The Best Espresso Beans – Reviews for 2020
A bean is a bean is a bean, at least that’s what I used to think. I never put much thought into the coffee I drank until we started to travel. Now, we are always looking for the best espresso beans we can drink at home.
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Learning About Coffee Beans
It was a cafe in Ubud, Bali, with fabulous beans from all over Indonesia that got me thinking more about my coffee and how it is prepared. When it comes to making coffee at home and choosing the best espresso beans, this seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult. There are quite a few things to take into consideration, though, when buying the best coffee beans online.
In this buying guide, we share our tips on how to find the best espresso coffee beans. It will include everything you need to know to purchase top-notch beans that will make you feel like a professional barista in your own home.Check out the Top-Rated Espresso Beans on Amazon
Why Are Beans So Darn Important?
We’ve visited coffee plantations as far away as Jamaica and Gran Canaria, Spain. We’ve visited coffee roasters in destinations like Bali and Dusseldorf. When it comes to making quality coffee and espresso at home, there is nothing more important than the beans.
No matter how expensive your espresso maker is if you don’t start with a quality product your espresso isn’t going to taste as good as it should.
Once we started learning more about how beans are grown and the difference between the different types of beans, a whole new world opened up to us. We realized it is the mix between the coffee bean and the brewing method that is really responsible for making the perfect brew.
Top-Rated Espresso Beans
We include full reviews of all our recommended beans below. If you are short on time, though, check our table below for our top choices. When it comes to where to buy espresso beans, we recommend Amazon for a few reasons.
First, they offer a much wider selection than your local coffee shop so you can definitely find beans that fit your flavor profile. Second, we try to recommend products that are part of Amazon Prime, which provides purchasers with free and often super-fast delivery. (Get 30 days of Prime free here.)
Coffee Beans Vs. Espresso Beans – What Are Espresso Beans?
So, why not just use regular coffee beans to make your espresso at home? First, all beans are coffee beans, but certain beans are better for making espresso as opposed to drip coffee.
When visiting coffee shops in Lisbon recently, they made it clear on their menu which beans they were using for coffee and which they were using for espresso. That’s because many cafes use a different blend depending on how they are brewing the coffee. You can do that at home too.
In general, espresso beans are often roasted darker than regular coffee beans. This is particularly true when looking for the best coffee beans for cappuccinos and lattes. You need a darker roast to cut through the milkiness of the beverage.
Types Of Coffee Beans
It wasn’t until we started traveling and visiting coffee shops and coffee roasters around the world that we truly started to understand the various types of coffee beans. There are dozens of different varieties of coffee.
Two words that are commonly seen and often not understood when it comes to beans are Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee. These are the most common varieties of beans.
Arabica beans are sweeter with a more mild taste but with a high level of acidity. Robusta coffee is generally less sweet and less acidic than Arabica but tastes stronger. Robusta also tends to produce more crema than Arabica and has more caffeine.
All that said, Robusta is often a little cheaper. Most of this is because it is easier to grow. Similar to wine varietals and terroir, Robusta beans can grow at lower altitudes and stand up better to pour weather and infestations. For all of these reasons, they have a higher yield making them more readily available.
Coffee Buying Pro Tip
In the end, it all comes down to personal taste. Some people like coffee with more acidity some with less. Most important between these two, though, is that Robusta does contain a lot more caffeine, which is something to think about.
How To Choose The Best Coffee Beans For Espresso
When looking for the best espresso beans, there are a few things to take into consideration. A lot of it comes down to personal choice. This might mean trying a few different brands before settling on one that is perfect for you. But, we hope to offer recommendations on what to consider when purchasing good espresso beans, while taking into consideration your personal preferences.
First, start with the flavor profile of the coffee you drink on a daily basis, either at home or at your favorite coffee shop. Choose a lighter roast if you like a more mild, subtle flavor. Choose a darker roast if you like your coffee stronger, or more bitter.
When looking at coffee bean packaging, you will see something called “origin.” Origin refers to the country of origin or region of origin. For example, when we visited a coffee plantation in Jamaica, their listed origin would either say Jamaica or the part of Jamaica where the beans were grown, i.e. Blue Mountain Coffee.
Single-origin means the beans come from a single source. This can mean a single estate or at least a single geographic area. Because it is not blended the flavor is generally more complex and is best enjoyed without milk. This will fully bring the flavor out.
