Best Espresso Beans: Top 10 Picks of 2023
There’s something about a great shot of espresso – the aroma, the pungency, the satisfying flavor, the tingle it leaves on your palate. It’s so much more than just a cup of coffee. When it’s done right, it can be the best coffee you’ve ever had.
But there IS a catch. If you don’t get the beans right even the best espresso machine and a world-class barista will pull something weak, sour, or bland. How can you prevent this?
Not to worry. In this article, we share ten of the best espresso beans reviews so you can make espresso you love every day.
10 Best Coffee Beans for Espresso
|Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast||
|Atlas Espresso of the Month Club||
|Volcanica Coffee Tanzania Peaberry||
|Temple Dharma Blend||
|Lifeboost Coffee Espresso Beans||
|Peet’s Arabian Mocha Sanani||
|Stumptown Hair Bender||
|Out Of The Grey Indian Monsoon French||
|Koa Coffee Estate Dark Roast 100% Kona Coffee||
Our list of highest quality coffee beans are the cream of the crop but not all of them taste appropriate for espresso. So now, let’s take a look at the best coffee beans for espresso with a little more depth below:
1. Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast – Best Overall
A great roast for espresso should be sweet, bold, and richly caramelized, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a dark roast. A medium roast like this one from Coffee Bros. can make an exceptional espresso, provided the roaster is skilled enough to play up the coffee’s inherent sweetness. This is why Coffee Bros. espresso blend is Home Grounds’ top pick for your espresso.
Founded by two brothers inspired by no more than their love of coffee, it’s clear that the head roaster at Coffee Bros. knows his way around roasting for espresso. This one is made up of a blend of 100% Arabica beans from Colombia and Ethiopia. It’s every bit as sweet as you would hope, but with more complexity than you’d expect, featuring compelling flavors of sugar cane, strawberry, and vanilla.
2. Atlas Espresso of the Month Club – Runner Up
- Whole or Ground: Either (or K-Cups)
- Tasting Notes: Varies
- Origin: Varies (Always Single Origin)
We could not be more excited that one our of favorite coffee clubs now offers a subscription just for espresso lovers!
Atlas Coffee Club sources exclusively single-origin specialty coffee, and with this subscription, you’ll only receive beans selected and roasted for brewing as espresso. As with their standard subscription, each coffee arrives with a beautiful postcard packed with information about the farmer, origin, and the coffee itself.
Atlas sources coffee ethically and sustainably, paying well above Fairtrade prices. This supports coffee farmers and their communities and ensures you’re always getting the cream of the crop (or the crema of the crop, if you’ll indulge me in an espresso pun).
You can choose the frequency and quantity of each shipment, but the bean selection is up to the experts at Atlas. But rest assured that every coffee is roasted the day before it’s shipped, so you know it’s landing on your doorstep at peak flavor. Plus, they offer a “Coffee Match Guarantee.” If you don’t love your coffee, the next month is free.
3. Volcanica Coffee Tanzania Peaberry – Best Specialty Coffee
Forget about Lavazza Super Crema. Peaberry coffee is what you need! It’s a uniquely high-end product that makes a particularly delicious espresso.
Hell no. It’s one of the best coffee beans for making espresso out there!
Why is that?
Most coffee cherries contain two coffee beans, but a special 5% contain only a single bean. This single bean, the peaberry, gets to hog all the nutrients for itself, which means it has twice the richness of flavor.
Volcanica Coffee’s single-estate microlot Tanzanian Peaberry is a perfect example of the style. This medium roast features the fruit-forward flavors that characterize the region, but amped up to 11. It’s pleasantly sweet, with flavors of plum and nougat, and offers a delicate lemongrass acidity. The body is rich and buttery, perfect for your morning shot of espresso.
4. Driftaway Coffee – Best Subscription
If you’re the kind of espresso lover who thinks exploring new flavors and origins is half the fun, a tailored coffee subscription is a perfect option! Driftaway Coffee is at the top of our list for their high-quality single-origin beans, sustainable sourcing practices, and fun membership perks.
When you sign up for a Driftaway subscription, you’ll first receive a kit for a blind coffee tasting. Not sure how that works? Don’t worry because you also get access to some one-on-one time with a coffee pro to guide you through. It’s fun, educational, and delicious.
