So here’s the deal in case you didn’t know; when it comes to anything espresso, there is literally nothing more vital than the beans. Sure, having an expensive machine helps a tad, but even top-shelf brands just can’t fix a lousy bean, my friends.
But when you pair a high-quality coffee machine with some of the best coffee beans for espresso – Oh man, its days like this that one sip feels like a flavour explosion straight to espresso nirvana. But before we get to selecting the perfect bean, let’s make like a good brew and take it from the top.
Espresso – what is it?
An espresso is a type of coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of pressurised, nearly boiling water through finely ground coffee beans. Due to its higher concentration of both dissolved and suspended solids, an espresso is generally thicker than other coffee types with even richer crema.
Likewise, this drink is also the base for most other coffees such as macchiato, cappuccino, caffe latte, Americano among others. That’s why we’ve scoured the globe and sourced expert opinions of the best beans for the job. Here’s what we found out.
Best coffee beans for espresso
To be honest, there are so many different brewing options today that the coffee bean choice doesn’t seem so restricted anymore. But while every caffeine lover has their own individual taste and preference, there is a general consensus among seasoned coffee connoisseurs when it comes to espressos.
For starters, most espresso aficionados prefer single origin coffee beans. You just can’t deny the quality and consistency of the beans sourced from some of the most celebrated farms on the planet. However, you’ll have to contend with much higher prices. But don’t be fooled by the affordability of blended coffee; some blends have proven to be even better than single sourced beans.
When it comes to the roast, darker roasts definitely bring out potent flavours of chocolate, tobacco and burnt sugar in espressos. However, the higher acidity makes a dark roast more suited to drip coffee. Experienced espresso drinkers know that medium roasts give espressos the perfect balance between strength and sweetness. Light roasts, on the other hand, work well with manual brewing such as cold brew, pour over, Greek coffee and others.
And lastly, there’s the choice of pre-ground coffee or going with coffee beans. It’s really a no-brainer – using beans is the best way to ensure your coffee remains fresh and full of flavour and aroma. Ground coffee tends to lose flavour and aroma faster due to contact with air.
Top 5 best coffee beans for espresso
Sourced from one of the top coffee bean producing regions in Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe has definitely put Sidomo region on the map with some of the world’s finest coffee. After sourcing, the coffee is roasted by Hampshire Coffee Co in small batches to achieve a consistent and quality flavour.
Boasting of a medium roast profile that allows flavours to develop with the trademark Yirgacheffe complexity, seasoned coffee lovers will adore the aromatic, fruity notes and vibrant aftertaste of wine and berries. Combine all that with the incredibly versatile brewing methods and it’s easy to see why Hampshire Coffee Co ‘s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe remains an award-winning UK roaster and an excellent option for espresso nuts.
What I like about them:
- Single sourced from Yirgacheffe.
- Perfected by an Award Winning UK Roaster.
- 100% high-quality Arabica.
You know it’s grown for espresso when it says so right on the packaging. The Coffee Masters have made work easier for espresso lovers with their Super Crema Espresso Coffee Beans. This intensely strong coffee comes from some of the most celebrated coffee regions in the world such as Columbia, Brazil, Mocha, Sumatra, Uganda, and India.
The Super Crema beans are a blend of Robusta and Arabica for a wholesome, well rounded and full bodied taste with subtle citrus acidity, a cocoa bitterness and some nutty sweetness. There’s also slight notes of milk chocolate, hazelnut, and cream for the more discerning coffee lover. True to its name, the beans make incredibly thick crema that is perfect for a tall espresso.
What I like about them:
- Incredibly well-rounded blend of Arabica and Robusta.
- Makes the ideal crema for espresso.
- Comes in a 1Kg value pack.
If there’s such a thing as a perfect original blend, you can bet that Spiller and Tait probably have something to do with it. After months of research with thousands of coffee drinkers, the brand gave us the Spiller & Tait Signature Blend Coffee Beans which have been crafted to make consistent coffee with the same taste and flavour profiles every time.
