Discovering the Finest Espresso Beans: Unveiling the Perfect Blend
Are you searching for the holy grail of coffee? Look no further, for we have embarked on a flavorful journey to uncover the secrets behind the best coffee espresso beans in the world. Picture yourself indulging in the velvety crema atop a steaming cup of cappuccino, the tantalizing aroma filling your senses. In this article, we will delve into the essence of greatness when it comes to espresso beans and explore the top contenders from coffee-growing regions around the globe. Brace yourself, for a truly extraordinary caffeine adventure awaits!
What Makes a Great Espresso Bean?
To distinguish espresso from regular black coffee, a few factors come into play. Espresso beans are specifically dark roasts. Unlike the beans used for drip coffee, espresso beans are roasted for a longer period of time. Drip coffee typically uses light, medium, or medium-dark roasts, as the extraction process is slower compared to espresso.
The best coffee beans for espresso are either made solely from 100% Arabica coffee beans or are a blend of Arabica and Robusta, with a ratio of 9:1 (90% Arabica coffee: 10% Robusta coffee). These beans are roasted for an extended amount of time, usually past the second crack, resulting in a toasted and more intense flavor.
The roasting process also removes a significant amount of acidity, while bringing out the natural oils in the coffee. This creates a fuller and heavier sensation in the mouth. The rich flavor of coffee found in dark roasts, specifically labeled as espresso coffee, is unique. Additionally, espresso beans often have a subtle taste of dark chocolate.
The Best Coffee Beans for Espresso & Cappuccino
1: Coffee Bros Espresso Blend (Medium Roast)
This espresso blend is created using medium-roasted beans from Ethiopia and Colombia. Although I'm not usually fond of the term "bro," it seems fitting for Coffee Bros, as it is a roastery operated by two brothers.
I recently had the opportunity to try their Signature Blend, and I must say, I was highly impressed. This blend is well-received by a wide range of people and works excellently both as a pure shot or as the base for a milk-based drink.
The coffee is medium-roasted to highlight its natural sweetness, making it a great recommendation for both experienced home baristas and newcomers to espresso. Made entirely from 100% Arabica beans and with a lighter roast, this blend offers a cleaner finish compared to other popular espresso blends that include Robusta.
On the packaging, the brand mentions flavor notes such as strawberry, sugar cane, and vanilla. From my perspective, the strawberry flavor is the most prominent. The blend comprises Ethiopian and Colombian beans, with a high likelihood of the berry flavors coming from a significant portion of Sidamo or Yirgacheffe processed using the dry method.
I also appreciate that the coffee is roasted immediately after the order is placed, ensuring that the beans are at their peak freshness upon arrival.
Illy is a well-known name in the espresso community. It is a traditional Italian company that has long been associated with espresso.
Despite being a large and somewhat industrial operation, Illy demonstrates great care in selecting the right beans for their blends. They prioritize sweet cherries with minimal defects.
Illy's coffee was even used by world barista champions just 16 years ago. The beans are medium roast and suitable for various brewing techniques.
Illy may not win competitions in the current highly sophisticated and snobby coffee world, but it consistently delivers a satisfying cup regardless of how it is brewed.
This particular blend is preground, eliminating the need for a grinder. However, if you do have a grinder, it is recommended to opt for the whole-bean option.
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Intelligentsia is another legendary company in the American specialty coffee scene. They practice direct trade and maintain relationships with all the farms they source from. They are willing to pay a fair price for exceptional quality. This is not mere marketing hype like with some multinational corporations.
This specific coffee blend offers a dark, mysterious, and well-rounded flavor. It features notes of chocolate, caramel, and molasses.
The coffee is low in acidity, making it suitable for milk-based drinks or those with sensitive stomachs.
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This Lavazza coffee is a medium roast with a subtle and well-balanced profile, featuring notes of hazelnut and chocolate.
It is a versatile coffee that can be enjoyed as a straight shot or used in milk-based drinks.
The name "Espresso Italiano" may be a bit misleading, as it does not imply an extremely dark and strong flavor. This blend is actually quite light. If you are searching for a dark roast, consider the next coffee on this list, Qualita Rossa.