For a limited time only, Home Grounds readers can get 50% OFF the first box of any new subscription + free shipping. Just use the code HG50 at checkout!
The blind taste test will reveal your preferred flavor profile – fruity, balanced, classic, bold, or extra bold. Usually, the latter three are most suitable for espresso, but if you love a light roast shot, we won’t hold you back. Each month, a new specialty-grade coffee matching your preferences will be shipped to your door. It’s a great way to sample new coffees without straying too far from what you know and love.
5. Temple Dharma – Best espresso blend
The Dharma Blend from Temple Coffee Roasters, available through Trade Coffee, is a crowd pleaser. It offers classic flavors of chocolate, nuts, and caramel, plus a hint of sweet berries to keep things interesting.
Temple crafts this blend from three different origins – Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ethiopia – each of which uses a different processing method. The honey-processed Costa Rican beans are naturally sweet, with flavors of almonds and hazelnuts. The washed Brazilian beans bring a darker, chocolatey sweetness and a heavy body. And the natural Ethiopian beans contribute the fruity character that makes this espresso blend more exciting than most.
Whether you’re drinking shots of espresso, sipping an Americano, or enjoying a milky latte, this is a coffee to enjoy all day long. And we’re not the only ones who think so. It received an astoundingly high score of 92 from Coffee Review in 2021.
6. Lifeboost Coffee Espresso Beans – Best for Coffee Geeks
Lifeboost coffee’s mission is to provide healthy, organic and ethically sourced whole beans from Nicaraguan coffee farmers to the coffee world. And indeed, it seems they are successfully executing on this goal, however they have recently released these espresso beans that are well worth a try.
There are a lot of labels to this brand, so bear with me as I list them: 100% certified organic, spring-water washed and sun dried, Mycotoxin free, sustainably-sourced, and hand roasted espresso beans.
What does this all mean? It means you’ll be drinking high quality, healthy coffee beans that are produced without sacrificing the environment, your health, or local coffee farmers. Tastes AND feels good to drink.
- 100% certified Organic, Fair Trade Arabica beans from Nicaragua.
- Dark roasted coffee – ideal for espresso brewing.
- Rich and bold with undertones of caramel and chocolate, with a very subtle fruitness/sweetness. Low acid.
- An intense yet attractive aroma.
7. Peet’s Arabian Mocha Sanani – Budget Pick
When Alfred Peet opened his coffee bar in Berkeley, California in 1966, he sparked a change not only in how coffee was brewed, but how it was perceived. This “second wave” of coffee introduced American coffee lovers to dark-roasted specialty coffees, as well as to European brewing methods and beverages such as espresso, latte, or cappuccino, and more. Want to learn more? Watch a brief video about first, second, and third wave coffee here (1).
While Peet’s sells special, limited-edition offerings that are freshly-roasted in small batches, their Arabian Mocha Sanani, with 100% Arabica beans from Africa and Arabia, is a regular selection and offers a unique experience in espresso. When you hear the word “mocha,” you probably think of the popular drink combining coffee and hot chocolate. But the name comes from Mocha, a port city on the Red Sea, and the characteristics of coffee from this region include unmistakable notes of cocoa and chocolate in the aroma and on the palate. One sip – whether in an espresso or a pour over – of an Arabian Mocha and you’ll understand.
Peet’s coffee is roasted only after you place your order, and shipped within four hours of roasting.
- Freshly-roasted 100% Arabica beans from Africa and Arabia
- Dark beans which are ideal for espresso, French press, or Moka pot, but equally delicious in a pour over
- Notes of chocolate and dates add to complex, spicy aroma
8. Stumptown Hair Bender – Most sustainable choice
Portland, Oregon’s Stumptown Coffee is one of the leading proponents of the “third wave” of coffee, with a focus on origin, growing and processing methods, and most importantly, attention to the coffee itself. It is also a sustainable coffee brand.
The third wave is, in many ways, a reaction. It is just as much a reply to bad coffee as it is a movement toward good coffee.
Hair Bender – a nod to the beauty parlor that previously occupied the location of Stumptown’s first roaster – was the first blend that founder Duane Sorenson produced. The rich textures and volcanic brightness of Indonesian coffee are layered over the fruity character of Latin American coffee and the earthy depth of beans from Africa. Citrus and dark chocolate elements predominate, for a blend of tart and bitter that strikes a lovely balance.
