It’s a fact that Americans love coffee, and data echoes this affection. According to the National Coffee Association, nearly 70 percent of the American population consumes coffee daily. Even then, the daily average is 3 cups per person.
But, why we love coffee so much is quite irrelevant here. Maybe you got a “shot on the house” once and got hooked forever; maybe it’s the intense flavor you get from that small brew or the tingling aftertaste. Whatever the case, we keep coming back for more.
Now, you want to make some espresso for yourself, and you’re looking for the best coffee beans to brew it just how you like it. While the right coffee beans are widely subjective to your taste and preference, some coffee beans elevate the quality of your espresso. Plus, even excellent brewing skills can’t fix subpar coffee beans.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best coffee beans for espresso so you can make the espresso you love. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet - let’s take it from the top.
Of course, if you don’t have the time, here are the best coffee beans for espresso. They’re in no order because ….. well, taste is subjective but we’ve listed some of our recommendations depending on what type of espresso you are looking for:
Seasonal Espresso Blends (best paired with milk)
- City Block Blend
- Brunswick Blend
- Venice Blend
- Darkside Blend
Single Origin Espresso
- Huila Decaf
- Fudam Narino Organic
- Ethiopia Ardi Sidama
If you’re still around, here’s all you need to know about the best coffee beans for espresso.
History of Espresso
Espresso is basically coffee brewed under intense pressure. And the concept is simple, really: push hot steaming water through refined finely-ground coffee beans to make a concentrated drink. The result is Espresso.
Before the drink ever reached the American plains, it was widely consumed by the Italians. In fact, the successful espresso machine first came about when Italian businessmen, Luigi Bezzera and Desidero Pavoni found a way to brew coffee in seconds. This is impressive if you realize it took over 5 minutes to brew coffee before the espresso machines came along.
The espresso machines bombarded the coffee beans with pressure, reducing the coffee brew time and maintaining a rich, strong taste. The two businessmen opened the world up to their machine - Cafee Espresso - at the 1906 Milan fair. Cafe Espresso translates to Espresso Coffee in English, hence the popular name, Espresso.
So, if Espresso is simply coffee brewed under intense pressure, can you make Espresso with any coffee beans you have?
Can I Make Espresso With Any Coffee Beans?
Yes, in a sense, you can make espresso with any coffee beans. But there’s a catch. Using any coffee beans for espresso may not result in the strong, rich taste you know traditional espresso for. In fact, some coffees and specific origins may result in unique and non-traditional flavor profiles or produce a shot that is higher in acidity, which can be polarizing for some coffee drinkers that are not accustomed to these flavors.
Why? The combination of flavor profile, origins, and roasting technique are essential in developing espresso blends that match the taste profile you are looking for - and not all coffee beans have the same flavor or origin and different beans need to be roasted slightly differently to showcase its best flavor characteristics.
What Roast Is Best for Espresso?
Espresso can be made from coffee beans with different roasts levels so there is not a one size fits all answer to the best roast for espresso - it depends what the consumer aka the coffee drinker is looking for.
Traditionally, darker roasts have been used for espresso because darker roasted coffee beans present the least acidity and more hints of rich and roasty flavor than light or medium roast beans. Moreover, dark roast coffee beans have more natural oils and hold up better to high-pressure brewing methods. This gives them a rich taste and flavor that many coffee drinkers look for in their espresso. The CRR Darkside Seasonal Espresso will be the best comparison to this style of espresso with it’s medium-heavy roast profile and subtle smokiness.
Light and medium roasted coffees on the other hand offer more complexity and layers of flavors that aren’t as prominent in darker roasted coffees. At CRR, our Seasonal Espresso Blends like Brunswick, Venice, and City Block are blends of different origins roasted medium/medium light in order to showcase the layers of flavor the coffee can offer. With a set taste profile target, different origins are selected and blended to achieve this target, for example coffees from Colombia, Brazil, and Ethiopia are blended together for the Brunswick Blend in order to create a layered profile that showcases chocolate, nuts, and fruit.
Pro tip? Look for a roast date between 1 to 4 weeks after roast. This way, you know you’re getting freshly roasted coffee beans for your espresso. After all, espresso is best when fresh.
How to Find the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso: What to Look For
As is evident now, roast is one thing to look out for when searching for the best coffee beans for espresso. But is that all there is to it? Not quite.