The brand sources this blend from all parts of the world such as Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and India to craft original blends for great tasting coffee. The reason why this particular blend is so popular is the award-wining flavour. It offers a rich, full-bodied taste that is extra smooth with a bitter, mature, aftertaste. Similarly, the beans can be used in filter, siphons, Aeropress and even stove-top espresso makers.
What I like about them:
- Original blend with top quality multi-sourcing.
- Multi award winning signature blend.
- Compatible with wide range of brewing methods.
Here’s another winner as described by millions of espresso lovers in the UK. Don’t be fooled by the mellow packaging; the Brown Bear Cub Espresso Whole Bean Coffee is actually a strength 3 medium roast with its roots all the way in Africa and South America.
This clever blend has been milky roasted with the aim of making silky smooth, Italian style espressos and its variants. Brown Bear’s whole bean coffee is characterized by an exceptionally great body with a citrusy acidic finish that is ideal for setting up your espresso with all sorts of milky, coffee drinks and other beverages. In addition to being whole, the beans are caffeinated, low fat, and come in a 1 Kg pack.
What I like about them:
- Blended precisely for espresso.
- Suitable for wide range of brewing equipment.
- Exceptional body for driving through milk.
Introducing what is hands down the most popular coffee in the UK; the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Single Origin Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans make quite a statement with their aesthetically pleasing packaging. It’s also the most expensive bean on this entire list which speaks volumes on the quality.
These 100% roasted Arabica beans are roasted to accentuate specific flavours and notes regardless of what kind of brewing methods and equipment you’re using. You’ll be able to taste all the sweet, delicate, jasmine and blueberry notes. Similarly, Cuttlefish Coffee ensured that they used single sourcing to get their beans from celebrated coffee giants in Yirgacheffe for unquestionable consistency with every cup.
What I like about them:
- 100% Specialty Grade Arabica.
- Single-sourced from top farms in Yirgacheffe.
- Suitable for all espresso extraction and brewing methods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you grind beans for espresso?
When making an espresso, the size or fineness of the grind plays a highly critical role. You can use a hand operated coffee grinder, but this is likely to result in a low quality and inconsistent grind. Using a burr grinder will give you the best results.
Start by placing as many beans as you want in your burr grinder. Since you’re making an espresso, you’ll want to have the grind settings at fine or super fine. After grinding, test the grounds for the appropriate fineness. Take a small pinch between your thumb and finger and squeeze. If the coffee fails to clump, it needs more grinding. If it leaves a powdery outline on your fingers, then it’s too fine.
Q: What coffee beans does Starbucks use for espresso?
When it comes to good coffee, it’s hard to beat Starbucks. However, it’s possible to save some money by making the same quality coffee at home. For the espresso, it all starts with the beans.
Avoid buying pre-ground at all costs since the flavor, strength and freshness are usually diminished. But to achieve the same rich, authentic taste as Starbucks, you can’t just go for any beans. Try buying Starbucks signature espresso roast beans from a store near you.
Q: What if you grind regular coffee beans for espresso?
Well, the term espresso refers to a preparation method. As such, it’s very possible to grind regular coffee beans for your espresso. Literally any type of coffee beans can be used to make espressos.
However, they need to be well roasted and finely ground to achieve that rich and tasty effect. Sure, you might miss out on that silky smooth feel and sweet lingering finish that accompanies real espresso beans. But you’ll be able to enjoy your espresso nonetheless.
Q: How many coffee beans make one shot of espresso?
Well, the actual amount of coffee beans used in one espresso shot will largely depend on the type of bean as well as the roast level. The lighter the roast, the more it weighs. And the darker the roast, the less the weight of the beans.
This means that you will end up using more beans to make your espresso shot. So, just how many beans does the average espresso shot require? Typically, a single 8 gram shot will have 71 coffee beans while a double shot of espresso will have a solid 142 coffee beans.