The 11 Best Espresso Beans – Reviews & Buyers Guide

You may have wondered what the best coffee beans are for you to use as espresso. The short answer is, there’s no such thing.

Nonetheless, while there might not be one answer for all, there is a “best” espresso bean out there for you. You just have to ask the right questions and look in the right places.

Maybe we can help solve the riddle…Let’s start with our top pick for the best espresso beans.

Top Pick
Lifeboost Organic Espresso

Nicaraguan grown beans, this coffee is single-origin and USDA certified organic. With sweet chocolately undertones, it's a Sip Coffee favorite!

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Coffee For Espresso – Top 2 Alternative Picks

Most Complex Flavor
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe by Volcanica Coffee

Originating from the Yirgacheffe region in Ethiopia, this is Volcanicas #1 best-seller. Versatile enough to brewed as a pour over for a brighter flavor, or even at the other end of the spectrum as a full bodied espresso!

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Best French Roast
French Roast by Lion Coffee

Decadently dark with an intense flavor, this one's perfect if you are looking for the ultimate DARK roast.

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Are Espresso Coffee Beans Different from Normal Coffee Beans?

You may have come across this distinction at your local coffee shop or the supermarket. You might have wondered whether you get espresso beans from a select type of coffee plant. The answer to that is no. So why the unique distinction for “espresso”?

The main difference between espresso coffee beans and regular coffee beans is their roast. Espresso beans are often roasted longer than normal beans, usually resulting in a medium to dark roast. These tend to be more ideal for making espresso than light-roasted beans.

I’ll get into the finer details later on. What you need to know is that to get a good cup of espresso coffee, you need balance. To get this balance, baristas will use a different type of bean, roast, or grind size in their brew.

It all depends on their (or their customer’s) extraction method of choice. And it so happens that you can usually get the flavors that coffee drinkers tend to like in their cup of espresso more easily when you use medium to dark-roasted beans.

Our Favorite Coffee Beans for Espresso

Again, we aren’t claiming that these are objectively the best espresso beans because there’s technically no such thing.

Rather, that they have the characteristics, we enjoy in a cup of espresso. But we can’t speak for you! You’ll just have to do some research and some experimenting to figure out which are the best espresso beans for you.

With that said, here’s a list of the best espresso beans for us.

1. Lifeboost Premium Espresso

Our favorite espresso beans are Lifeboost’s Premium Espresso. They’re available as both whole beans or ground coffee. These 100% arabica beans are sourced from Nicaragua, where they are mountain-shade grown.

Best Low Acid Espresso
Lifeboost Organic Espresso

Nicaraguan grown beans, this coffee is single-origin and USDA certified organic. With sweet chocolately undertones, it's a Sip Coffee favorite!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Dark
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Blend: Arabica (Single Origin)
  • Flavor Notes: Rich, bold, undertones of chocolate caramel with a slight fruitiness and slight sweetness
  • Best Overall

Shade-grown coffee plants mature more slowly than those that are sun-grown. This allows the flavors to become more pronounced, as the sugars within the bean increase.

This sweetness translates to the coffee taste. In this case, it pairs well with its chocolate caramel undertones. It also has that bit of brightness that Central American coffees are known for. These beans also have medium to low acidity, making for an enjoyable cup of espresso for coffee drinkers almost anywhere.

From the mountains of Nicaragua to your espresso machine, no chemicals touch these beans. These beans are also hand-picked, spring washed, and sun-dried. They’re also considered fair trade coffee, so you know your money is going to the right people.

2. Volcanica Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee by Volcanica Coffee is no exception to the low acidy and fruity after tones that coffee from the region is known for.

Most Complex Flavor
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe by Volcanica Coffee

Originating from the Yirgacheffe region in Ethiopia, this is Volcanicas #1 best-seller. Versatile enough to brewed as a pour over for a brighter flavor, or even at the other end of the spectrum as a full bodied espresso!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Medium
  • Origin: Ethiopia
  • Blend: Arabica (Single Origin)
  • Flavor notes: ripe strawberry, pineapple guava, dark chocolate, lavender-like flowers, aromatic cedar
  • Most Complex Flavor Profile

Yirgacheffe, is an area in Ethiopia that is partiucarly known for producing coffees which add a floral dimension to their flavor. And as opposed to the frequently medium-bodied coffee of other Ethiopian regions, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee is thick-bodied, giving it a full and rich mouthfeel.

