When it comes to brewing espresso, the bean is king. Expensive machines and advanced brewing processes can’t compensate for low-quality beans. So who makes the best espresso beans?
Since espresso is a smaller and more concentrated drink than ordinary coffee, it’s essential to use high-quality beans that ensure a robust flavor and rich crema.
- 1 Espresso Beans vs. Regular Coffee Beans
- 2 Top-Rated Espresso Beans at a Glance
- 3 Top 10 Espresso Beans
- 3.1 Lavazza Super Crema
- 3.2 Kicking Horse Coffee, Espresso
- 3.3 Café de Loja Medium/Dark Roast
- 3.4 Stumptown Hair Bender
- 3.5 Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee
- 3.6 Verena Street Espresso Beans
- 3.7 Nicoletti Coffee Espresso Roast Beans
- 3.8 Coffee Bean Direct Italian Espresso
- 3.9 Koffee Kult Thunderbolt
- 3.10 Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso
- 4 How To Choose the Perfect Bean
- 5 Final Thoughts
Espresso Beans vs. Regular Coffee Beans
The difference between espresso and coffee beans lies in the brewing method, not the beans themselves. Espresso beans are best when they’re fresh, and you can grind them very finely immediately before brewing. Making espresso also requires extremely hot and pressurized water. Due to this process, espresso contains a high concentration of caffeine.
Ordinary coffee beans don’t need as fine a grind, and the coffee produced is much less concentrated than espresso. Learn more here about the four main types of coffee beans and how it impacts taste.
Espresso beans complement the unique espresso brewing process. Usually, they are medium or dark roast beans with a full body and less acidity. The popularity of Espresso has even moved into the Keurig market in the form of Espresso K-Cups.
Top-Rated Espresso Beans at a Glance
Here’s a quick overview of our top-rated espresso beans.
- Lavazza Super Crema
- Kicking Horse Coffee, Whole Bean Cliff Hanger Espresso
- Café de Loja Medium/Dark Roast Single Origin
- Stumptown Hair Bender
- Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee
- Verena Street 5-Pound Espresso Beans
- Nicoletti Coffee Espresso Roast Beans
- Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso
- Koffee Kult Thunderbolt
- Intelligentsia Black Cat Analog Espresso
Top 10 Espresso Beans
We chose ten espresso beans whose intense flavors are sure to satisfy even the pickiest espresso purist. If you are interested in pairing your espresso bean with a new espresso machine, there are plenty of great low cost espresso brewers that come highly recommended. But if simple is what you are after, Nespresso’s single serve models will have you sipping frothy espresso in under 60 seconds at the push of a button. Continue reading to review our list of the best espresso beans you have to try!
Founded in Turin, Italy, in 1895, Lavazza is one of the world’s most popular coffee companies. Four generations of the Lavazza family have overseen the business’s operations to maintain its high standards.
Blended and roasted in Italy, this whole bean Super Crema blend has a mild and smooth flavor. It’s a medium roast with hints of hazelnut and brown sugar for a slightly sweet but grounded taste. The aroma composed of almonds, dried fruit, and honey has a lasting effect that amplifies the brewing experience.
Super Crema is a mix of 80% Arabica beans from Columbia, Brazil, and India, along with 20% Robusta beans from Indonesia and Vietnam.
As the name implies, you also get a velvety and lush crema with this blend, which works well for making both lattes and cappuccinos.
This Kicking Horse Coffee recipe is a vibrant combination of fruity and chocolate flavors with a decadent taste and a silky texture. A hint of wild berry syrup gives it a bright note that fuses well with an aroma of milk chocolate, brown sugar, and blackcurrant.
Cliff Hanger is 100% Arabica beans from Africa, Indonesia, and South and Central America. These beans benefit from roasting in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which gives this blend a subtly rich flavor.
Kicking Horse Coffee focuses on ethical farming with organic and fair trade methods that support the local environment and community.
These 100% whole Arabica beans come from a single origin in Ecuador and have a full-bodied, fruity flavor. The beans are grown and handpicked at a high altitude for a livelier taste. Growing at high elevation allows the coffee plant to grow slower, boosting the flavor of the beans.
Café de Loja concentrates on roasting the beans to perfection, so you never get the bitter aftertaste of burned coffee. Their innovative roasting process combines traditional cupping techniques with scientific testing of the roast profile to guarantee a consistently delicious taste.
Many coffee companies practice fair trade methods, but Café de Loja takes it one step further. The owner of the company dedicates resources to supporting the local community through education and jobs.
Located in Portland, Stumptown has been roasting coffee for 20 years. Hair Bender is their first and most popular blend. It’s a mix of whole beans from Indonesia, Africa, and Latin America. Even though it’s a darker roast, the beans are not too oily, making them easy to grind.
