Best coffee beans for espresso – Top 5 Picks

Best Coffee Beans For Espresso - Top 5 Picks

If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best coffee beans for espresso are, then our top pick are the Kicking Horse Power-Roast beans.

Almost 80% of us prefer coffee at home. Ahhh the smell of fresh espresso shots…

For some of us, the easiest way to start drinking coffee is via a creamy, milky latte.

But don’t go asking for a latte in Italy or you’ll get a glass of warm milk! “Cafe latte” (Coffee with milk) will get a latte as you know it.

There are many options on the market and each company states they sell the best beans for espresso.

Regardless of if you like a medium roast or another one which is a much darker blend, finding the right espresso beans can be a challenge.

So how do you choose and not waste money on a bag that disappoints?

We’ve got important information about the best espresso beans and all the reasons why you should (and perhaps why you might not) buy them.

Read on to find out which ones you’ll want to use for your daily cup of joe!

What is an espresso?

Originating in Italy, espresso is a type of brewing method now used in most coffee shops around the world.

The end result is a beverage that is thicker than filter coffee. In addition, caramel liquid forms on top of the beverage called ‘crema’.

The thickness of the crema often determines how good the coffee ‘pull’ or ‘shot’ is. [1]

How do you make espresso?

Espresso is made by forcing steam and water through finely-ground beans.

Hot pressurized water is forced through finely-ground, compacted coffee grounds for about 30 seconds.

Espresso can be made from any type of coffee bean, but a blend is used most often to create optimal flavors.

Regular drip coffee — a.k.a., filtered coffee or pour-over — is made by pouring water over more coarsely-ground, roasted coffee beans in a filter. [1]

What’s the difference between espresso coffee beans and regular filter beans?

The difference between espresso roast and filter roast is that espresso roasts are caramelized slightly.

This is because beans used for espresso are generally roasted for a longer amount of time than beans meant for drip coffee.

They also differ from other beans because they tend to be darker roasts.

The lighter, medium roasts run the risk of going sour in an espresso. Softer blends work better in a pour-over or drip coffee maker instead.

For the best espresso, you want to use a dark espresso bean that gives you a solid kick when brewed.

Can you use espresso beans in fully automatic machines?

You can use espresso beans in most automatic coffee machines.

What you need to be careful of is the oil content.

Usually, a fully automatic espresso machine doesn’t do too well with oily beans as they can clog up the machine.

I probably don’t need to tell you but flavored beans are also not great for espresso. This is because they have additional oils added to them to make the taste more appealing to those who don’t like the taste of the coffee.

This presents a nightmare for your magical elixr pouring machine…

It’s not a question of if but when your machine will start to turn grounds into a hard lump of clay and It’s a sure-fire way to wreck your espresso.

We all know how hard it is to have a coffee machine that doesn’t work..So just use flavored syrups if you want instead.

How to choose the best roast for espresso

To ensure you get the most out of your espresso, it’s important to remember to use the freshest medium to dark roast you can find without them being too oily.

The freshest beans are the ones that will give you the greatest results.

There’s a reason why medium roast coffees are the world’s most popular. They’re flavourful, not too acidic, and have a decent body. Most are rich, earthy brown and rarely does the oil within the beans rise to the surface. If there is any oil, it will be very slight and not cause for concern. [2]

Start with a blend

Get your palette dancing with a balance of flavors.

Once you know what gets you going, start experimenting with single-origin espresso beans from particular regions.

No point wasting money on a whole bag only to find its too lemony or too fruity for your liking.

Let the espresso experts guide you

Most specialty coffee brands will offer key insights into their blends.

They’ve done the hard work for you and found out which bean blend and roast type is the most popular.

They will also be able to outline which locations have particular flavors and suggest a bean type that will deliver the greatest espresso possible.

Ease your way in

Start with a lighter roast, perhaps something with chocolate and cinnamon notes. If you really want something to knock your socks off – by all means, dive right in.

Be warned though. Caffeine from the best espresso beans can be seriously tasty and addictive!

Arabica vS Robusta: right flavor for espresso?

Arabica beans will give you a sweet creamy flavor, whereas Robusta beans have more caffeine and a stronger, more intense taste.

Robusta are also contain around double the caffeine content but aren’t popular in the west due to their bitter taste. Most people prefer a sweeter taste through arabica beans, but that’s not to say robusta doesn’t have its place.

