There is nothing quite like a shot of rich, fully bodied espresso. Just the sight of a perfectly thick crema gets my senses tingling and my taste buds salivating.
Heaven to coffee lovers the world over…
But if you don’t get the best espresso coffee beans, you will be a world away from espresso bliss, instead you’ll be stuck with a shot that’s no better than cup of concentrated instant coffee.
But not too worry, you have landed in the right place, and today I will take all the hard the work out of shopping for the best espresso beans, with my ultimate buying guide.
As well as showing you the favourite picks from myself and a selection of well-respected espresso junkies.
The top 3
Sometimes you just want a straight up recommendation from a trusted source, you may not have time to read all the info to go with it, or you just can’t be bothered?
If this is one of those times and you just want to know what are the best coffee beans for espresso machine, here are my top three:
If you like your shot more intense or want something to cut through a little milk. The Presto is best
Medium intensity espresso beans, from the master of espresso Lavazza. Italy in a shot glass
7 Best Coffee Beans For Espresso
Being a genuine lover of espresso, I must admit, I loved researching for this guide. It was almost like not having a job at all…
I have been drinking shots daily for over 20 years now, both as part of my role as a coffee taster and because I like them.
But to keep this entirely fair and so as not to bias it to my personal taste, I did invite some old colleagues to collaborate with me, so we have a rounded judging panel.
And this is what we finally came up with…
- Tasting notes: Fruity and Aromatic, Full Bodied
- Beans : 100% Arabica
- Origin : Africa, Central and South America
Lavzza have featured highly on both my lists of best coffee beans and best ground coffee, and they top my list of the best espresso coffee beans. There is good reason why they consistently appear near the top of the lists, and that is they really know what they are doing.
For over 120 years they have been producing excellent quality coffee that is suited to a range of coffee machines and brewing methods. But being an Italian family firm, what they really know is espresso, and boy is there espresso blend good.
I have recommend the “classic” blend here, which has an intensity of 5/10, and is a real good middle of the road. But if you like a more intense hit then they also produce “intenso” blend which is rated 9/10.
If you’ve ever visited a Milan Espresso bar and want to recreate a little of that at home? Then these are the beans you want. Also available as pre ground coffee.
- Tasting notes : Almonds and Cocoa
- Beans : 100% Arabica single source
- Origin : Brazilian
- Great Taste Award 2019
Presto Cafe Espresso is an award winning single source Arabica bean, which has been medium dark roasted to deliver a rich and full bodied shot of espresso, complete with a thick crema.
Presto are a coffee company with a focus on sustainability and consistently work on ways to make sure they are carbon negative.
What is great about these coffee beans is, you can have them for your espresso, but if you fancy something different, then adjust the grind size to a medium and they are also great in a french press, filter or aeropress.
Expect a full bodied and intense shot with hints of dark cocoa and toasted almonds.
- Tasting notes : Hints of Cocoa and Nutty Sweetness
- Beans : Blend
- Origin : Arabica from Central America and Brazil, with Robusta from India
Coffee Masters Super Crema is a perfectly balanced blend of Arabica and Robusta beans. Dark roasted right here in the UK, they offer espresso perfection with a strong caffeine hit.
This is a full bodied shot with hints of citrus acidity, nutty sweetness and dark cocoa bitterness. Perfect as a single shot, but strong enough to be mixed with milk.
This is the coffee bean if you like a mix of drinks from espresso to flat white, great for households with a mix of coffee drinkers
- Tasting notes : Dark Chocolate and Caramel
- Beans : Blend Arabica and Robusta
- Origin : Responsibly sourced Beans Roasted in London
Caffe Tropea have been serving the residents of Bloomsbury London for 30 years through their family run Coffee Shop. They have been a favourite among London’s eclectic community since they opened, and now their favourite espresso blend is available to buy for home brewing. Freshly roasted in the UK to a dark roast.
This is a smooth, rounded and a full bodied coffee with flavour hints of dark chocolate, caramel and roasted nuts.
Although it is available as ground coffee, I strongly suggest the coffee beans which you can grind yourself to suit whatever coffee machine you prefer.
- Tasting notes : Full bodied and well-balanced
- Beans : high-quality Robusta and Arabica Coffee Beans
- Origin : Roasted in Italy
- Double Gold Medal International Coffee Tasting Awards
Pellini is a famous Italian coffee brand brought to us by the master roaster Marco Pellini. With a strong focus on quality over quantity, these beans are not always available. Marco will quite happily not sell anything if he can’t get the quality he demands.
The shot blend is a double gold medal winner at International Coffee Tasting Awards, and offers you a rich, full bodied and well balanced cup of coffee.
This is a true Italian flavour, and produces a great espresso, as well as being string enough to handle a little milk, for anyone who loves a Latte or a Cappuccino. Perfect for anyone who likes different types of coffee.
- Tasting notes : Deep Cocoa balanced by Sweet Caramel
- Beans : Arabica and Robusta
- Origin : Brazil and Ethiopia
Spiller & Tait Classic Italian blend, is medium dark roasted blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, that deliver a full strength caffeine kick that will start you day the right way, but balanced enough to enjoy all day.
