Alex has never been professionally involved into the world of coffee, however he knows much more than any average barista. Being an avid coffee lover, Alex is constantly searching for new tips, tools, and techniques to make his morning cup of java even more perfect.
Mary has been dealing with coffee almost all her life long: in her teenage years, she worked as a barista in a number of well-known coffeehouses, later developing her knowledge and skills while studying at the university as well. Several years after graduation, she managed to open her own small coffee bar.
Last updated: January 17, 2021
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Your alarm may not do a good job at fully waking you up each morning, but a decent shot of espresso surely will. With rich flavor, perfect notes, right roast style, and grind consistency of the best espresso beans, you are going to get your ideal coffee.
Due to the abundance of options available out there, we reviewed ten fantastic espresso beans on the market and found the Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso to be our favorite. We loved this one because it’s made of 100% Arabica beans, with a rich and smooth blend that doesn’t have the much dreaded burnt aftertaste. We also reviewed nine other popular espresso beans to help you find one that best suits your tastes.
Before you go on your next mission to seek out the best espresso coffee beans, we’re going to highlight a few features we considered in our review. We will discuss the origin of the beans, what types are available, flavor and taste, bag sizes, and some other important features. Utilizing various food sites and other resources, our team has compiled a table of the finest espresso coffee beans, alongside a detailed review of each. We have also included a buying guide, in the end, to help you make the best choice.
"Several generations of American coffee-lovers have experienced the smooth chocolaty-caramel taste that this blend provides. These espresso beans stay fresh even after a few weeks, thanks to their package."
Owing to its rich, chocolaty blend, the Kicking Horse Coffee fits the bill for a smooth and consistent finish, sans the bitter taste that many other brands leave in your mouth. With 100% whole Arabica beans, a little goes a long way with this product, ticking all the right boxes for flavor, quality and aroma. The best part about this brand isn’t just its superior quality, but also its community-centric motto, supporting sustainability, Fair Trade and local programs.
Although the package does mention complex flavors with notes of wild berry, this Kicking Horse variant has not been found to deliver fully on either. However, its silky and mellow taste makes it a sure winner for everyone, whether their preference teethers towards a strong cup or a lighter one. Why? Because it can easily be toned down without adding too much cream or sugar, making this product an amazing choice.
In the mood for an all-American espresso with original Arabica beans? Well, the Eight o’clock Dark Italian Espresso has you covered. With over 50 years of experience, this brand still roasts its coffee beans in the original factory at Maryland, under the supervision of their experts. What we really like about this product is its packaging, with bold red and blue colors and a zip-lock seal to ensure that it remains fresh even weeks after opening the bag. Moreover, its smooth and mild blend strikes the perfect balance for its chocolaty-caramel taste without the bitter, over-roasted taste of most dark blends.
Although it works with pretty much every type of machine, it doesn’t pack as much of a punch with other types of coffees, such as pour-over brews. Still, it’s strong enough for most people and doesn’t turn bitter, even if it’s re-heated during the day, making it perfect espresso coffee beans blend for a mid-day caffeine boost.
What we liked:
Doesn’t turn bitter
Stays fresh for weeks
What could be better:
Doesn’t work too well with a pour-over brewing method
For a classic Italian espresso, you can always rely on this Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee blend. It’s Colombian Supremo and Sumatra Mandheling mix that offers a deep and rich flavor, with mild, earthy tones. The sweetness of these coffee beans comes from caramelization of the natural sugars, additionally giving this intense roast a pleasantly bold aftertaste. Plus, the product is GMO-free, since Don Pablo grows and manufactures its own supply and is Food Safety Certified. So, if you want organic espresso beans, this product is, hands down, the number one choice.
Now let’s talk about the meat of the matter – making an espresso. To brew the perfect cup for yourself, you will need to fill a porta-filter with 1-2 tablespoons of ground espresso beans. Remember that a precise grind is important to maintain consistency. If you do things right, you’ll end up with a full-flavored, chocolaty shot that doesn’t cause any acid reflux. The only downside is that the beans are a bit greasy, but you don’t need to worry about that too much since it doesn’t hinder the grinding process.
If the name doesn’t catch your attention, perhaps the fact that these espresso beans are hand-roasted by artisan roasters will. Koffee Kult is a family-owned business built on the pillars of quality and detailed roasting techniques. Their fresh roasted eye cracker variant has medium roasted beans with no oil on them and perfect brown color. The beans also have that ‘complex’ flavor that most coffee lovers crave, touching on tangerine, cherry and caramel, while hinting stronger notes of lemon.
