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Home » Best Espresso Beans: Top 9 Picks of 2023

What Are The Best Espresso Beans?

There’s something about a great shot of espresso – the aroma, the pungency, the satisfying flavour, 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 nine of the best espresso beans reviews so you can make espresso you love every day.

TOP PICK

49th Parallel Epic Espresso

Nothing else quite parallels the high-quality espresso bean offerings of Parallel Coffee Roasters! These single origin washed Ethiopian whole beans were thoughtfully selected by 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters’ in-house coffee experts and packaged in bag sizes of 240 g each with Epic Espresso expertise.

9 Best Coffee Beans for Espresso

image product details
Best Overall Best Overall 49th Parallel Coffee 49th Parallel Epic Espresso
  • Light-Medium roast
  • Ethiopian origin
  • Clean, Floral, Sweet
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Budget Pick Budget Pick Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso
  • Medium-Dark roast
  • Varied origin
  • Baker’s Chocolate, Cocoa, Sugar, Toffee
Use code HOMEGROUNDS10
Best Organic Best Organic Level Ground Colombia Single Origin Level Ground Colombia Single Origin
  • Dark roast
  • Columbian origin
  • Bold, Citrusy, Dark Chocolatey, Intense, Rich, Sweet Spice
Use code HG10
Best Single Origin Best Single Origin Ethica Brazil Fazenda Ethica Brazil Fazenda
  • Roast not specified
  • Brazilian origin
  • Dark Chocolate, Hazelnuts, Sweet Cherry
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Best Blend Best Blend Balzac's Coffee Roasters Balzac's Blend Balzac’s Coffee Roasters Balzac’s Blend
  • Medium-Dark roast
  • Costa Rica, Guatemala, Sumatra
  • Bold, Gutsy, Rounded
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Best Value for Money Best Value for Money Muskoka Roastery Howling Wolf Muskoka Roastery Howling Wolf
  • Medium-Dark roast
  • Central and South America, Africa
  • Bright, Fruity, Smooth, Sweet
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Best Light Roast Best Light Roast Level Ground Bright Roast Craft Blend Coffee Level Ground Bright Roast Craft Blend Coffee
  • Light roast
  • Ethiopia, Honduras, Rwanda
  • Crisp, Juicy, Sweet notes
Use code HG10
Best Medium Roast Best Medium Roast Ethical Bean Classic Medium Roast Ethical Bean Classic Medium Roast
  • Medium roast
  • Varied origin
  • Acidic, Almond, Light
Use code HOMEGROUNDS10
Best Dark Roast Best Dark Roast Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw
  • Dark roast
  • Central and South America
  • Brown Sugar, Cocoa Nibs, Dark Chocolatey, Rich, Roasted Hazelnuts
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Our list of the best 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 espresso beans with a little more depth below:

1. 49th Parallel Epic Espresso – Best Overall

Specifications

  • Roast: Light-Medium

  • Origin: Ethiopia
  • Tasting Notes: Clean, Floral, Sweet
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean

Nothing else quite parallels the high-quality espresso bean offerings of Parallel Coffee Roasters! These single origin washed Ethiopian whole beans were thoughtfully selected by 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters’ in-house coffee experts and packaged in bag sizes of 240 g each with Epic Espresso expertise.

Grown in the region of Gedeo, Gedeb at an altitude of 2000 m by various smallholder producers, these fully caffeinated heirloom variety light- to medium-roasted espresso beans consistently yield a clean cup with bright floral tasting notes. This most complex light espresso is specially roasted to achieve a characteristic balanced, sweetened acidity that this dedicated roastery works hard to improve upon daily.

Your espressos are in good hands as you hold your warm mug and sip your delicious morning latte or late afternoon cappuccino.

2. Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso – Budget Pick

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium-Dark

  • Origin: Varies!
  • Tasting Notes: Baker’s Chocolate, Cocoa, Sugar, Toffee
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean & Ground

Sweet Espresso is even sweeter than its name. These full-bodied medium- to dark-roasted Arabica espresso beans are available both in whole bean and ground formats. They yield melt-in-your-mouth creamy crema-covered espressos with a delicate velvety consistency that blends swimmingly with any milk of your choice. Sweet Espresso has tasting notes of baker’s chocolate, cocoa, and sugar, with hints of toffee highlighting its chocolatey undertones.

The recommended way to brew the best cup of Ethical Bean Coffee is to use the ratio of 2 tbs of ground coffee for every 180 ml of water.

