Our experts tested out dozens of espresso beans, and these options turned out to be really tasty.
If you are here, then you are probably asking the question:
Which coffee beans are best for espresso? Espresso is a complex drink, and choosing the right espresso beans greatly affects its taste. But choosing from the huge variety of best espresso brands is even more challenging than choosing a great espresso machine.
But don’t worry, we have compiled a list of the top 10 types of espresso bean with a variety of flavor profiles that will allow you to achieve the best crema and density.
We also explain why these coffee beans are ideal for espresso.
Comparison of the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso
Lifeboost CoffeeI know you’re going to love this coffee. After one try, you’ll never go back to mass-produced toxin-loaded “generic” coffee. Key Features
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Coffee Bros.These are the finest espresso-roasted 100% Arabica beans. An espresso brewed with these beans reveals juicy berry and nutty-caramel notes, and always-fresh supplies will let you fully enjoy the aroma. Key Features
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Volcanica CoffeeThis coffee is used by many coffee shops around the world, including big brands like Starbucks and Coffee Beanery. Key Features
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Koa CoffeeKoa Coffee produces premium Hawaiian Coffee - Hand picked, expertly roasted. Key Features
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Lion CoffeeThe roast is dark and sweet but not burnt. There’s a fine line between dark enough and too dark and this roast hits it consistently. Key Features
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The Best Espresso Coffee Beans 2020
- Lifeboost - Best Espresso Beans
- Coffee Bros. - Freshest Espresso Beans
- Volcanica - Best for Latte and Cappuccino
- Koa Coffee - Premium Pick
- Lion Coffee - Best French Roast
- Kicking Horse Coffee - Best Decaf Pick
- Lavazza Super Crema - Best for Crema
- Koffee Kult - Best Dark Roast
- Cafe Don Pablo - Best Organic Choice
- Coffee Bean Direct - Best Italian Espresso Beans
Detailed List of the Best Coffee for Espresso
1. Lifeboost - Best Espresso Beans
This shade-grown organic coffee from Nicaragua is cultivated without the use of pesticides, so the beans are low in acidity. They're perfect for people with digestion problems or tooth decay.
Growing the beans in shade preserves the natural ecosystem and gives the coffee a rich aroma and complex taste with light notes of caramel and fruit. Shade also slows the maturation process of the coffee fruit, so the coffee matures more dimensionally and absorbs all the necessary nutrients.
In addition, the trees contribute to air purification, strengthen the soil against erosion, and increase the bird population. Lifeboost's hand-selected beans are the most environmentally friendly product on the coffee market.
But to get the best espresso beans, you need to prepare them properly. Lifeboost uses special technology to collect, dry, and rest the beans. All beans are picked by hand to get the highest-quality espresso mixture.
The beans are then dark-roasted, perfect for espresso. You will get a drink with a smooth and delicious taste and notes of chocolate, caramel, and fruit.
2. Coffee Bros. - Freshest Espresso Beans
These are the finest espresso-roasted 100% Arabica beans. An espresso brewed with these beans reveals juicy berry and nutty-caramel notes, and always-fresh supplies will let you fully enjoy the aroma.
The taste profile of this coffee is exactly as described by Coffee Bros.—very balanced with a light, fruity, sweet flavor notes.
Coffee Bros. pays great attention to the roasting process, and for espresso, this is one of the main factors affecting taste. Coffee Bros. roasts the beans perfectly so you can taste strawberries, sugar cane, and vanilla.
The taste is also influenced by country of origin. This sophisticated blend uses 100% Arabica beans from Colombia and Ethiopia.
Colombia is the largest producer of washed Arabica in the world. Columbia coffee has an acidic potential which is transformed into softness when roasted. Meanwhile, Ethiopia grows an extraordinary genetic diversity of coffee plants. Ethiopian coffee is sweeter and more fruity and floral than Colombian coffee.
Coffee Bros. has combined these two varieties and created an excellent blend that gives a balanced and smooth taste in your cup of espresso.
3. Volcanica - Best for Latte and Cappuccino
Yirgacheffe coffee has a unique taste that is considered the best in Ethiopia. This coffee is used by many coffee shops around the world, including big brands like Starbucks and Coffee Beanery. It is mainly used for preparing milk-based drinks, although it is also pleasant to drink as an espresso.
