Best Espresso Beans in 2022 — Buyer’s Guide, Reviews, and ComparisonsWhether you drink it straight or use it to create other drinks, espresso is one of the best-known brewing methods. A concentrated form of java, espresso magnifies coffee flavors, for better or for worse. Make sure you use the best espresso beans to ensure that your shot is delicious.
- Peet’s — a reputation for consistent, quality coffee
- Roasting date is marked on each package
- Hand roasted to order in small batches
Espresso Coffee Beans Comparison Table
|Check Price At Amazon Espresso Forte Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Koffee Kult Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Stumptown Coffee Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Cliff Hanger Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Super Crema Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Intelligentsia Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Starbucks Espresso Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Death Wish Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Eight O'Clock Coffee Review|
|Check Price At Amazon Illy Classico Review|
In a hurry? Skip to our reviews of our top picks:
- Peet's Espresso Forte Whole Bean Coffee
- Koffee Kult Dark Roasted Coffee Beans
- Stumptown Coffee Hair Bender Espresso
- Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger Espresso
- Lavazza Super Crema
- Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso
- Starbucks Espresso Beans Dark Roast
- Death Wish Coffee Co Espresso Beans
- Eight O'Clock Dark Italien Espresso Coffee
- Illy Classico Whole Bean Coffee
Best Espresso Beans Buying Guide
Espresso is one of the most popular java drinks, and it’s no surprise why. What’s not to like? Its strong aroma, concentrated flavor, and caffeine boost are enough to tempt anyone who enjoys coffee.
Whether you’re brewing a straight espresso shot or you’re using it to create a cappuccino or flat white, you’ll want your espresso to be rich, potent, and topped with crema. However, even if you have that top-line espresso maker, you won’t get the best possible espresso if you don’t use quality coffee beans.
That’s where the best espresso beans come in. Coaxing delicious flavors and aromas from these coffee beans is easy. Some of the points you should consider when choosing espresso beans for coffee include:
Type of roast
Where the best espresso coffee beans come from
Arabica or Robusta
Blend or single origin
Straight espresso or other drinks?
What Is an Espresso Bean?
Some coffee beans may be labeled espresso beans, but the truth is that espresso isn’t an official coffee roast. Espresso is a method of brewing, rather than a type of coffee bean. However, dark roast beans are commonly used in brewing espresso, and there are specific reasons why.
The process of brewing espresso — also known as pulling a shot — requires durable beans. This is due to pressure created during the brewing process and how quickly it must be brewed. Dark roast coffee beans hold up better for flavor extraction.
Many espresso lovers prefer the full body and bitterness which come with dark roast coffee. While espresso can be brewed with any roast, it’s the oils released from these coffee beans that help crema develop on top of an espresso shot.
This isn’t meant to suggest that lighter roasts can’t make some fantastic espresso — they can! And we have some on our list to prove it. It’s just that most people picture dark roasts when they think about espresso.
How to Choose the Best Espresso Beans
If you haven’t noticed, there’s plenty of espresso out there. Even if you’re familiar with espresso, making the jump to brewing it yourself is quite different from ordering one in a cafe. By using the best espresso beans, home baristas can make quality espresso in their own kitchens.
These are some factors you should consider before selecting your coffee beans for espresso.
Type of Roast
As previously discussed, dark roast coffee is the most common choice for brewing espresso. Its lower acidity, smoky flavor, and full body — characteristics preferred in espresso — are most common with dark roasts. These beans are typically oily, which allows crema to form on top of an espresso shot.
Others prefer light or medium roast beans. Again, any roast can be used for espresso, but when brewing from lighter roasts, it won’t be quite the same as with dark roasts. It will produce a more acidic espresso, has a lighter body, and tastes more of fruit than smoke or chocolate. Espresso from medium roast beans will be somewhere in between light and dark roasts. However, if you’re a fan of crema, that’s only going to form by using dark roast coffee — crema demands the oils.
Where the Beans Come from
Does it matter where your coffee is grown? For some people, yes!
Certain regions of the world produce coffee with particular flavor profiles. For example, coffee from:
- Africa — has floral or fruity tones.
- Asia — is typically robust and strong-tasting.
- Central America — tends to be spicy and chocolatey.