Espresso Italiano offers a more affordable alternative to Illy's famous medium roast, while still matching its quality. Additionally, it is often more cost-effective.
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Lavazza is another renowned Italian espresso blend. Lavazza is often considered the counterpart to Illy and is equally popular in the birthplace of espresso.
The Rossa version is one of their most famous blends. It contains a significant amount of Robusta, resulting in a strong coffee with minimal acidity and subtle flavors. This blend prioritizes the crema, texture, and mouthfeel.
This is a classic espresso option that appeals to many. If you're not an extreme espresso connoisseur deeply invested in extraction theory, it's worth a try.
Despite being a medium-dark roast, it is not as oily as Starbucks beans.
If you are seeking beans for a superautomatic espresso machine, this is an excellent choice.
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I am a big fan of coffee clubs, and Trade Coffee is one of the best options available.
Most coffee subscriptions focus on a specific style of roasting, making them difficult to recommend. However, Trade Coffee stands out by partnering with a variety of top-notch roasters.
They offer tailored coffee recommendations based on the brewing method and personal coffee preferences of each individual customer.
Whether you prefer a dark and intense flavor or a fruity profile, Trade ensures you receive freshly roasted espresso beans that cater to your specific needs.
It's worth checking out this club if you want high-quality beans delivered directly to your doorstep. Plus, there's a generous discount available when signing up.
In this next section, I'll delve into the more technical aspects. While this information may not be necessary for everyone, true espresso enthusiasts may find it enriching.
Why is Single-Origin Important?
As mentioned earlier, single-origin has become the standard among avid coffee connoisseurs. Single-origin refers to coffee that originates from a single estate or a specified geographic location. This is common in places like Ethiopia, where smallholder farmers contribute their coffee to be combined at processing stations.
Single-origin coffee offers a more intriguing taste experience, allowing you to appreciate the unique characteristics and terroir of a particular place. Imagine trying to decipher the flavor contributions of four different coffees in a blend—it can be challenging.
For this reason, some roasters have started offering single-origin espresso roasts that are not blended with other beans. Typically, these coffees are roasted darker than their filter coffee counterparts but are not considered dark roasts. The result is a cup with plenty of acidity and hints of fruit and floral notes. This type of espresso is best enjoyed straight or with a touch of hot water, as it may not pair well with milk.
What is an Omni Roast?
When shopping for coffee, look out for roasters who promote "omni" roasts. This term refers to a new approach taken by some specialty roasters, offering a one-size-fits-all roast that can be used for espresso, pour over, and French press brewing methods.
While this concept makes it easier for the roaster, it may not cater to those who prefer a traditional espresso experience or enjoy making lattes and cortados. As a result, omni roasts tend to be relatively light to accommodate different brewing methods, including pour over.
Things to Consider in a Blend
When selecting a blend, consider whether you primarily drink straight espresso or if you enjoy crafting milk-based drinks.
For straight espresso shots, it is advisable to choose a blend without any robusta. Opt for a brand that offers 100% Arabica beans, preferably with East African or Central American high-altitude coffees incorporated. This ensures you'll experience fruity top notes. It's also best to avoid overly dark-roasted blends—beans should not appear shiny from oil on the surface.
If you're using the beans for milk-based drinks, you can consider darker blends or blends that include robusta. Some individuals prefer a more roasted flavor, which can still be tasted when mixed with milk.
Grind Size for Espresso Beans
- Authentic Espresso (Single Wall Basket): Grinding coffee for espresso requires careful consideration. It is crucial to have a grinder with micrometric adjustments to achieve a very fine grind. If the grind is not fine enough (almost powdery), the coffee puck in the portafilter will not provide enough resistance to the water, resulting in a weak and watery extraction. This is best avoided!
- Pressurized (Double-Wall Basket): If you're using a pressurized portafilter (which some espresso purists consider cheating), you don't need an extremely fine espresso grind. Instead, you can opt for preground coffee labeled as "espresso." Many brands offer preground coffee suitable for moka pots and espresso machines with pressurized portafilters.