Yirgacheffe's unique taste is a result of peculiarities in soil and moisture where it's grown. Pure espresso brewed with these beans has a bright floral aroma and good body with a slight acidity.
This coffee blends perfectly with milk, and in a cappuccino it tastes like berry yogurt with chocolate notes.
Natural processing makes this coffee balanced and bright. The coffee is hand-picked by local farmers and dried in the sun. Because the beans are dried correctly, over-fermentation and other defects don't occur.
Yirgacheffe coffee also reveals its notes well when brewed in a pour-over. Whichever recipe you use, the coffee will surprise you every time thanks to its sweetness and fruity, juicy taste. It's always fresh, has a gentle acidity, and lacks bitterness.
Experienced baristas recommend preparing it in an espresso machine rather than a pour-over coffee maker, though.
A good starting point for brewing this coffee in a professional espresso machine is a 1:2 double-yield ratio (for every gram of ground coffee, two grams of finished brew are produced) in 25 seconds at 199.5°F (93°C).
Volcanica roasts Yirgacheffe in accordance with the beans' characteristics in order to fully reveal all the nuances of flavor. The company always delivers the coffee on time and keeps prices low to please consumers.
4. Koa Coffee - Premium Pick
Peaberry is a unique, very rare type of premium Kona coffee that has a pronounced taste and citrus-like acidity.
This dark roast variety is characterized by a rich, soft taste with hints of creamy chocolate, nuts, and cinnamon. Wine tones, light acidity, and a long-lasting aftertaste are also present. The delicate, sweetish aroma of the drink vaguely resembles cocoa with milk. The coffee goes well with fruit, especially fresh blueberries.
This particular premium grade of Kona coffee is a worthy leader among the best Hawaiian coffees. It is grown by small farms on the Big Island of Hawaii, mainly on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in the Kona region. This region has an ideal climate for growing coffee. Fertile volcanic soils allow farmers to grow flawless coffee without any kind of fertilizer.
If you are just starting your journey to explore the world of premium coffee, 100% Kona Peaberry coffee is a great place to begin.
When using Peaberry coffee, you should brew at a lower temperature and with a lower dosage than normal. Grind size is also important: Too fine a grind can cause the finished coffee to be overly thick and oily. Start by brewing small batches so you can adjust the grind size and dose ratios to your liking.
5. Lion Coffee - Best French Roast
This intense French roast coffee has a rich taste with hints of dark chocolate, spices, and roasted nuts. It has practically no acidity, and the body of the espresso is full with a delicious cocoa aftertaste.
The coffee is roasted by Lion Coffee from hand-picked Arabica beans according to strict standards.
Coffee enthusiasts prefer to brew espresso using this coffee. The result is a dense, thick, strong drink. In addition, this coffee goes well with dairy products. Lattes and cappuccinos are especially tasty—their aftertaste is simply amazing.
Lion Coffee French Roast does not have the specific bitterness of a typical French roast, so it's great for drinking every day. We highly recommend it to anyone who likes dark roasts and strong coffee.
6. Kicking Horse Coffee - Best Decaf Pick
Decaf espresso beans can be delicious too. These dark-roasted beans have hints of milk chocolate, hazelnut, and cane sugar. For this unique taste, Kicking Horse Coffee deserves the attention of all coffee lovers.
This coffee is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process. The caffeine is almost completely removed, but all the flavor properties are preserved.
This decaf coffee is great for making espresso. The drink will impress you with its velvety crema, chocolate taste, and long aftertaste that is no different from regular espresso.
Kicking Horse seeks, above all, to produce the highest-quality product. The company ensures that all the best substances remain in the coffee. Therefore, we can safely recommend this product to anyone who seeks coffee with a full range of taste sensations but without caffeine.
In addition, Kicking Horse has gone to great lengths to be Climate Pledge Friendly, which means their products have the lowest impact on the environment.