- South America — the most classic, boasts deep flavors of chocolate or nuts.
If you’re looking for coffee originating from certain parts of the world, some companies list their sources on their packaging. With others, you may have to dig a little deeper to find out that information.
Arabica or Robusta
Arabica and Robusta beans are the most common coffee beans, although there are other kinds. Arabica is often considered to be the superior bean, brewing beverages with smooth, sweet flavors. However, Arabica coffee can also be more challenging to grow, so it’s generally more expensive than its Robusta counterpart.
Robusta coffee grows more easily and therefore is less expensive than Arabica coffee. These beans contain more caffeine but also carry a harsher taste. However, it’s that taste and bitterness that make these beans a solid choice for brewing espresso.
Blend or Single Origin
Blends are more common than single-origin for espresso coffee beans, partly due to price and because of the properties achieved by combining beans. For example, it’s less expensive to use a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, rather than only Arabica beans.
However, as already mentioned, Robusta beans bring bitterness and sharpness to the espresso table. This not only complements Arabica beans, but it’s part of the reason people love espresso so much. On the other hand, most people prefer not to drink 100% Robusta coffee, as it’s simply too harsh. All of the top espresso beans on our list are blended, not single-origin.
Straight Espresso or Other Drinks?
Your choice of good espresso beans should reflect what your brewing goal is. If you’re going to enjoy that single or double shot of espresso on its own, then the sky’s the limit. However, if you’re planning on using espresso to create a latte or macchiato, your espresso needs to go well with milk.
Dark roast coffee tends to cooperate better with milk than lighter roasts, as their flavors and textures complement each other.
Top 10 Best Espresso Beans
Sure, you could spend a huge chunk of free time doing your own research on the best whole coffee beans for espresso. But there’s no need for that when we’ve already gathered lots of information.
We’ve filtered through customer feedback, the most popular coffee beans, along with what real java lovers think. So, what are the best espresso coffee beans? After you catch up on our list, you’ll be ready to pick your own.
~ Best Overall
Our Rating: 4.7/5
- Crafted specifically for espresso
- Roasts and ships the same day
- Flavor notes of hazelnut, chocolate truffle, and lemon curd
The Peet’s Coffee brand makes regular appearances on best coffee lists, so the Espresso Forte Peet’s has created is no exception. This dark roast coffee is crafted specifically for espresso and is available in whole beans or multiple grind levels.
The coffee beans are sourced from Indo-Pacific regions and the Americas, while natural and washed methods are used to process these beans. Orders are hand-roasted and shipped the same day.
A nice balance of earthiness with spice, Peet’s espresso has a flavor profile that includes notes of hazelnuts, lemon curd, and chocolate truffle. The brewed beverage has a full body with bright flavors and smooth crema.
However, if you’re not used to drinking straight espresso, it may be too strong. And, while each bag lists its roast date, there have been reports of receiving stale beans — when not ordered directly from the company.
- Company is known for consistent quality
- Signature blend — created specifically for espresso
- Roast date marked on packaging
- Not organic
- The flavor may be too mild for some people
~ Best with Only Arabica Beans
Our Rating: 4.6/5
- Ethically sourced coffee beans
- Small batch roasting — 30 pounds at a time
- Heavy body and a strong flavor
Koffee Kult Dark Roast Espresso uses only Arabica coffee beans deriving from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra — offering smooth flavors with a hint of sweetness. This blend is available in whole beans or ground form.
Brewing strong java that boasts a heavy body, along with flavors of cinnamon and cocoa, it’s a coffee with a lingering finish. And, it tastes smooth, with low acidity.
Koffee Kult describes its roasting process as artisan and gourmet, plus the brand uses small-batch roasting to ensure consistent quality in each batch. While Koffee Kult Dark Roast isn’t certified as organic or Fair Trade, the company relies on ethical sourcing for its coffee beans. Beans are roasted just before shipping.
However, there have been some comments that Koffee Kult Espresso beans aren’t dark enough, and lack oils. Hence, this coffee doesn’t always produce great crema.
