Uncover the Secrets to Choosing the Ultimate Espresso Coffee Beans
Experience the heavenly taste of a flawlessly brewed espresso shot – the silky crema, the robust flavor, and the much-needed jolt of caffeine. But don't be fooled by its seemingly simple nature – choosing the right espresso beans is a complex process requiring careful consideration. Fear not, fellow coffee enthusiast, for I shall guide you through all the ins and outs of becoming a home barista extraordinaire. The question on your lips – "why not use regular coffee beans instead?"
Well, a variety of reasons come into play that persuade cafés to use a specialized blend for espresso rather than standard filter coffee. Here are the main ones:
Tradition: Espresso has always been roasted to a darker degree than other types of coffee. Customers expect a certain espresso flavor that cannot be achieved with regular beans.
Better with milk: To cut through the creaminess of milk in latte or cappuccino, a dark roast is required.
Cost-effective: Single-origin coffee can be quite pricey. It makes more sense to use an espresso blend in a busy café, often mixing a cheaper base of beans from Brazil or Indonesia, with up to 20% robusta.
Should espresso coffee be dark roasted?
Indeed, espresso requires at least a slightly darker roast than regular beans. This not only aligns with tradition but also appeals to the majority of people's taste buds. However, there is a wide range of "darkness" to choose from. My recommendation is to go for a roast somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. This way, you can enjoy lattes, flat whites, and single shots alike, without a bitter or ashy aftertaste. Look for the oil on the outside of the bean to determine the level of darkness. French or Italian-style roast is exceptionally dark and shiny, whereas a full city roast is a bit darker than medium.
Pay attention to the roast date: Like all coffee, fresh is better when it comes to espresso. Look for beans roasted within 1-4 weeks for the optimal taste. When shopping online, choosing the roaster as the vendor ensures freshly roasted beans.
Arabica vs. Robusta
The arabica vs. robusta discussion can get quite heated and complicated. In the past, I did not think highly of robusta due to its negative reputation, but my opinion has shifted in recent years. It's possible to discover some delightful robusta, although not commonly found unless you know a green coffee buyer personally. Freshly roasted beans provide the fullest crema in an espresso shot. Robusta is less sweet and acidic than arabica, with a coarser flavor, but it boasts more caffeine and creates more crema.
Breaking the norms of coffee, espresso beans have different standards. Due to its concentrated nature, acidity is not as crucial, making a perfectly grown robusta a flavorful single-origin espresso. It's worth noting that this rule even applies to most Brazilian coffee.
Furthermore, robusta plants naturally contain more caffeine and produce more crema than arabica, making it a desirable option for some. However, the low cost of robusta is why it's commonly used in commercial blends.
If you want to try a blend that includes robusta, some Italian espresso blends are worth trying to see if you like it or not.
For a rich and delectable espresso and cappuccino, these coffee beans are a great option:
1. Coffee Bros Espresso Blend (Medium roast):
This blend is the perfect marriage between Ethiopian and Colombian medium-roasted beans that bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee. Made from 100% Arabica beans and not roasted too dark, it has a cleaner finish than many other popular espresso blends containing robusta. The berry flavors prominently stand out, and the bag was still fresh upon arrival, roasted to order.
2. Illy Espresso Ground Coffee:
This classic espresso has been a mainstay in the industry for many years, made by a traditional Italian company that meticulously selects tea-like sweet cherries with only a few defects for their blends. The medium roast makes it versatile with any brewing style. It may not be the choice of snobby coffee elites, but it won't disappoint you in the cup, regardless of how you brew it. The preground option is suitable if you don't have a grinder, but the whole beans option is available for those who do.
Intelligentsia is highly regarded in the American specialty coffee industry. Their approach is direct trade and establishing relationships with the farms they source from, resulting in quality beans at reasonable prices. This contrasts with the marketing fluff of larger multinational counterparts.
The coffee they provide is a rich and mysterious blend, with notes of chocolate, caramel, and molasses. Additionally, it has a low acidity level, deemed suitable for those with sensitive stomachs or in milk-based drinks. To learn more, check out reviews on Amazon.