7. Lavazza Super Crema - Best for Crema
This is a true Italian espresso blend that combines sweet Brazilian Arabica beans with sophisticated Indonesian Robusta. The blend will surprise you with its soft, velvety taste, hints of chocolate, and long-lasting aftertaste of roasted nuts. It's a medium roast, so the beans are suitable for most drinks.
Lavazza harvests its Arabica beans from India, Colombia, and Brazil and its Robusta beans from Vietnam and India. The result is a blend that has become a fan favorite due to its soft character and notes of almonds, dried fruits, and honey.
Lavazza is currently the best espresso coffee brand in the coffee market, for several reasons.
First, Lavazza has been producing the best espresso beans for more than 120 years. The tradition of making a drink is passed down from generation to generation. This is a very important indicator that you will receive the most professional, highest-quality product.
Second, Lavazza is good at creating Arabica-Robusta blends and puts all its products through many stages of selection and sorting.
Third, Lavazza's processing technologies retain the beans' best qualities.
Summing up these 3 factors, you get a real miracle of espresso.
8. Koffee Kult - Best Dark Roast
Koffee Kult makes one of the best dark roast espresso beans on the market.
Do you need the best strong coffee in the world that will give you vigor for a whole day? In this case, I can recommend you Koffee Kult Dark Roast. Because of its unique recipe, it can be safely called one of the best products among all.
Please note that the location of this company in Hollywood. Sounds good, isn’t it? As you need a good product, the recipe of the drink is kept secret and is not disclosed. But the most important thing is not this fact. The factory has grown from scratch, and the masters in it work only on 3 machines. The whole product is harvested by hand, and also prepared by hand – the finished drink has minimal loss of smell, valuable properties, and taste.
These good espresso beans are sampled in Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra. These countries have a humid and hot climate. With this growth, the most useful substances and elements are absorbed into the finished bean. Only the largest copies get to the factory – the whole product is very carefully selected. With a fairly low intensity of the coffee is roasted, while the loss of valuable substances is reduced to zero. Beans are fried in small groups – this is the most effective method for preserving antioxidants and taste properties. All the useful qualities of the beans are saved precisely because of the minimum volume.
I also want to tell you that the Robusta variety is not included at all in the finished product. All beans are entirely made of Arabica. This coffee, with good taste, will be the strongest that you can make.
Separately, about the taste properties of Koffee Kult dark roast coffee beans. The drink contains notes of cinnamon, fruit and cocoa. Saturation and roasting, combined with the length of the finish, make this variety just perfect for consumption. Therefore, this product successfully consumes and buys so many people around the world.
These dark roast beans are suitable as a complementary ingredient for many drinks such as latte or cappuccino, as well as pure espresso.
9. Cafe Don Pablo - Best Organic Choice
Anyways, Cafe Don Pablo is one of the best organic espresso beans.
This company has its own family recipe for the preparation of the best products. The product is prepared much longer than usual, while a special method makes the taste more concentrated, thanks to the caramelization of sugar.
In this coffee, you can note the fact that all beans are grown in volcanic soil, and at high altitude. The combination of these two factors makes the drink special – the taste has a very rich shade. If we talk about the flavor, it resembles dark chocolate with a salty flavor. If this seems repulsive to you, then, in fact, everything is very good. The hue of volcanic land gives just unreal sensations. This, perhaps, the main feature of this product.
These beans are not only suitable for espresso, but it can also be used for a variety of methods of preparation, for example, Traditional Drip Espresso Machines or Hand Drip Method. It all depends on what kind of drink you want to get in the end.
10. Coffee Bean Direct - Best Italian Espresso Beans
Coffee Bean Direct makes some of the best Italian roast beans out there.
In Italy, there are other, less well-known manufacturers. One of them is Coffee Espresso Bean.
The coffee beans for espresso, which are available on the market, has a unique taste, as well as a high content of antioxidants. This he received a high rating from many buyers. We can say that you get really balanced and thoughtful Italian espresso.
Beans for the future of the drink are collected from 4 continents and mixed in special proportions. Roasting is done by hand, and flavor ingredients are added using a special formula. As a result, you get a drink with a pleasant shade of honey, while you can trace the aroma, reminiscent of a mixture of smoky molasses and cocoa powder. And we think that this combination is remembered for a long time. Such taste really stands out among competitors, it is very non-standard. The Coffee Bean Direct tried very hard.
