Coffee connoisseurs and enthusiasts have long been debating what the best beans for espresso are.
This is because the perfect espresso is a beautiful thing, and the art of brewing espresso is a highly skilled and sought after craft.
There aren’t many things in life better than sitting outside on a sunny crisp morning, with a newspaper in one hand and a delicious dark roast espresso in the other, which is exactly why this sophisticated drink is so loved the world over.
And the world over is no exaggeration! Espresso beans are grown in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. But what are the best beans for espresso?
Could it be Ethiopian coffee beans or Brazilian coffee beans? And what roasting method works best, the French roast, or the Italian roast?
Is it better to buy whole beans or pre ground coffee? Should you buy fair trade? Small batches? Single origin or espresso blends?
Don’t worry if those questions sound daunting. Some people spend their lives studying coffee making and tasting, but if you don’t have the time for that then read on for a short but thorough guide to the best espresso beans.
- The Best Espresso Beans – Reviews and Rank
- #1. Koffee Kult Dark Roast (Best Overall)
- #2. Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso (Best for Beginners)
- #3. Lavazza Super Crema (Best Beans for Crema)
- #4. Union Coffee Revelation Espresso (Best Roast to Order Beans)
- #5. 100% Hawaiian Kona Roasted Coffee (Eco Friendly)
- #6. Starbucks Dark Roast (Caramel Espresso Option)
- Buyer’s Guide – How to Pick the Best Espresso Beans
- Why Trust the TheCupCoffeeHouse.com
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Espresso Coffee?
- What is the difference between an Espresso Bean and a Standard Coffee Bean?
- How Does an Espresso Machine Work?
- What is Cold Brew Espresso?
- What is the difference between Espresso and Americano Coffee?
- What is the difference between Espresso and Cappuccino Coffee?
- Can you make Espresso with Medium Roast Beans?
- Where do Coffee Beans Come From?
- Final Thoughts
The Best Espresso Beans – Reviews and Rank
#1. Koffee Kult Dark Roast (Best Overall)
First up we have Koffee Kult’s Dark Roast. Koffee Kult is a wonderful, family run company with only 14 employees.
It was set up in 2010 by a home brewing coffee enthusiast, and the company’s commitment to finding the best coffee beans and the ultimate brewing formula have led to it becoming a global brand with huge sales on Amazon.
The beans used in Koffee Kult’s Dark Roast are top quality, 100% arabica beans, and better still, the company really cares about sourcing their beans from ethical farms where the workers and farmers are treated well and paid fairly.
Koffee Kult beans are roasted in a small batch for better quality control and assurance.
This dark roast whole bean coffee is deep and rich, with smoothie cinnamon notes that will get your taste buds singing!
Koffee Kult beans are sold as whole bean coffee so you can grind them as finely as you like. The ground coffee is a perfect espresso blend, making this the best coffee for those who love espresso roasts.
The taste is incredibly clean, with a bright long finish that will really wake you up in the morning. The Koffee Kult Dark Roast whole bean coffee really is a perfect espresso blend.
It is expensive as espresso beans go, but many consider it well worth every dollar for all the love and attention that goes into the blend and roast.
- Very dark roast for deep espresso flavour
- Heavy body smooth cinnamon notes, with a bright long-lasting finish
- 100% arabica whole bean
- Ethical, Fair Trade company
- Small batch roast
- A bit pricey
#2. Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso (Best for Beginners)
Next up we have Kicking Horse Coffee and their Cliff Hanger Espresso. This is a medium roast coffee so it is milder and more mellow than darker roasts.
This coffee is great for those who are more new to espresso and have not yet developed a pallet for the bitter, very heavy taste of darker roasts.
The espresso is aromatic, with berries and milk chocolate notes and a brown sugar and blackcurrant sweetness.
It is silky and smooth with a cocoa finish that will delight both experienced drinkers and novices alike.
The Kicking Horse Coffee company operates in accordance with the climate pledge. This means they are eco friendly and planet conscious in their production methods, which is very important.