Where does this Fair Trade organic coffee come from? Well, it varies! The Director of Coffee for Sweet Espresso seeks out the freshest roasts based on the harvest calendar, so the origin changes with the time of year. Every bag comes with a QR code that you’re able to scan to learn exactly where your coffee came from, who made it, and much more. Cool, right?

3. Level Ground Colombia Single Origin – Best Organic

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Origin: Columbia
  • Tasting Notes: Bold, Citrusy, Dark Chocolatey, Intense, Rich, Sweet Spice
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean & Ground

This coffee is “coffee” in all senses of the word. Fair Trade and 100% Certified Organic, these single origin Colombian Arabica beans from Level Ground are grown at an altitude of over 1750 m and roasted in small batches in Victoria, BC, Canada. This dark roast is clean, high-grown, and carefully selected, and it is available both in whole bean and ground formats.

Use this best organic coffee to brew the perfect Drip cup or French Press knowing that this coffee is versatile enough to satisfy any available brewing method. You’ll have the richest, boldest, and most intense tasting notes of citrus, dark chocolate, and sweet spice to look for in your cups. 

This coffee goes above and beyond its cup; the people behind it empower female farmers, increase productivity education, and upgrade sanitation with their social impact. This roast is truly organic in taste, source, and pursuit of human development.

4. Ethica Brazil Fazenda – Best Single Origin

Specifications

  • Roast: not specified

  • Origin: Brazil
  • Tasting Notes: Dark Chocolatey, Hazelnuts, Sweet Cherry
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: N/A

This coffee is brought to you by the Barbosa Family producers from the Fazenda Macaubas farm in the Cerrado Mineiro region of Brazil grown at an altitude of 1150 m. The Barbosa Family has maintained the traditions of their coffee production since the 20th century. This family works hard to give you the best coffee there is, starting from the choice of varietal being red catuai and naturally processed to the effort put into optimizing each harvest season.

The dry season of this region has lower humidity, lighter temperatures, and superior coffee quality. The Quality Control team ensures all processes are monitored closely and all traceability program stages are followed by the book from tree to warehouse to the global stage. 

Ethica Coffee Roasters offers this best single origin with its dark chocolatey, hazelnut, and sweet cherry tasting notes that are perfect for a dense and bright espresso. They do not specify here the roast type or whether their coffee comes in either whole bean or ground formats.

5. Balzac’s Coffee Roasters Balzac’s Blend – Best Blend

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium-Dark

  • Origin: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Sumatra
  • Tasting Notes: Bold, Gutsy, Rounded
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean

“Careful: You might end up writing about it.” Balzac’s Coffee Roasters offers a Balzac’s Blend of Whole Bean Coffee based on Honoré de Balzac’s own blend. They are so confident in it that they predicted I would write about it as I am now! This medium- to dark-roasted blend mixes together 100% Arabica whole bean coffee from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Sumatra. With a recommended breadcrumb-like grind consistency, this well-balanced smooth coffee yields a bold, rounded, and gutsy cup. 

Balzac’s practices sustainable roasting in small batches via eco-friendly Loring Smart Roasters in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by up to 80% in contrast to more traditional roasters. You can guarantee 100% quality in this coffee as it is first sent by importers straight to the Ikawa Pro Sample Roaster for evaluation in the coffee lab at Balzac’s Head Office in Ancaster before it is sent to fellow coffee lovers.

6. Muskoka Roastery Howling Wolf – Best Value for Money

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium-Dark

  • Origin: Central and South America, Africa
  • Tasting Notes: Bright, Fruity, Smooth, Sweet
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean & Ground

From the howling depths of Muskoka Roastery Coffee Co. comes their Howling Wolf medium- to dark-roasted coffee all the way from Africa and Central and South America. The Western boundary of Algonquin Park, which is home to the Eastern Wolf featured on this coffee’s packaging, is a mere 35 km from Muskoka Roastery’s doors. This coffee is available in both whole bean and ground formats.

You’ll find a balanced acidity in this well-rounded, full-bodied brew featuring bright, deep, fruity, rich, smooth, and sweet tasting notes. This coffee offers the best value not just for your money, but also for the environment with its certifications including 100% Rainforest Alliance, B Corp, and Bullfrog Power. This latter point means that the roastery runs exclusively on green electricity, green fuel, and green natural gas for all of their operations.