Coffee from different origins will taste different. This is because of the climate, temperature, moisture and other elements that affect any other agricultural product. Beans from Asia, Africa, or Central and South America will all taste different from one another.
Single Origin Vs. Blends
When we lived in Bali, many of the beans were of single-origin but our favorite happened to be a blend. We just liked the flavor more. Single-origin can be stronger but it depends on where the bean is sourced.
Blended beans tend to have a more balanced flavor. Both are good, but it depends on your preference. Most of the beans we recommend are blends.
Some beans will be labeled as either espresso roast or filter roast. Espresso roast beans are better for making espresso at home. Filter roast is better for manual brewing, either using a pour-over coffee maker or a drip coffee maker.
Roast type can also be defined as a dark roast or a light roast. Dark roast is better for espresso.
When it comes to the beans themselves, they should be dark but not too dark, if this makes sense. When beans are super dark, this means they may have been over-roasted. Often, coffee roasters will do this on accident or to compensate for an inferior bean.
The aroma should be pleasing on the nose, but not too acidic. If it smells burnt, that means the beans have been over-roasted.
Look for vacuum-sealed packaging that ensures the beans stay fresh and the aroma is captured.Check out the Top-Rated Espresso Beans on Amazon
The Best Espresso Beans Reviews
Now that you are an expert on how to select the top espresso beans, here are our reviews of the best ones on the market. To find out the current best price on each of the roasted espresso beans, click the red button.
Lavazza Super Crema Espresso Beans
The name Lavazza has been associated with coffee since 1895. The fourth generation of the Lavazza family still takes coffee seriously. Lavazza is one of the most recognized Italian coffee bean brands. The Lavazza Super Crema Espresso Whole Bean Coffee is a medium roast bean made from an 80/20 blend of Arabica and Robusta beans. The beans originate from Central America and Indonesia.
These Lavazza espresso beans are flavorful with a thick, velvety crema. Flavors include honey, almonds, and dried fruit. They are a dark brown without being too dark and are blended and roasted in Italy. Lavazza states these beans are best used with an espresso machine. They can be used, though, for both espresso and drip coffee makers and can be used for straight espresso as well as milk-based drinks. This makes these beans some of the most versatile on the market and is why they are so popular. They are the best Italian espresso beans on Amazon and kind of make you feel like you are sipping them at a cafe in Italy.
Stumptown Hairbender Espresso Coffee Beans
When we first visited Portland, everyone was talking about Stumptown. It seemed a little too hipster for me, with everyone talking about one particular coffee shop. When we visited the shop, though, I learned what all the fuss was about. Stumptown espresso beans have a reputation and there’s a reason – they are known for sourcing quality beans from around the world. As for the name? The first Stumptown location in Portland once houses a beauty-parlor named Hair Bender and these beans recognize that history.
The Stumptown Hairbender Espresso Beans is a blend of beans from Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia for a perfectly balanced bean. There is an interesting taste of both citrus and dark chocolate but is sweet and balanced. They are best used for espresso but can be used in drip coffee as well.
Size: 12 ounces (¾ of a pound)
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Coffee Bean Direct Whole Bean Espresso
Maybe I have a soft spot for this company because they are from New Jersey and I am a Jersey girl. Regardless, they have a good reputation for quality beans with fabulous flavors.
The Coffee Bean Direct Italian Espresso Roast is a dark roast blend of beans from South America and India. The aroma is reminiscent of cocoa and molasses with a bit of smokiness. Coffee Direct also roasts the beans just before packing to lock in aromas and freshness.
Coffee Bean Pro Tip
It’s great to look for organic and fair-trade coffee beans, but what does this mean? Fair Trade means that a percentage of sales from fair trade products are donated directly to growers and producers in developing countries. This is a way to supplement their income, ensure a consistent stream of product, and ensures long term sustainability of independent growers.
Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso
Canadian company Kicking Horse Coffee started with two coffee-loving friends roasting coffee in the garage. Now they have a reputation for roasting some of the best organic coffee beans. They’ve also won awards for their fair trade products.
The Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso Beans work best for espresso, but slo for French press, pour-over, and even drip coffee makers. The Cliff Hanger is a medium roast blend with beans from Indonesia, Africa, and Central and South America. Aromas include some sweetness from brown sugar, chocolate, and black currant with a smooth finish.