They also abide by Fair Trade standards and look after their farmers and workers very well. We think this improves the taste of the coffee even if just in the mind.
- Whole bean with many brew methods
- Medium roast for more mellow flavor
- Climate pledge friendly and Fair Trade
- Cherry and chocolate notes are delicious
- Too sweet for some serious espresso drinkers
#3. Lavazza Super Crema (Best Beans for Crema)
Now for the supremely popular Lavazza Super Crema espresso whole bean coffee. The unique feature of these beans is their thick creamy, oiliness which creates a long-lasting foam from which this blend gets its ‘creme’ name.
This delicious coffee is great for automatic espresso machines and offers the best of both medium or dark roasts.
The Lavazza blend is a miraculous 60/40 mix of Arabica and Robusta beans which harnesses the best qualities of each.
The creamy dense notes of the Robusta bean beef up the mild acidic taste of the arabica beans to create a chocolatey aroma that is quintessentially Italian in style and captures the traditional Italian espresso experience in one bag.
The Lavazza Super Crema is a medium roast but is specifically designed for espresso coffee and is a great starter blend for those just starting out on their espresso journey.
It is supremely palatable and mild and will be mellow enough for even the most novice palettes. This whole bean coffee is a wonderful espresso blend.
- Direct Italian roast espresso
- Whole bean coffee
- Medium roast with milder tan dark roasted beans
- 60/40 Arabica and Robusta blend
#4. Union Coffee Revelation Espresso (Best Roast to Order Beans)
Union Coffee’s Revelation espresso is a dark roast blend that has tons of richness without any of the usual bitterness. It is a blend of beans collected from family farms in Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador. The combination is round and full bodied, and will leave you wanting more!
The most amazing thing about this espresso, and the reason for its hefty price tag, is that it is freshly roasted to order. That’s right, when you place an order online the company roast and package the beans immediately so that you get the most freshly roasted and lively taste experience possible.
And better still, this company takes their ethical responsibility very seriously and makes sure that the farms they source their beans from are well paid and well looked after so you can enjoy your espresso with a clear conscience.
Union Coffee Revelation beans have a flavor profile of dark chocolate and brown sugar, making this blend some of the best espresso beans available to buy.
- Dark roast, rich, full bodied flavor
- Freshly roasted to order
- Delicious deep berry, smooth and tangy flavor notes
- Ethical company
- High price tag
#5. 100% Hawaiian Kona Roasted Coffee (Eco Friendly)
This amazing 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee is not a blend but is in fact a single origin coffee, grown in Hawaii and brewed in the USA and Canada.
Because everything is made close to home the impact on the environment is much less and this espresso is green, Fair Trade and Organic.
It is a medium dark roast, deep brown coffee bean with a soft, mellow, rounded and intense flavor profile. You will love the silky, nutty tones with a very slight dark chocolate bitterness and a tangy-cherry undertone.
- Made and brewed in USA and Canada
- Green coffee, Fair Trade and Organic
- Medium dark roast coffee
- Single Origin
- Dark chocolate and nutty smoothness
#6. Starbucks Dark Roast (Caramel Espresso Option)
And lastly, if you want to taste all the fullness and caramel sweetness of a Starbucks espresso blend coffee in the comfort of your own home then their 100% arabica bean dark roast blend are the best espresso beans for you.
These coffee beans come as whole beans so you can grind them to your desired level.
The nice thing is Starbucks has many different flavor profiles to choose from. The best espresso beans to suit your tastes depends on what kind of coffee drinker you are, what espresso machine you have at home, whether you prefer dark roast, medium dark roast, French roast or Italian roast espresso.
For example, Starbucks classic Italian espresso, is a beautiful rich coffee that can be made in home espresso machines, while the French roast comes with an intense and smokey flavor.
In general, you can expect caramelly molasses notes from these coffee beans that have been ethically sourced and traded from countries in the Coffee Belt part of the world.
