The Best Espresso Beans – Top 10

While the best espresso beans and regular coffee beans are not any different, the type of beans used for each can make a significant impact on the taste of the drink. A great cup of coffee starts with the right beans. The same is true for an excellent shot (or double shot) of espresso!

And while you can certainly use any type of coffee beans for your next steamy cup of homemade espresso, you’re not going to get the best taste or the best quality if you’re not using the best coffee beans for espresso brewing. The brewing process for coffee and espresso is vastly different, meaning that the type of beans you use will impact the taste of your end product.

So, while spending a bit extra on the best espresso beans may seem a bit unnecessary, trust us: your flavor experience is well worth it. To best maximize that caffeine experience you love so well, make sure you’re brewing with the best espresso beans, particularly beans that are hand selected to best give you a great espresso.

Getting the right espresso beans can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. Don’t worry. We’ve scoured the market for the best beans, so you’ll know that whichever beans you choose on our list, you can expect that they will be the best coffee beans for espresso brewing!

The Best Espresso Beans of 2016

After going through many existing reviews, we have compiled a list that shows you the best espresso beans.
In this list you will find their origin, type of bean, roast, and tasting notes. But since it all comes does to personal taste, be sure to try as many as you like.

WINNER

Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger Espresso

Kicking Horse if famous for its strong coffee, yet this blend has a subtle sweet touch to it. The result is a less bitter but very tasteful coffee for a ultimately smooth espresso.

RUNNER-UP

Koa Coffee Hawaiian Espresso

Hawaiian Espresso

Hawaiian coffee by Koa Coffee is considered to be the best coffee there is, and the skillful masters at Koa Coffee made an excellent espresso blend to indulge in this goodness.

NOTEWORTHY

Diamond Head Espresso

DIAMOND HEAD ESPRESSO

This is a somewhat stronger espresso based on high quality coffee beans collected from around the world. It has an Italian roast yet with a lighter touch to preserve its rich flavors.

1. Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso

Kicking Horse not only has one of the best company names in the coffee industry, but some of the best naming conventions for their coffee beans and blends. Their Cliff Hanger Espresso coffee beans are rich in flavor and high on individuality.

This bean blend joins together several continents for a flavor experience that is undoubtedly difficult to find anywhere else. An interesting mixture of fruit and cocoa flavors mix well together in this medium roasted bean blend. Those who love a coffee with a sweeter, less bitter taste will enjoy the roast, the blend and the body on these beans.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica/Robusta

Africa, Indonesia, Americas blend

Medium

Sweet, aromatic and smooth

2. Koa Coffee Hawaiian Espresso

Koa Coffee is focused on quality. With their belief that Hawaiian coffee is the best and most flavorful, they’ve applied these standards to their Hawaiian Espresso blend of beans as well. You will find that Koa Coffee uses only the highest quality Hawaiian beans, hand selected, and roasted long and very dark in order to exude the largest amount of oils from the coffee beans.

The mixture of four different, 100% Hawaiian beans helps to counteract the often bitter taste of very dark roasted beans.The Hawaiian Espresso blend combines the flavor profiles of four different beans, all of which are grown exclusively in Hawaii, to provide a unique, flavorful and sweet taste to your coffee. The bold and smooth Hawaiian Espresso bean blend from Koa Coffee provides an excellent crema when brewed. However, these beans can also be used for a coarser grind to provide a luxurious, yet dark espresso drinking experience.

If you’re looking for one of the best espresso experiences with only high quality espresso bean blends, Koa Coffee’s Hawaiian Espresso is going to be your go-to coffee bean blend. While the very dark roast may not be for everyone, these beans, and their roast, were designed specifically to give the best flavor profile and oil content for espresso brewing.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica-Hawaiian

Hawaii (Blend)

Very Dark

Full-bodied, sweet and rich

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3. Lion Diamond Head Espresso

If you’ve never had Italian roast coffee, you’ve been missing out! If you have, you’ll be intimately familiar with the strong, bold flavor found only in this medium dark roast. LION brand coffee is known for their excellent choice of beans, and their Espresso blend offers a low-acid, strong bodied flavor profile for the espresso enthusiast.Their Italian roast is lighter than most other Italian roasts.