It has an earthy aroma, with complex fruit tones. You can taste ripe strawberry and pineapple guava in this coffee. It also has a hint of cinnamon to complement these fruity tones, as enhanced by its medium roast. To top it all off, it leaves the taste of dark chocolate and lavender in your mouth after every sip. And As a consequence, this coffee is both sweet and pleasantly bitter.

The combination of low acidity, exotic flavors, and its bitter edge is tied together by the coffee’s sweetness. It has a very complex taste profile that every coffee aficionado will enjoy deconstructing.

3. Lion Coffee French Roast

A French roast is lighter than an Italian (roast) but still darker than your average dark roast. These type of brews can be a double-edged sword if you’re prone to over extraction, as the darker coffee can replace the natural flavors of the coffee beans if left brewing too long.

Nonetheless, when made right this one’s a beauty!

Best French Roast
French Roast by Lion Coffee

Decadently dark with an intense flavor, this one's perfect if you are looking for the ultimate DARK roast.

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Summary:

  • Roast: French
  • Origin: Hawaii
  • Blend: Arabica
  • Best Darker-than-Dark Roast

But Lion Coffee gets it right with their French Roast. This Hawaiian coffee is bold, intense, and full-bodied. It is dark and sweet, but not burnt. It has that classic aggressive espresso taste without being bitter.

4. Ethiopia Gotiti Natural by Rainier Coffee

Ethiopian beans are known for their fruity notes, and the Gotiti Natural by Rainier Coffee is no exception. With the sweetness of black currant and blackberry with notes of cocoa and spicy gingerbread.

Best Medium Roast
Rainer Coffee Roasters - Ethiopian Gotiti Natural

Sourced from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee comes this medium roast. With notes of fruit and ginger, it's a flavorful cup.

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Summary:

  • Roast: Medium
  • Origin: Ethiopia
  • Blend: Arabica (Single Origin)
  • Flavor Notes: Black currant, blackberry, cocoa
  • Best Medium Roast

The body is thick, rich, and even syrupy, and its medium roast gives it its edge. Adding milk lets the chocolate flavor rise to the top, making it a treat for cocoa lovers as well.

This coffee is like an adventure in a cup. With toasted, fruity, nutty, sweet, and spicy flavors all rolled into one bag of beans, the Ethiopia Gotiti Natural by Rainier Coffee makes for a delightful and exciting cup of espresso.

5. Guatemala Puerto Verde

The Guatemala Puerto Verde by Fundamental Coffee Company is described as “death by chocolate” in a cup. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a heck of a way to go!

Best For Chocolate Lovers
Guatemala Puerto Verde by Fundamental Coffee Company

This Guatemalan medium roast is favored by chocolate lovers. No wonder it's nicknamed "death by chocolate"!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Medium-dark
  • Origin: Guatemala
  • Blend: Arabica (Single Origin)
  • Notes: Brown sugar, cocoa, floral
  • Best for Chocolate Lovers

It has a deep, rich, and smooth dark chocolate flavor balanced out by a hint of brown sugar. There’s also a hint of orange blossom that adds aroma to every cup.

These single origin arabica beans are roasted just darker than medium to complement its natural flavors. This elevates its taste profile and makes it an extraordinary cup of espresso.

Sourced from Guatemala, in Antigua’s Panchoy Valley. Here, the coffee plants are provided shade by active volcanoes. Regularly infusing volcanic ash into the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer to make these coffee plants grow sustainably.

The flavors present in this coffee are clean and vibrant, and it really might as well be caffeine-infused hot chocolate.

6. Eight O’Clock Italian Espresso 

Eight O’Clock is one of the best-selling whole bean coffees in America, and their Dark Italian Espresso is just another one of their quality blends.

Best Italian Roast
Eight O'Clock Whole Bean Coffee, Dark Italian Espresso, 32 Ounce
$12.98 ($0.41 / Ounce)

If you love an Italian roast then you'll love a cup of eight'o clock coffee!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Italian
  • Origin: Latin America, East Africa
  • Blend: Arabica
  • Flavor notes: Chocolate, caramel
  • Best “True” Espresso

Italian roast is one that is considered darker-than-dark. This tends to remove a lot of the natural flavor from the coffee. But with these 100% arabica beans, Eight O’Clock manages to leave in a lot of the good stuff.

