Best Coffee for Espresso 2023: Our Top 10 Picks
If you want to discover the 10 best coffees for espresso and espresso-based drinks, you are in the right spot!
Like all specialty coffee lovers, you have many options, from light roast coffees to dark roast, but you might not know where to start when picking a coffee for espresso. We wanted to shed some light on our favorite coffees for espresso and why there is a difference between coffee roasted for drip versus coffee roasted for espresso.
First, we would like to settle some confusion we often run into when talking to customers; there is no difference between coffee and espresso. Espresso is just a brewing method, but often, customers perceive espresso to be something wildly different than coffee. As specialty coffee roasters, we can tell you that we roast and source coffee specifically for specific brewing methods, including espresso. The difference consumers perceive it is more around roasting and sourcing versus espresso being something completely different than coffee.
Before we kick off our favorite coffees for espresso, we would love to introduce ourselves. We are Coffee Bros., a specialty coffee roaster based out of NYC founded in 2019. We pride ourselves on what we deem as the four pillars of running a coffee company: sustainability, quality, consistency, and freshness. You can read more about our company and mission here.
As coffee roasters, we are constantly sampling coffees for our business and trying everything on the market. As roasters, we sample and cup thousands of coffees a year between what is sent to us from our partners and through the quality control of our own coffee. We also love to see what else is on the market and explore what amazing things other coffee companies are up to.
The list below showcases some of our personal favorite espresso-roasted coffee and a few tips on how to brew it best.
Espresso Roast Coffee
All coffee is based on a preference from taste to what color you deem light, medium, or dark roasted coffee. We define espresso-roasted coffee not only by the color but how well that coffee pairs with the espresso brewing method. As mentioned earlier, espresso does not differ from coffee though consumers sometimes perceive it as different. The only difference between espresso and coffee is that specialty coffee roasters will go out of their way to source and roast coffee to pair well with espresso-based drinks. If you read about our favorite Light Roasted Coffees, you will find that most of these coffees flavor gets lost within milk-based espresso drinks. Most roasters crafting coffee for espresso will push the “development” of that coffee to bring out more of its sugars to help it shine through any addition of milk.
Here are the best Espresso Roast Coffees
- Coffee Bros.: Espresso Roast Coffee Blend
- Blue Bottle: 17ft Ceiling
- Joe Coffee: The Waverly
- Irving Farm: Blackstrap Espresso
- Airship: Black Apple Espresso
- Atomic Coffee: Cosmo
- Drink Coffee Do Stuff: Hot Shot Espresso
- Regalia: Rainbow Hopper Espresso
- Square Mile: Red Brick Espresso
- Temple Coffee: Dharma Espresso Blend
Coffee Bros.: Espresso Roast Coffee
Our most popular selling coffee, our Espresso Roast, is also one of our personal favorites from our lineup.
From the very beginning in early 2018, before launching our Coffee Bros. brand, we decided to craft a roast that would be the ideal coffee for espresso and espresso-based drinks. Our goal was to create an espresso that was different from others on the market yet still aligned with our personal preferences, bold and smooth, with hints of red fruit and a coffee that can easily cut through milk.
We chose two of our favorite origins to craft this espresso, Ethiopia and Colombia. We also decided early on that just because we are blending coffees doesn’t mean we should hold back on quality. You often find roasters using lower-quality coffee in their blends, but we planned to do the exact opposite. We have been sourcing 87 – 88pt+ coffees for our Espresso Blend, which is unheard of across most of the industry. Though expensive, the exceptionally high quality of coffee allows us to craft the perfect espresso, one free of any imperfections when brewed, and results in a sweet and smooth espresso.
Don’t just take our word for it; read the countless reviews of customers who love brewing with this coffee!
