The smell of freshly ground coffee is almost as good as the brew itself. In fact, I would go as far as saying it is an essential part of the coffee experience. If you are like me, then you can’t do anything before your morning cup of Joe, and it all starts with quality espresso beans.
The best espresso beans will be partially down to your individual taste as you know what sort of blend you enjoy. However, it has become clear to me over the years that not all espresso beans are made equal. This is why I have compiled my list of the top ten to make sure you don’t waste money on a sub-par bean. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for the bag to end before you can replace it with something better so here goes.
My Picks for The 10 Best Espresso Beans
#10 Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso
With no flavoring added, this well-balanced coffee offers good value from a variety of beans from different corners of the world including South America and India for this specific blend. It has a honey-like aroma and in the 80oz bag, you are going to get plenty enough to last a long time. The whole beans are always best because they stay fresh so you can enjoy the locked-in flavor for some time. Although the beans themselves are a little on the oily side, this Italian style espresso roast has a big bite with medium acidity.
#9 Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend
It isn’t always down to the hipster brands from micro-batch regions that make a satisfying espresso bean. Sometimes, you just have to admit that big brands can make high-quality coffee too. That’s exactly what Lavazza has done here and the result is our gain! The creamy roast has a milder taste that will suit a lot of people who need something a little smoother and it has a pleasant taste with notes of honey and dried fruit. When ground, use it in your espresso machine for a creamy shot in the morning.
Medium roast with a creamy taste
#8 Larry’s Coffee Organic Fair Trade Whole Bean
This espresso bean is simply known as #17 to Larry’s Coffee and as the name says it is organic and fair trade which is always reassuring. Shade-grown it has a thickness and a robust edge about it with a creamy undertone that doesn’t disappoint. Personally, I like the warm toasted finish and the dark roast is my preferred espresso bean, I guess I just like things a bit stronger when it comes to my brew. The freshness certainly lasts a long time and in the 2.2 lb bag, you are getting good value considering the price.
Warm, toasted finish
#7 Black Rifle Coffee Company AK-47
This whole bean espresso is made from 100% arabica beans and certainly has a bit of a kick to it. Made from Columbian and Brazilian beans the aftertaste isn’t overly acidic that has a smooth finish to it, great for everyday brews and espresso machines. This dark roast is right up my street although they also make a light and a medium roast so they have you covered. You can go a step further and grab a bag of the extra dark but even I don’t get so bold. Veteran owned, they also send a portion of their profits to the vets, firefighters, law enforcement, and first responder causes.
#6 Café de Loja Specialty Coffee Beans
For an award-winning espresso bean, this certainly lives up to its reputation. You are getting a medium to full body here that is great for a variety of brewing methods including French press, espresso shot, Turkish, cold brew, and beyond. Part of what gives it a unique character is the fact that it is grown at 6233 ft above sea level. The high altitude gives it a crisp taste that is sealed in by the triple-layered aluminum packaging. Hand-picked and 100% arabica, the quality is there, as is the flavor.
High altitude beans
Award winning roast
#5 LB Cafe Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee Signature Blend
Anyone who likes a chocolatey espresso hit is going to be a big fan of this coffee that is sourced from some of the world’s most reputable coffee regions such as Brazil, Columbia, and Guatemala. GMO-free and with low acidity, it has a richness that is best described as medium to full. LB Cafe Don Pablo makes this 100% arabica with roots that stretch back to 1989, they are made in regional batch facilities in the USA for added freshness which is apparent as they last a long time before spoiling.
100% arabica beans
#4 Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
So fresh because they do not contain oil that can spoil the quality when it is sat in a cupboard, Koffee Kult is a serious coffee lovers company. The 100% Arabica beans have been carefully selected from Colombia, Sumatra, and Guatemala. These beans have been voted the best when it comes to strong flavor but they are more complex than that. They have a smooth taste without the bitterness of other espresso beans. An alluring aroma from the moment you open the bag you’re getting a great product, enjoy the cocoa and cinnamon notes at a reasonable price here.
Stays fresh for longer
#3 JO ESPRESSO: 12 oz, Medium Dark Roast
Want your espresso beans to be organic? Fair-trade? Arabica? Well, that’s three boxes ticked from the start in this quality medium-dark roast from Jo Espresso. With no flavouring added all you are getting is the product itself, which does just fine on its own to deliver a punchy dark chocolate flavor with a pleasant finish. It is well suited to espresso machines, even if you are using the frother on the side to make a perfect cappuccino, these are the beans to make the difference. Responsibly sourced from high-quality places, Jo Espresso is making all the right noises.
#2 Verena Street 2 Pound Espresso Beans
For 2lb’s of sweet, complex coffee goodness, these espresso beans are among the best out there. With a rich body, they are smooth yet full and can be used for a true espresso or ground a little coarser for drip coffee. Sourced responsibly and certified rainforest alliance, Verena Street is a family-owned business in Iowa to make this aromatic espresso. They are roasted in small batches which helps to maintain high standards when it comes to quality and is certified Kosher. For a rich espresso every time, this is a great option and good value.