Even though it doesn’t give as much of a caffeine boost as expected by many, this artisanal whole bean coffee does make a very smooth shot of espresso, especially if you follow their recommended ratio of 1 tablespoon coffee to 4-6 ounces of water. Think of it as a unique tasting experience with a twist of cinnamon, bright, mildly acidic flavor and a lingering sweet taste at the end.
What we liked:
Hand-roasted by coffee artisans in small batches
Sourced from Columbia, Brazil and Kenya
Perky, complex flavors
What could be better:
Doesn’t give a very big caffeine kick, despite the bold flavor
Make sure to tantalize your taste buds before trying those amazing Italian espresso beans offered by Coffee Bean Direct. This signature blend sources beans from all over the world and maintains their freshness by utilizing foil-lined valve bags. The medium-dark roast coffee beans have no artificial flavoring added, providing a toasty aroma with notes of cocoa and smoke molasses.
Many people enjoy an espresso made with this blend because of its full flavor and rich crema. The beans are slightly oily though, which is a bit of a turn-off for some coffee connoisseurs. Additionally, there’s a lack of consistency with the roasting at times. This means that you might have to make a few adjustments here and there to your brew from time to time. Nevertheless, if you love yourself a full-bodied yet mellow, creamy taste without being too bold, then this is a must-have for your kitchen cabinet, especially if you want great value for money.
Evident from its name, the Lavazza Super Crema provides a consistent and smooth crema with its Arabica and Robusta blend. Blended and roasted in Italy, this espresso beans blend is a popular variant from the Lavazza company, the founder of which (Luigi Lavazza) invented the art of creating coffee mixes from different regions. Since then, the company has been committed to manufacturing quality coffee beans roasted to perfection.
The Super Crema blend comes in a vacuum bag with a valve that preserves its freshness and rich taste. The roast is a bit darker as compared to other Lavazza varieties, but still lighter than the Pienaroma, and its naturally sweet, nutty taste makes for a decent shot of espresso, without too much of an acidic flavor. If you’re in search of that heavenly coffee smell, you shouldn’t be disappointed when you open the bag. However, some peoples found small rocks in the packages, so you have to be more careful when grinding.
A rich crema, heavy, dark chocolate tone, no flavoring and elegant finish – what more could a coffee lover want? Jo Espresso is a delightful whole bean, medium-dark roast coffee that provides a smooth taste from start to finish. The flavor is intense, not too earthy, with an excellent dark cocoa taste and perfect crema. This coffee has a wide appealing palette of notes and a reasonable pricing point, meaning that it isn’t too heavy on your wallet, unlike many other brands, and can be enjoyed as an everyday drink.
If you’re a coffee freak, you’ll be delighted to find that these coffee beans are processed by the finest artisans, who’re also members of the Professional Roaster’s Guild and the Specialty Coffee Association. The coffee beans are 100% Arabica and purchased from the top 2% of certified, raw, organic Arabica producers in the world. Plus, this variant comes in different packaging sizes to suit your needs, be it a single cup serving or pre-measured ground coffee portion bags. The only downside? The package doesn’t mention the roasting date, which could be a bit unsettling for some.
Are you a Starbucks lover, but don’t want to go through the hassle of stopping there every day? Now you can enjoy a Starbucks from the comfort of your own home by whipping up a homemade shot with their Espresso Roast pack. It has an intense, caramelly flavor and a robust, full taste. Moreover, if you’re well versed with the usual Starbucks coffee cups prices, you’ll realize that this product offers a fabulous price-point, considering the premium quality.
A potential con with these coffee beans is that they do tend to taste burnt to some people. As Starbucks is known for sometimes over-roasting their coffee beans, this variant, despite being a medium-roast, may be a bit too strong for your taste buds. However, the key here is to brew your coffee right. Simply add 2 tablespoons of the ground coffee beans to about 180 ml of water and add a dash of steamed milk after for a perfect, full-bodied taste.
This whole bean, dark roast espresso has a rich body and a velvety smooth, creamy complexity without any bitter or burnt flavor. The beans are dark, somewhat oily and aromatic. But don’t be deterred by the oily feature, because that’s just an indication of dark roast coffee beans. However, you might face a bit of a problem while grinding these, due to the greasy bits that tend to cling to the grinder blades. The price offered is reasonable as well, since the roasting is done in batches and the blend is unique, weaving tones of caramel, butterscotch and nuts. Moreover, unlike commodity-grade coffee beans, these don’t really need any cream or sugar to dial the bitterness down.
Another feature we love about the Verena Street Shot Tower Espresso is how easy it is to make an espresso shot, especially with a machine. So, if you’re on the hunt for the best coffee beans for super-automatic espresso machines, this Verena blend is your best friend.
