The 5 Best Beans For Espresso Lovers In 2023
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It may seem obvious, but one of the most essential components for pulling the perfect shot of espresso is the espresso bean itself.
So how do you determine which are the best beans for espresso? We’re here to help you with that.
We’ve selected five of what we believe to be the best beans for espresso, and we think you should try all five. Just saying.
Each of these coffees is unique and intriguing, and all five are very different from one another. There might even be one or two on the list you’re unfamiliar with. (gasp!)
So let’s get brewing.
Best Beans For Espresso
In no particular order, here are our Top 5 Picks for the best coffee beans for espresso:
WHAT WE LIKE
MAYORGA CAFE CUBANO
CAFE VIRTUOSO ESPRESSO
KICKING HORSE CLIFF HANGER
BLUE BOTTLE 17FT CEILING
STUMPTOWN ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST
Coffee Beans vs. Espresso Beans
Is there a difference? Yes and no.
In a sense, coffee beans and espresso beans are the same things.
But not quite. All espresso beans are coffee beans, but not all coffee beans are espresso beans.
How coffee beans are roasted determines whether they’ll become regular coffee beans or espresso beans. An espresso bean is simply a coffee bean that’s roasted for a longer time.
This extra roasting time results in a darker bean that is more oily and less acidic than its lighter counterparts.
The coffee roasting scale includes light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roasts. Espresso beans typically fall into the dark roast category, but not all of the best beans for espresso are dark roast.
We also like to experiment with medium and medium-dark roasts when brewing espresso.
Best Grind Size For Espresso
Another difference between coffee beans and espresso beans is the grind size used for brewing.
Every brewing method requires a different grind size for optimal results. A quality grinder is necessary to achieve a consistent grind appropriate for your brewing method.
The best grind size for espresso is fine. The consistency should resemble table salt. This is finer than what you would use for drip coffee and much finer than the grind size for french press or pour over.
We always recommend grinding your own beans using a high-quality burr grinder. There are many reasons to avoid pre-ground coffee, but for the purposes of brewing espresso, here are the top three:
- The grind size of pre-ground coffee is too large for espresso
- Pre-ground coffee becomes stale much faster
- Buying pre-ground coffee limits the brewer to only 1 or 2 brewing methods
Grinding your coffee beans just before brewing is a vital step toward achieving the perfect shot of espresso.
The Best Beans For Espresso
Stumptown Organic French Roast
We love this French Roast blend from Stumptown for its smoky, toasty notes without any burnt flavor that often accompanies them.
It has a beautiful aroma, filled with spice and campfires. With hints of clove and dark chocolate, it’s a superb example of how refined blends can be and demonstrates why blended varieties make some of the best coffee beans for espresso.
This French roast incorporates Central and South American organic coffees and is roasted to bring out a heightened body and sweetness. Stumptown hand selects high-quality, dense beans that can withstand a deep roast.
We love that Stumptown uses innovative bags that keep the beans fresh for 90 days if left unopened. Most bags will show both “roasted on” and “best by” dates as well, which means you’ll know if your coffee beans are fresh or not.
We also love Stumptown’s commitment to sustainability. As a Certified B Corporation since 2018, they seek to contribute significantly to the environment, their producers, and the community.
Blue Bottle 17ft Ceiling Espresso
You’ve likely heard of Blue Bottle by now, as this Oakland, California-based roastery has quickly expanded across the US, Japan, and Korea since it first opened in the early 2000s.
But if you haven’t yet tried Blue Bottle’s coffee, now is the time. The 17ft Ceiling espresso is a hands-down winner and some of the best beans for espresso that we’ve tried. Made with a blend of organic robusta beans, it produces a crema-heavy, unpretentious espresso.
17ft Ceiling is not a fussy blend. It’s a shining example of what espresso should taste like and is well-suited for all palates. We like it as our go-to, everyday espresso.
What’s even better? Blue Bottle offers one of the best subscription services, so you can get your beans delivered right to your door when needed. We’re huge fans of this offering, with one of the most flexible subscription options we’ve seen.
Blue Bottle guarantees that they’ll ship your coffee within 48 hours of roasting it, and usually less, so you know the coffee you’re getting is super fresh.
Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger Espresso
No list of the best beans for espresso would be complete without the Cliff Hanger espresso blend from Kicking Horse. It’s simply a delightful espresso. We love that it’s both bright and fruity and rich and chocolatey all at once.
Featuring beans from around the globe, including Africa, Indonesia, and Central & South America, the Cliff Hanger is truly a unique blend.
With notes of chocolate and brown sugar, it has the depth we like in espresso, but an unexpected wild berry undertone adds profound complexity.
This medium roast proves that espresso isn’t just for dark roasts. It makes an interesting, smooth, delectable espresso, but we also love this blend for pour over and french press.
Cafe Virtuoso Espresso Blend
Cafe Virtuoso is a small roastery based in San Diego, California, focusing on sustainability and organic growing methods. The coffees they roast are certified organic, and drinks are served in their cafe in compostable cups made from safe, organic plant material.
These guys know a thing or two about ethical, sustainable coffee-growing practices, but it doesn’t stop there.
The Virtuoso espresso blend is genuinely something special. Dark chocolate, orange, and toasted almond notes make it a unique interpretation of a classic traditional European-style espresso. It features the same richness and body we all know and love but with a modern twist.
This blend consists of three complex coffees from Central & South America and Africa to invoke sophisticated and comforting flavors. We think it’s best when served with milk, but it’s outstanding any way you take it.
Cafe Virtuoso offers an excellent subscription service as well and even gives you 10% off for subscribing. So even if you don’t live near San Diego, you can still get some of SoCal’s best beans for espresso on demand.
Mayorga Organics Café Cubano Roast
The Mayorga Café Cubano roast is dark with all the syrupy undertones you’d expect from a Cuban-style coffee. But Mayorga has perfected this blend with hints of vanilla, smoke, and a smooth finish.
The Café Cubano roast is a blend of sustainable, organic coffee beans grown in the shade on small farms across Peru, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
It is roasted using a slow, small-batch process, giving it a unique flavor that is completely addicting. We particularly like the brown sugar, molasses notes, and rich crema it produces (even when brewed in a Moka pot).
Mayorga is so confident that you’ll love this blend as much as we do that they’ll let you try it 100% risk-free. They’ll give you 30 days to try it out and refund your purchase if you aren’t completely satisfied (including purchases made from Mayorga through Amazon).
What do you have to lose? Literally, nothing.
Organic Coffee Versus Non-Organic
You may notice that all of our picks for the best beans for espresso are organic varieties. But are organic coffee beans better?
In a word, yes.
Conventional coffee is one of the most heavily chemically-treated crops in the world. There are over 200 pesticides used in the coffee industry today.
These chemicals are harmful to the environment and those living near areas where conventional coffee is farmed, meaning that conventional coffee can be potentially dangerous to both the farmers who handle the coffee cherries and us as consumers.
So while conventional coffee still offers some health benefits despite the chemicals used to farm it, we prefer to avoid it.
Plus, organic coffee is said to have higher levels of antioxidants. Bonus!
How To Store Coffee Beans Properly
So now that you know which are the best beans for espresso, you’re ready to start shopping, tasting, and enjoying an epic shot of espresso.
But wait, how should you store your espresso beans?
It’s actually pretty simple. If your beans came in a foil bag with a one-way air filter (let’s air out but not in), leave them in there.
Simply seal the bag with a couple of clips and store it in a cool, dark place away from any heat sources.
The coffee will last you up to 2 weeks by doing so.
If your beans come in a paper bag, transfer them to an airtight container and then store them in a cool, dark place.