- Starbucks flavor notes at home
- 100% Fair trade arabica beans
- Caramel and dark chocolate smoothness
Buyer’s Guide – How to Pick the Best Espresso Beans
Arabica or Robusta?
Arabica and Robusta are the two most common types of bean coffee that you have either heard of or actually enjoyed. These are the beans used by most coffee companies and cafes, including the world famous Starbucks coffee chain.
In general Robusta are robust in flavor, with a more acidic and powerful taste. Arabica are more mellow and subtle and are generally considered the pinnacle of coffee bean species. The two species are often blended, in varying quantities, to create wonderful, harmonious coffee blends.
Arabica beans are the most popular species of coffee bean today and are admired for their smooth, full flavor. The arabica plant was the first species of coffee plant ever discovered way back in the 2nd century in Yemen, and they now account for approximately 60% of all the cups of coffee drunk in the world.
The arabica bean has a softer, milder flavor than the Robusta and is less acidic in taste, therefore less bitter. The arabica bean is considered more sophisticated and high end, especially amongst coffee connoisseurs who appreciate its subtlety and mellow notes.
Arabica shrubs grow in higher altitudes than Robusta shrubs and take around 7 years to reach maturity.
Arabica have a deep-green coloration and the beans are larger and more oval shaped than Robusta beans. They are sensitive plants and require cool, subtropical climates to grow successfully, which is why they take longer to mature.
As arabica trees are fragile, they are more susceptible to attacks from pests and damage by cold weather conditions. This makes them more difficult to grow and maintain than Robusta plants and as a result they are more expensive to buy.
Robusta are the second most popular coffee beans on the planet and boast the heavy notes and powerful caffeine kick that so many coffee lovers crave.
These beans are punchy, impactful and more bitter than Arabica, and as a result they are cheaper to buy and are often used in instant coffee.
You can identify the Robusta bean because it is smaller and more rounded than the arabica bean.
Robusta actually contains a higher caffeine content than arabica which is why they tend to deliver more of a kick when drunk.
Whether it is Kona coffee or direct Italian roast espresso , Robusta whole coffee beans are the best coffee beans for those who like maximum flavor.
The Robusta coffee plant is mostly grown in Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam and it is a resilient plant that can be grown at much lower altitudes than the arabica tree.
It is far less susceptible to pests and damage by fluctuating weather conditions.
They are therefore easier to grow and maintain, and they can be grown more closely together to produce a higher yield per acre than the arabica.
Dark Roast or Medium Dark Roast?
Espresso is made using dark roast coffee. This means the coffee bean has been roasted for longer, until the bean is twice cracked and the flavor is deep and toasty. The process of dark roasting removes the acidity from the beans, and makes them more oily, so they feel fuller in texture and taste stronger in flavor.
Medium to dark roast espresso beans, as well as light roasts like white coffee, can also be used to make espresso, but it may not be the best tasting freshest coffee since you’re not using the ideal best espresso beans for the job. But the brew method also makes a difference too.
Typical, everyday drip coffee, made in a drip coffee machine, is generally made using light roast, medium roast or medium dark roast coffee. This tends to create a milder, less intense flavor.
Selective Harvested or Strip Harvested?
Selective and Strip are the two main types of harvesting in the coffee industry. Both have pros and cons, but the most important thing to look out for on your espresso label is that the companies are Fair Trade approved and work ethically with their farmers and farm hands.
The process of harvesting Arabica beans is called selective harvesting and it is performed by hand. A large workforce of hand pickers work meticulously to select the red, ripe berries from the arabica tree and leave the green, unripe cherries for later.
The process is slow and time consuming but there are some advantages. Firstly, it means that these trees can be planted on tricky terrain and on slopes for optimal growing conditions.
Secondly, it means that only the best berries are picked and the overall quality of the product is vastly improved.
Many coffee drinkers are aware of the hard work and long hours that low paid workers perform day in, day out, in developing countries, just so that they can enjoy their coffee in the morning.
When you buy Fair Trade arabica beans, 25% of the profits go back to the farmers and their families to ensure that they have a good quality of life, fair working conditions, fair pay and enough food to eat.