They produce a real good espresso with a deep taste of dark chocolate, with a sweet caramel aftertaste.
They have enough of a profile to handle milk, so you don’t need to just have black coffee. Great in bean to cup machines as well a stove top moka pots.
- Tasting notes : Vanilla, Hazelnut, Chocolate
- Beans : Blended with 100% Arabica
- Origin : Brazil
The Brazilian blend of Arabica beans produce an intense coffee with a sweet flavour profile and subtle acidity. A strong aroma will give your home that coffee shop aura.
Hints of Vanilla, Hazelnut and Cocoa that will please the palate. This is fresh coffee at its best.
Espresso Bean Buying Guide
Buy a Darker Roast
Although technically any roast can be used, if you want the best results for your espresso coffee, I recommend dark roasted coffee beans are used for espresso.
Darker roasts are more stable and can take the intense pressure used in an espresso machine.
Having said that, don’t go for the darkest roast you can, instead look for beans that sit in the middle of the dark roast spectrum. This will give you the flexibility to make single shots or use milk and produce Latte’s, Flat White etc.
Arabica or Robusta Beans?
Many coffee aficionados will insist on 100% Arabica beans, they argue it is a better bean and produces a smoother coffee.
But true espresso lovers will tell you to go for a blend of mainly Arabica beans with a little Robusta blended in. This is generally what people call “Espresso blends”
So which should you go for?
If you are looking for a sort of cheat then I say go with the blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, from a trusted roaster. It will give you the intense espresso flavour you are after and almost guarantee a thick crema.
But if you have a good bean to cup or espresso machine and want to go with 100% Arabica then you can, if you are experienced you will be able to get a quality shot.
Either way, freshness is most important.
Single Origin or Blends?
Again the snobs of the coffee world will insist on single origin coffee, in fact it is quite the buzz word at the moment. But will you can get very delicate flavour profiles and it is probable a more organic way of doing things. It is just not that simple.
You can plenty of blends, that are sourced responsibly, and grown organically.
Single Origin will cost more, as the whole batch comes from the same farm.
Blends will be cheaper and will also have a more consistent flavour profile over time, as the coffee house can adjust the ratios as required to maintain a flavour profile.
Omni Roast Beans For Espresso?
Omni or multi roast is a new(ish) fashion among specialty coffee roasters. What they are trying to achieve here is an all round roasted bean, that can be used in all type of coffee machine from cold-brew to espresso, and all types of brewing methods
In reality what they achieve is an alright bean that tastes OK in various brews, but doesn’t quite excel at any.
I can’t see a reason for this from a consumers side, most people have their preferred method and stick to it. The only benefit of Omni Roast is to the roasters, they can increase the potential market.
I would advice staying away from Omni roast.
Roast On Date
Freshness is key to a god coffee whether you like espresso or filter coffee. The best coffee beans come from roasters who print the roast on date on the pack, or better still roast on demand.
Ideally the beans will be at their best 1-4 weeks after roasting.
But depending on the packaging they could be good for up to a year, unopened.
Are Coffee Beans and Espresso Beans the Same?
Fundamentally there is no difference between coffee beans and espresso beans, they are the same thing.
When you see “Espresso Beans” on the packaging, this refers to how the beans have been roasted and prepared. Ultimately the roaster believes it is best suited to the espresso brewing method.
How Many Beans in One Espresso Shot?
All coffee beans are different in size so being exact is virtually impossible. But on average a single shot of espresso is 8 grams will use around 71 individually beans. So a double shot will use 142 beans to make 16 gram espresso.
Is Espresso Healthier Than Other Coffee?
Because espresso normally uses dark roasted beans, it has less acidity than other coffee, this maybe beneficial and easier on your insides.
Additionally due to the high pressure brewing method, espresso boasts a different chemical make up. Some say this is healthier for you, but this is not medically confirmed.
How Do You Make Espresso Creamy?
There are several things that help give your espresso a creamy crema. Read the full in depth guide to a good crema here.
But if you want some quick tips :
1 – Use fresh beans, stale beans is the biggest reason people fail to get a good crema
2 – Grind Size, your beans should be ground fine and tamped properly to compact them, this helps build the pressure.
Does Espresso Have More Caffeine?
It is no secret that per volume espresso has more caffeine than filter coffee. But you do not consume espresso in the same volume.
A double shot of espresso (60ml) will contain on average 80 milligrams of caffeine. A mug of coffee (360ml) will contain 120 milligrams (1)
So as you can see there is more caffeine in a mug of coffee than in a double shot espresso
The Final Verdict
So what are the best coffee beans for an espresso shot, well this dependant on your taste preferences.
But I can tell you they don’t need to be 100% Arabica or even single source. But what they do need to be is responsibly sourced, freshly roasted and handled with care. In my experience these are much more important factors.
It is for this that I have to recommend the Lavazza for those that like medium intensity. But for those that like more of a kick then you will want the Presto Cafe beans. But all of the above produce great coffees.