Their Italian roast is lighter than most other Italian roasts. Additionally, 10% of these beans come directly from prestigious Hawaiian plantations, adding in a high-class flavor to an overall international mix. Grab these beans if you’re a fan of LION’s other coffee flavors. These beans also make a very strong, rich cup of coffee.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica-Hawaiian

Hawaii (Blend)

Italian

Zesty, rich and strong

4. Lavazza Super Crema Espresso

While many coffee consumers are fan of a more bitter brew made from dark or very dark roasted beans, others enjoy a sweeter fare. For those that don’t want the flavor profile of their beans drowned out by the darkness of the roast, Lavazza offers their Super Crema Whole Bean Espresso blend.These beans provide a delicious, somewhat fruity and nutty undertone and a thick, velvety crema to top it all off.

These beans provide a delicious, somewhat fruity and nutty undertone and a thick, velvety crema to top it all off. Enjoy this blend with a coarser roast in your favorite drip brewer as well. The medium roast on these beans provides an excellent flavor profile that will suit most espresso drinkers’ tastes.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica/Robusta

Brazil, Central America and Indonesia blend

Medium

Fruity, sweet, and with a hint of hazelnut

5. Cafe Don Pablo Coffee - Italian Espresso

While not a household name, Cafe Don Pablo is by no means a rookie in the coffee and espresso business. Cafe Don Pablo uses only fresh, primarily sustainably-grown Arabica coffee beans. Why? Because Arabica beans have a less bitter taste and a higher sugar content than your average Robusta varieties.

All of this merges well with Cafe Don Pablo’s well-practiced roasting methods. Cafe Don Pablo provides a medium-dark roast bean, giving their espresso large flavor without entering into the bitterness territory of very dark roasted beans. Count on a smooth, rich and very complex flavor profile from this espresso bean blend.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

100% Arabica blend

South America blend

Medium Dark

Fruity, sweet, and with a hint of hazelnut

6. Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso

Don’t let the simplicity of the packaging fool you. Coffee Bean Direct’s Italian Roast Espresso is an extremely popular, very rich coffee blend made specifically for espresso brews. The Italian roast provides a deep, dark and oily bean and a rich, thick crema. Coffee Bean Direct describes these are their most popular beans.

The smooth, bold taste is everything you’ve come to know from a great, hot cup of espresso. To ensure the best flavor from their beans, Coffee Bean Direct slow roasts their coffee to a deep, even color. These beans are great for your everyday espresso needs and sell for a very reasonable 45 cents an ounce.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica/Robusta

South America and India blend

Very Dark

Rich, bold and flavorful

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7. Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso

Full-bodied, rich and with an extremely velvety crema on top, the LavAzza Gran Crema Espresso was designed specifically for lattes and cappuccinos. This blend of South American and Southeast Asian Arabica and Robusta beans provides a unique flavor profile roasted freshly and specifically for espresso brewing.

As with many of LazAzza’s espresso bean blends, these beans are roasted to a very dark finish, bringing out the oils and eliminating the acidity. Ready-made for a great crema and a smooth finish, the LavAzza Gran Crema Espresso provides a delicious brew. Although it’s best used for espressos, this blend is also great for most drip brewers.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

Arabica/Robusta

South America, Southeast Asia blend

Very Dark

Rich, intense and velvety

8. illy Medium Roast

While sometimes not advertised as an “espresso” blend but just "Whole Bean Coffee" (this depends on the can), do not let that dissuade you from considering these coffee beans as a great source for your next espresso brew. illy is known inside and outside of Italy for providing a purely Italian cup of coffee. However, these beans are not “Italian” roasted, as many have come to expect when the term “Italian” is placed near the word “coffee”.

