity to discover something new.

Why is the acid content in espresso beans lower than in beans for filter coffee?

Strong espresso in everyday life: energy, concentration and health

For many people, strong espresso is not just a luxury item, but a daily companion that boosts energy and concentration. However, the effects of espresso go beyond the mere alertness effect and offer interesting health aspects.

Energy and concentration

The high caffeine content in strong espresso makes it an effective energy booster. Caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes fatigue, resulting in a noticeable increase in alertness and concentration. For many, a strong espresso in the morning or before demanding tasks is a proven way to get mentally going.

Health aspects

Moderate coffee consumption, including strong espresso, has been linked to several health benefits. Studies suggest that coffee consumption may reduce the risk of certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease and certain forms of cancer. Coffee also has antioxidant properties that may help protect cells. However, it is important to keep caffeine consumption in check, as too much caffeine can lead to nervousness, sleep disorders or irregular heart rhythms.

Product recommendations and purchase advice

To make the perfect strong espresso at home, here are some product recommendations:

Espresso machines : For authentic preparation, semi-automatic machines are recommended as they offer a good balance between control and ease of use.

Coffee grinders : A high-quality coffee grinder is essential to achieve the right grind for espresso. Models with conical or flat grinders are particularly recommended.

Espresso beans : Choose high-quality Robusta beans or blends for a strong and intense flavor.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about strong espresso

What makes an espresso “strong”?

The strength of an espresso is defined by a combination of high caffeine content, intense flavor and rich crema. This is influenced by the choice of coffee beans (preferably Robusta for more caffeine and stronger flavor), the roast level (darker roasts for more intense flavor) and the preparation method (such as grind size, water pressure and extraction time).

Which coffee beans are best for strong espresso?

Robusta beans or blends with a high proportion of Robusta are ideal for a strong espresso. Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content and a more intense taste, often perceived as “stronger”, compared to Arabica beans.

How can I make my espresso stronger at home?

To make your espresso stronger at home, increase the amount of coffee (dosage), use a finer grind, optimize the tamping force for a denser coffee bed structure and experiment with the extraction time. A short but well-extracted ristretto variation will result in a stronger flavor.

Does strong espresso have more caffeine than regular coffee?

The amount of caffeine in an espresso can be higher or lower compared to a regular cup of coffee, depending on the dosage and method of preparation. A typical espresso often contains less caffeine than a standard cup of filter coffee due to its smaller volume, but the caffeine concentration (per ml) is higher.

How does the degree of roasting affect the strength of my espresso?

The roast level has a significant impact on the flavor intensity and perceived strength of an espresso. Darker roasts tend to develop a bolder, more intense flavor, making the espresso seem "stronger." However, it is important to find a balance to avoid the espresso becoming bitter.