- Heavy body with flavors of cocoa and cinnamon
- Smooth taste with low acidity
- Ethically sourced coffee beans
- Not for those who enjoy sweetness in espresso
- Crema may disappoint — due to a lack of oils
~ Best Beans for Espresso — Non-Organic
Our Rating: 4.5/5
- Stumptown Espresso Beans are a medium-dark roast
- Flavor includes hints of dark chocolate, citrus, and raisin
- Sweet, smooth, and creamy
Stumptown Coffee Hair Bender was the first blend created by Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and it’s become very popular for espresso. Made with only Arabica coffee beans from Indonesia, Latin America, and Africa, this blend is available in whole beans or ground form.
A medium-dark roast, Stumptown Hair Bender roast level isn’t as dark as some other espressos when brewed. This espresso is lighter in color, with golden tones, and its flavor includes hints of raisin, sweet citrus, and chocolate. Depending on the water temperature during brewing, you may notice different layers of fruit flavors.
Stumptown Hair Bender Espresso Beans brew espresso that’s smooth as well as creamy, with good crema. It’s both sweet and savory, although some bitter notes pop through from time to time. Its flavors are clear and complex.
The company is certified as a B corporation, which means business decisions take social responsibilities and environmental concerns into account, just like profits. This product is proof that organic labels aren’t always required for quality.
Stumptown says Hair Bender coffee will remain fresh for up to 90 days if a bag is left sealed. It seems like a shame not to enjoy that coffee, but it’s good information nonetheless.
- Various fruit flavors show with differing brewing temperatures
- If left unopened, beans will remain fresh for 90 days
- Company is certified as a B Corporation, considers social and environmental impacts
- Stumptown Hair Bender can taste bitter
- Sometimes arrives after its best-by date
~ Best Organic
Our Rating: 4.6/5
- Taste includes hints of chocolate, berry, and brown sugar
- Fair Trade certified
- Produces good crema
Kicking Horse Coffee has a reputation for creating bold, intense beverages, and that remains true with this blend. Like their other coffees, Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger Espresso is certified organic, as well as Fair Trade. This coffee uses a blend of Arabica beans from Africa, Indonesia, and Central and South America.
Hints of black currant, brown sugar, and milk chocolate are in Kicking Horse Coffee Espresso’s delicious aroma. Flavor notes of sweet berry syrup and cocoa let this medium roast coffee make a statement without saying any words.
Cliff Hanger Espresso has a bold flavor, smooth finish, and good crema. Even though it’s a medium roast, rather than a dark roast, it may be slightly too sweet or smoky for some espresso lovers.
- Small batch roasted
- Crisp, smooth flavor
- Resealable bag for freshness
- Some may find it too sweet
- Remarks noted — it tastes more like a dark roast than medium
~ Best Whole Espresso Beans for Crema
Our Rating: 4.6/5
- Crafted specifically for brewing espresso
- Flavor notes of roasted hazelnut and brown sugar
- Roasted and blended in Italy
Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend is another blend created specifically for espresso. This coffee combines Arabica and Robusta beans sourced from Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Brazil, and Colombia. It’s only available in whole beans, so you can grind to your preference.
Blended and roasted in Italy, Lavazza Super Crema Espresso Beans have taken notes from the delicious history of Italian espresso. When brewed, this beverage has a full body with a soft texture and amazing crema — the best we’ve seen yet.
Decadent and creamy, its most prominent flavors are honey, hazelnut, and brown sugar. And, because it’s not as dark as some other espresso coffees, you may notice fruity or floral hints, too.
While Lavazza Super Crema Coffee Beans Blend has many great aspects — like its velvety crema — tiny rocks have been reported in bags. Rocks can damage coffee bean grinders, so check your beans thoroughly before grinding. It’s also not organic.
- Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee produces a rich and velvety crema
- Very much like authentic Italian espresso
- Aromatic and tasting notes of hazelnuts, brown sugar
- Rogue rocks have been found in Super Crema Lavazza
- It’s not organic or single-origin
~ Best Medium Roast
Our Rating: 4.5/5
- Very sweet flavors
- Uses washed and honey processing
- Blend slightly changes seasonally to incorporate new beans
Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso is a medium roast, but it has those deep flavors we’ve come to associate with espresso. This coffee is available in multiple grind levels or as whole beans arriving from Colombia, Brazil, and Costa Rica.
While Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso Blend is a blend like many other espressos, the brand will occasionally change it slightly to incorporate new beans as they come into season. For this reason, one bag may say Colombia and Brazil, while another may mention Costa Rica and Brazil.
Black Cat Espresso Intelligentsia is extremely sweet with flavor notes of marshmallow, sugar, stone fruit, and dark chocolate. It has a bright acidity that almost borders on sour for some coffee drinkers. However, this blend may be too light for some espresso lovers who prefer dark roasts.
This coffee isn’t certified as organic, but the company does use washed and honey processing to prepare beans for roasting. Intelligentsia also follows direct trade programs with farmers to help ensure fair wages.
- Sweet flavors of chocolate with molasses
- Uses washed and honey processing
- Brand operates direct trade programs with farmers
- It could be too light for those who love dark roast espresso
- Black Cat Espresso can possess a sour taste
~ Best Dark Roast
Our Rating: 4.6/5
- Tastes of molasses and caramelized sugar
- Intense flavor with a full body
- Tastes best as espresso or with espresso-based drinks
When you envision espresso, it’s probably similar to Starbucks espresso roast. Dark, intense flavor, slightly sweet, with a full body. Only Arabica beans from Asian/Pacific regions and Latin America are used. The company adopts ethical sourcing while focusing on sustainability for coffee beans.
While you can brew Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee using other methods, it’s best suited for espresso or espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos. This roast can be bitter, with flavors of molasses and caramelized sugar, with the caramel being particularly noticeable in your first sip.
Consistency can sometimes be an issue, with some consumer comments concerning super oily beans. Yet others note that crema doesn’t form particularly well because the beans weren’t oily enough. However, Starbucks Espresso Whole Bean Coffee has an affordable price tag, while the flavor is reliable, even if there’s nothing really striking about it.
- Classic dark roast coffee
- Tastes best when brewed as espresso or for espresso-based drinks
- Starbucks Dark Roast Espresso Beans are affordably priced
- Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast can be bitter
- Reliable flavor, but not particularly special
~ Most Caffeinated
Our Rating: 4.5/5
- Brews bold, smooth espresso
- Contains double the amount of caffeine
- Dark chocolate and black cherry flavors
Death Wish Coffee claims to produce the strongest java in the world. While one 12-ounce cup of regular brew has around 150 mg caffeine, a 12-ounce cup of Death Wish Dark Roast Coffee has over 700 mg. However, if you love espresso, extra caffeine probably doesn’t scare you.
This dark roast coffee uses a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans from India and Peru. It’s certified both as organic and Fair Trade. Death Wish Coffee espresso is smooth but never bitter, with flavors that include dark chocolate, black cherry, even browned butter. It also has less acidity than some other brands.
Available in whole beans or ground form but if you’re grinding beans yourself, the coffee beans are oily. While this is a common dark roast characteristic, it can cause problems for your grinder. People who are new to espresso or high-caffeine drinks may wish to choose a different brand.
- Has twice the amount of caffeine in regular coffee
- Death Wish Espresso Beans brew smooth, bold espresso
- Has less acidity than other brands
- Beans are oily, which may cause problems with grinders
- Too strong for people not accustomed to drinking espresso
~ Most Budget-Friendly
Our Rating: 4.5/5
- Very dark roast — may be bitter
- Subtle notes of chocolate and caramel
- Aroma is strong
Eight O’Clock Coffee Dark Italian Espresso is made from only Arabica beans that are sourced from all over the world — Latin America to Africa. Yet, it’s one of the most affordable espresso blends we’ve come across — showing that it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to find quality espresso.
This is the darkest roast Eight O’Clock Coffee offers. In fact, this roast is so dark that it’s more difficult to detect the chocolate and caramel flavors it pledges. It has a strong aroma with a rich, full body.
Eight O Clock is available in both whole beans or ground form. Plus, the company describes itself as being committed to helping farmers, although this product isn’t organic.
As with other types of espresso coffee, 8 O’Clock coffee beans are oily, which may cause problems if you’re grinding beans yourself. The brewed beverage’s flavor isn’t particularly complex, either, possibly because this roast is so dark that its flavors have literally been smoked away.
