What really is the best espresso coffee? What are the best espresso beans? The thing about espresso beans is that they’re pressed, dark-roasted coffee beans. The dark roast is what gives the coffee its distinctive bitter and bold flavor.
You don’t even need specially grown coffee beans; any variety of beans is good for the pressing method of making espresso. But that doesn’t mean certain qualities make an even more enjoyable shot of espresso.
Table of Contents
- Best Espresso Beans: Top 15 Reviews 2019
- #1 Lavazza Dek Whole Bean Decaffeinated Dark Espresso Roast
- #2 Stumptown Coffee Roaster Hairbender Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
- #3 Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso Whole Bean
- #4 Lavazza Super Crema Medium Espresso Roast Whole Bean Coffee
- #5 Café Don Pablo Classic Italian Espresso Whole Bean Gourmet Coffee
- #6 Jo Espresso Medium Dark Roast Whole Bean Espresso Coffee
- #7 Coffee Bean District Italian Roast Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
- #8 Bali’s Best Espresso Candy
- #9 Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee
- #10 Illy Ground Espresso Coffee Dark Roast
- #11 Peet’s Coffee Espresso Forte Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee
- #12 Verena Street Shot Tower Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
- #13 Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
- #14 Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
- #15 Farm-Fresh 100% Kona Medium Roast Whole Beans Coffee
- What Are “Espresso” Beans?
- How to Choose the Best Espresso Beans
- How to Make the Perfect Espresso Coffee
- The End
Best Espresso Beans: Top 15 Reviews 2019
So what you see below are some of the most popular and my personal favorite roasters that offer high-quality espresso coffee beans consistently.
#1 Lavazza Dek Whole Bean Decaffeinated Dark Espresso Roast
The brand Lavazza is among the top contenders not just in Italy but all over the world. For many generations, this coffee producer has brought to the table the best coffee blends from just about everywhere. They’re known to provide the ultimate Italian experience. So can you expect the same authenticity from this decaffeinated dark espresso whole bean coffee? The answer is YES!
It’s a combination of Vietnamese and Brazilian Robusta and Arabica varieties. The mix does an excellent job of creating a dark espresso that’s fully-rounded. The exceptional smoothness and aroma of the creamy coffee is a part of every sip. Your espresso machine now has a great buddy!
The decaffeination is done using only natural processes. Meaning no chemicals are involved to alter or destroy the delicious flavor of Arabica or the dark nature of Robusta.
Comparatively speaking, the color of these whole beans is lighter. Your typical French roast or Espresso roast is a bit on the darker side. Even the smell is lighter, nonetheless pleasant. So what this delivers is a cup with the smoothest flavor and no bitterness. Every sip you take, you’ll come to appreciate this mild decaf dark roast even more.
#2 Stumptown Coffee Roaster Hairbender Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
The longer product title on Amazon states that this espresso coffee is sweet and balanced. I found every bit of this information true. And that’s amazing because you know Stumptown Coffee Roaster is not a cheap or low-quality brand.
Now the packaging may look uninviting or boring, but what’s inside is quite the opposite. So what’s the opposite of uninviting or boring in this context? Whole bean coffee that’s delightful and lively. The roast isn’t that oily either, in case you’re wondering. This is what makes the beans perfect for automatic coffee makers.
The flavorful, delicious, and rich roast is simply mind-blowing. The subtle hints of fudge, toffee, chocolate, and dark fruits are diverse yet utterly delicious. But some might find these flavors a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, the blend is quite sunny and bright, which can also be the opposite of uninviting and boring. It’s the perfect way to get your morning boost if you ask me.
Here’s the best part about this Hairbender blend. It’s not so heavy that you’ll feel like running a marathon after drinking a cup. The coffee helps you calm your nerves and focus better, despite being a dark espresso roast.
#3 Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso Whole Bean
Now please make way for Organic, Kosher, and Fair Trade-certified espresso whole beans. This Kicking Horse Coffee creation prioritizes global and local environmental conservation without compromising the flavor and taste of the coffee.
