Best Espresso Beans: 8 Best Roasts for The Perfect Cup (2023)

Making espresso drinks at home is an advantage over the limitations of a standard drip coffee machine or other brewed coffee methods. But whatever your barista skill level is, you will need to have high-quality beans at home, preferably those that work well with the espresso method. So keep reading to learn how to choose the best espresso beans and some top recommendations.

Top Pick: Lifeboost Espresso Roast

Before the details of choosing the best espresso beans for you and the specific qualities of these top options, let’s explore the top pick for the best overall espresso bean: Lifeboost Espresso Roast.

Firstly, this Lifeboost espresso blend is USDA organic, uses sustainable farming and does not use pesticides. It is lower in acidity to cause fewer digestive issues. Unlike many cheap coffee blends in the grocery store, these beans are hand selected and thoughtfully roasted.

And like many companies in the specialty coffee world, buying these beans means you are supporting fair wages and the treatment of coffee farms and farmers.

Exclusive: Lifeboost currently offers Emergent Brew readers free shipping and 50% off 3 12-oz. bags of their premium coffee. Use this link to get the special offer.

Espresso Beans 101

Brewing espresso forces pressurized water through a tightly packed dose of ground coffee. The high pressure, small grind size and tamped coffee grounds produce a coffee drink with a strong taste, thick texture and lingering aftertaste. And it turns out that specific coffee beans and roasts work best with the espresso brewing method.

But it is crucial to understand that espresso is not a type of coffee bean or roast type, and any coffee variety will work for making espresso. Blends with complementing flavors tend to work best—and darker roasts work well in espresso milk drinks—and you will find many of those blends in the options below.

But do not discount single-origin beans for espresso as they can produce some unique flavors and taste fantastic as straight espresso.

Best Espresso Beans: Other Options

While you can consider that top pick the all-around favorite option, there are plenty of other fantastic choices for making espresso at home. So let’s check out some more delicious espresso beans.

Volcanica Espresso Dark Roast Coffee

For folks that enjoy the intensity and rich flavors of a darker roast, consider this Volcanica Espresso Dark Roast Coffee. Many specialty coffee blends utilize lighter roasts for delicate acidity and sweet flavors. But this blend will provide the strong backbone of a dark roast — these flavors will stand up even when diluted in a latte.

You can expect a syrupy texture and darker roast-forward tasting notes, including:

  • Intense coffee/roast flavors
  • Caramel sweetness
  • Low acidity
  • Syrupy mouthfeel
  • Spicy tasting notes

If you enjoy the oily texture of a darker roast and want the intense coffee flavors to hold up to milk drinks like a cappuccino and a latte, these are the best espresso beans for you. The taste will also come close to the style of espresso popular in the drink’s origin country of Italy.

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Volcanica Tanzania Peaberry Coffee

If Volcanica seemed like a roasting company you would enjoy but prefer lighter roasts and drinking espresso straight, consider this Tanzania Peaberry coffee. This single-origin bean comes from the Nitin Estate farm in Tanzania and has superb flavors that your espresso brew will bring out.

The medium roast means that you will still taste some dark roasting notes that give an espresso-rich flavor, but you will also find some sweeter and more delicate acidic notes that taste fantastic as straight espresso. Adding milk or sugar to this type of blend is unnecessary when you extract it properly — expect flavors of dried fruit and a flowery aroma.

The main features of this bean include:

  • Tasting notes of orange, chocolate and dried fruit
  • Flower aroma due to the raised bed drying process
  • Medium roast
  • Single-origin

Additionally, these beans are Kosher/UTZ certified. All in all, a worthy contender for the title of best espresso beans.

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Lifeboost Embolden Dark Roast

This espresso bean is another blend that embraces the flavors of a dark roast, and it is perfect for folks who do not mind rich flavors with an oily texture. Lifeboost’s Embolden Dark Roast is not directly an espresso bean, but deserves its spot in this roundup of the best espresso beans because the blend and roast profile have flavors that work perfectly with the espresso brewing process.

This bag is not itself of single origin, but the beans that comprise the blend are all sourced from specific farms and include 100 percent Arabica beans. This blending means you can count on deliberate flavors that make sense together, and there are no Robusta beans to fill in the gaps. The main features of this bean include:

  • Hand-picked and sun-dried beans
  • 100 percent Arabica beans
  • Tested for mycotoxins, heavy metals and other toxins
  • A full-bodied flavor that highlights the nutty roasting notes

Overall, if you enjoy the rich flavors of darker roasts in your brewed coffee, you will likely love this Lifeboost Dark Roast when brewed as espresso.

