Can you use dark roast in a super-automatic espresso machine?

QUESTION: Can you use dark roast in a super-automatic espresso machine? Most of the bags I see that are called espresso roast are very dark, but I heard that you don’t want oily beans to go through a super automatic. What’s the deal with that? – Alice K

CLEARLY COFFEE REPLIES: Do not use dark roast in your superautomatic espresso machine if the beans are oily, period. They will gum up and ruin your machine, requiring you to send it in for an expensive service. (Also, never ever use flavored beans because that flavor will ruin the taste of all future coffee beans!)

If you don’t want to believe me, then here it is straight from the instruction manual of my GE Profile Superautomatic espresso machine.

Don't use oily beans in a superautomatic espresso machine, according to the GE instructions

It’s kind of funny that they say “any coffee bean can be used” but then they also say at the say time don’t use dark roast, oily beans. I guess what they mean is that if you have a manual machine where you’re grinding it separately then it would be fine, but you don’t want to run those kinds of beans through a superautomatic.

I have personally purchased coffee that turned out to be much oilier than I expected, where it was an expensive bag so I tried to run it through my machine. What happened was that you can actually hear the machine struggling with it, where the beans are so oily that they don’t even fall through the hopper correctly and you’ll hear the machine whine like it didn’t get enough beans to make the cup. Because it didn’t! The coffee turns out watery and weak when you hear that noise.

I ended up scooping out the coffee beans from the hopper with my hand and got out as many as I could, and then added in some really dry medium roast beans that had almost no oiliness. Then I made it make several coffees in a row and everything seemed to be ok, and my machine has been fine ever since.

The reason that dark roast beans are oily is because when you roast until the beans are dark, you get a “second crack” of the bean, which releases a lot more of the oil. When you roast it medium or light, you don’t get that second crack, so the roasted bean looks dry.

Here’s an example of beans that I consider just slightly too oily to run through my superautomatic. I ran a few cups with these beans, and then ended up not using the rest of the bag because I worried they were too oily.

And below is an example of what beans look like that are NOT oily, and are the correct type of beans to use in your machine.

Oak Cliff roasters coffee beans and package

These beans are actually called Hidden City Espresso, but they are not a dark roast and are therefore not oily. See how they look dry compared to the other photo? This is what you want to run through your superautomatic.

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