What’s used is a rich blend of Indonesian, African, and South American coffee beans. The high-grown Arabica beans ensure great taste and great quality. They are medium-roasted with a mild fruity flavor and bright color. Even though the manufacturer doesn’t mention the roast date, as a coffee lover, you know the beans are freshly roasted.
The Cliff Hanger blend is complex and silky with a deliciously bold finish. You can select these whole beans for just about any method. This includes French press, drip, pour over, cold brew, and espresso of course.
It’s as deep and dark as you would expect a medium roast to be. The taste isn’t bitter nor is the flavor acidic. In fact, the undertones of chocolate balance out everything to make the experience completely enjoyable. You can also expect the coffee to remain fresh inside the vacuum-sealed packaging for longer.
The only issue here is that to get a stronger kick, you might have to use a large portion of whole beans. That and also the part where Kicking Horse Coffee doesn’t print the roast date.
#4 Lavazza Super Crema Medium Espresso Roast Whole Bean Coffee
This is the second espresso roast by Lavazza so far. So what does that mean? It suggests that the brand distributes the finest coffee beans for espresso. And they have been doing this for over a century now.
Each bag of Lavazza here is full of espresso-roasted whole coffee beans that are a blend of 20% Robusta and 80% Arabica. This mixture is packed with maximum flavor, no doubt. The thick and velvety crema is also a champion on its own as it makes way for sumptuous cappuccinos and lattes.
Once you have a look at the beans, you’ll see they’ve been evenly medium-roasted. The taste of the flavors is definitely richer with a touch of chocolate. But it’s not very fruity, which is a good thing since other blends have an extremely strong fruity flavor.
The mild fragrant aroma of dried fruit, almonds, and honey also contributes to preparing espresso you can’t turn down.
There’s a delicate hint of captivating sweetness. And it’s this particular sweet quality that combines with the less intense flavor of the beans to satisfy your taste buds. Although the lack of intensity is not for those who prefer a much stronger boost.
#5 Café Don Pablo Classic Italian Espresso Whole Bean Gourmet Coffee
Every sip of this classic Italian espresso coffee is complex and deep, just as predicted and expected. There are hints of dark chocolate with a mild earthy flavor. It’s all very European and smooth in my opinion.
Café Don Pablo combines Sumatra Mandheling and Colombian Supremo beans. These coffee beans are then subjected to a special roasting process. So the end result is a cup you’ve never tasted and will never forget.
The Arabica coffee beans the roaster uses are grown in volcanic soil that’s nutrient-rich. Such type of soil in South America is quite popular for producing the most delicious Arabica beans. On top of that, every roasting batch is controlled for making sure that consistency, quality, and freshness are kept intact.
So how about you brace your senses for an incredibly complex, deep, low-acid flavor but no bitterness! How does that sound? Absolutely delicious, doesn’t it?
What’s unique about this whole bean gourmet coffee is the natural sugar caramelization. It’s what adds the intense roast profile to the dark coffee. The full-bodied character and smooth aftertaste are results other roasters can’t compete with.
So what’s the negative side of this? That the coffee beans are a bit greasy. Not that this oily texture has an effect on the coffee grinder you plan to use.
#6 Jo Espresso Medium Dark Roast Whole Bean Espresso Coffee
First off, the coffee is organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and Fair Trade-certified. So no need to feel guilty about destroying the environment only to get your daily kick of caffeine. Jo Espresso values not just the environment but also the community of growers and farmers. That’s what the Fair Trade certification proves, doesn’t it?
Moving on, this a medium-dark roast specifically blended for espresso. The organic Arabica coffee beans are dark roasted to the liking and taste of every espresso lover. The dark chocolate along with the rich and creamy aroma makes your morning coffee time very exciting. It’s even more stimulating when you know there are no added flavors or preservatives in here.
The texture is smooth, the taste is strong, and the finish is velvety. Every cup has all the boldness and depth you demand from the best espresso beans. You can use them even with a low-quality or cheap espresso coffee maker. The final outcome is still going to be utterly delightful, that’s for sure.