How can you tell if your basket/portafilter is pressurized? Most inexpensive espresso machines under a certain price point come with pressurized portafilters. Sometimes, it may not be immediately apparent, requiring you to remove the metal basket inside the portafilter. If the basket contains numerous small holes, it is an authentic espresso basket. If there is only one exit hole in the center, it's a pressurized version.
What Are Espresso Beans? (Not Expresso)
Espresso beans are the same as regular espresso beans. "Expresso" is a common spelling mistake. The correct term is with an 'S,' not an 'X.'
It should be easy, not easy.
Featured Top Image: Dennis Tang | Source
Top Coffee Beans for Espresso
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Hair Bender - Whole Bean Coffee - 12 Ounce Bag, Flavor Notes of Citrus and Dark Chocolate
Let's kick off 2023 with a well-known brand that you've probably seen while browsing the grocery store aisle. Stumptown Coffee Roasters has established its reputation as a roaster that consistently produces flavorful bags of coffee for all brewing methods, especially when it comes to espresso!
This dark roast blend is a combination of beans from Latin America and Africa. It brings together the bitterness of dark chocolate with a hint of citrus. If you enjoy chocolate oranges during the holiday season, you'll definitely want to try this coffee. Similar to most espresso blends, this coffee is deeply roasted to bring out its boldest flavors.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters is committed to making a positive impact on the coffee industry and has recently obtained B Corp Certification. This recognition is only given to coffee businesses that consistently demonstrate exceptional sustainability practices, transparency, and fair pricing.
Who Should Drink This?
With its chocolatey yet sweet flavor, this relaxing espresso is suitable for both busy mornings and winding down late at night. Enjoy it in your drip coffee maker first, then give it a try in a dry cappuccino.
Intelligentsia, Black Cat Classic Espresso - Whole Bean Coffee - 12 Ounce Bag, Direct Trade
You can never go wrong with Intelligentsia coffee. With decades of hard work to their name, this roaster is synonymous with quality and dedication among coffee enthusiasts.
But that's not all. The Black Cat Classic Espresso is sourced from Colombia and Brazil, two of today's largest coffee producers. While our first entry on the list had chocolatey and tart flavors, this espresso leans more toward the sweet and syrupy side. You can expect notes of dark brown sugar and hints of stone fruit.
Speaking of stone fruit, this refers to fruits like cherry, apricot, and plum.
Who Should Drink This?
If you prefer a low-acidity brew, then this espresso is perfect for you. It can be enjoyed as a dessert-like drink, whether you want to treat yourself or someone special.
Peet's Coffee, Espresso Forte - Dark Espresso Roast Whole Bean Coffee - 32 Ounce Bag
If you want a classic espresso experience, look no further than this delightful bag of Peet's Coffee. This household name is adored by casual coffee drinkers and experienced homebrewers alike.
The Espresso Forte blend is a dark roast made from beans sourced from Indo-Pacific and American origins. It consists of 100% Arabica beans and is meticulously roasted in small batches. This blend offers a nutty profile with hints of hazelnut and truffle, balanced with a touch of lemon-like acidity for a tangy finish.
Who Should Drink This?
What sets this coffee apart is its balanced flavor. If you prefer your dark roast beans without too many surprises, this is the perfect espresso for you. While it's best enjoyed as a standalone shot, feel free to experiment with different coffee recipes to your heart's content.
MISCELA PRIVATA Italian Style Espresso | Whole Bean Coffee | Dark Roast | 1 LB Bag | Great Crema, Full-Body, Rich, & Balanced | Specialty Handcrafted 100% Arabica Artisan Small Batch
Are you a coffee connoisseur who prefers a simple cup of coffee? The Miscela Privata Italian Style Espresso takes you back to a time when coffee was a straightforward and enjoyable beverage.
This roaster has been supplying coffee to the weary masses since 2009, offering a range of origins from Colombia to Guatemala. The Miscela Privata Italian Style Espresso is the darkest of the dark, a robust blend that lovers of bitter chocolate will instantly fall in love with. It boasts a full, creamy body and a generous layer of crema.