Boasting a “true espresso experience”, this coffee has a strong aroma, with a bold, full-bodied finish. It gives you that espresso punch but balances out with subtle chocolate and caramel undertones.

But, given these are a very dark roast, it can be too bitter for some people. If bitterness is something you tend to avoid in an espresso, there are many options than an Italian roast. Espresso shots for some people are more enjoyable when they’re not bitter.

7. Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean

Lavazza is one of the biggest coffee roasters in the world. So the fact that the Lavazza Super Crema is their top-selling coffee says a lot about the quality of these beans.

Best Commercial Espresso
Lavazza Super Crema

With a 60/40 blend of Arabica and Robusta this espresso packs a punch with a nutty flavor.

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Summary:

  • Roast: Medium
  • Origin: Brazil, India, Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam
  • Blend: 60% Arabica, 40% Robusta
  • Flavor Notes: Honey, almond, dried fruit
  • Best Commercial Espresso

This coffee is carefully crafted, and made with 60% arabica and 40% robusta beans. To get the best-tasting coffee, its beans sourced from different parts of the world. The arabica beans are sourced from Brazil, India, and Colombia, while the robusta beans are sourced from Indonesia and Vietnam.

It’s a medium roast with notes of honey, almond, and dried fruit, and natural sweetness. It has a rich, full taste, with little to no bitterness. It’s also easy to get a thick and compact crema with this espresso bean.

With its persistent aroma, the Lavazza Super Crema is everything you need for a delectable cup of espresso.

8. Koffee Kult

Koffee Kult’s beans are organically sourced and fair trade, so you know you’re getting high quality beans and helping ensure that farmers get paid a respectable wage.

Best Espresso On Amazon
Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roasted
$26.99 ($0.84 / Ounce)

Organically sourced and roasted in Hollywood Fl, Koffee Kult has amassed a huge following of loyal coffee fans!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Dark
  • Origin: Colombia, Brazil, Sumatra
  • Blend: Arabica
  • Flavor notes: Cocoa, Cinnamon, Bright
  • Freshest Beans

These beans are organically sourced and fair trade, so you know you’re getting high-quality beans and helping ensure that farmers get paid a respectable wage.

Koffee Kult packages its beans immediately after roasting, so this slows the degassing process a bit. And, they’re roasters are in Hollywood, Florida. So Koffee Kult Dark Roast coffee is a great option if you want to ensure that your coffee is still fresh when it gets to you when your buying from Amazon.

This Dark Roast coffee isn’t just fresh, but it also tastes excellent. It has a heavy body and is smooth to drink. It has cocoa, cinnamon, and bright flavors, along with a long finish to keep that great taste lingering in your mouth. It’s a dark roast that is strong and bold, and without the bitterness that is quite often present in other dark roasts.

9. 454 Horse Power Beans

Kicking Horse Coffee is the most versatile coffee bean on this list when it comes to brewing espresso. Although it’s dark-roasted, it’s actually recommended for use as drip coffee, a pour over, or cold brew. So yes, you can use this coffee for espresso maker coffee. But it could taste even better if you use the brewing methods that require abit more effort.

Most Versatile
Kicking Horse Coffee
$29.99 ($0.85 / Ounce)

A dark roast coupled with a heavy body but versatile enough to be brewed how you wish.

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Summary:

  • Roast: Dark
  • Origin: Indonesia, Central & South America
  • Blend: Arabica
  • Notes: Heavy body, earthy, with a black licorice finish
  • Most Versatile

For machine brewing or manual brewing, Kicking Horse Coffee’s 454 Horse Power Beans produce a velvety coffee accompanied by a heavy body. It has the aroma of cacao nibs, a hint of nutmeg, and peat, which gives it its earthiness. It contains the flavors of chocolate, brown sugar, and roasted hazelnuts, making for an excellent cup of coffee.

It’s also worth mentioning that Kicking Horse is organic, mountain shade-grown, and considered fair trade coffee.