There’s the origin of the coffee bean, blending those different origins together to make a balanced espresso blend, and for some, the case of Arabica or Robusta.
Origin of the Coffee Beans
Most coffee beans offer distinctive notes and flavors depending on their growing regions.
For instance, African-grown coffee beans like Ethiopia and Kenya have unique flavor notes, acidity, and minerality because of the high altitudes they are grown at. Also, the unique soil and climate combined with the processing methods give the coffee beans very distinct notes than other coffee beans from other coffee growing regions - both washed and natural process Ethiopian coffee beans are a great example of the floral and bright fruit notes that are distinct to Ethiopian coffees.
Alternatively, Brazilian coffee beans can have a lighter roast and sweeter flavor of nuts and caramel. This makes them a great option to blend with richer, robust coffee beans.
Also, other South and Central American coffee beans such as beans from Colombia and Guatemala can be sweet with rich chocolate and subtle citrus notes which can make for a great base for building an espresso blend. Because beans from South and Central America are an excellent option for espresso blends, it’s unsurprising that coffee seeds from these regions are often the most sought-after.
The idea here is simple: mix two or more coffee beans to produce a balanced and layered espresso that showcases a targeted flavor profile. Why?
All coffee beans are different, even from the same region, because they can be grown at different altitudes, be different varieties, or be processed slightly differently which can all have an impact on the beans flavor. Carefully tasting different coffees such as “cupping” coffees from the same region is a great way to see these differences side by side.
By creating a target flavor profile, you can then source different origins to best create a blend that is rich, balanced, and layered with the target flavor profile that is intended for the blend. For example, the Venice Blend is a blend that is meant to pair well with milk, so we’ll target notes of milk chocolate, caramel, and nuts. By using a coffee from Guatemala that highlights chocolate and caramel with a coffee from Brazil that is sweet and nutty, we can make a balanced and layered espresso blend that showcases flavors that not only stands up to but also highlights the milk as well.
TLDR: The solution? Blend different origins and flavor profiles to produce a balanced, layered espresso blend that targets the flavor notes you want to showcase.
Arabica Vs. Robusta
Although there are many different kinds of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta are the most common. Arabica coffee beans typically have a smooth and sweet flavor and are grown mainly in Central America. On the other hand, Robusta coffee beans are richer, have less acidity, and are only produced in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Due to its ease of cultivation, Robusta makes up a large portion of the coffee in local grocery stores. However, top coffee brands and establishments like Starbucks Coffee set themselves apart by making coffee with only Arabica beans.
This nonconformity by no means establishes Arabica as the best coffee bean for coffee lovers. It’s still a case of personal preference. Many people like Arabica beans simply because they have a milder flavor and less caffeine. However, that may not be what you want.
3 of The Best Coffee Beans for Espresso & Cappuccino
Here are our top picks of the best coffee beans for making espresso, (or cappuccino if you want). We’ve highlighted a Blend, Single Origin, and Decaf coffee that are great for espresso.
City Block Blend
Source: Common Room Roasters
As we love to say here at Common Room Roasters, City Block Blend is “a blend for the people who serve the people.” This specialty whole-bean coffee makes for an otherworldly espresso with its milk chocolate, nuts, and caramel finish notes.
This power-packed bunch is a blend of coffee beans from Colombia, Brazil, and a little Ethiopia - all hotspots for some of the best coffee beans in the world. It’s our top pick because you can make your espresso your way, without losing the bean’s freshness quickly. And as we’ve already mentioned, the best espresso is made from freshly roasted coffee beans.
Moreover, the City Block Blend is seasonal, meaning the beans continuously change based on what ingredients are in season. For coffee lovers, this is fantastic news since the beans ensure that they will always have an excellent cup - no matter the time of the year.
If you’ve been around the block for some time, and you know all that matters is to get it done, you’ll love the City Block Blend. Plus, you get that bold, full taste without the fruity notes.
Source: Common Room Roasters
Many people cringe at the mention of decaf, well, not this time. The Huila Decaf is a crowd-pleaser.
This coffee offers you the classic notes and some of the best coffee flavors you’ll come across - chocolate, caramel, and, interestingly, toffee. There are also hints of Graham Cracker in there. Even more interesting is Huila Decaf’s process. It’s processed with a sugarcane and water extract, which results in a delicious caffeine-free and naturally sweet brew.
