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.
9 Best Coffee Beans for Espresso
|Ecuador Finca Franjares One Roast||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Pact Coffee Bourbon Cream Espresso||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Perky Blenders Sow Blend||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Assembly House Single Espresso||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Union Revelation Espresso|
|Square Mile Aroma De Valle||click to check price|
|Mission Coffee Works Up Hill||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Clumsy Goat Fairtrade Italian Espresso||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
|Natural Pilgrim||CLICK TO CHECK PRICE|
Sure, our list 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:
Light roast lovers often have a hard time when it comes to espresso. When not done well, it’s easy to end up with something sour or bland. But that’s definitely not the case with this intense and complex single origin from James Gourmet Coffee.
Grown on a single 5 hectare farm in the Pichincha region of Ecuador, this speciality coffee is of the Etiopia ML varietal. This hybrid, derived from Ethiopian varietals, is unique to Ecuador and gives this wet processed coffee many characteristics shared with the best washed Ethiopian coffees.
The result is a sweet and juicy cup with a bright, fruity aroma and familiar tasting notes of lime, black tea, brown sugar, and maple syrup. The body is surprisingly creamy for a light roast, making it one of the rare few that excels as an espresso. That said, if you’re looking for a versatile brew, this one makes a delicious filter coffee as well.
If the classic rich chocolate espresso flavour profile is what you’re after, then look no further than Pact Coffee’s Bourbon Cream Espresso. It literally tastes like a bourbon cream biscuit. In fact, the idea for this blend arose because Pact Coffee and bourbon biscuits share the same geographic origin.
The Bourbon Cream Espresso is made from a carefully chosen blend of just two origins, Brazil and El Salvador. The milk chocolate notes of the Brazilian beans are enhanced by the richer dark chocolate flavour common to El Salvadorian coffee. A darker roast is used to mute the acidity and produce a dry aftertaste that really does resemble the famous biscuit.
With its dark roast, this coffee has the heavy body, creamy mouthfeel, and intense sweetness sought by many an espresso lover. It also holds up well to milk, making for a delicious latte.
Perky Blenders Sow Blend won a Great Taste Award in 2019, took a hiatus in 2020, and is now back with a vengeance in 2021, ready to wow your tastebuds once again. Like the Pact Coffee blend, this one also consists of only two origins — in this case, Brazil and Ethiopia. This is a common strategy in modern coffee blends, with each origin contributing to make the whole more than the sum of its parts.
The Ethiopian beans hail from the south of the country, where they’re naturally processed to produce a complex sweetness. As a result, they contribute interesting tropical fruit flavours to the blend. The Brazilian beans are farmed sustainably in the Sul de Minas region and add the rich body and classic chocolate flavour notes you expect from espresso.
The final result is fantastic, with notes of dark chocolate, nuts, and tropical fruit. It’s the perfect combination of approachable enough that you want to drink it every day but interesting enough that you won’t get bored if you do.
The Assembly House Espresso is a clever creation that takes input from some of the best independent cafes in the UK to craft a perfectly versatile house espresso. It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s clean, sweet, rich, and balanced all at the same time. It can be enjoyed as a straight espresso or can hold up to milk in a latte or cappuccino.
What they’ve arrived at this year is exactly that, and interestingly, it’s a single origin. The beans are the red bourbon varietal, which is known for its sweetness. They’re sourced from a single farm in the Cordillera Del Balsamo region of El Salvador, where they’re shade-grown, hand-picked, and honey processed. Honey processing provides a nice balance between sweetness and clean flavours.
It’s a lighter roast than most espressos, but not overly acidic. In the cup, you’ll taste bright ripe peaches and pears, baked green apples, and nuts. The aftertaste is richly sweet, like dates and honey.
Union Revelations signature espresso is one of the darkest and richest on this list, perfect for connoisseurs of traditional Italian espresso. It’s an especially great choice for latte lovers, as it packs more than enough flavour to stand up to milk.
It’s a complex blend, made up of coffee from five different countries all around the world. All the beans, stemming from Guatemala, Rwanda, Burundi, Costa Rica and El Salvador, are speciality grade and ethically traded.
This collection of origins wasn’t chosen haphazardly; they combine perfectly for a rich and full-bodied brew. You’ll taste chocolate and treacle, with a rich caramel finish and very little bitterness. You can equally enjoy this one as a filter coffee, which yields a bit more fruity character in the form of ripe cherries.
Here is yet another single origin espresso roast, but in this case, it’s made up of a blend of four varietals, which gives it a particularly unique flavour. The beans are all sourced from a single region in northern Peru, but from a collection of micro-lots in different villages. Each village is rewarded for its best coffee by being paid well above standard rates. This mutually beneficial scenario supports small farmers and promises you’re getting the most delicious coffee.
The result is a succulent brew that is much more fruit-forward than an average espresso. It’s a creamy cup, with juicy peach balanced by buttery macadamia nuts. The finish is bright with sweet raspberries. This one does well with milk but is better savoured on its own to get all the nuance.
For an exciting espresso that doesn’t rely on the typical flavour profile of chocolate and nuts, give Mission Coffee Works Up Hill blend a shot. It’s a 50-50 mix of beans from Colombia and Burundi. And in both cases, the beans are sourced from a single small farm. In the case of Colombia, it’s in the Antioquia region located at 1700 m, and in Burundi, it’s the Kayanza region at 1820 m.
As their signature blend, the Up Hill is crafted to be approachable but still unique enough to stand out from the crowd. Its primary flavour notes are light stone fruits and berries, making for a juicy cup, with hints of deeper red cherry and milk chocolate lending it a sweet finish. This one is especially versatile, as great a pour over or drip coffee as it is an espresso.
Clumsy Goat might be best known for their ethically and sustainably sourced coffee, but don’t be fooled into thinking taste isn’t their top priority. Case in point, this delicious espresso blend. Made up of 100% Fairtrade certified arabica beans from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Sumatra, the Italian espresso is a thoughtful combination destined to be an ideal espresso.
The South American beans contribute a thick crema and well-rounded flavours of chocolate and nuts. The Ethiopian beans are harvested at high elevation, which gives them a bright fruit acidity. Then the earthy Sumatran beans add a depth of flavour and heavy body. All in all, you end up with a perfectly balanced cup tasting of roasted almonds, cocoa, and malt, with just the right touch of brightening acidity.
The Natural Pilgrim is a single origin coffee grown high in the Guji region of Ethiopia, the homeland of coffee itself. The genetic diversity of Ethiopia’s coffee is unmatched around the world, with thousands of varieties grown, many of which are unnamed and undescribed. It is these heirloom varietals that make up this gorgeous and unique brew.
The coffee is naturally processed, a method that adds a warm sweetness and depth to the finished cup. The aroma and initial flavour are both rich with ripe berries, with a strong hit of bright fruity acidity. This is backed by a sweet finish of toffee, fudge, and milk chocolate that will keep you coming back for more.
What defines a great espresso bean?
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. This isn’t just tradition – there’s science to back it up.
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. Yes, there is a clear difference between coffee beans for espresso and coffee. Read this: espresso beans vs coffee beans.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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