As far as my opinion goes, this medium-dark roast is way superior to any espresso whole bean coffee. Every description of the product on Amazon is 100% accurate if you ask me. The coffee does contain dense dark chocolate as well as rich crema. So there’s no reason I wouldn’t highly recommend this pick to you. Even though the texture is not so oily and the color not so dark.
#7 Coffee Bean District Italian Roast Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
You know that Coffee Bean District is passionate about espresso coffee. But how? They do not hold back when it comes to adding yet another best whole bean coffee to the list. This Italian roast espresso is rich and full-bodied. It takes pride in offering a honeyed and toasty aroma. Even the flavor notes are full of smoky molasses and cocoa powder.
The dark roast is a blend of Indian and South American coffee beans. This signature gourmet coffee is good for espresso, French press, pour over, drip, percolator, and even reusable coffee K-cups. The taste is more mellow and creamy on a consistent basis. That’s why first-timers end up ordering more and more of the Italian roast espresso.
What’s even more captivating is the incredible smell, which reminds you of popcorn. The brew you get is packed with a complex flavor, good strength, and classic smoothness. But to be honest, you might not like how oily the whole beans are. This greasy nature tends to interfere with some automatic coffee makers.
That aside, the quantity you get is quite generous. And there’s no denying just how surprisingly fresh-tasting and smooth-flavored the coffee really is. With minimal acidity that too!
#8 Bali’s Best Espresso Candy
Ever laid eyes on hard, all-natural candy made of original Sumatran coffee? I don’t think so. Every delightful piece is filled with an espresso shot in the center. And that center filling is rich, smooth, and soft each time. So how does the idea of espresso in your purse or pocket sound?
A single bag contains 42 foil-wrapped pieces. This seems like the perfect gift for a coffee lover, right? The espresso shot in here doesn’t even cause an upset tummy (1). So you can indulge at work too.
The pungent flavor of coffee is not lost. In fact, this particular flavor is what makes the candy so enjoyable. But the sad part about it all is that the pieces are very tiny. It means they disappear in the mouth sooner than you can imagine.
Even so, the use of natural ingredients does sound appealing. These ingredients contribute to giving every piece of candy the actual espresso coffee flavor. The sugar content is also quite low, which means feel free to breathe a sigh of relief.
You might find yourself biting into the tasty center filling instead of just letting it melt naturally. That’s how addictive the espresso candy is, as it should be.
#9 Starbucks Espresso Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee
Needless to say, Starbucks handcrafts every beverage. Their master roasters coax the coffee beans. The heat of the roasting transforms them into a dark and deep roast. Combine that with the caramel-like sweetness, and you get whole bean coffee that hasn’t been subjected to any changes. You’ll certainly fall for the caramel sweetness, no doubt.
As for the flavor, it’s bold and full-bodied. You get the quintessential essence of a robust flavor and intense roast. After all, Starbucks prepares the finest cup. Their coffee beans are roasted keeping both time and temperature in mind. So achieving the peak of body, flavor, acidity, and aroma becomes possible.
So if you enjoy your espresso with a strong flavor, don’t hesitate to tickle that fancy with this dark roast. The whole beans are super-fresh by the way. You can tell by the oils still present on them. And please don’t worry; this oil doesn’t cause any issues in the coffee grinder.
The taste is smooth without any bitterness. But the bitterness starts to form once you open the bag and don’t finish the coffee in a month or so. That’s quite an unfortunate drawback, isn’t it?
However, there’s no turning down or underestimating the very dark and strong character of this Starbucks espresso.
#10 Illy Ground Espresso Coffee Dark Roast
There’s a lot to know about the espresso dark roast by Illy. First off, this best espresso coffee opens the door to an intense experience for awakening your spirit and senses. From the first sip you take till the last, the taste remains consistent and aroma rich and fragrant.
The blend contains 9 different kinds of premium, pure Arabica beans. As for the selection of these fine coffee beans, the process is carefully performed. They come from Africa, India, Brazil, and Central America. Moreover, the beans are subjected to multiple quality control checks.
The next is the packaging of the ground espresso coffee. It’s packed in a pressurized atmosphere for preserving the tempting aroma for nearly 2 years. And since this is a ground version, the grind size is perfectly fine enough for optimal espresso extraction.