“So I purchased the Espresso roast a few months back to try it out on my new espresso machine. When I received the package, the first thing I noticed was how the aroma of strawberries was literally bursting through the bag. I loved that part. The bag itself was tightly sealed and its quality seemed superior than most coffee brands. The flavor profile was spot on with the coffees taste. If you like strawberry/vanilla then you must give this a try. Not bitter at all (unlike most). I also want make special note that this is a small company run by two brothers and customer service is seriously on point! I've sent them a couple of emails and they respond the same day. That shows someone who cares about the product they are selling as well as their customers satisfaction. I cannot say enough good things about this company. Give them a try and see for yourself.”– Gloria (Customer)
Coffee Bros.: Espresso Details
Blue Bottle: 17ft Ceiling
Blue Bottle Coffee came to fruition in Oakland, California, in the early 2000s and now owns cafes across the U.S., Japan, and Korea. They work directly with farmers across the globe to source the most delicious and sustainable coffees. They have gotten more specific about freshness and peak flavor, which makes this espresso roast even more delicious.
Inspired by a blue-collar Italian Robusta blend named after Mint Plaza café in San Francisco, the 17ft Ceiling is recreated with certified organic beans to make a crema-heavy and unpretentious espresso. With taste notes including caramel, almond, and dried cherry, this espresso is a pure delight. Going through thorough and rigorous testing on all their coffees, freshness, quality, and deliciousness is always the goal.
Blue Bottle: Espresso Details
Joe Coffee: The Waverly
Founded in 2003 in NYC’s Greenwich Village with the vision of brewing high-quality, unique coffees, and creating a welcoming space for the community, Joe’s coffee has since expanded to 21 cafes in New York.
Dubbed after their first café, this signature espresso touts flavor notes of fig, dark chocolate, and orange. A blend of natural and washed seasonally driven beans from Brazil and Peru, this balanced espresso is perfect as a straight shot or in milk. With the best of both worlds, this espresso roast is a blend with an expansive flavor profile.
" Excellent Coffee! I think I can speak for most ...
I think I can speak for most people when I say that all I want is good cups of coffee. High-pressure marketing tries to separate you from your money with claims of 'ten times the normal amount of caffeine because OUR coffee is grown in hydroponic vats under optimum conditions of light and nutrients PLUS our research scientists have cracked the coffee plant's DNA code!' or 'Only the Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Board has the right to sell genuine Jamaican Blue Coffee. Look for the label, and if the price seemed reasonable, then you know that it's not genuine JBM coffee. I like Joe coffee. It's unpretentious and while there's a bit of marketing with a nod toward NYC, it's not overbearing. It is what it is: good coffee. It comes as advertised, and I'll drink to that. I've got a thermos full of Joe right next to me on my desk and am enjoying it.
– Syntheto (Customer)
Joe Coffee: Espresso Details
Roast Type: Medium
Origin: Brazil and Peru
Taste Notes: Fig, Chocolate, Orange
Bean Type: Whole Bean or Ground
Irving Farm: Blackstrap Espresso
Irving Farm New York, established in 1996, has been providing an exceptional cup of coffee to customers that include blends that deliver balance and sweetness and single origins that highlight their seasonal favorite small lot coffees. Awarded “Best Coffee” by New York Magazine in 2002, Irving Farm sources all its coffee through sustainable relationships with small producers and hand select freshly harvested lots.
Roasted to be balanced and full-bodied, this medium-dark roast is a fan favorite that delivers a spectacular flavor profile of molasses, orange zest, and bittersweet chocolate. Irving Farm also recommends this espresso roast as an excellent drip coffee too!
" New favorite….
Smooth velvety, vanilla finish”
– Lygometri (Customer)
Irving Farm: Espresso Details
Airship: Black Apple Espresso
Stemming from the need to create a sustainable demand for coffee producers and their love of the entire coffee lifecycle, Airship quickly grew a following. It opened its first coffee bar in 2018 while still operating under the wholesale model.
Delivering a unique experience, customer-focused service style, and casual atmosphere, their mission of making a place where the authentic community continues to thrive.
Named after the award-winning Arkansas Black Apple, this espresso roast is a three-part blend of semi-washed coffee from El Salvador, a honey-processed coffee from Sumatra, and a sun-dried natural from Ethiopia. Craftily roasted, this blend lends strong taste notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, and juicy orange to create a sweet, complex, and balanced espresso.