I mean, if you love Vietnamese coffee like me your already a fan of robusta beans!

Regardless if you prefer a dark Italian roast or if your one for the largest caffeine hit possible, there is a bean for everyone!

What to look for when buying espresso beans

When you purchase espresso beans, be sure to look at where the beans come from.

Temperature, climate, and growing conditions could make a huge difference in how your coffee tastes. To get the best espresso beans, you also want to make sure they’re roasted by artisan, master roasters who know what they’re doing.

Here’s an overview of what to expect from particular espresso beans:

Asian coffee bean: Tends to produce warm, dark roasts with earthy tones.

African coffee bean: Offer a complex and fruity flavor combination.

Central and South America beans: Result most often in sweet, clean and sunny brews.

While selecting the right beans is crucial, you can’t make a cup full of crema without an espresso machine. If you’re in the market for a new one on a tight budget, check out our post on the best espresso machines under 200 bucks to pair with your beans!

Now onto the options..

Our Top Picks For the best coffee beans for espresso

When selecting the right espresso for you, it’s often a good idea to have a sense of where to start.

We’ve thoroughly reviewed 5 of what we think are the best beans for espresso below

Overall Top Pick
5/5

Waking up with Kicking Horse is an encounter that has to be experienced to be believed. 

After years of drinking rubbish coffee, I never thought I’d find a solid, dependable coffee bean. Well, Kicking Horse is the strong, bold and reliable coffee I’ve been looking for. 

A robust and heavy-bodied bean with strong earthy flavors and a licorice finish. It could be a little too intense for beginner coffee drinkers but its low acidity does wonders for those of us with weaker stomachs.

If you’re looking for a powerful kick-start to your mornings, get some Power-Roast in your espresso machine asap.

I wish I had this sweet but dark roast to get me through all those all-nighters and groggy Monday mornings.

Pros

  • A bold dark Arabica coffee bean that kicks
  • Certified Organic, fair trade + kosher 
  • Smooth but darker than average roast
  • Seductively aromatic flavors
  • Low acidity, great for weaker stomachs

Cons

  • More for the artisan coffee drinker than the one-button press-and-go coffee guy
  • Best in a semi-automatic espresso machine vs automatic.
  • A coffee dark as night. Not for the faint-hearted.
High Caffeine Pick
4.5/5

Another new rebel to join the coffee niche is Death Wish. They clearly don’t mind boasting about how they produce the world’s strongest cup of coffee.

‘Exactly how strong is a Death Wish?’ I hear you ask.

Well, the company has done extensive lab testing and the results speak for themselves.

“It’s two times more caffeinated than your average coffee house cuppa joe.” [3]

And when you get a whiff of the aroma, you can see what they mean.

It smacks you hard in the face, it’s as if you’re standing directly in front of the roaster. 

As for the taste, it’s smooth, strong, and there’s hardly a bitter note in sight.

This could be the most suitable choice for those well-traveled, looking to recreate the ultimate dark roast bean blend. The I know all the ‘best coffee beans’ type people.

Death Wish have found a delicate balance of sweet Arabica and strong Robusta beans. Personally, I felt Death Wish coffee was far superior to coffee bean direct. It was more on par with a fresh Italian roast experience albeit darker and stronger.

Pros

  • An extremely high-caffeine solid espresso blend
  • Aromatic caramel and coocoa flavors combined with fruity notes
  • Fairtrade, organic, 100% natural 
  • Strong intense kick without the bitterness

Cons

  • If you’re the type to like extra milk, cream and sugar, then this is not the bean for you
  • Robusta beans make this an extra STRONG espresso (bad for some!)

Eight O'Clock Whole Bean Coffee, Dark Italian Espresso

Budget Pick
4/5

Now here’s a company that knows coffee and knows it well. Not only are their Colombian beans 100% Arabica, but they also make an affordable roast that’s accessible to everyone.

According to Consumer Reports from Reuters, Eight O’Clock Coffee ranked No. 1 — the best combination of taste and price — out of 19 ground coffees.[4]

Their classic Dark Italian espresso bean is nothing fancy but it’s consistent. It offers the best combination of taste and cost.  

Its classic flavors make for a bright and refreshing espresso that’s extremely easy to drink daily. 

The smell is strong but the flavors are subtle. It has notes of chocolate and caramel and that well-loved roasted Arabica taste. 