#1 Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso
This espresso bean has a taste that is difficult to return from, once you’ve tried it a lot of people tend to stick with Kicking Horse. The chocolatey yet smooth flavor of this coffee is silky and goes down well, suiting all sorts of brewing methods including French press, espresso, and cold brew to name a few. Versatile and certified organic it is a great option for anyone who is a bit of a fanatic. It’s roasted in the Rocky Mountains, a medium roast, and 100% arabica, plenty to like then!
Organic and responsibly sourced
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Espresso Beans Buyer’s Guide
The smell of a bag of quality espresso beans can be almost as enjoyable as the taste (I like to awaken all the senses with my coffee!) That aroma makes me feel eager for that next cup of my preferred brew type – a nice, big Americano. This is only possible with a product from a reputable brand, but with so many options, it can pose a bit of a headache for most of us.
There is much to know about what makes the best espresso beans so good and although many of us can tell a low-quality brew upon tasting it, we want to help people avoid this by knowing how to spot the products worth buying. Because of this, we have created the following buyer’s guide on all things espresso beans.
What To Look For In Espresso Beans
The lack of oxygen in the packaging is what is going to help it stay fresh for longer. Most brands will advise the user to consume within one to two weeks but some can last a little longer if sealed properly, stored in a cool dark place, and comes in a package that ensures there has been no oxygen impacting the quality.
Country of Origin
This is vital to the character and taste, but also the quality of an espresso bean. There is a lot to know about the different regions and it can be fun and eye-opening to discover more but everything from the humidity, soil quality, and type, water source, temperature, the rainfall at the time can all impact the taste of the beans.
For example, African coffee beans might be fruity and have a rich acidity that gives it plenty of flavors whereas Colombian coffee is often known for its rich, chocolatey flavor because of the conditions of the region.
Choosing the right roast type can be an easy way of matching the taste to your preference. Espresso as a general rule is roasted for longer, making them darker than other coffee bean types designed for your drip type brewing methods. However, an espresso roast can be combined with another to make it a little lighter, bring out different flavors, and produce a different oiliness to suit different tastes. I personally like to try something a little different from time to time, but usually, revert to a dark roast.
Another important aspect of an espresso bean is the roast date as it determines the freshness of the beans. Anything up to 4 weeks is optimal but a little more can still be fine. To be sure that you are getting an afresh brew on the likes of Amazon, purchase from the vendor account and not that of a 3rd party as these are less likely to be so fresh with a roast date that is longer than you might desire.
You don’t have to be a coffee snob to recognize that getting your espresso beans from a single origin is better than it being sourced from multiple roasters. It is easier to control the quality of one source, but also it brings out the unique flavors of that one place so they are easily distinguished and full of body. It has not been blended, so you are experiencing the flavors as they should be enjoyed.
Some espresso beans are sold with the USP of having more caffeine to wake you up in the morning. Whilst some like it strong, not everyone wants a brew that will take their head off. Consider your tolerance and sensitivity to caffeine before purchasing.
Not everyone has the budget to spend more on a massive bag that will last a long time, but this can be to your benefit. Buying large bags means you have a lot of beans to use before the freshness starts to decline. Buying small batches can help you move onto the next brand or roast faster to experience different coffee. The most expensive espresso beans aren’t always the best so don’t always be swayed by an expensive brand when another has a good reputation for half the price.
Arabica Vs Robusta Espresso Beans
A topic of much-discussed debate, but one worth looking into a little closer. For an espresso drinker, robusta can be favorable as it creates more of that golden crema, not to mention the fact that it often contains more caffeine as well. However, despite the fact that there are some excellent robusta blends out there, in terms of quality, Arabica usually wins.
Arabica is the oldest coffee bean and best tasting, with 100% arabica being the best as it is not filled with any of the additional, cheaper, robusta to bulk it out. It’s grown at a higher altitude and harder to produce, but Arabica is worth it.
Whole Espresso Beans Vs Pre Ground
The ease of a pre-ground espresso bean can be tempting, and it will save you a few seconds of grinding every morning, but at the detriment of the flavor. The freshness is another major factor that can impact everything else from the aroma to the taste. Some espresso machines come with a grinder built-in, but if this isn’t the case, then a fine grind is best and will bring out more of the character of the beans.
Grind in small batches so every cup gets the benefit of those delicious oils and notes that are more prominent in a fresh grind.
How Much Do Quality Espresso Beans Cost?
The good news is that because there are so many producers and roasters around the world, there have never been so many choices. This is also the problem but it does mean that there is an espresso bean for every budget. There is something to be said for investing a little more to get better quality but there a decent 12 oz bag of espresso beans can be picked up for around $15.
Can You Use Regular Coffee Beans For Espresso?
As long as the grind is right, it is possible, but not the preferred approach for aficionados. Because these roasts are usually not dark enough, the flavor doesn’t have the intensity to make a quality espresso. Although they start as the same beans, the roasting methods, and espresso bean is designed for making espresso, and regular coffee beans are best brewed with a drip method to unlock the different notes and flavors.