The beans itself are packed in special foil bags with flaps. This is done to ensure that nutrients are kept as cool as possible, and the taste is well revealed when used. For this, you can put a separate plus to the manufacturer.
What to Look for When Buying Espresso Coffee Beans
Country of Origin
There are quite a few countries where the best beans for espresso are grown. However, not all of them are used by most global manufacturers for exporting their products – mainly about 50 places from 4 continents. Consider some of them in more detail.
At the moment, South American countries contribute to half of the entire world coffee market. Brazilian Arabica is the most popular and cheap, so countries are focused on the production of this particular type of coffee.
If we consider Asia, then Indonesia and Vietnam now account for about 23% of the world market. Robusta, which is much cheaper than Arabica, and therefore more popular among exporters, make up the majority of the cultivated coffee beans in these places.
African countries do not occupy a leading position in the export of coffee even though Africa is the birthplace of this drink. This is mainly due to the poverty and conditions of the continent. Here you can select only one country – Ethiopia. It accounts for 4% of all beans in the world. If we talk about varieties that are grown in Africa, we can note a huge percentage of Arabica. Robusta on this continent is hardly found.
To be honest, the real leaders in the production of coffee are no more than 7 countries. This can be explained by the fact that their share in the world market is the largest, it is significantly more than other countries. Examples: Colombia, Indonesia, India, Ethiopia, Brazil, Vietnam.
We advise you to focus on these countries when choosing your drink.
Whole vs Pre-Ground
It is believed that coffee lives 15 minutes after grinding. After that, the interaction of ground coffee with oxygen destroys the taste and aroma of coffee.
After a couple of days, the ground coffee is dead.
This is reflected in the fact that you cannot determine the coffee or the smell or taste. It becomes dull, earthy and frankly rancid. No pack, even vacuum will not save the ground beans. You do not drink the whole pack in 15 minutes!
If you have the opportunity, buy the best espresso beans only and grind it at home. Buy a coffee grinder. Even the worst $ 10 coffee grinder will give a much better result than buying ground coffee.
It’s simple, the fresher the better. Over time, coffee loses its taste and aroma, and caffeine content decreases. In this guide, brands are selected that differ in that they deliver only fresh beans to their customers.
The Roast Type
Generally, roasting beans is one of the most important processes on the long haul to a cup of coffee. Roasting is a skill that is responsible for the full manifestation of the taste and aroma of the drink.
One of the most important stages on the way to the cup of coffee is roasting the best product. This process is responsible for the full manifestation of aromatic and taste qualities.
First, when making beans, moisture evaporates, and then the size of the product becomes larger. The brown color of coffee gives a substance called “caramelin“. It is obtained by heating sucrose. For the coffee beans aroma meets the substance “Caffeol”, it is obtained in the process of roasting. In the process of making drinks, essential oils rise to the surface, as the structure of the bean changes with high temperature. Because of this, each time the taste of the finished product will be special.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of roasts.
It is impossible to make a single scale on which it will be possible to measure the degree of preparation of beans. If the roasting method was the same, but the beans were taken different, the final taste would still not be the same. In addition, the product can be roasted in different ways, the taste will not be the same. In addition, you should understand that the “weak taste” and “strong taste” of each one are very different terms. Tasters are also people, and no two people have the exact same preferences or perceptions.
Italian, Spanish, Cuban and French roasts are dark roasts and amber, matte brown or chocolate shades of the product are weak and medium roast.
We turn to the classification.
Coffee with this roasting goes well with milk, and its taste has a sour shade. The finished espresso bean is light brown. This roasting technology allows you to fully enjoy the multifaceted taste and delicate aroma. Light roast is suitable for soft raw materials.
Examples of lightly roasted beans: New England, Urban, American and Scandinavian.
Let’s get acquainted with the most popular and traditional type of roasting. The output is a dark bean, the surface of which is oily, but dry. Sweet and sour taste and aroma is typical for this type of roasting. And the taste is more saturated than in the previous type.
Examples of coffee with medium roast: Viennese, full city roast.