Dark roasts are supposed to taste more intense, richer, deeper, and fuller-bodied. So is that the kind of experience you should look forward to in this case as well? Yes, that and more! The more here is a touch of rich caramel with hints of intense cocoa.
I just didn’t like the use of plastic inside the reusable can lid. But it’s what keeps the lid tightly shut to prevent the loss of freshness. However, unfortunately, you cannot reuse this component. You’ve got to lose something to gain something, right?
#11 Peet’s Coffee Espresso Forte Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee
Did you know that the company withdraws its products from shelves when they cross the 90-day limit? Well, that says a lot about how committed Peet’s Coffee is when it comes to serving fresh coffee. So you can expect this Forte blend to also be freshly dark-roasted.
The whole bean coffee is very strong. Now you might think this means it offers a burnt or bitter aftertaste, but that does not happen. Even though this stuff is darker than most!
The combination of the earthy depth and the bright flavor is what stands out the most. After all, both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are used.
On the downside, the beans are a bit larger for espresso. So you might have to grind them for longer. But that’s okay I guess given just how full-flavored this whole bean coffee is. But I’d recommend you to keep away from it if you prefer mild coffee. I mean once in the cup, you’ll notice and even appreciate the intensively black color immediately.
Needless to say, this is good coffee; rich and dark with zero bitterness. That also smells as great as it tastes.
Most darker roasts have an intense smokiness and cause horrible acid while lighter roasts do nothing. As for this dark roast, it belongs to neither category. Unquestionably, this whole bean coffee isn’t too roasty or smoky. And it doesn’t even hurt your stomach. So leave all your doubts behind.
#12 Verena Street Shot Tower Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
Never heard of Verena Street? Well, it’s a family-owned and independent roastery located in Iowa. The roaster sources their 100% Arabica beans from farms that are Rainforest Alliance-certified. Along the same lines, this whole bean coffee is also Kosher-certified (2).
Single origin coffee beans are roasted slowly at an optimal temperature. So the release of flavors takes place to ensure a profile that’s nothing short of incredibly complex and dense. This is great for espresso, isn’t it?
Furthermore, the full-bodied and smooth whole beans offer a creamy, rich flavor and aftertaste. It’s an ideal option for those who can’t get enough of cappuccinos and lattes. The dark beans are somewhat oily but very aromatic. And to determine the freshness, all you have to do is invite the strong aroma into your senses.
More importantly, the brand maintains consistency. So if you’re planning on buying another bag, which you’re quite likely to, don’t fret.
In the end, I would just like to say one thing. Look for hazelnut, caramel, and butterscotch because these flavors definitely make the Shot Tower Espresso one of a kind.
#13 Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso Whole Bean Coffee
Let me use the first paragraph to tell you a little about Intelligentsia. They understand that you desire nothing but the best espresso beans. And if you wish to drink the best espresso coffee, then they know you’re going to hunt for it. The roaster practices sustainable farming to care for the environment and the growers. No wonder this whole bean coffee is Kosher-certified.
Now it’s time to discuss the Black Cat Project. This is put in place to deliver the most delicious espresso. This coffee is proof that the company expands everything possible in terms of aroma, flavor, and aftertaste.
About the classic espresso flavor, it has a very distinctive, mild, and smooth flavor. But with a touch of bitterness, which not everybody’s palate appreciates. There’s no roasting date printed on the bag either, I don’t understand why. But the coffee is certainly freshly roasted, you can tell.
The blend is plenty forgiving if that’s on your mind. Single origin coffees are actually very good as they become toasty and light in comparison to the crema, rich triples and doubles. Although the current espresso is also suitable for triples or doubles.
It goes without saying that the coffee is strong enough to become your favorite at home.
#14 Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Starting from a small, single roaster and becoming an environment-friendly multi-roaster is no insignificant feat. Well, that’s how I would like to describe the brand, Koffee Kult. Their artisan roasters hand-roast single origin coffee and coffee blends. This is something that most companies don’t do since it’s a more time-consuming and intricate process.