Exclusive: Lifeboost currently offers Emergent Brew readers free shipping and 50% off 3 12-oz. bags of their premium coffee. Use this link to get the special offer.

Koa Estate Dark Roast

Up next is another dark roast, this time highlighting the distinct taste of Hawaiian coffee. Koa’s Estate Dark Roast comes from the Kona Coffee farm, and they do not mix in any cheaper beans from other farms to fill in the blend. All of the beans in this Estate Dark Roast blend come from the high elevation Hawaiian farms and you should be able to taste the difference.

The fact that this bean is a dark roast means that some of the subtleties are cooked out of the bean, but the roasting profile perfectly blends strong and full-bodied flavors with a smooth mouthfeel and easy aftertaste. If you enjoy the nutty-tasting notes in coffee but usually shy away from darker roasts, those might well be the best espresso beans for you..

Some of the main features include:

  • Intense flavor and aroma
  • From a single-estate farm
  • High-elevation coffee
  • Darker roast has naturally less caffeine

Besides the darker roast blending well with espresso milk drinks, this blend is a good choice for folks who want to drink coffee at night without worrying about overdosing on caffeine before bedtime.

1st in Coffee Marlboro Hills Espresso

While many coffee blends designed for standard coffee brewing hold up well in the espresso brewing process, there is no doubt that an espresso blend is specifically optimized for tasting its best as espresso. From the bean selection to the specific roasting procedure, you can expect a balanced flavor that brings out the best of espresso.

And the Marlboro Hills Espresso coffee from 1st in Coffee is a medium-to-dark roast espresso blend that will work in a variety of espresso situations. While this bean might not win any contests when compared to a single-origin espresso bean, the balance of flavors make it perfect for milk drinks and other espresso-based beverages.

The main features of this espresso blend include:

  • Organic beans from Central and South America
  • A small percentage of Robusta beans for flavor balance
  • Small-batch roasting
  • Medium-dark roast
  • Strong flavor and aroma

While the inclusion of Robusta beans might appear to be a downside, consider that it is a small part of the blend and it helps keep these beans incredibly affordable compared with many specialty coffee brands.

Bulletproof Mentalist Medium Dark Roast

Bulletproof Low Acid Coffee
BulletProof Mentalist Dark Roast: Indispensable in a list of the best espresso beans (if you’re into keto and biohacking). Use coupon code EMERGENT15 for 15% off any order.
Emergent Brew Exclusive: BulletProof gives Emergent Brew readers 15% off any order (valid storewide). Just enter the coupon code EMERGENT15 at checkout. Here's the link to get the special offer.

If you sometimes have a bad reaction to certain coffees, you are probably aware of Bulletproof coffee and its commitment to clean coffee. For many folks, mycotoxins, mold and other abnormalities in coffee can do more than affect the flavor, often causing people to have bad reactions like jitters and anxiety.

But compared with most coffees, you can count on Bulletproof blends to give you the necessary dose of caffeine without risking the negative side effects. Bulletproof coffee is not the best option for folk who enjoy specialty coffee and want to extract the best flavor, but that is not to say that the flavor suffers in this Bulletproof Mentalist Medium Dark Roast.

Here are some benefits that turn Bulletproof Mentalist into some of the best espresso beans on the market:

  • A sustainable process concerning farming, processing and the people involved
  • Hand-picked beans to maintain high quality
  • Medium Dark Roast brings out a balanced flavor profile
  • Tasting notes of orange, cocoa, hazelnut and subtle cinnamon notes
  • Sourced from El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia

If you tend to have bad reactions to certain coffees from time to time, consider giving this or other Bulletproof coffee blends a try.

Hawaii Coffee Company Medium Roast

Next is another espresso option for anyone who has tried Hawaiian coffee and understands the unique flavors those beans contain. While certain dark roasts cook away the subtle flavors of a bean’s origin, this roast is not as dark as others in this collection and you should still be able to get the more delicate acidity and fruity aromas.

The high-quality flavors and aromas of these espresso beans are largely due to the 100 percent Arabica beans that they hand-pick and roast with specific flavor profiles in mind. This medium roast combines the best qualities of lighter roasts — subtle acidity and sweet aromas — with the strong and nutty flavors of darker roasts. The main features of this blend include:

  • Medium roast with a smooth flavor
  • Hand-picked Arabica beans
  • 100 percent grown in Hawaii

Certain folks might prefer the intensity of darker roasting profiles in their espresso beans, but consider a blend like this Hawaii Coffee Company Medium Roast to get the best of light and dark roasts in one blend.