These are things that many of us take for granted but makes a huge difference to the lives of the hard working coffee pickers in developing countries.
Moreover, Fair Trade coffee beans are more environmentally friendly. So if you want the best coffee beans for a clear social conscience then Fair Trade beans are an excellent choice for you.
The process of strip harvesting involves the use of specially designed machinery which strips the trees of their coffee berries all in one go. The machinery cannot differentiate between ripe and unripe berries so all are harvested at the same time regardless and as a result the quality of the product is less premium than when selected by hand.
The advantages of strip harvesting are speed and ease. Hundreds of thousands of berries can be stripped and collected in a fraction of the time that it takes to hand pick them, and for this reason strip harvested beans are cheaper to buy. The quality is not as optimal however, so for the perfect espresso beans coffee a selectively harvested bean is definitely preferable.
Single Origin or Coffee Blends?
Blended espresso has been the standard style of espresso in the USA for years. Espresso blends are made by mixing coffee beans from various regions with some additional flavoring to create amazingly harmonious and complex flavor profiles.
Lighter roasts can balance out dark roasts to create a beautiful, smooth milk chocolate medium roast flavor.
Sharp citrus roasts can be blended with nutty, oily roast to create a mellow but tangy coffee. The possibilities of coffee blends are endless! This is why so many people passionately love them.
Single origin espresso is made from beans of one single farm or region. The concept has only been around since the 1980s but has grown in popularity as the process of roasting and brewing have improved.
It used to be the case that whole bean coffee needed to be blended to be palatable. Now beans can be roasted so softly and slowly that the nuanced flavors in each single batch come alive and create something truly special.
Coffee enthusiasts have become more and more excited about single origin coffee. The only downside is that the ability to change the flavor profile is limited and these coffees are seasonal. Seasonal mean all the beans in one small batch have to be harvested and roasted together.
Neither single origin or blended espresso is better or worse. It really depends on your personal taste and what you prefer.
Whole Bean or Ground Coffee?
Espresso beans are ground extremely finely until they feel as fine and soft as dust. This texture is vital to the brewing process so you will notice that espresso beans are often ground in high powered and specifically designed espresso grinders.
When you see a bag labelled as Ground Espresso coffee in the grocery store you can usually expect that it has been ground much more finely than regular instant coffee so is better for an espresso roast.
Whole Beans can be ground at home. These are great because you can grind them as finely as you want or your coffee machine will grind them to perfect espresso consistency.
The quality of your espresso maker will dictate the quality of your espresso. If you get the best espresso coffee beans with the best espresso roast, it only makes sense to pair them with a high quality and performing espresso machine, like Breville or De’Longhi!
When its all said and done, you may never go back to regular coffee beans or use your drip coffee maker again!…ok at least maybe not as often!
Why Trust the TheCupCoffeeHouse.com
We are a group of people from all over who love coffee. From busy full time working parents to stay at home empty nesters. Some of us have worked in coffee shops in countries all over the world. Some of us have training in the pharmaceutical sciences and chemistry.
But regardless of our diverse backgrounds and expertise, we love coffee and sharing the experience with family, friends, and our community. So we spend the time to research, test, and report what we discover works and doesn’t work from coffee makers, espresso machines, to brew methods and coffee facts. All so you can take home valuable information to make the best decision for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Espresso Coffee?
Espresso is a very strong and highly concentrated shot of coffee with a rich and intense flavor. It can be enjoyed as a single or double shot without the addition of milk or flavoring.
As an individual drink it is served in a small, specially designed coffee cup. A single shot is generally 1 fluid ounce, and a double shot is 2 fluid ounces.
What is the difference between an Espresso Bean and a Standard Coffee Bean?
Amazingly, there is no difference whatsoever between an ‘espresso bean’ and a ‘normal’ coffee bean. The difference between these two types of coffee lies not in the bean, but in the way it has been roasted and brewed.