You’re dealing with a dark roast here. It’s brown, not oily, and smooth with balanced acidity. The roast contains flavor and aroma reeking of cinnamon and cocoa. The level of smoothness, brightness, and heavy body is quite remarkable. And also appealing to the senses, which gets pleasantly heightened because of the long finish.
Arabica beans coming from Sumatra, Colombia, and Brazil are a part of the origin. So the inevitable result has to be smooth dark roast coffee. The delivery of crema with the incredible flavor and consistency is simply out of this world. It’s just what you crave from your morning espresso. You’ll feel like you’re having dark chocolate, but with the slightly burnt taste.
#15 Farm-Fresh 100% Kona Medium Roast Whole Beans Coffee
Why do you think this 100% Kona medium roast coffee is one of Amazon’s top choices? For no good reason? Of course not! The pure Kona coffee is sourced from authentic farms in Hawaii where they don’t use pesticides and herbicides. Along the same lines, the coffee is sun-dried and handpicked. It’s freshly roasted too!
But what makes it so special is the sophisticated palate and aroma of the coffee. It’s not like the flavored or sugar-laden options widely available and even popular in fact. Instead, the medium roast whole bean coffee is pretty much like what you’d expect from expensive craft beer or fine wine.
The flavor is generously bold. Thanks to the Hawaiian origin. There’s no bitterness to look forward to either. That’s because it’s more of a light roast than a medium. I think I would count this as a flaw.
Nonetheless, these whole beans are well-packaged, fresh, and non-acidic. The rich and deep flavor is not something you end up craving still after sipping the coffee. And that’s what matters when you want to drink the best espresso coffee.
What Are “Espresso” Beans?
What really makes an espresso bean? Well, the origin, roast, and notes have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do when it comes to espresso coffee. It’s the beans’ grind size, temperature, and pressure that actually matter here. In short, the way the coffee beans are brewed has a direct connection with espresso.
When the grind size is very fine, that’s when you can prepare an espresso. The grounds are stuffed into the puck. Then you heat the water at around 200-degree Fahrenheit. After which the machine employs 9-15 bars of pressure for pushing steam through those grounds.
The extraction takes around 25-30 seconds. You should know that high pressure, high heat, and a large surface area are what pave the way for the intense “espresso” coffee concentrate.
The thing that actually makes good espresso coffee is flavorful Arabica beans that are either medium-roasted or dark-roasted.
How to Choose the Best Espresso Beans
Are there factors that help you decide what is the best espresso coffee? Of course, there are! So it’s better to take them into account if you don’t want your coffee time to be a miserable failure.
I’m sure you already know that a dark roast is an ideal choice for espresso. But do you also know why? It’s because dark roasts have low acidity and are full-bodied.
Just by looking at the whole beans you come to know they’re dark-roasted. The oily texture gives it away, doesn’t it? Speaking of which, dark roasts mostly contain oils that help with crema formation.
What about medium roasts, since I have reviewed quite a few medium-roasted espresso beans? This type of roast offers more flavor and moderate acidity. Many espresso lovers go for a medium roast when the oil present in dark roasts ends up clogging their machine. So the best alternative to dark roast is a medium roast, indeed?
Blend or Single Origin?
So what do you pick when it comes to espresso; single origin coffee or a coffee blend? I would say the former. It’s because single origin prepares the strongest and classiest espresso shot.
Now I’m not underestimating the deliciousness of coffee blends. They too are equally good. But the problem with them is that blends normally also double up in milk-based coffee brews.
Imagine picking packed coffee that was sourced a week back. Can you compare this to coffee sourced a month back? The freshness of whole bean coffee or ground coffee adds to the distinctive taste.
So if you come across coffee whose roaster hasn’t mentioned the roast date, I would advise you to stay away from it. Coffee is a cherry, after all. Meaning it’s a meticulously processed agricultural crop, thus it can go bad when not fresh.
Pre-Ground or Whole?
My reviews section is proof that, for espresso, whole bean coffee is the most suitable. I mean I have hardly reviewed pre-ground coffee options. So what is the difference between the two when it comes to preparing the best espresso coffee?
