Espresso beans are coffee beans that have been pressed and dark roasted to make espresso. The dark roast gives espresso its distinctive bold and bitter flavor. Any variety of coffee bean can be pressed to make espresso, but there are certain qualities that you should keep in mind to make sure that your next cup is as enjoyable as possible.
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I. Tips for Choosing the Best Espresso Beans
To find the best coffee beans for espresso, start by thinking about the flavor profile of your favorite coffee. For example, if you like subtle flavor, you might want to choose a lighter roast. On the other hand, if you like a little more bitterness, you might want to opt for a dark roast blend. The following are few things to consider when choosing beans for the perfect cup of espresso.
- The beans should have a depth of color, but they should not be too dark. Over-roasting is sometimes used to mask an inferior bean. The aroma should be pleasing and not acrid. If possible, ask to taste a bean to get an idea of what it will taste like when brewed.
- Check the roasting date on the bag. It is best to avoid anything more than 90 days old.
- Be careful about buying beans from open bins. Air can degrade the quality of the bean and result in an inferior cup of espresso.
- Consider how you will use the espresso. If you will be using it in a drink where it will be heavily diluted with cream or milk, you do not need as expensive a bean as you would if you were drinking it straight.
The following are some of my favorite artisan roasters that consistently provide a high-quality espresso bean.
II. Top 12 Best Espresso Beans
#1. Lavazza™ Super Crema Espresso
In 1895, Luigi Lavazza’s passion for coffee led him to seek out coffees of various origins to create unique blends that would provide a consistent experience with every cup. Four generations later, his company has positioned itself as a global ambassador of Italian coffee. Lavazza™ Super Crema Espresso is made from a medium-roast 80/20 blend of Arabica and Robusta beans of both Central American and Indonesian varieties.
Lavazza™ Super Crema promises an intense aroma and robust espresso flavor accompanied by a velvety crema and no bitter aftertaste. The taste has sweet, smoky, fruity notes with a hint of hazelnut. The beans are suitable for both espresso and drip coffee preparations.
#2. Death Wish Organic Whole Bean Coffee
Marketed as the world’s strongest coffee, Death Wish’s organic blend has double the caffeine content you’d normally expect to find. It’s certainly an eye-opener in the morning so be prepared!
A dark roast, these beans respond particularly well to espresso and you’ve got the makings of a perfect shot if you get the rest of the brewing variable dialed in.
Taste is smooth with traces of chocolate and cherry along with the signature smokiness of a classic dark roast. This blend makes use of both Arabica and Robusta beans serving you up with a caffeine overload but without any cloying bitterness or acidity.
Certified Fair Trade and Kosher, you can buy these beans with a clear conscience.
If you step beyond the marketing hype and judge this coffee by how it tastes in the cup – which, really, is all that counts – you’ll be kicking yourself you didn’t discover Death Wish organic sooner.
#3. Kicking Horse® Cliff Hanger Espresso
Kicking Horse® Coffee was created when two Canadian entrepreneurs with a love for coffee started roasting coffee beans in their garage. Twenty years later, the company is committed to providing 100 percent organic and fair trade coffees. In 2015. Kicking Horse® Coffee was named Canada’s favorite fair trade product. The company’s Cliff Hanger Espresso blend is available in grinds ranging from fine to coarse that are perfect for French press, drip, pour over, or espresso preparation.
The medium-roast blend features bean varieties from Indonesia, Central and South America, and Africa. Your nose will detect hints of brown sugar, milk chocolate, and black currant while your taste buds will enjoy the complex fruity notes followed by a silky cocoa finish.
#4. Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
This artisan-roasted blend uses beans sourced from Guatemala, Colombia, and Sumatra to create a bold coffee that is still low in acidity and smooth. Koffee Kult’s signature dark roast coffee is organically-sourced and certified as fair trade. The raw beans are roasted in small batches immediately prior to packing to ensure maximum freshness.
This blend is perfect for coffee and espresso lovers who enjoy their coffee with a heavy body and notes of cinnamon. The whole beans are suitable for a variety of grinds and can be prepared as espresso or in drip, French press, or pour over coffee makers.