And here's an added bonus: it's kosher!
Who Should Drink This?
If you're a fan of espresso-focused drinks like flat whites and macchiatos, you'll go through this bag of coffee in no time. The subtle microfoam ensures that you won't miss out on any flavors while adding a touch of creaminess to the mouthfeel.
Eight O'Clock Coffee Dark Italian Espresso, Dark Roast, Whole Bean Coffee, 32 Ounce (Pack of 1), 100% Arabica, Kosher Certified
Eight O'Clock Coffee is dedicated to providing you with the best espresso available. From the start, they emphasize their extra dark roast, ultra-fine grind, and kosher certification.
But that's not all—this roaster has been in business for a century and a half. It's no surprise that they deliver on all fronts. This coffee blend combines the flavors of dark chocolate with creamy caramel notes, resulting in a pleasing contrast of bitterness and sweetness that you won't be able to resist.
Capturing the nuances of coffee with a dark roast can be challenging, making this bag even more impressive.
Who Should Drink This?
Whether you prefer your coffee black, with milk, or with a hint of sugar, this espresso suits just about any brewing method. It's traditional enough to satisfy the purists while having enough complexity to stand out.
Organic Light Roast Whole Bean Coffee, The Best Espresso Beans from Peru - Fair Trade, Single Origin Mycotoxin & Mold Free Fresh Peruvian Purity | Super Healthy Arabica for Peak Performance - Low Acid
Are you concerned about quality control in your coffee? If you struggle with nausea or intolerances, this coffee is here to meet you halfway.
Top Shelf Grind Roasters proudly display their USDA certification for quality control. Not only is this coffee organic and hand-washed, but it has also undergone thorough inspections to ensure there is no exposure to mold.
You might be wondering, "How can a light roast compare to the best espresso beans?" While darker roasts are typically preferred for espresso due to their bold flavors, they're not suitable for everyone. Light roasts offer a more nutty and mild experience, reminiscent of soft cocoa powder or nougat rather than dark chocolate.
Who Should Drink This?
These beans are perfect for black coffee enthusiasts, cappuccino lovers, and anyone who prefers a milder latte to start their day.
Partners Coffee Roasters, Bedford Blend, Whole Bean Coffee - 12 Ounce - Medium-Dark Roast
Partners Coffee boldly presents a bag that matches the boldness of their coffee. This bag contains some of the most unique Arabica beans you'll find on this list.
Partners Coffee has been around since 2012, carving out a niche as a New York roaster known for their exceptional and distinct flavor profiles. This blend combines notes of jammy marmalade with tart pomegranate and finishes off with a sweet touch of brown sugar. Needless to say, these are not your average coffee beans!
Who Should Drink This?
To fully experience the range of flavors in this blend, consider drinking it black or in a flat white. However, if you prefer your coffee with milk and sugar, you'll still be able to taste these delightful flavors. This coffee is nothing short of exceptional quality.
Coffee Bros., Espresso Roast — Whole Bean — 100% Arabica — 1 Bag (12oz) — Colombia & Ethiopia — Gourmet & Specialty
How do you measure the quality of specialty coffee? Let's delve deep into the world of coffee to understand the level of excellence in Coffee Bros.' Espresso Roast.
Specialty coffee is evaluated using strict standards. A panel of coffee experts analyzes the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel using a grading scale. They also take note of any defects, such as leaf damage or malnourished beans. To be considered specialty coffee, a blend must score eighty points or higher out of one hundred.
The Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast is perfect for coffee drinkers with a discerning sweet tooth. It combines the flavors of strawberry and vanilla into a delightful package. This medium roast is designed to minimize bitterness.
Who Should Drink This?
You can enjoy this coffee with milk, black, or with a touch of sugar. Its fruity and syrupy nature will remain consistent no matter how you choose to brew it.
Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso, Medium Roast, Whole Bean, Certified Organic, Fairtrade, Kosher Coffee, 35.2 Oz
Next on our list is Kicking Horse Coffee, a brand that lives up to its name with its roasted espresso beans.