The difference presents itself in the form of freshness. Even though the roast date is mentioned, pre-ground coffee is simply not as fresh as its whole bean counterpart.
Most of the fully-automatic and even semi-automatic espresso coffee makers feature an integrated grinder. That means you can buy espresso beans and grind them on your own at home. Without having to spend extra money on a separate coffee grinder!
The beauty of freshly ground beans is that they retain freshness for longer. Just make sure you’re grinding in controlled batches and storing those grounds in a sealed, airtight container.
Flavor greatly depends on where the coffee beans come from. Conditions such as altitude, soil chemistry, shade, and rainfall have a direct impact on the taste of the coffee.
Now allow me to state an interesting fact. The majority of coffee in the world is sourced from trees found along the popular Bean Belt. It’s a region hugging the equator; starting from around 25 degrees north till about 30 degrees south of that.
Here are some of the most popular coffee growing countries with areas located around the Bean Belt:
So what origin is the best for making espresso shots? For espresso blends, nothing works like Brazilian coffee beans and Indonesian coffee beans, or both combined. You can choose Colombian beans too actually. Meaning coffee beans with a floral, sweet, or light flavor don’t prepare the best espresso.
Arabica or Robusta?
Let’s get straight to the point. Robusta coffee beans offer more flavors than their Arabica sibling. But Arabica beans provide plenty of crema and a good aroma for your espresso.
So if you’re the kind of espresso lover that doesn’t appreciate a very strong taste, you should select Robusta. These coffee beans have high caffeine content too by the way. This is great news for you if you can’t get enough of caffeine (3) AND espresso.
How to Make the Perfect Espresso Coffee
Let’s assume you have the best espresso beans and the best espresso machine. So are these 2 enough for preparing the most delicious espresso of your life? Not exactly, because you can still mess it all up. But that won’t happen if you follow the instructions below.
Step 1 - Cleaning the Portafilter
The portafilter should not contain any leftover grounds or moisture. If it does, expect your coffee to undergo over-extraction. Along with tasting bitter and astringent!
Step 2 - Dose Properly
This isn’t such a difficult task to accomplish, trust me. The chances are your grinder already features a button for the machine to dose the pre-installed dose.
You can also check the dose manually using a scale prior to distribution and tamping. Such a practice ensures correct extraction as it eliminates the possibility of too little or too much.
Step 3 - Distribute Grounds in Portafilter
In most cases, the grinder doses grounds into the basket of the portafilter in a pyramid or mountain shape. In simple words, uneven ground distribution. So for enhancing the consistency of the extraction and your espresso, distribute those grounds evenly.
Step 4 - Tamp Consistently And Evenly
Why is tamping done in the first place? To get rid of air pockets and to level out the coffee puck. So it’s best to tamp hard and long. So much so that you compress the whole puck horizontally. This prevents uneven or under-extraction and channeling.
Step 5 - Rinse the Group Head
You cannot and should not skip this crucial step as it eliminates old coffee. It’s the most effective way of keeping your coffee maker clean.
Rinsing also opens the door to the group head heating properly. And that, in turn, enables proper extraction.
Step 6 - Insert Portafilter And Begin Brewing Right Away
If you don’t brew immediately, you’re running the risk of the group head heat burning your coffee and making it bitter-tasting.
Step 7 - Keep in Mind the Brew Time and the Yield
Do you have a volumetric espresso machine? If yes, then do not neglect the brew time. Too soon means under-extraction and too long means over-extraction.
However, in the case of manual espresso coffee makers, it’s the yield that demands special attention. When running too fast, over-extraction occurs. It also leads to you ending up preparing and drinking diluted, mild espresso.
Nothing beats the caffeine kick, intense flavor, and the crema of an espresso shot. It tastes like pure bliss, doesn’t it? But I’m sure you know it’s not as simple as that. You have to use the best whole bean coffee or pre-ground coffee for espresso. So, lucky for you, I’ve made sure you purchase coffee that’s worth your money and the effort that goes into preparing espresso at home.
So pick any one out of the 15 I have reviewed in this article. And if you want to know what goes into making and choosing “espresso” beans, the comprehensive guide is just for that.