" Great for espresso.
This is an excellent coffee for making espresso and coffee drinks at home. I grind it and use it to make lattes and mochas at home with an espresso machine.”
– John (Customer)
Airship: Espresso Details
Atomic Coffee: Cosmo
Well known as a family-owned, roasted fresh, and shipped quick coffee roaster, Atomic Coffee in roastery in Salem, MA., sources, roasts, and serves specialty grade, as well as ethically and carefully sourced. Offering a wide range of house blends and single origins to provide customers with consistent and reliably delicious coffees that rotate seasonally.
Formerly known as “Cosmopolitan Espresso”, this espresso roast brings together washed and naturally processed coffee from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Brazil. This unique espresso roast blend highlights flavor notes of plum, cranberry, and marzipan. Roasted daily, this blend is recommended as both a double shot and other brew methods.
" Outstanding coffee.
I’ve been on a coffee search for the last 6 months. Over that time I have tried about 20 different roast coffees from across the U.S. from New York to San Fransisco and Wisconsin to Florida…Atomic Coffee standings above all of them. I never realized how different regions like their coffees, maybe I’m an East Coast person at heart. Anyway, I love this coffee!”
– Clark (Customer)
Atomic Coffee: Espresso Details
Drink Coffee Do Stuff: Hot Shot Espresso
A specialty coffee company from the Swiss Alps, sources their beans from mountainous regions and are all roasted in the mountains. Their unique roasting style is concentrated on maximizing sweetness and revealing the beans origin characteristic.
For all latte lovers and crema connoisseurs, this espresso roasts is a blend from Honduras and Peru and roasted to bring out sweet notes of chocolate fudge and candied almond, and finishes with a creamy mouthfeel – perfect alone or with milk.
"Brew method: Espresso machine
Love the rich chocolate and sweet flavor.
– Ian (Customer)
Drink Coffee Do Stuff: Espresso Details
Regalia: Rainbow Hopper Espresso
A well-known specialty roastery in New York City, Regalia curates’ coffee experiences through sources of the seasonally freshest beans. With a dedication to precision roasting, their world-renowned ability to roast with pinpoint accuracy ensures that every roast will be delicious every time.
This beautifully blended espresso roast touts a blend of washed processed beans from Ethiopia, peaberry from Brazil, and bourbon from Guatemala. It is geared towards the seasoned barista looking for a syrupy, red fruit and caramel galore shot of espresso.
Regalia: Espresso Details
Square Mile: Red Brick Espresso
Founded in 2008 and focused on wholesale, Square Mile trains and supports like-minded businesses serving their mindfully sourced and skillfully roasted coffee.
Red Brick, their seasonal espresso roast, profiles tasting notes including raspberry, fudge, blueberry, and chocolate. Highlighting harvest cycles and celebrating the seasonality of coffee, this blend includes beans from Costa Rica and Ethiopia. The Puente Tarrazú from Costa Rica brings rich chocolate, caramel, and fudge sweetness perfectly complemented by the complexity and bright berry profile of the much-celebrated Suke Quto from Guji, Ethiopia.
Square Mile: Espresso Details
Temple Coffee: Dharma Espresso Blend
Temple Coffee’s sourcing model incorporates three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. They maintain strong, trusting relationships with the producers and farms where they source coffee, pay well above Fair Trade prices, and support water conservation, forest preservation, and shade management initiatives.
This award-winning (scored 92 from Coffee Review, 2021) full-bodied espresso roast offers bright and tart notes of dried cherry complemented by rich notes of cocoa and baking spices.
This blend incorporates three coffees Minas Gerais, Brazil; Sidamo, Ethiopia; and Alotenango, Guatemala. Although blended, each coffee maintains unique qualities, such as a dense, creamy body, rich chocolate, fruit-like sweetness, and a subtle maple syrup sweetness.
One of the best espresso's in the world. Very sweet and chocolaty. would def recommend.”