#5. Café Don Pablo Classic Italian Espresso
Founded by Darron and Eliana Burke, Café Don Pablo Specialty Coffees harvests its Arabica beans from its own dedicated coffee trees in South America. The nutrient-rich volcanic soil of the region is known for producing some of the best Arabica beans in the world. Every bean they process is scrutinized by their on-staff Q grader to ensure that only the best beans are roasted. All of Café Don Pablo’s coffees are artisan roasted in small batches to ensure freshness, quality, and consistency.
Café Don Pablo Classic Italian Espresso is a blend of Colombian Supremo and Sumatra Mandheling beans. The result is a complex flavor with mild, earthy tones that is still smooth with dark chocolate notes.
#6. Stone Street Tanzania Peaberry Coffee
These Arabica beans are sourced from Mount Kilimanjaro and you’ll get a coffee tasting much like Kenyan but with far less by the way of acidity.
Peaberry refers to a specific type of coffee bean accounting for just 10% of all available beans. Small, round and scored with a cleft, peaberries are much more aromatic and flavorful than regular beans giving you a taste sensation.
Once brought back to the States, the beans are lovingly roasted in Brooklyn in the proprietary micro-roasterie Stone Street is famous for.
Packaging is careful with a triple-layered bag that’s resealable. You’ll even get a degassing valve to bring out the very best in your beans. Unless you’re planning to drink all the coffee in the bag within a couple of weeks, you’d be well advised to consider storing your coffee elsewhere, though. Using a vacuum sealer is the optimum way to keep coffee freshest for longest.
#7. JO Espresso Medium Dark Roast
If you’re a lover of decadent and dark roasts, JO Espresso stop just short at the upper end of medium so you’ll get a balanced blend which still delivers the kick you want from your morning espresso.
The crema is rich and deep while you’ll notice definite wafts of chocolate along with a crisp and delicate finish.
There are no added flavors or preservatives so you’ll get your drink just the way it’s intended and all you need to do is add milk or sugar to taste. Our own preference is to drink this coffee short and black.
This blend comes certified organic and also Fair Trade and it’s fully Kosher, too.
JO Espresso offer a number of excellent money-saving deals allowing you to extract even greater value from this pocket-friendly coffee.
#8. Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso
Coffee Bean Direct has its own large-scale craft roasterie located in Frenchtown, New Jersey. This allows the company to offer the affordability and efficiency of some of the bigger coffee brands while still providing artisan-quality blends. Coffee Bean Direct roasts all of its beans in small batches that are then hand-packed to ensure that the coffee reaches you at the peak of freshness.
The company’s most popular blend is their Italian Roast Espresso featuring a combination of South American and Indian beans. The blend is heavy and moderately acidic. The beans are oily and dark, which is an indication of the richness of the final product.
#9. Peet’s Coffee Espresso Forte
Feed up with the mediocre coffee that he had been drinking since immigrating to America, Alfred Peet began sourcing and hand-roasting his own coffee to exacting standards in 1966. Since its beginnings in Berkeley, California, Peet’s Coffee created a coffee revolution that continues to this day. The company is so concerned with freshness that it monitors its products once they hit the stores and will pull anything over 90 days old.
Crafted from a blend of beans from the Indo-Pacific and Americas, Espresso Forte delivers a stout-bodied coffee with bold flavor featuring a mix of brightness and earthiness. The strength of the coffee flavor is topped by a crema that is the hallmark of a perfect espresso. Although the robust flavor of these beans is enhanced by espresso brewing, the coffee is equally delicious prepared in a cone filter or French press.
#10. Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast
If you simply can’t get enough of your favorite coffee chain, get a bag of beans to take home with you and make sure they’re espresso.
The signature espresso blend has a definite touch of caramel and comes with a surprisingly sweet finish. You’ll also get plenty of body and a real kick to this blend making it perfect for getting you going on those mornings where you need an extra dose of energy.
With these beans up your sleeve, simply grind them up directly before brewing for best results. As long as you use crisp filtered water brought to the required temperature, you’ve got everything you need in place for first-class espresso every time.
The intensity of this blend makes it ideal for true espresso aficionados while the caramel backdrop means it’s also worth a try if you’ve never experimented with espresso before. This is a truly versatile blend from an industry legend so why not give some a try?
#11. Coffee Bean Direct CO2 Decaf Espresso Coffee
This blend is similar in richness and flavor to the company’s Italian Roast Espresso. The flavor is strong but slightly sweet, and each cup is topped by a luxurious crema. The CO2 decaffeination process ensures that the beans retain their maximum flavor.