Koffee Kult Dark Roast Espresso Beans
For cult coffee drinkers, there’s nothing better than the Koffee Kult Dark Roast Espresso Beans. Koffee Kult is a family-owned coffee roasting company from Hollywood, Florida. The continue to hand roast all of their beans in an environmentally friendly facility in small batches.
Like most of the beans on our list, this is a blend of bean sourced from Guatemala, Columbia, and Sumatra, Indonesia. The beans are 100% Arabica. These beans are known for having a strong flavor but without bitterness and with low acidity. They also pride themselves in producing fair trade coffee. These beans are perfect for espresso but can also be prepared in a French press or in pour-over coffee makers. The resulting espresso is rich, spicy, and a little nutty.
illy Espresso Beans - Dark Roast
illy is one of the most popular Italian espresso brands. They started producing coffee beans over 80 years ago in Trieste, Italy. The illy Intenso Espresso Coffee is a dark roasted bean made with Arabica coffee from nine different sources. In 2019, Ethispehere listed illy as one of the most ethical companies in the world, which is a great distinction in the coffee business.
The main difference with the illy espresso beans is that they come already ground rather than as whole beans. That said, they do grind the beans finely to provide optimal extraction in espresso machines. They also do a good job of packing the ground coffee in a pressurized can to seal in the aromas and oils.
SF Bay Coffee Pete's Espresso
SF Bay Coffee is a family owned company based in the US. They actually stand behind their coffee with a 100% guarantee, which is pretty rare.
The SF Bay Coffee Pete’s Espresso Blend Whole Bean is a dark roast bean. There are flavors of chocolate, orange, and vanilla.
They use 100% arabica coffee that is freshly roasted, sustainably grown, and even Kosher. They also offer ground coffee if that is preferred. The whole beans are recommended for espresso, French Press, or pour over coffee makers.
How To Make Great Espresso
Once you’ve picked out your beans, here are a few tips for making the best espresso at home. Once you open your bag of beans, store them in an airtight container to keep them fresh.
Then, grind your beans just before brewing to prevent the aromas from escaping too soon. Use filtered water to get a more pure flavor. Then use your favorite espresso machine and enjoy.
Learn More About How They Roast Coffee Beans
Ground Coffee Beans Vs. Whole Bean Coffee
We recommend purchasing whole bean espresso coffee for a few reasons. Most important is that once beans are ground they immediately release aroma and flavor. It best option is to limit the amount of time between grinding and brewing.
Even the best ground espresso beans aren’t going to taste as good going in the cup than beans that are ground moments before brewing. Because we recommend coffee grinding at home all of our recommended beans are only whole espresso beans.
The Best Ground Coffee For Espresso Machines Pro Tip
The best grind for making the perfect cup of espresso is one that is super fine. In the end, the coffee should feel almost powdery to the touch.
FAQS - Searching For The Best Espresso Beans In The World
This is always hard to say because every person’s taste is different. Obviously, the Italians have a great reputation for quality coffee, but no beans grow in Italy. The only place in Europe where beans are grown (that I know of) is in the Canary Islands. People swear by Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica, where we’ve also visited. In the end, though my favorite beans are from Indonesia.
The caffeine content of coffee depends on the type of bean, how it is roasted, and how it is prepared. The big question we always get is which has more caffeine, espresso or coffee. An ounce of espresso contains 63 mg of caffeine whereas regular coffee contains between 12 to 16 mg of caffeine per ounce. The amount of caffeine you take in depends on the volume of coffee in your cup.
When it comes to where to buy coffee beans, there are some benefits to buying at your local coffee shop. Although it is great to shop local, buying beans from small batches does lead to an inconsistency that can affect your ultimate brew. We always recommend thinking before you buy anything that affects your daily brew. That said when people ask us where to buy espresso beans we find nothing wrong with buying beans online. Most of it involves convenience and the ability to purchase consistent coffee beans over time, without sacrificing quality.
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How To Choose The Best Espresso Beans For Home
There are so many different coffee bean and espresso bean brands. It’s hard to make a choice. As we find new brands we like, we will continue to update this list. If you use Pinterest like we do, feel free to Pin this to your favorite coffee board to save for later as a quick reference.
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