When you get down to selecting the right coffee beans for your espresso, you’ll need to start off by addressing one major misconception – there are no such things as espresso beans. Or, to elaborate a little more, there is no difference between coffee beans and espresso beans – the same roast, blend and flavor profile you’ve been enjoying in drip or French press coffee could do just as well pulled as espresso shots. Yes, while some blends and roasts fare better and paint more intense flavor profiles as espresso, this disclaimer is to clear up any confusion you may face when you’re browsing your options in a supermarket aisle or while shopping online – oftentimes, the ‘espresso’ label on a bag of coffee beans is no more than a suggestion of what they could be used for, and if the flavor profile appeals to you, you can use it for other brewing methods too.
There are some things to look out for, though – for instance, traditional Italian espressos favor the darker, earthier and somewhat bitter flavor profile of Robusta beans for pulling intense espresso shots with higher caffeine content, while others prefer a medley of tastes and tones with an Arabica and Robusta blend for a more nuanced flavor profile. Then there’s the question of dark roast versus medium dark, and the degrees of intensity or mildness you’d prefer in your shots. Starting to get overwhelmed? Don’t worry – we’ve shortlisted our picks for the best coffee beans you can scoop into your espresso machine as a good way of getting started.
Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Whether you’re going for French press, pour over, drip, or, of course, espresso, these dark roasted, 100% Arabica coffee beans promise you a delightful, nuanced flavor profile without any bitterness or acidity to sour the experience, literally and otherwise. Sourced from sustainable coffee farms in Columbia, the beans are planted, nurtured and harvested organically and with expert care, roasted to perfection to deliver a bold, full-flavored taste smooth on the tongue with spicy-sweet cinnamon undertones to tickle your tastebuds. Delivering rich, smooth crema thanks to small batch roasting and artisan practices to ensure your coffee beans are ready to be delivered fresh, these beans make for dark, rich and delicious drinks you can pull as bracing single shots and doppios, or use as an espresso base for creamy cappuccinos and indulgent lattes. With a lively, almost dark cocoa taste and a lingering finish, these coffee beans are available in bags of four sizes, as whole beans you can grind up to the fine ground needed for espresso machines using a burr grinder, or take to a specialty shop or your neighborhood coffee shop to do it for you.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Peet’s Coffee Whole Coffee Bean, Espresso Forte, Dark Roast
Characterised by full-bodied, layered flavors and well-rounded notes, the Espresso Forte brings together the hearty, earthy flavors of beans cultivated in the Indo-Pacific with the lighter, fruitier tastes of the Americas for pulling off perfect creamy espressos rich with delectable depth. Fresh roasted the night before shipment, Peet’s emphasizes on delivering to you coffee beans roasted fresh and to perfection for the most aromatic, fully-realised coffees, and in the case of espressos, unparalleled rich and thick layers of crema to make your espressos the talk of the town – or at least, the talk of your immediate circle of family and friends. Cultivated with care and roasted by hand by artisans versed in the practice, these brilliantly balanced, grounded but lively coffee beans are available whole in bags of 9 sizes. As in most cases of espresso extraction by machine, the beans need to be ground up finely before use. Remember also that these lovely dark roasted beans aren’t exclusively for espressos either, despite the label – they work just as well for well-rounded and fulfilling French press or drip coffees as well.
Jo Coffee Jo Espresso Medium Dark Roast
For those easing into the espresso experience, or just not fond of the intensity of a dark roast, concentrated when extracted as an espresso shot compared to drip coffees, this medium dark roast option might appeal to your tastebuds more. Not too intense but not too light and mild either, these full-bodied coffee beans deliver frothy, rich crema and luxurious dark chocolate undertones for a smooth, lingering aftertaste, striking a delicious balance between dark and intense with an underlying crisp freshness. These hand-crafted artisan roasts are sourced from 100% organically grown Arabica beans, ensuring premium quality and intricate flavor profiles over the harsher and more bitter textures of Robusta beans, sold in 12 ounce bags of whole beans ready for your burr grinder pre-extraction.
Lavazza Super Crema Espresso
Bringing together the goodness of Brazilian, Central American and Indonesian grown coffee beans, we can assure you that these Super Crema espresso beans aren’t making empty promises. Delivering a smooth as silk taste and striking the perfect balance between rich intensity and a brighter, nuttier flavor profile with the underlying sweetness of honey, these medium roast beans still deliver the oomph you’d expect from a good dark espresso shot without being so overpowering you miss the nuances of taste and texture. Available in bags of three sizes, the beans are sold whole, ideal not just for espressos once finely ground but also for drip coffees. Velvety thick crema leaves a delightful aftertaste in your mouth for your espresso singles and doppios, smoothing over the tongue, while pulled shots also make the perfect base for flavorful lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, Americanos and more.