10. The Vanilla Caramel Colombian

I’ll admit it, writing the title above made me want to keep this one all to myself. The Nariño Jesus Orlando Chavez by True North Coffee Roasters is certainly a mouthful to say. But, no doubt you’ll also want a mouthful of this light-roasted Arabica coffee sourced from Colombia.

Best Light Roast
Colombian Nariño by True North Coffee Roasters

This Colombian light roast is rich and smooth with caramel undertones.

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Summary:

  • Roast: Light
  • Origin: Colombia
  • Blend: Arabica (Single Origin)
  • Notes: Apricot, cinnamon, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla
  • Best Light Roast

The coffee melts in your mouth and has a rich, smooth body. It has sweet vanilla and caramel flavors to balance out its acidity. Its finish also has a hint of grapefruit, with notes of cinnamon-sprinkled apricot.

This is the only light-roasted variety in this selection because light roasts are often not what the majority of coffee drinkers prefer when it comes to making espresso. These types of beans are often too acidic to brew into an espresso. But the sweet caramel and vanilla flavors in the Colombian Nariño Chavez balance its acidity out beautifully.

11. Full City Espresso

The secrecy behind the blend of Middle Fork Roaster’s Full City Espresso may initially raise some questions. But there’s no denying by its taste that these are quality espresso beans.

Best for Milky Coffee
Full City Espresso

This espresso is a secret blend but with caramelized sugar and chocolate undertones no one's complaining!

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Summary:

  • Roast: Dark/Medium
  • Origin: Honduras
  • Blend: “Secret recipe”
  • Flavor Notes: Caramelized sugar, cherry, chocolate
  • Best for pairing with milk

Optimized for a thicker extraction, this bean has a dense, heavy body and chocolate overtone in its flavor. The addition of milk complements it well and brings out its character. The hint of cherry balances it out well and is also characteristic of Central American coffee.

Meanwhile, the darkness of the roast also gives it a caramelized taste while maintaining its sweetness. If you like adding milk to coffee that’s sweet, creamy, and chocolatey, Middle Fork Roasters’ Full City Espresso is for you.

Espresso Beans Buying Guide

These are just a fraction of the quality beans you can buy from all around the world.

But don’t be overwhelmed by all these options, because trust us: there’s way more of them out there. So here’s everything you need to know to be able to identify what the best espresso beans are for you.

Every bag of beans has different flavor profiles that range from floral to fruity to nutty, spicy, and a plethora of other flavors. It all depends on where the coffee is grown, how it’s grown, the plant species, the roasting process, and, most importantly, your very own taste preference.

Asking what the best espresso coffee beans are is like asking what the best dessert is. There’s such a wide variety of options. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a definitive answer.

Why? Because it depends on what you like! But we can narrow it down with some common filters:

Origin

Origin here refers to the country of origin of a coffee bean. “Single origin” coffee beans are beans that are sourced from only one country. A bag of beans can be “100% arabica” but contain beans from different locations, as you saw in some of our favorite beans above.

Does this mean single origin beans are automatically better? No, but for coffee connoisseurs or even just people who are passionate about it, trying out beans of single origin is a deeper coffee-related experience.

Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world, producing mostly arabica beans. Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes, have half as much caffeine, and have better flavor than robusta beans. Meanwhile, Vietnam is the biggest producer of robusta beans. And they’re the second largest coffee producer in the world.

But a coffee bean’s characteristics aren’t determined by whether they’re robusta or arabica. Soil, temperature, and rainfall are some of the environmental factors that affect the quality and taste of a coffee bean. These factors are also known as the terroir of the coffee plant.

This means that even the same variety grown under certain conditions in Brazil will taste different from that same variety grown under different conditions in Colombia. And that coffee will, in turn, taste different from that same variety grown under still different conditions in Panama.

Roast

I mentioned earlier that medium to dark-roasted beans are often preferred for an espresso than a light roast.

Espresso beans that are roasted light will typically have fruity and acidic flavors. As you keep beans in a roaster for longer, the compounds that cause the coffee to be fruity are broken down. And the compounds that cause it to be more bitter, increase.

The first flavors to be extracted in an espresso are the acidic flavors. Roasting light tends might make it difficult to get the sweeter and more bitter flavors. This is because the longer a roast draws out, the more soluble the bean becomes. So using light roasts for espresso increases the chance of a cup that tastes sour and unpleasant, especially to someone accustomed to drinking bitter espresso.