This blend’s flavor combinations result in a citrus and dark chocolate taste that’s slightly sweet but still well balanced. Each flavor is strong enough to stand on its own, so you know you’re getting a rich espresso.
Stumptown emphasizes sustainability in its sourcing processes to protect the environment and community.
This option is unique for its Hawaiian origins. It comes from the Kona region of Hawaii, where it’s grown on a family farm. The growers do not use any herbicide or pesticide on the plants, so the flavor is natural. Sun-dried and handpicked at peak freshness, these beans pack a powerful punch.
Kona’s classic flavor combination of almond and vanilla with hints of spice features strongly in these beans. Though, if you want an even more powerful flavor with a higher caffeine concentration, you can try their dark roast.
Verena Street is a family-owned company located in Dubuque, Iowa. They specialize in freshly roasted, small-batch craft coffee. Their Espresso Beans are a whole bean dark roast made of 100% Arabica beans with a more traditional oily texture.
The bold flavor of these beans balances perfectly with the creamy consistency of the espresso. Plus, the aftertaste is never bitter. They offer a sweet but complex taste combination, a full-bodied aroma, and a thick crema.
Verena Street practices sustainable sourcing through the Rainforest Alliance, which ensures farmers, wildlife, and the environment stay protected.
Located in Brooklyn, Nicoletti Coffee has been roasting since 1972. They roast all of their beans in small batches and ship them within 24 hours of purchase to ensure maximum freshness.
Their Espresso Roast Beans are one of the lightest roasts on this list, making them perfect for machines that can’t handle oily dark beans. Their lightness stems from the 75% Arabica and 25% Robusta bean blend, which also means there’s virtually no bitterness with this choice.
The flavor itself is crisp, bright, and mellow. Despite its less intense taste, you still get a rich crema on top of your espresso.
Coffee Bean Direct produces vibrant artisan coffees, including this espresso blend of beans from South and Central America, India, and Africa. With this dark roast, you get a concentrated and full flavor thanks to whole beans with medium acidity.
The precise flavor profile of this blend features notes of cocoa, molasses, and smoke with a toasted aroma containing hints of honey.
To guarantee freshness, Coffee Bean Direct roasts daily using a slow roasting process that maximizes flavor. They package their beans immediately after roasting and store them in foil-lined bags to prevent staling.
Located in Hollywood, Florida, and family-owned, Koffee Kult makes gourmet small-batch artisan coffee that’s chemical-free and organically sourced from Columbia and Brazil.
The Thunderbolt recipe is 100% whole Arabica beans with medium acidity. They use a French roast process that reduces oil and lends full body flavor with a long finish. The fresh, mildly sweet taste mingles well with a strong aroma of molasses, smoke, and earth.
Because of their low oil content, these beans work perfectly for fussy espresso machines that clog easily from oily dark beans.
This well-balanced espresso roast comes from a single origin in Brazil. These whole beans deliver a robust flavor with dark chocolate notes, making them well matched for brewing espresso.
Intelligentsia’s espresso blends change slightly from season to season, which keeps their flavors unique and surprising. It’s an excellent choice for switching up your usual routine. Plus, they freshly roast each order.
Intelligentsia practices Direct Trade methods that allow them to partner with their growers directly and ensure a safe working environment.
How To Choose the Perfect Bean
There are several factors that can change the flavor of a coffee or espresso bean. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important.
The source of espresso beans greatly influences their flavor. Most beans come from the Bean Belt, an area that hugs the equator and extends around the world. Within this area, more than 50 countries produce coffee with subtle flavor distinctions derived from different climates, rainfall, shade, soil chemistry, and altitude.
Popular countries of origin for espresso beans are
- Brazil for varied flavor profiles
- Indonesia for full-bodied flavor
- Columbia for balanced and nutty beans
Whole vs. Pre-Ground Beans
Whole beans where you use a grind and brew coffee machine is much fresher than pre-ground ones. This freshness helps you get the most flavor out of the beans, an essential consideration with a concentrated espresso.
Medium and dark roasts are most popular for brewing espresso. Dark roasts typically have lower acidity and a full body. They also have the most oil content, which helps form velvety crema.
Medium roasts allow the blend’s particular flavor notes to shine a bit more than dark ones. They have medium acidity levels and work well for machines that often clog from oily beans.
Choosing an espresso bean to suit your preferences depends on several factors. The beans’ source, their grind, and their roast all change the flavor and intensity of an espresso. Luckily, this list includes a variety of espresso beans, from dark to medium roasts and with diverse flavor profiles and caffeine concentrations.
No matter how you take your espresso, there’s sure to be a bean on this list for you.