– Jacob (Customer)
Temple Coffee: Espresso Details
What to look for when searching for a high-quality, Espresso Roast Coffee:
When looking for a high-quality Espresso Roast Coffee, search for coffee roasters who label their coffee or list the optimal brewing method as espresso. Roasters who create “espresso blends” or call out that a particular coffee should be used for espresso is a good sign and means that they specifically roasted and sourced that coffee to make an outstanding espresso.
Another thing to look out for is preference. If you are a straight espresso drinker who doesn’t add any milk to your drinks, you have a few more options than those that add milk. As mentioned earlier, lighter roasted coffees can make outstanding and sweet espresso, but its flavors may get lost when any milk is added. We enjoy our espresso with and without milk and often look for something objectively roasted as “medium.”
Finally, know what you want out of your espresso. If you are looking for a bold espresso that can easily cut through 6 – 8 ounces of milk, look for an espresso on the medium to the dark side and one that hits on tastes notes of chocolate, nuts, brown sugar, or maple.
What are some tips or tricks for brewing the perfect espresso:
Brewing the perfect espresso takes time to understand the machine you are working with and the coffee.
Here are some general brewing guidelines, tips, and tricks, to move you toward that perfect espresso.
The three most important factors across any brewing method are time, temperature, and ratio (coffee to water). Without understanding each one of these pieces, you will be playing a guessing game on why your espresso is not coming out the way you want it to.
Time: Time corresponds to the time it takes to reach your recipe’s end weight (the time also includes any preinfusion on your machine). For example, if our recipe calls for a 1:2 ratio, that is, one gram of coffee for every two grams of brewed espresso (18g of coffee to 36g of brewed espresso), the time it takes to reach the 36g is what we are measuring. Ideally, the average time to hit a 1:2 ratio coffee can range between 30 – 40 seconds. Brewing an espresso too long or too short has a significant impact on the final taste; test the extremes and then adjust your grind size to achieve an espresso brewed faster or slower.
*Note, the above assumes your espresso tamping is equal pressure for each shot. We suggest using a spring-loaded tamper like Normcore’s V4 to ensure consistency.
Temperature: Temperature refers to the temperature of the water leaving the espresso group head and into the portafilter. Machine temperature readings can vary quite a bit once the water starts to leave the group head (the longer the machine is on or ambient temperature can also affect this number). We suggest starting at 198 – 202 degrees and varying the temperature based on your end goal for the espresso. If brewing a dark espresso, consider lowering the temperature below 200 to offset any bitterness. A lighter roast coffee will do well at higher temperatures.
As always, and with the above suggestions for time, make one change at a time, record what works and what doesn’t, and then move on to the next factor.
Brew Ratio or Recipe: Your brew ratio or recipe significantly affects how well your espresso shot will turn out. First, understand the basket size of your machine and how much coffee it can handle. Shoving 20g of coffee into a basket size that can only handle 18g will slow or choke your shot and make it quite hard to hit optimal brewing ratios.
Once you know the amount of ground espresso your basket size can hold, apply your brew ration 1:2 or other to determine how much coffee you should use. As mentioned above in the time section, your brew ratio and or incorrectly loading your basket can make your shot turn out poorly.
While this is not a full tutorial on how to brew the perfect espresso, we wanted to provide a few tips to help you on your way. We didn’t cover the importance of an even consistent grind or topics like distributing your coffee using tools like the WDT. Keep an eye out for future more robust brewing guidelines for espresso!
When it comes to espresso-roasted coffees, these ten highly skilled roasters are a great place to start! As mentioned earlier, look for roasters that have coffees specifically for espresso. Some roasters, like ourselves, have an Espresso Roast, while others might say that a particular coffee was roasted with espresso in mind.
Finally, we would love to hear from you and some of your favorite espresso roast coffee experiences. It doesn’t have to be a coffee you purchased but maybe a cafe where you had an outstanding espresso. Do you have a favorite espresso roast that we don’t have listed here, shoot us an email, and we’ll give it a try and potentially add it to the list!