An espresso is made from a regular coffee bean that has been roasted for a long time, ground very finely and brewed using an especially designed espresso machine.
How Does an Espresso Machine Work?
The espresso shot is made by forcing very hot and highly pressurized water through the finely ground, dust-like coffee particles. The water comes into contact with the coffee for a very brief amount of time compared to drip coffee machines, where the coffee and water are left to brew for many minutes.
The water extracts maximum properties from the ground espresso beans due to the intense heat and high pressure, and the water to coffee ratio is much more intense. Whereas drip coffee, French press coffee and percolator coffee all use lots of water, espresso needs only a small amount to pack a big punch.
What is Cold Brew Espresso?
There is such a thing as cold brew espresso. Cold brew espresso takes about 12 hours to brew and does not require an espresso machine. Cold brew espresso can be made with medium dark roast or dark roast espresso beans and has notes of dark chocolate and brown sugar.
What is the difference between Espresso and Americano Coffee?
An espresso shot can be used to form the basis of many other incredibly popular coffee drinks. An Americano coffee is simply an espresso shot with added hot water to dilute the intensity, and optional milk and sugar to add sweetness and creaminess.
The name ‘Americano’ was allegedly coined by Italians in the second World War who tried to serve the American soldiers traditional Italian espresso coffee, but it proved too strong for the American taste buds. The soldiers began to dilute the strong coffee with extra water, and some even added milk, which is where the black and white Americano coffee was born!
What is the difference between Espresso and Cappuccino Coffee?
A cappuccino coffee is a single or double shot of coffee poured into a cup. Steamed milk is poured over the shot, and highly frothy ‘microfoam’ is shaken on top to create the distinctive cappuccino texture.
Can you make Espresso with Medium Roast Beans?
It is absolutely possible to make an espresso using medium roast or even light roast beans. The process of grinding the beans very finely should remain the same to optimize the results, but your coffee machine will treat your beans the same no matter what their roast is.
Of course, for the strongest and most rich espresso, dark roast beans are best. You will achieve a milder and less intense shot of espresso by using light and medium roast beans. But honestly… it’s better than nothing, especially if thats all you have in the pantry at home.
Where do Coffee Beans Come From?
Most experts agree that the first coffee bean plant was discovered by a goat farmer in Ethiopia in Africa, whose goats became very hyperactive after they ate the berries from a certain tree.
This is because the goats were experiencing a caffeine high, and soon the enlivening effects of coffee were being enjoyed by humans too. Coffee plantations are now found in Asia, Africa and Central and South America.
The regions that sit closest to the coffee belt (near the equator) produce the finest quality and largest amount of coffee plants because the conditions are optimal for their growth.
The ideal growing conditions for a coffee plant involve shelter from sunlight and plenty of rainfall, so a tropical climate is most successful.
Ethiopian coffee tastes slightly different to Brazilian coffee which in turn tastes different from Indian roast coffee. This is all because of the differences in soil, humidity, sunlight and rainfall.
Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or beginner enthusiast looking for the best coffee beans for an espresso that is bold and flavorful or mild and mellow, there is a bag of beans out there for you.
While we like all of the coffee beans for espresso options we listed here, including the high quality Koffee Kult dark roast, 100% Arabica, ethically sourced beans, the perfect espresso beans for you will depend on your preferred…
- flavor profile (so many notes to choose from!)
- the roast profile (dark to light)
- whole beans vs preground
- single origin vs blend
- Fair Trade or not (we think you should opt for this as much as you can)
- Grind profile (fine is ideal)
And with everything you have learned in this guide, we’re confident you have the knowledge to make that decision. We hope this guide and review on everything you need to know about coffee beans has been helpful. Now go and enjoy your next fresh delicious cup!
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- About the Author
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“Jules” is a pharmacist by day and investor, writer, and health nut by night. When he’s not sipping on some coffee laced with MCT oil during an 18 hour fast, he is writing about how to get your coffee grind on or playing Monopoly with his 2 boys and wife. Ahh…life is good!