This product takes the cake for the excellent chocolate-covered espresso beans. As you open the bag, the infused aromas of coffee will greet you as well as the chocolate, which is pretty much an irresistible olfactory combo, if you ask us. Unlike many other chocolate covered bean brands, the Hoosier Hill Farm ones have an equal bean to chocolate ratio, with a rich toasted flavor and pleasant crunch. Even if you’re not a big dark chocolate fan, you’ll appreciate these coated espresso beans for their not-too-sweet, non-waxy flavor. They work as great snacks if you’re in the mood for some munchies. A handful of those beans can get you wired if you need that kick of energy.
Perhaps the only con to this product is that the candy shells tend to crumble a bit in the bag, resulting in a few chipped pieces. However, this should not be too much of a bother, as you can eat them.
What we liked:
The candy shell coating
The perfect coffee to chocolate balance
Fresh and flavorful
No bitter taste
What could be better:
The candy shell crumbles in the bag
Things to Consider
Espresso has been known as a strong shot of coffee that provides you with a kick of energy when you need it. It is a great idea to get espresso beans to control the whole brewing process. Since there are so many options of espresso beans available on the market, it can be hard to find your perfect package. Our buying guide is designed to help you make the right decision, so you can enjoy a cup of your favorite drink in the morning.
Picking the best espresso beans
Although there’s no perfect blend for the best espresso beans, since that’s a pretty subjective matter, the quality of the beans is an important criterion. Primarily, you should purchase freshly roasted coffee beans. Other factors to consider are the flavor, notes, blend and roast style (light, medium or dark). To help you make the best possible choice, we’ll go over some important features to consider when you’re choosing the best coffee beans for espresso.
Type of beans
There are numerous types of coffee beans available around the world, each influencing the quality and flavor of your espresso, but the most notable types are the Arabica and Robusta beans. The Arabica beans are the original coffee beans from Yemen and Ethiopia, with the highest quality grade. They’re derived from the Arabica coffee plant, which is quite fragile but gives the beans of premium quality with a relatively low caffeine level.
Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content and grow in diverse climatic conditions; for instance, they can be grown in the forests of Vietnam, Zaire and even Southern regions of the US. Due to this, they’re less fragile and cheaper at the same time. Certain types of Robusta beans have a better quality though if they’re grown in the same areas as Arabica.
Some manufacturers blend Arabica and Robusta beans together to provide the great taste of the coffee and decrease the cost simultaneously.
The marvelous example of this mix is the Lavazza Super Crema, which contains 60% of Arabica and 40% Robusta beans while offering a mild and creamy taste for your espresso.
Roast levels greatly affect the taste of the beans. Espresso beans can be a light roast, medium roast, medium-dark, or dark. This preference varies region-wise around the world as well. For example, people from the west coast of the US prefer a darker roast over those from the central US, while in Italy and some other European countries, a Full City (medium) roast is preferred.
If you know your favorite roast, you can choose your coffee beans accordingly. For instance, a medium-dark roast is not as bold as an Italian roast with its very dark and oily beans. You might want to try the Eight O’Clock Dark Italian Espresso to enjoy chocolate and caramel taste with a full-bodied finish.
Due to varying climate conditions and other factors, the types of coffee beans differ from country to country.
If you prefer fruity and floral flavors, African coffees are your best bet. If you’re into berry and wine-like aromas, Ethiopian coffee beans are a great start, and if you’re looking for a sweet, buttery character, South and Central American coffee beans should be your go-to options.
Another thing to consider when picking coffee beans for your espresso is whether they’re the single origin or blended beans.
Single-origin beans come from a particular geographic region and tend to be available during exclusive times of the year, making them more expensive. People who look for complex flavors also prefer single-origin beans. Blends, on the other hand, are sourced from multiple locations and are available year-round, due to which they’re cheaper. However, they also tend to have unique flavors and multiple notes, owing to their different taste layers.
Any coffee lover will know that coffee beans have a broad range of flavor characteristics, from sweet to bright and tangy, or even citrusy. The flavor of the coffee is its actual primary taste that you get from the body. The tasting notes, on the other hand, are subtle deviations in the taste. For example, your espresso might be lemon-flavored, with hints of sweet and fruity notes, just like the Koffee Kult Eye Cracker Espresso Beans provide.
There are different categories of tasting notes, such as bitterness and acidity, mouthfeel (texture and taste while the coffee is in your mouth), and aftertaste, which is what you feel after the coffee is swallowed.
This is a feature that’s often underrated by many, and yet holds a lot of importance while making a purchase. Bulk packages are preferred by people with higher consumption rates. They also come in handy if there are more everyday coffee-drinkers in the family. On the contrary, small and medium-sized bags (12 – 32 oz. range) are ideal if your consumption is less or if you want to try out new flavors.