7. Level Ground Bright Roast Craft Blend Coffee – Best Light Roast

Specifications

  • Roast: Light

  • Origin: Ethiopia, Honduras, Rwanda
  • Tasting Notes: Crisp, Juicy, Sweet
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean & Ground

Level Ground is so good that it makes this list twice! This best light roast is a blend of origins featuring Ethiopia, Honduras, and Rwanda. These origins all complement one another in a delicate balance. The coffee is available in both whole bean and ground formats. Upon first impression, you’ll get crisp, juicy, and sweet notes, but a closer taste reveals an experience full of initially bright raspberry notes followed by a sweetened almond flavour intermingled with red grapefruit and a clean juicy finish. This is the lightest roast that this company has ever blended or roasted. Enjoy this best as an espresso or via pour over brewing methods.

These Fair Trade, 100% certified organic, craft blended Arabica beans roasted in small batches in Victoria, BC, Canada have never been lighter. The social impact behind this brew is strong, too, focusing on empowering economic and working conditions for women, improving education on health for Ebola, Covid-19, and Malaria, enhancing agricultural practices, and managing sustainable waste and renewable biogas projects.

8. Ethical Bean Classic Medium Roast – Best Medium Roast

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium

  • Origin: Varies!
  • Tasting Notes: Acidic, Almond, Light
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean & Ground

Level Ground can’t take all the credit for coming back twice: Ethical Bean Coffee swoops onto this list once again! This best medium roast, available in both whole bean Arabica and ground formats, has a self-proclaimed flavour profile that invokes the feeling of wearing your favourite pair of jeans. It smells of tobacco and it has a pleasing dry almond quality. This coffee is as classy as it is classic with a light acidity. If you’re a coffee lover, you’re practically guaranteed to enjoy this.

The origin? You know the drill: it varies. It is traceable by scanning its QR code. Wherever it comes from, you’re getting Fair Trade, Canada Organic, and USDA Certified Organic coffee.

9. Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw – Best Dark Roast

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Origin: Central and South America
  • Tasting Notes: Brown Sugar, Cocoa Nibs, Dark Chocolatey, Rich, Roasted Hazelnuts
  • Whole Bean Or Ground: Whole Bean

Talk about a morning kick! Kicking Horse Coffee’s Grizzly Claw is the best dark roast out there. It is available both in whole bean and ground formats. This magical brown bear-themed coffee originates from Central and South America, and it is then roasted in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This Arabica coffee is organic, Fair Trade, kosher, and shade grown in environmentally and socially responsible ways with the help of farmers and the sustainable businesses they depend on.

Enjoy this hot coffee using a French press, drip machine, or pour over style, or as a cold brew. You’ll love the brown sugar, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, and roasted hazelnuts all richly inherent as the tasting notes of this decadent brew.

What defines a great espresso bean?

We cannot simply say we like certain beans 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 flavour (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 roast can mask the dull flavours of low-quality beans.

espresso roast beans on table

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 flavour 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 flavours 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 flavour 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.

best coffee beans for making espresso being weighed on a scale

Espresso Beans and Coffee Growing Regions

The coffee growing regions of the world all offer characteristic flavours. While every coffee plantation has its own climate and soil (much like a vineyard), each region tends to offer distinct elements of flavour and aroma:

Sumatra is a great choice for DARK ROAST. The wet hulling process used there produces an earthy, mushroomy flavour 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 flavour, 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 FLAVOURS 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 flavour 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 flavour.

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.

The Verdict

Ok, so the best espresso coffee beans on the market are 49th Parallel Epic Espresso. Why? Well, it’s usually hard to really pull off an espresso single-origin that is light roast, but somehow 49th Parallel did it. Why not get out of your comfort zone and try having your espresso lighter than usually?

We’re sure that one (or more!) of these will make the best espresso that you’ll love. Did we succeed? What is the best espresso beans for you? Did you find your perfect match from one we missed? Let us know in the comments!

49th Parallel Coffee

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  1. 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
  2. Rao, S. (2017, February 26). Roasting for Espresso vs. Filter. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/roasting-for-espresso-vs-filter
Jovana D
I come from a country where people drink domestic coffee (what the rest of the world knows as Turkish coffee) and where Nescafe designates all instant coffees ever made. So, imagine my first encounter with, say, Hario V60...Yes, it was love at first sight.  Today I’m a moderate coffee connoisseur and a huge coffee lover. My favorite brewing methods are the V60 and traditional espresso-making. Yet, despite my country’s long tradition of Turkish-coffee-adoring, I somehow cannot stand it. That’s just too dark, even for me.