- Blend of coffees from Indonesia, South America, and Africa to fill the palate
- The house blend for espresso brewed in every Stumptown coffee shop
- Roasted dark for a crisp finish
9. Out of the Grey Indian Monsoon French – Best Single Origin
For a totally unique espresso experience, check out this dark roast Monsoon Malabar coffee from Out of the Grey. Out of the Grey is a small-batch roaster that sources specialty beans from around the world.
Monsoon Malabar coffee is famous thanks to its unusual processing method. After harvest, the green coffee beans are exposed to moisture-filled winds for weeks at a time. The idea is to mimic the conditions on the wooden trade ships that brought green coffee from India to Europe – the original (and unintentional) Monsoon Malabar. The result is a very low-acid coffee with a mild earthy character that makes a delicious espresso.
Pull a shot with these beans and you’ll taste rich dark chocolate and smoky mesquite balanced by bright notes of orange zest and stone fruit. This coffee has a heavy body, syrupy mouthfeel, and lingering finish.
10. Koa Coffee Estate 100% Kona Coffee – Best Dark Roast
I know that some of you expect to see Death Wish Coffee on this list. But hear me out when I say this pick replaced it. With every right. In the past, Kona coffee hasn’t been regarded as an espresso bean, as lighter roasts were often used to highlight its complex flavors. But lucky for us, the times are changing. You can find the best espresso beans where you least expect it and even expand your espresso experience!
Renowned producers like Koa are experimenting with dark roasts, and the results are incredible. No surprise when you’re starting with such a high-end coffee!
Don’t believe us? Just ask Honolulu-born Pete Licata, the 2011 U.S. National Barista Champion who’s built a career on Kona coffee espresso.
This Koa Coffee Estate features the classic Hawaiian flavors of milk chocolate and ripe fruit, with a hint of toasted nut thanks to the darker roast. The relatively low acidity and heavy mouthfeel makes it an ideal choice for espresso.
What defines a great espresso bean?
We cannot simply say we like certain coffee beans for espresso because we like them. Sure, the subjective feeling is essential but, it’s not the only criterium. There’s actually a coffee science behind great espresso beans.
So, here’s what to look at when choosing the ones for you:
Espresso beans vs Regular coffee beans. Is there a difference?
Most single origin beans would make terrible choices for espresso. Dark roast beans are best for making classic espresso, or at least a darker-medium roast. Something called blonde roasts are also marketed as great beans for espresso.
Scott Rao, author of The Professional Barista’s Handbook and several other books on coffee, explains that the coffee to water ratio in an espresso maker makes for a cooler brewing environment than a pour over, drip, or French press. The reason? Espresso’s water-to-coffee ratio – sometimes 2- or 3-to-1 (compared to 18-to-1 for pour over) – means the brew never gets as hot as in a pour over. The risk? Under-extraction, and a sour, thin flavor (2).
The lower temperatures of espresso extraction tend to make coffee sourer. And to combat sourness, roasters tend to roast darker
In short, the medium and light roasts you love in a pour over, drip coffee maker, or similar types of coffee maker run the risk of going sour in an espresso. To compensate for this, espresso takes a dark roast. But some coffee roasters cut costs by using inexpensive beans because dark or espresso roasting can mask the dull flavors of low-quality beans.
One solution is to buy single-origin beans – but don’t overlook a well-made blend. Some nice espresso blend beans from different regions, to strike the perfect balance between sweet and bitter. And just a reminder when buying coffee beans: ALWAYS CHECK THE ROAST DATE.
If you wanna know more about the difference between regular beans and espresso beans: read this: espresso beans vs coffee beans.
Single-origin or espresso blend?
Blending gives a talented coffee roaster an opportunity to balance the flavor of espresso. Fruity, earthy, acid, bitter: in an espresso machine, the short brewing time and lower temperatures reward a coffee company that knows how to combine a variety of coffees for best effect. So while single-origin coffee is a great way to dial in your palate for the flavors you love, when it comes to espresso, blends often have an advantage.
The first question about blends involves the type of coffee tree from which the beans are sourced. Nearly all single-origin espresso is made from Arabica beans. These high-quality beans have a more complex flavor profile than the less-expensive Robusta. Arabica beans are grown all around the world, with every growing region having slightly different characteristics.