Note that this type of drink is used for espresso machines.
Strongly roasted coffee – dark brown beans with weak traces of oiliness. The taste is less sour than the previous versions. With this method, essential oils are actively released, which contributes to the appearance of a brighter and more saturated aroma, which is most fully revealed. Brewed drink turns dark.
Low oiliness and brown beans are what characterizes this type of roasting. Here you should pay attention to the fact that the taste of coffee is less sour than usual. I will also note that the aroma is brighter and more saturated than in the previous two types – beans emit more essential oils more actively. If we talk about the color of coffee, then it will be dark.
Example of coffee with strong roasting: French.
For most European coffee styles, the highest degree of roasting is suitable. The color of the beans is dark, almost black. The beans are oily, and the taste shade is “singed” and bitter. This coffee is popular in its pure form, it also goes well with cream.
Examples of coffee with the highest degree of roasting: Spanish, dark French.
Can the best espresso beans be used for drip coffee?
If you use dark roasted beans in a drip coffee maker, you will taste a chocolatey bitterness. Lighter roasts, in which the roaster works to unleash the full potential of the beans and their natural acidity, are more suitable for a drip coffee maker. In theory, light roasts can also be used for espresso, but the drink will be incomplete with a predominantly acidic flavor.
Is there a difference between best espresso beans and regular coffee beans?
The beans are the same, but the difference is that beans for espresso take longer to roast and/or are roasted at a higher temperature than beans for other types of coffee. You can still use other types of roasts with an espresso machine.
How can I find the best taste profile for espresso?
Only by tasting and experimenting. Try different blends that vary by region, roast, acidity, and Arabica/Robusta content. Buy small quantities of freshly roasted coffee from Central America, Africa, South America, and Indonesia to see the differences. Also, try asking roasters about the composition of their blends.
What roast is best for espresso beans?
The roast of coffee beans for espresso varies, but a dark or medium roast is preferred. The darker the coffee is roasted, the higher its extractiveness—its ability to release soluble substances into water—and the easier it gives up its aromas. Since less water interacts with beans in an espresso machine than during other brewing methods, darker beans are imported. If you prefer a medium roast, you should increase the water temperature and adjust the grind. Using a lighter roast for an espresso machine will in most cases result in an incomplete espresso.
Why are espresso beans oily?
This is because espresso beans are dark roasted. Roasting is the main cause of oils. There is almost always oil on dark roasted beans. This is because with a darker roast, the grain structure becomes more porous, and caramelization processes are active.
What affects the taste profile of an espresso bean?
The aroma and flavor of an espresso bean depend on several factors: the degree of roasting, how the beans are processed, date of roasting, origin, and whether the coffee is single-origin or a blend. As a rule, the manufacturer or roaster indicates this information on the packaging. Some manufacturers list flavor profiles, too.
Can you use regular coffee beans with an espresso machine?
Yes, you can use any coffee beans to make espresso. You don’t always have to use a specific espresso roast. Espresso is all about taste, and espresso experts usually choose either a medium or a dark roast. But many coffee aficionados do prefer to use specially selected espresso blends that provide a unique taste.
How to choose the best taste profile for espresso?
You can only choose a great espresso taste profile through trial and experimentation. Coffee, like wine and chocolate, offers countless variations in taste. The best way to explore these variations is to travel the world. But if you don’t yet have the opportunity to travel around the world in search of the perfect mix for your espresso, you can use our recommendations for the best espresso beans.
- How to Make Espresso at Home: A Starter Guide - New York Times
- 7 Tips For Picking The Best Coffee Beans For Espresso - Coffee Bros.
Coffee is part of the lives of everyone on the MyFriendsCoffee team. We are a group of professional baristas, coffee bean roasters, and coffee machine repairers. Coffee has connected us, and together we strive to provide the best information to our readers.
Our responsibility is to provide advice on any and all coffee-related issues. And we know that to do this we must be experts in this field.
Coffee consumption culture has changed dramatically over several centuries. New brewing methods, bean quality control methods, roasting methods, and much more have appeared. We are sure that coffee will change further, and we want to be involved in changing it for the better.