The best part is the processing helps the Huila Decaf resist high heat and hold out under high pressure. This way, it maintains the rich notes and flavors after brewing, which still gives off Huila’s terrior.
If you’re a decaf enthusiast and love that juicy enhanced sweetness in your cup, the Huila Decaf is your best bet.
Fudam Narino Organic
Source: Common Room Roasters
This coffee presents a rich, high-toned flavor which gives your taste buds a buzz. It also has a syrupy smooth feel on the mouth with spices, chocolate, and floral notes.
The FUDAM Narino is sustainably sourced and traditionally washed to produce a fresh, distinctive taste after the brew. Meaning, you can expect a sweet, healthy cup of espresso every day with the Narino. In fact, it’s the perfect coffee for single-origin batch brews and espressos.
Things to Look For in a Blend
If you're deciding on a blend, consider whether you'll be mostly taking your espresso straight or brewing milk-based cups.
Definitely stay away from anything with robusta if the mix is intended for a pure espresso cup. In fact, we recommend selecting 100% Arabica beans, ideally ones from elevated growing fields like South and Central America and Africa. Single Origin coffees are great for enjoying espresso “black” because you can focus on the specific flavors of the coffee bean, whether it’s a rich, chocolate note of a Colombian coffee, or bright, berry note of a natural Ethiopian coffee.
If you'll combine the beans with milk, for a latte maybe, you might want to go for a medium or darker blend or perhaps one that contains beans from Colombia or Central America. Some folks prefer a more "roasty” flavor to pair with milk because light or acidic coffees can often not be highlighted under the milk.
The Bottom Line
Taste is subjective, true. But even the best barista with the best espresso machine can make nothing good out of bad coffee beans. That’s why it’s crucial to get your coffee beans right if you want to enjoy your cup of espresso.
Hopefully, you’re now the expert on all coffee beans for espresso. Even if for nothing else, always remember that a balanced espresso blend will offer a versatile and flavorful coffee that will highlight the best flavors of the origins it is made of. Plus, you can always come back to this guide to learn what to know about the best coffee beans for espressos.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is an Omni Roast?
In contrast to the conventional belief that coffees and roasts are produced for specific brewing methods, omni-roasting says that coffee is roasted such that it may be brewed in any manner.
The concept of omni-roasting promotes the notion that the barista's job is to get the best taste from the coffee considering the beans have been roasting properly. Of course, this does not imply that all coffees will taste the same regardless of the brewing technique or that there isn't an ideal or superior way to brew certain types of coffee.
Single Origin vs Blends
As the name suggests, single-origin coffee is coffee made from one location. The blends, on the other hand, are a mixture of single-origin coffees - meaning they’re from different locations.
Single-origin coffees are thrilling, but as climatic variations affect flavor over time, their flavor can be unpredictable. However, blends have a more uniform flavor and are relatively less sensitive to seasonal variations. That’s why roasters have a natural bias toward blends.
Moreover, blends can combine perfectly with milk and sugar. So, it’s no surprise that blends are the standard espresso coffee at coffee shops. They charm a wider range of consumers since they have a more uniform flavor. They also help coffee shops differentiate themselves and create a brand, as blend flavors can bedesigned specifically for a store and sold there only.
Why Does Single-Origin Matter?
You'll love the single-origin coffees if you're one for authenticity. They tend to showcase the farmers and producers and give drinkers a pure feel of what coffee from different regions tastes like. Moreover, single-origin coffees usually present more powerful aromas and flavors - something enthusiasts can appreciate.
What’s Unique About Espresso Beans?
Technically, there’s nothing unique about espresso beans. The real difference is only evident in the brewing method. Espresso requires high pressure and a fine grind to produce a concentrated cup, while regular coffee doesn’t. We explain this in greater detail in this comprehensive guide.
What Makes the Perfect Espresso Shot?
Pressure, extraction duration, temperature, grind uniformity, and tamping are crucial in achieving flawless espresso shots. You won't like your final espresso drink if these are flawed. Instead, what you'll get are relatively flavorless espresso shots.
Each element must be adjusted precisely if you want to make espresso shots anyone would die for. Of course, naturally, you have no influence over all of these factors. However, the objective is to pursue perfection and get the best results.