However, in recent times, there’s been a shift towards the preferred bag size. Owing to the plethora of brands and their respective flavors available in the market, consumers now go for smaller sized packages for trials, from 8 oz. pouches to even smaller, on-the-go ‘one-time-use’ bags. If you want to try something new, check the unique taste of the Verena Street Shot Tower Espresso, which is wonderful for super-automatic espresso machines. You can find a small package, so you won’t pay much for it.
Ideally, if you want to retain the freshness of your coffee beans, you should keep them properly. Whole bean coffees especially tend to stale faster, due to their larger surface area, which allows oxygen to seep in more quickly. One factor that’s important in retaining the freshness is the packaging of the coffee. Many manufacturers now use foil-lined bags with one-way valves that can greatly increase the shelf life of the beans, by blocking oxygen and allowing carbon dioxide to escape at the same time. You can find this type of package with the Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso.
Some coffee bags also have zip locks, such as the Koffee Kult Eye Cracker Espresso Beans, so that you can store the beans in a sealed environment, as opposed to pouring them out in a container. The latter option is only viable when your coffee comes in paper or bulk bags, which don’t provide an air-tight environment.
Consumers these days are getting more and more environmentally conscious, due to which brands have started shifting to double and even triple certifications (e.g., Fair Trade, Shade-Grown and organic certifications).
The way coffee is grown greatly impacts the environment, so it’s important to seek out options that focus on eco-friendly techniques. That way you will be able to get a healthy drink.
For example, the Jo Espresso coffee beans are GMO certified and grown without any harmful pesticides or fertilizers, meeting the USDA standards for wildlife and waterways protection. Many brands are also Fair Trade certified, ensuring that the coffee farmers and their families are provided technical assistance as well as other monetary and non-monetary benefits.
As a rule of thumb, price is directly proportional to the quality of the beans. For instance, if you are looking for 100% Arabica beans, you can try the Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso. It comes in a 35.2 oz. package that costs less than $30. You will experience a silky and smooth taste of the medium roast, and won’t get any bitterness.
Next, you might want to explore original Italian brands like the Lavazza Super Crema. At just $22, you will get a 2.2 lb. bag. Each cup will have notes of honey, almonds, and dried fruits.
Contrary to popular belief, an espresso shot has lesser caffeine content than any other brewed coffee. A 2 oz. double espresso shot will have around 80 mg of caffeine, whereas, a 12 oz. brewed drip-cup coffee will have around 120 mg caffeine. If you take a single shot of espresso, then you can expect to consume about 40 mg of caffeine per ounce.
Another misconception people have is that if you brew a cup of dark roast coffee beans and compare it to medium roast coffee, you will get varying levels of caffeine since the former tend to be stronger. However, this is not true; the caffeine content remains pretty much the same because we measure the grounds by weight, and there’s practically no difference.
Absolutely! Making espresso is a typical coffee brewing process, in which it forces hot water to pass through finely ground beans at a very high pressure, which results in a thick and smooth crema. Therefore, espresso beans (basically, beans that are ideal for making a robust flavored and complex shot) can also be used to make other types of coffees by using different methods. For example, Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso can be used not only to make espressos, but also other types like the regular drip coffee and French press coffee.
Having whole espresso beans is better than having pre-ground ones because they ensure the best possible flavor and scent. While pre-ground espresso beans are more convenient, since you don’t have to go through the hassle of grinding them, whole beans provide the wonderful taste and freshness. This is also fantastic because you can control the level of the grind to attain your desired flavor (finer particles release flavor more quickly than bigger particles). Additionally, the aroma of the fresh brew is unbeatable when you use whole beans. Although pre-ground espresso itself has a great aroma as well, it eventually dies off, affecting the overall flavor.
Now that you know how to find the best coffee beans for espresso, we’ll pull out the top three products from our list to make your selection process easier than ever.
First, let’s talk about the Editor’s choice – the Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso. Its rich, chocolaty flavor will make you swoon and sing without having to add much sugar or cream. The coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans and leaves a smooth aftertaste, without any bitterness.
Next comes the customers’ choice, the Eight o’clock Dark Italian Espresso, which provides astonishing value for money. It’s roasted by expert artisans, has a mild taste, and is perfect for a mid-day cup of joe.
Lastly, we have the premium quality, GMO-free Cafe Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee – Classic Italian Espresso. This one is an absolute delight for intense roast lovers, providing a rich crema, earthy notes and a smooth finish with a bold but non-acidic aftertaste.
So, what are you waiting for? Brew away the morning lethargy with the best espresso beans of your choice!