Pros

  • 100% high-quality and wallet-friendly arabica beans
  • Also makes a highly rated decaf blend 
  • Remains America’s original and number 1 whole bean coffee
  • Perfect for a fully automatic machine.

Cons

  • Won’t satisfy those looking for a big caffeine kick
  • I tried more of a pour-over style, and this just didn’t pack much punch in the cup for me.
  • Bags are not resealable so they won’t stay fresh for long.

You know the coffee’s fresh when you smell that strong aroma before you even spot the beans.

When I was moving house (espresso grinder packed away), I ground up these beans with a mortar and pestle. The whole house smelt like vanilla, caramel & coffee for days!

No matter whether you’re a beginner coffee-drinker or full-time coffee snob, these beans will hit the spot.

This product might make the best espresso for americanos and milky drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. It’s excellent for me because some of my family is from South America and they’re not easily impressed.

“Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and produces around 25% of the world’s supply of coffee.” [5]

Verena is a superb allrounder for those who enjoy a fresh delicious dark roast espresso. Even cafe owners and professional baristas rave about its impressive quality, smell, and taste.

Pros

  • Full-bodied ultra-dark roast
  • Delivers a sweet, creamy, bold and flavorful cup
  • Offers excellent velvety smooth super crema
  • Produced specifically for espresso drinkers who like Italian roast.
  • Beans best ground fine for espresso or coarse for drip coffee
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • 100% Kosher certified by Orthodox Union 

Cons

  • 100% Arabica coffee beans might not suit your palette if you normally like a blend
  • Might be a bit too oily for some fully automatic machines 
  • Inconsistent. One batch I bought smelled burnt and might have been over-roasted

Koffee Kult has roasted espresso in Hollywood, Florida since 2010. They focus on small-batch roasted beans, specializing in organic and ethically sourced single-origin coffee.

With 100% organic and sourced from Columbia, Sumatra, and Columbia, Koffee Kult has created raging fans the world over.

Koffee Kult produces a bean that is equally strong as it is smooth and is perfectly served in espresso machines.

Tantalize your tastebuds with notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, and cinnamon.

Love Starbucks? This might be a good choice if you’re looking for a coffee that leaves a sweet, chocolatey finish in your mouth.

And all from the comfort of your own home. How could you say no?

Pros

  • A dark roast with full flavor
  • Family owned and operated artisan coffee roasters 
  • Beans are roasted in the US to perfection and without added oiliness
  • Low balanced acidity means it’s gentle on your insides
  • If you obsess over thick caramel crema on every cup, these beans deliver an ultra-thick crema
  • Premium vacuum-sealed packaging

Cons

  • If you’re an experienced hardcore coffee addict, these beans may not be as strong as you need them to be
  • If you like beans for espresso, you’ll be purchasing these beans on repeat!

Final Word

Honestly, I’ve tried and tested most of the best coffee beans in Europe and South America. 

I’ve lived a month in Australia on some of the most incredible flat whites in the world, and now the best espresso beans for me are the dark roast ones I choose to go into my automatic machine.

There’s just something about the satisfaction of creating the perfect espresso exactly the way I like it while I’m still in my PJs.

And in all honesty, I’d be content with any of the above-mentioned products. They all have unique qualities.

That being said, for a relative newcomer to the coffee scene, here are a few reasons why you’ll want to try my recommendation for Canada’s #1 selling whole bean coffee:

1. A humble beginning of a couple of friends looking for the most desirable, dark roast, espresso blend, it’s hard to deny their passion for coffee. They’re consistency and roast quality is superb. 

2. Fair trade means they use coffee profits to empower farmers and invest back into their communities. They’ve chosen the most suitable blend of beans and crafted a variety of winning espresso blends. 

3. They’re a company that supports not only coffee growers but many non-profits that protect wildlife, water, and are advocates for the preservation of wild places. [7]

Be warned though – These Kicking Horse coffee beans seriously pack a punch.

If you’re the ‘just another 10 mins of snoozing’ kind of person then this will get you out of bed, into work and give you the much-needed buzz throughout the day… until next week! 

I’m drooling just thinking about the tasty fruit notes and delicious caramel-cocoa aromas.

Picture yourself in a George Clooney coffee ad. A sexy somebody making your coffee for you, the smell of freshly roasted beans in the air…

The noise fades away. It’s blissful. Just for a moment, there’s nothing else except you and your Kicking Horse cup of joe. Ahhh the serenity.

For your George Clooney moment, purchase some Kicking Horse beans today.

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