Lavazza's medium roast coffee is a balanced and subtle flavor with a taste of hazelnut and chocolate. It's versatile and could be enjoyed as a straight shot or used in milk-based drinks. The name "Espresso Italiano" may be misleading, as it is not a particularly strong or dark roast. If that is what you're looking for, try Lavazza's Qualita Rossa blend. Espresso Italiano is an affordable alternative to Illy's medium roast, with similar quality.
Qualita Rossa is a traditional Italian espresso blend made by Lavazza. It is one of the company's most well-known blends, though it's not for those seeking subtlety or acidity. Rather, it's more about the texture, mouthfeel, and crema. However, if you're not a hardcore espresso snob fixated on extraction theory, it might be worth a try. It offers a potent shot of espresso with slight cacao nib notes, despite being a medium-dark roast. Consider it when looking to fill your superautomatic espresso machine. Read more reviews on Amazon or Trade Coffee.
If you're an avid coffee lover, then you should definitely check out coffee clubs and what they have to offer. And when it comes to the best ones out there, Trade Coffee is a name that stands out.
Unlike other coffee subscriptions that focus on a particular roasting style, Trade Coffee is unique for its collaboration with multiple top-notch roasters. This means you get personalized coffee recommendations based on your brewing preferences and taste.
Their algorithm for selecting the perfect coffee is reliable and efficient, making Trade Coffee an excellent place to have freshly roasted and specially curated espresso beans delivered right to your doorstep. And the best part? There's a generous discount waiting for you upon sign-up.
For coffee enthusiasts looking to expand their knowledge, the following section will provide some insight into the "geeky stuff". Single-origin coffee has become the norm among coffee connoisseurs, as it emphasizes the uniqueness of a specific place's origin and terroir. On the other hand, blends can be challenging to distinguish because of the mixed flavors.
Some roasters now offer single-origin espresso roasts, which means the coffee has not been mixed. And while these roasts are usually darker than filter versions, they will still maintain a fruity taste with plenty of florals and acidity. This type of espresso bean is best consumed alone or diluted with hot water since it doesn't mix well with milk.
Another type of roast to consider is Omni roast, which some specialty roasters have started to produce. This roast aims to be a one-size-fits-all solution for all different brewing methods, making it easier for roasters. However, for those who appreciate a traditional espresso experience or want to make milk-based drinks, Omni roast may not be the best option.
Finally, when considering blends, it is essential to consider what you want to use the coffee for. If you plan on drinking straight espresso, then it's best to avoid robusta and go for 100% arabica beans, preferably from East African or Central American high-altitude coffees. And for milk-based drinks, darker blends or even robusta can be used to produce a roasty taste.
In summary, grinding for espresso can be challenging and requires a specific type of grinder capable of fine-tuning the grind size. But with Trade Coffee delivering freshly roasted and expertly curated beans, you can rest assured that your cup of coffee will be of top-notch quality.
Why Your Espresso is Weak and Watery
If your espresso is coming out thin and weak, chances are you're not using a fine enough grind. The puck in the portafilter needs to provide resistance to the water in order to extract the full flavor from the beans. Think of a powdery consistency for the perfect grind.
The Pressurized Portafilter
While some may consider it cheating, using a pressurized portafilter can be a game-changer for those struggling to achieve the perfect grind. With this type of portafilter, you don't need the super-fine espresso grind size. Instead, you can opt for preground coffee that is labeled for espresso.
Many brands offer preground coffee that is suitable for moka pot and espresso machines with a pressurized portafilter. This makes it a great option for those on a budget or looking for a more convenient brewing method.
Basket or Portafilter?
Not sure if your basket or portafilter is pressurized? Most lower-end espresso machines come with the pressurized version. To determine if yours is pressurized or not, simply pop out the metal basket found inside the portafilter.
If the basket is perforated with hundreds of small holes, it’s authentic. If it only has one exit hole in the middle of the basket, it’s pressurized.
Breaking Down the Espresso Bean
Many people mistakenly think there's a specific type of bean called "expresso." In reality, it's just a common spelling mistake. The correct spelling is with an "S."
Featured Image Source: Dennis Tang | Source
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