Coffee technology has drastically improved since the first espresso was served over 100 years ago. And, while it’s never been a better time to brew from home, it has never been more confusing to choose the right coffee beans for espresso.
An internet search yields hundreds of options: Bold? Fruity? Fair trade? Keto? None of these words on the label guarantees the coffee will taste great, let alone be fresh or ethically sourced.
As you may have guessed, getting the right beans is the most important part of making great espresso. A fancy machine cannot fix bad beans.
We’ll show you exactly how to choose the best espresso beans for your unique tastes and preferences, so you can be confident with every shot!
What Are Espresso Beans, Exactly?
“Espresso beans” are just coffee beans that are used to brew espresso! Beans can be selected and roasted to create a certain flavor, as you’ll discover, but espresso is just a method of coffee preparation. Espresso is the thing in the cup at the end of the brew process; all you need is an espresso machine and any kind of roasted coffee beans.
All coffee beans can be made espresso-style, and an “espresso blend” or “espresso beans” can be used to brew a pot of coffee.
But sometimes espresso blends just taste terrible.
Espresso blends are traditionally roasted super dark, which leads to unpleasant char and ash flavors. For decades, people have assumed it’s “just how it is”, that the harsh bitterness is the price of the gift of caffeine.
It doesn’t have to be this way! You don’t have to settle for bitter espresso.
Espresso can be rich with subtle and complex flavors. Fruity and floral aromas, fascinating spice and pine notes, pleasant citrus acidity—we’ll show you how to find these A+ beans so you can leave behind bitter coffee forever.
Which Coffee Beans Are Best for Espresso?
Coffee is a totally diverse fruit and comes in many different varieties. Just like you might prefer certain apples (granny smith has nothing on that juicy honeycrisp!), you might gravitate toward coffees from specific countries or regions.
On top of that, certain apples make better pies. This comes down to a lot of things (including preference), but the chemical composition of the apple plays a big part. Coffee is similar– certain coffees contain more sugars than others, which causes them to brew and taste different.
Tip: Love a coffee at a local coffee shop? Ask the barista where it’s from. They’ll happily help you figure out what kinds of coffee you like.
Making espresso is not a very forgiving process (read our mythbusting article “What is Espresso”). For this reason, super delicate single-origin coffees that change a lot as they age are not our top suggestion (unless you crave a challenge).
How Fresh Do Beans Need to Be?
Nothing beats freshly roasted beans. Espresso is at its absolute best when beans are between 7-21 days off roast. Why? Crema.
Crema is the creamy-looking top layer of an espresso. It’s made up of CO2 microbubbles, a product of the brewing process when hot water hits fresh coffee. Crema can be mixed into the espresso shot to give wonderful depth of flavor.
Without crema, the espresso just tastes kind of like really strong black coffee. As a coffee ages, it loses CO2 and produces less crema. If you go through the process of buying super fresh coffee, be sure to use it while it’s fresh!
Speaking of fresh coffee, we ship tiny amounts of our Espresso Coffee Beans to Amazon.com each week to ensure you can always order super-fresh coffee when you need.
What’s the Best Roast Style for Espresso?
Remember: espresso can be made with any kind of coffee. “Espresso beans” and “espresso blend” just mean the roaster has created the blend specifically with espresso in mind.
We suggest darker coffee roasts for espresso, because they tend to taste the most consistent.
There are two reasons for this:
- Darker coffees are more forgiving. Like we said, lighter roast coffees change a lot as they age, which makes them challenging to use for espresso. Darker roasts have less noticeable changes, so they’re more reliable day-to-day.
- Darker coffees pair better with milk. Deeper notes, like chocolate, caramel, and nuts, tend to go really well with milk (lattes, cappuccinos, etc). And when we add a hint of floral or fruity flavor, it all comes together harmoniously.
For example, our Espresso Roast is on the medium-dark end with notes of smooth sugar, vanilla, and a hint of strawberry zing. It’s the perfect blend of classic and inspiring.
Our Dark Roast, on the other hand, has those more bold and rich notes of chocolate, caramel and maple. It’s freakin delicious.
Do You Prefer Adventurous Flavor or Consistency?
Ask yourself: how much time am I willing to put into making this espresso taste good? Do I need it to taste the same every day?
Most people are creatures of habit when it comes to espresso. We often just want something familiar with that classic dark roast taste, but with a little more flavor.
Our year-round espresso blend that has been formulated for balance and consistency. You won’t have to spend much time fussing with the recipe, or fall in love with a coffee only to have it disappear from the shelves at the end of the season.
But, if you do like to nerd out and challenge your espresso-making ability, you may be looking for something small-batch and ultra limited edition with funky, fruity flavors. These types of coffees inspire, challenge, and reward those who take the time to brew them correctly.
A small-batch, single origin coffee is the ‘adventure mode’ of espresso.
Pick a Roaster That Shares Your Values
Espresso drinkers tend to have discerning taste, and if you’re reading this article it’s because you wanted the best. And while there are plenty of amazing beans to choose from, excellence is in the details.
Great espresso begins long before it’s brewed: how is the land cared for? Are farmers and workers paid fairly? Are the beans roasted with care and intention? What are the beans shipped in? Does the company care enough to ensure freshness at every step of the way? These questions feed the conscience as well at the coffee craving.
Our Coffee is Fresh, Ethical, and Really Good!
We understand the importance of buying a coffee you’re proud of, and we believe being the best is even bigger than the beans themselves.
It’s about sourcing beans ethically and putting care into the craft: thinking about all the details so you don’t have to. Coffee that makes the world better.
And we’re thrilled to share it with you.
- Try our medium roast for a solid, classic espresso without the bitterness
- Try our espresso roast for a sweet and inspiring espresso
- Try our single origin for an eye-opening espresso experience
We’re eager to change the way you think about how good espresso can taste.