Coffee Bean Direct serves up a rich and intense dark roast that works brilliantly for morning espresso or Americano in the afternoon.
Despite such a deep and powerful taste and potent aroma, these beans are fully decaffeinated. This gives you the leeway to continue drinking your favorite blend on into the evening without compromising your sleep quality.
You’ll notice hints of sugar cane and chocolate along with undertones of fig culminating in an intoxicating and titillating blend you’ll find it hard to believe is not caffeinated. The beans are all Arabica sourced in Latin America.
#12. Verena Street Espresso Beans
This generous 2-pound bag of espresso beans from Verena Street gives you the perfect foundation for a morning shot just the way the Italians take it.
Whether you’re looking to rack up a regular espresso or you prefer a coarser drip coffee, these versatile beans respond well.
Alongside plenty of raw power, you’ll get a complex crema and a sweet undertone to this espresso meaning it won’t be too intimidating while still packing an ample punch.
The taste is remarkably full-bodied and you’ll be left with a distinctive aftertaste that has your mind angled toward brewing up another coffee to repeat the experience.
Sustainably sourced then lovingly packaged down in Iowa, the job of making the perfect espresso is halfway accomplished simply by investing in these beans. Check out our guide below if you want to know the secret to making great espresso the easy way.
For an enticing and powerful blend that’s ideal for beginners and espresso fiends alike, Verena Street are a force to be reckoned with.
III. Tips for Making Great Espresso
Making a truly great espresso is not rocket science but there are a number of variables you need to dial in precisely to maximize your chances of excellence.
First thing’s first, the absolute basics…
When you’re starting out, use 25 seconds as a benchmark for extraction time. You can fine-tune things from here so you get your coffee just the way you like it.
Dosing is again flexible but you should shoot for somewhere from 8 to 10 grams of coffee for a single shot. Grinding your beans directly before brewing will yield the best end result.
Standard espresso shots are anywhere between 25ml and 35ml.
With those basics sketched in, here goes with making that elusive perfect shot with relative ease…
Making a Perfect Espresso in 10 Easy Steps
- Warm Your Cup
- The Basket and Portafilter
- Grind and Dose
- Distribution of Grounds
- Clean Up
- Pulling The Shot
1) Warm Your Cup
Always rinse your cup thoroughly with warm water before anything else. This ensures your piping hot espresso won’t immediately cool down on impact with porcelain or glass. Get things started on the right foot.
2) The Basket and Portafilter
Make sure the portafilter is clean and thoroughly dry.
Check the basket, too. Any moisture in here will negatively impact extraction.
3) Grind and Dose
Pop the amount of coffee you need into the portafilter. Pay close attention to grind size, too. You’ll want fine grinds for espresso.
If you under-extract your coffee, it will give off an unpleasantly sour taste. Over-extract it and you’ll be cursed with a bitterness you won’t appreciate.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and once you get this locked down, stick with a winning recipe.
4) Distribution of Grounds
Make sure the coffee is nice and evenly distributed to eliminate any chance of air pockets spoiling your finished drink. If this happens, the water will travel unevenly through the coffee and spoil the extraction.
Tamping the grinds down reduces the chance of those air pockets while ensuring the coffee is leveled out ready for the water.
Use enough pressure when you’re tamping to compress the coffee properly.
Use the tamper to polish the finish of your freshly ground coffee. Pop the tamper on top of your puck and spin making sure all ridges in the coffee are neatly evened out.
7) Clean Up
Get rid of any surplus coffee from around the portafilter next.
Rinse the group head to remove any lingering particles from the shower head.
9) Pulling The Shot
Pop the handle into the group head at this stage and start pouring the shot proper.
Make sure you start brewing immediately to avoid the heat burning the surface of the coffee.
Brewing time should be around 25 seconds at which point you can remove your shot of espresso from the machine.
Take the time now to clean your equipment adequately to round out.
Remove the portafilter and knock out the puck of coffee. Never skip this stage!
Clean the handle and group head of your machine thoroughly. Replace the group head so you’re ready to pour your next shot.
Taking the time with this general maintenance will make your life easier while prolonging the life of your machine into the bargain.
And remember: espresso isn’t only espresso. This powerful concentrate also forms the basis of latte, macchiato, cortado and many other drinks. Mastering a great espresso doesn’t take too much work. Once you’ve got the art down-pat, you’ll be cranking out perfect shots with ease.