Brief History of Coffee Beans

Nobody knows the precise origin of coffee or who the first people to drink it was, but the history of coffee goes back at least centuries. There were coffee houses in Constantinople during the 15th century, and coffee culture made it to Europe by the 17th century. But it would take another two centuries before espresso became widely popular.

Origins of Espresso

With a brewing time of 30 seconds or less, espresso can be convenient and delicious. The origins of espresso date back to the early 20th century in Italy, where Luigi Bezzera was searching for a faster and more efficient way to make coffee. The name “espresso” derives from Italian and is a gesture to the fast brewing time.

And if you are wondering about the caffeine content of espresso and how it compares to normal coffee, understand that you can standardize the relationship like you would with units of alcohol. For example, 1.5 ounces of liquor roughly contain the same alcohol content as 12 ounces of beer.

Similarly, one shot of espresso (1.5 ounces) contains the same caffeine content (approximately) as a standard 6-8 ounce cup of coffee.

Choosing the Best Espresso Beans: What To Look For

After reading the many options for espresso beans above, you hopefully, have a solid idea of what qualities the top options have. But to further help you seek out the best beans, this section will cover some of the general qualities you should be looking for when buying espresso beans.

Arabica vs Robusta

Coffee beans come from the coffee plant, and like all plants, there are different species within the larger family tree of which coffee is a part. The official species name of these two varieties is Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. The canephora variety becomes Robusta coffee and does not have the same complexity and sugar content as Arabica beans.

You might still see some Robusta beans in a coffee blend, and it is not necessarily a deal breaker. But look for Arabica beans as the majority because the resulting coffee will have more complex flavors and better overall quality.

Blends vs Single Origin Coffee

You should also take note of whether you are buying a blend or single-origin coffee. For a more balanced flavor that works well in a variety of milk drinks, consider buying an espresso blend or a house blend. And if you want to drink espresso plain and get geeky about the flavors, consider finding a single-origin bean so you can enjoy the process of extracting its unique flavors.

Organic Coffee

Many folks prefer buying organic coffee for superior flavor or because they know that the coffee farmers do not use pesticides or herbicides while growing the coffee plants. Organic coffee farmers will often use the shells of coffee beans as fertilizer.

This process doesn’t always lead to the best espresso beans in terms of taste, although some will claim that the growing conditions result in plants with more nutrients and flavor. Either way, expect to pay slightly more for organic beans.

Roast Level

Like cooking anything, you can roast coffee at various temperatures and for various amounts of time. Higher temperatures and longer cooking times result in a darker roast and change the resulting bean flavor. If you like the nutty flavors in coffee and the intensity of burnt roast flavors, consider a darker roast. Darker roasts work especially well with milk.

But lighter roasts will have more delicate acidity and slightly higher caffeine content. If you appreciate the subtle tasting notes in an espresso shot, consider avoiding the dark roasts and going for a medium or light roast. You will get more subtle flavors of sweetness and tartness.

Roast Date

Be sure to check out the roast date of your coffee beans, and it is best to seek out espresso beans that print a roast date on the bag. Coffee tastes best within 2-3 weeks of its roasting date, and the flavors will begin to taste dull and stale after that window.

Common Questions About Espresso Beans

Before wrapping up, let’s answer a few of the most common questions people have about espresso beans and how to find the best options.

Which coffee beans are best for espresso?

The best coffee beans for espresso, like brewed coffee, come from the Arabica variety and will have a roast profile designed to bring out espresso flavors. Look for espresso blends and roasts, and do not worry about blends that incorporate a small percentage of Robusta beans.

What is the most popular espresso drink?

You can consume espresso in a variety of drinks, and you can also drink it plain. But the most popular espresso drink would have to be the latte, which combines steamed milk and espresso into a deliciously balanced beverage.

What beans do Italians use for espresso?

Italian espresso has a rich flavor, dark roast profile and unique intensity. The espresso blends in Italy usually blend in approximately 20 percent Robusta beans with Arabica beans.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many options when it comes to buying the best espresso beans, and you are not limited to buying roasts and blends that include the word “espresso.” Some of the most delicious espresso shots come from single-origin coffees or blends meant for regular coffee brewing. So many of the best espresso beans options in this article should give you the potential to pull delicious espresso shots at home.