But what if you like having acidity in your espresso? Is there a way to get those fruity flavors without making your drink sour?

What some roasters do to get this flavor in an espresso is roast the bean longer without increasing roasting temperature. This can result in a light-roasted bean that is easy to extract the full spectrum of flavors even with the shorter brewing time of an espresso.

However, it takes a lot of experience pulling many espressos from espresso machines to extract these ideal flavors from a light-roasted bean. Most espresso beans have medium to dark roasts because they are the safer option for the casual espresso enthusiast.

Whole Beans vs. Pre-Ground Beans

You’ve probably come across both and wondered if there was a significant difference between the two. After all, using pre-ground coffee saves a lot of time, not to mention the money it would cost to buy a burr grinder.

What grinding coffee does is it splits the beans into smaller particles. This increases the total surface area of your coffee. The finer the grind, the larger this surface area is. And the larger this total surface area, the more of it comes into contact with the water from espresso machines and the more efficiently it is extracted from.

But increasing the total surface area of your beans also increases its exposure to oxygen, changes in temperature, and light.

As soon as beans are roasted, they start to undergo a process called degassing.

Right after roasting, you’re supposed to let your beans degas. The built up carbon dioxide repels water and prevents an efficient extraction of your beans. For espresso, this is less than ideal.

But, if you degas your beans for too long, your coffee starts to go stale. And the smaller your coffee particles, the faster it undergoes this process.

So are whole beans always better than pre-ground beans? That depends on the quality of your grinder.

I mentioned that balance is the key to your espresso machine producing a good cup of coffee. For machines to produce a good quality espresso, it’s important that your coffee is ground evenly. But if your grinder is of poor quality, you will get an uneven extraction.

If that is the case, pre-ground coffee may be the better option than unevenly ground fresh coffee (at least until you can get a good grinder). Buy it in small amounts, and store it in a sealed container where it isn’t exposed to light and extreme temperatures to prolong its freshness.

Taste Profile

Every bag of beans has its own taste profile. Flavors can range from cocoa to fruity, to roasted, floral, spiced, or even vegetative. Now some of these may not look so appealing to you. To that, I say: don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. But even if you do try it, there’s a chance you won’t like it. Because you also have your own taste preferences.

Taste preference is subjective and unique in every person. Some people may end up liking coffee that tastes like mushrooms, for example, but others might not. That being said, one way to know which taste profile suits you the best is to be informed about the different taste profiles that exist in coffee.

Often, these profiles are indicated on your bag of beans. So make sure to check out those flavor notes on the label when choosing which bag to purchase.

But sometimes, these notes are absent from the label. In those scenarios, it helps to have a general sense of what flavors to expect from certain countries of origin.

For example, Ethiopia is known to produce coffee with a light body, acidic and fruity notes, and a blueberry aroma. On the other hand, Brazil is known to produce coffee with a heavy body, and nutty, buttery, and chocolatey flavor notes.

Like I mentioned previously, the type of roast also affects which flavors are brought out in your beans.

The flavors brought out in light roasts tend to be acidic and fruity. But because of how espresso machines extract coffee, these run the risk of ending up sour, more so than medium or dark roasts.

Meanwhile, the flavors brought out by an espresso machine in medium or dark roasts are nuttier, chocolatey, and caramel. These flavors pair very well with milk, so this is why these types of roasts are generally preferred for espresso.

The Final Verdict

It may sound simplistic, but the best espresso beans for you are the ones that you like the most.

There is no variety or type of roast that will objectively taste the best among all the beans available around the world to everyone. So look at your options, read customer reviews, and see which coffee bean piques your interest. 

But if you’re looking for a place to start on your journey to find the best coffee there is, we recommend Lifeboost Coffee’s Premium Espresso.

Best Low Acid Espresso
Lifeboost Organic Espresso

Nicaraguan grown beans, this coffee is single-origin and USDA certified organic. With sweet chocolately undertones, it's a Sip Coffee favorite!

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Miguel Papa

Miguel Papa

Barista and coffee writer

Miguel Papa is a coffee fanatic with a passion for brewing. During the weekdays, you can find him experimenting with different drinks while he works as a barista. Otherwise, he’s likely writing here for Sip Coffee or enjoying the outdoors.

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