- Very affordable price
- Has subtle flavors of chocolate and caramel
- Strong aroma
- Flavors can be difficult to taste because the roast is so dark
- Oily beans may gum up grinders
~ Best Whole Beans for Espresso Blend
Our Rating: 4.4/5
- Mild flavor notes of jasmine, orange blossom, chocolate, and caramel
- Uses nine varieties of Arabica coffee beans
- Smooth, balanced taste
Illy Espresso beans are by no means single-original, it’s a blend comprising nine different varieties of Arabica beans, originating from multiple countries.
This coffee is based on traditional Italian espresso, with smooth, sweet flavors. In each sip of java brewed from Illy Classico Beans, you’ll taste mild flavors of orange blossom, chocolate, caramel, and jasmine.
The Illy brand has created its own sustainable supply chain, and the outer packaging of this product is recyclable. The container itself is air-free when sealed after roasting, which prevents beans from going stale. It’s available in pre-ground form, but we love buying whole beans to grind on our own.
This espresso, with its mild flavors, may not be strong enough for java drinkers used to traditional espresso. Its flavors are balanced, but not particularly complex. Plus, when you compare the cost per ounce, Illy Classic Roast is also one of the most expensive coffees on our list.
- Sweet notes include flavors of orange blossom, jasmine, and chocolate
- Company uses a sustainable supply chain
- Smooth taste without bitterness
- Illy Coffee Beans are more expensive than many brands
- Its taste may be too mild for dark roast lovers
Espresso Brewing Tips
Along with picking the best coffee beans for espresso, there are a few other tips that can help you get the most bang for your buck.
- Fresh beans — coffee starts losing its freshness immediately after roasting. No one wants stale espresso, so make sure that you’re always using fresh beans. Grind them as and when you’re ready to brew.
- Tamping — refers to leveling off and lightly compacting the coffee grounds before brewing. Too little or too much means your espresso won’t brew properly.
- Grind size — superfine or espresso grind level is appropriate for a shot of this java.
- Experiment — most people learn to pull espresso by trial and error. You may have to adjust how much water or coffee you use or your water temperature. You will waste some coffee with this. It’s inevitable and all part of the process.
For more tips on brewing espresso, you can check out our guide on how to use an espresso machine.
Espresso is complicated. Whether you’re a novice or ready to experiment with brewing techniques, there’s more involved in brewing espresso than merely grinding beans and pulling a shot.
While dark roasts may be more commonly used for brewing espresso, there are some great medium or medium-dark roasts that can also produce delicious shots. Blends of coffee beans are more common than single-origin beans in this type of coffee, though.
Whether you prefer more intense, dark flavors or lighter and brighter tastes, you’re sure to make a smart choice with any of these best espresso beans.
Best Espresso Beans FAQs
What Beans Should I Use for Espresso?
You can use any roast of coffee beans for espresso. However, the flavors and aromas that most people connect with are only really present in dark roast coffee. So, if you enjoy traditional espresso, try using dark roast beans. If you like milder or non-traditional flavors, try a medium or even light roast.
What Is the Perfect Grind for Espresso?
Fine or espresso is an ideal grind level. This is often the level you’ll find with pre-ground coffee. It’s a little finer than the consistency of table salt. This gives water more surface area to come in contact with the coffee.
What Makes an Espresso Bean?
Espresso isn’t an actual roast category, but the word is sometimes used to describe dark roast beans. Espresso refers to the brewing process, which uses high temperatures and pressure to produce concentrated coffee.
Are Espresso and Coffee Beans the Same?
Technically, yes, espresso and coffee beans are the same, since espresso is not an official level of roasting. Physically, there may be no difference between coffee and espresso beans. That said, some people may refer to darker roasts as espresso beans.
Is Arabica Good for Espresso?
Yes, Arabica coffee beans can make very good espresso. These beans brew a beverage that’s smooth, slightly sweet, and rich — translating into delicious espresso. However, Arabica beans are more expensive and don’t contain as much caffeine as Robusta.
Is Dark Roast the Same as Espresso?
No. Dark roast means that coffee beans have been roasted to the second crack and beyond, giving the beans smoky, intense flavors and aromas. Espresso simply refers to any coffee beans used for brewing espresso, no matter what level of roasting.