Robusta beans have more caffeine and more bitterness – but that can be an advantage for espresso. Some espresso blends do include small amounts, 20 to 25%, of Robusta beans for this reason. Robusta beans are also higher in caffeine, so if you’re looking for a jolt, they have their virtues. Here’s where you can learn more about these types of coffee beans. On another note, if you wish to try having a weak espresso, here’s where you can learn more about decaf espresso.
Espresso Beans and Coffee Growing Regions
The coffee growing regions of the world all offer characteristic flavors. While every coffee plantation has its own climate and soil (much like a vineyard), each region tends to offer distinct elements of flavor and aroma:
- Sumatra is a great choice for DARK ROAST. The wet hulling process used there produces an earthy, mushroomy flavor that carries through even in the darkest French roast. If you like the smoky tang of a Portobello mushroom seared over a charcoal fire, you might love coffee from Sumatra.
- South and Central American coffees are popular in MEDIUM ROASTS. These coffees tend to have brighter acidity, with more fruit and floral notes. With fine grind and attention to heat in your espresso machine, you can brew a great shot of espresso with beans from Colombia or Guatemala. Brazilian coffee tends to have a lighter, sweeter flavor, which is great when blended with stronger beans for espresso.
- Africa provides deep minerality, partly from the soil and climate but also from the dry-processing method in which the coffee beans are left to dry in this sun. This concentrates stronger, DARKER FLAVORS in the resulting coffee. Notes of chocolate and fruit (especially in Ethiopian coffee) make a complex, balanced cup of espresso.
- Indonesia is known as much for the volcanic tingle its soil adds to the aftertaste as for its rich, bold flavor and well-balanced acidity. Even in a medium-dark roast, Indonesian beans have the body to make great espresso shot.
Tips for Enjoying Espresso Beans
Whatever espresso beans you select, here are a few things to be aware of to get the best out of them. This should be obvious, but you should already have a quality espresso machine. Duh.
Make sure you use a fine grind; good espresso machines require a very fine grind. This is another way to compensate for the lower brewing temperature – finer grinds offer a faster extraction, which helps balance the flavor.
Look at the crema for a clue to your grind.
One key about whether your espresso is ground finely enough: keep an eye on the crema, that golden layer at the top of the cup. (Speaking of cups, here’s where a review of the best espresso cups in the market). If your crema is thin or has too many large bubbles in it, try a finer grind. You should be able to make an adjustment on automatic espresso machines with built-in grinders.
You can, of course, order your espresso pre-ground – it’s not the best choice, but better than too coarse a grind. On another note, having pre-ground espresso beans makes for an instant espresso powder.
Learn to tamp properly.
In addition to getting the grinds fine enough, you need to make sure you’re tamping the filter basket properly. Tamping affects how quickly the water flows through the puck when you pull a shot. You need 30 pounds of pressure to ensure that the grinds are packed closely enough that they will extract properly – too little pressure and the water goes through too quickly.
Be sure to pre-infuse your espresso.
If you’re using a quality super-automatic espresso machine, it should come with a pre-infusion cycle. Pre-infusion performs the same function as the bloom on a pour-over: it wets the coffee grinds and releases the CO2 stored in them from roasting. But in espresso, pre-infusion also helps control the speed of flow through the grinds: because the grinds swell when wet, they slow the flow of water and therefore ensure more complete extraction.
Best espresso coffee beans on the market are Coffee Bros. espresso beans. All true espresso drinkers will tell you Coffee Bros. know how to roast and combine the perfect flavors to get the best espresso cup. Coffee Bros. blend is sweet but with complex tasting notes, just what you expect from a refined espresso.
One (or more!) of these will make the best espresso that you’ll love. Did we succeed? What are the best coffee beans for espresso for you? Did you find your perfect match from one we missed? Let us know in the comments or via email.
- What Is Third Wave Coffee and How Did We Get Here? (2016, January 08). Retrieved from https://www.eater.com/2016/1/8/10733218/third-wave-coffee-history
- Rao, S. (2017, February 26). Roasting for Espresso vs. Filter. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/roasting-for-espresso-vs-filter
This post was last updated on Feb 23, 2023.