Travel around the world with this diverse blend of beans from Africa, Central America, South America, and Indonesia. With 100% Arabica beans and a medium roast, this bag offers a slightly less bitter espresso experience compared to other blends. Depending on your preferences, this could be music to your ears!
We were particularly impressed by the flavors of black currant, milk chocolate, and brown sugar, resulting in a taste similar to that of a strong tea.
To top it off, the Cliff Hanger Espresso is organic, Fair Trade, and kosher.
Who Should Drink This?
If you're someone who loves both coffee and tea, you'll be drawn to this memorable bag. Medium roast beans are less bitter, so try these coffee beans black or in a cortado.
Espresso beans and coffee-growing regions
The majority of the world's coffee is grown in the bean belt, a band between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an espresso bean. Espresso coffee is created through a different blending and roasting process to suit the preparation method.
Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia are leading coffee-producing countries. However, Ethiopia and Costa Rica are known for producing some of the finest coffee beans in the world. By roasting them correctly, you can enjoy a delightful cup of espresso.
Volcanica Espresso Dark Roast Coffee
This intensely roasted coffee is a blend of beans from Central and South America. It offers a delicious balance of caramel-like sweetness, light acidity, and a complex spicy aroma.
Lifeboost Dark Roast
Ideal for milk-based drinks, this super-dark roast has a sophisticated flavor profile. With notes of chocolate and brown sugar, it is a favorite among many for its smooth experience.
Cuvee Coffee Karmadillo Dark Blend
A strong and refreshing dark blend, this one is perfect for a morning pick-me-up. It creates a compelling cup of espresso with subtle flavors of milk chocolate and caramelized sugar.
Lavazza “Dek” (Whole bean espresso blend)
If you desire a lovely layer of crema on your espresso, then this blend is the way to go. It has a light and creamy profile, making it ideal for those who prefer a milder cup.
Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee
This indulgent dark roast boasts a strong coffee flavor with hints of cherry and chocolate. It delivers a revitalizing cup of espresso and leaves a slightly smoky aftertaste.
Red Bay’s Brazilian Cake Lady
Here we have a single-origin medium roast from Brazil that produces a crisp cup of espresso. With mild acidity and tempting flavors like golden raisin and nougat, this coffee offers a tropical and nutty palette.
illy Ground Espresso
A well-known name in the coffee world, illy produces a powerful blend that originates from Italy. Their range of coffees is exceptional, and if you prefer ground coffee for your espresso, look no further.
Peet’s Arabian Mocha Sanani
Peet’s is renowned for its limited-edition, freshly roasted specialty coffees, which are sold in small quantities for maximum flavor. Mocha Sanani is made with 100% Arabica beans from Africa and Arabia and features hints of chocolate and hazelnut—a true paradise for espresso lovers.
Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee
Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee provides a strong caffeine kick, perfect for pulling an all-nighter. It's one of the most affordable options for the best coffee beans for espresso and is quite popular.
Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast
Only a few medium roast blends produce excellent espresso, and Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast is one of them. It contains 100% Arabica beans from Colombia and Ethiopia, offering a satisfying sweetness.
Sightglass Organic Crown Point
If you can't resist an organic brew, this medium-roast blend is for you. It produces a full-bodied espresso with flavors of raspberry, chocolate, and butterscotch.
Intelligentsia Black Cat Analog Espresso
Looking for an espresso that refreshes without causing jitters? Look no further. These beans create a comforting cup of coffee with a syrupy and chocolaty feel.
In conclusion, finding the perfect espresso bean is an exciting journey that involves understanding the factors that contribute to its exceptional taste. From the regions where the beans are grown to the specific characteristics that define a great espresso, coffee lovers can now explore a wide range of options to create the ultimate cup of espresso or cappuccino. Whether it's the rich and bold flavors of South American beans or the complex and fruity notes found in African beans, the best coffee beans for espresso are waiting to be discovered. So go ahead, embark on this flavorful adventure and elevate your coffee experience to new heights.
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