These 100% Arabica coffee beans are sourced completely from Brazil, allowing for a flavor profile that is both smooth and consistent. illy uses only sustainably grown coffee beans, a rarity among major coffee producers.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

100% Arabica

Brazil

Medium

Smooth, balanced and flavorful

9. Starbucks Espresso Roast

While sometimes not advertised as an “espresso” blend but just "Whole Bean Coffee" (this depends on the can), do not let that dissuade you from considering these coffee beans as a great source for your next espresso brew. illy is known inside and outside of Italy for providing a purely Italian cup of coffee. However, these beans are not “Italian” roasted, as many have come to expect when the term “Italian” is placed near the word “coffee”.

These 100% Arabica coffee beans are sourced completely from Brazil, allowing for a flavor profile that is both smooth and consistent. illy uses only sustainably grown coffee beans, a rarity among major coffee producers.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

100% Arabica

Latin America blend

Dark

Rich, full-bodied and caramelly

10. Kirkland Signature Starbucks Espresso Blend

The name might be Kirkland Signature, but the roast is completely Starbucks. These coffee beans are a blend of some of the best, organically grown beans around. If the taste is somewhat familiar to you, there’s a reason: Starbucks roasted these beans for Costco (of which Kirkland Signature is its premium label).

You’ll get the same, great taste that you expect from Starbucks, for a lot less than what you’ll find from from Starbucks.

Type of bean

Origin

Roast

Tasting notes

100% Arabica

Latin America blend

Dark

Rich, intense and caramelly

So what exactly are espresso beans?

The best coffee beans for espresso all starts with the oils. The espresso brewing process works differently than the typical coffee brewing process. Your regular drip brewer will percolate hot water over the ground beans. The water will pick up the flavorful oils as it filters through the beans. The end product is a pungent and delicious mixture of water and coffee oils, ready for the taking. However, this mixture of water and oil is loose. The concentration of the coffee flavor is rather small compared to what you get with an espresso.

The espresso brewing process was designed to maximize the infusion of the oils into the water. Extremely hot water, mixed with high pressure, forces the oils in the ground coffee to emulsify into a colloid. The end result is actually something very similar to milk, with the coffee oil molecules residing in, but not fully mixed with, the water, much in the same way butterfat globules are dispersed in your typical glass milk. In much the same manner as milk, a foamy mixture can be seen on top. For espresso, this creamy top is known as the “crema”. A great cup of espresso will always have this colloid crema layer on top, letting you know that not only were the beans of excellent quality for espresso brewing, but the brewing process itself was done correctly.

So what goes into the best coffee beans for the best espresso? Well, our best espresso beans reviews above do a good job of describing each product, but there is some basic information about espresso beans you’ll want to consider. First, the beans themselves. The best espresso coffee beans are always hand-selected. This may seem like a painstakingly slow process, but it is worth the effort. You see, not every coffee bean will make the best espresso coffee. Some coffee beans simply do not produce enough oils to make the espresso brewing process work effectively. It will certainly work with any beans, but it will not work well with every bean. For a great espresso, a bean that produces a higher oil content during the roasting process is going to be the best espresso coffee bean around.

However, that’s not all. The best beans for espresso must also have a great flavor profile. What you will find is that many professional coffee shops tend to use dark or very dark roast coffee beans for their espressos. Unfortunately, the longer you roast a coffee bean, the more you ruin its natural flavor profile. The best espresso coffee comes from more light to medium-light roasts, using coffee beans that produce more oils. A light to light-medium roast will enhance the flavor profile and provide more character, while a medium to medium-dark roast will hit just the right spot of sweetness, body and aroma. And although a dark or very dark roast bean will certainly produce more oil (the essential ingredient to a great espresso), that oil will have an extremely bitter taste and will have had the full flavor profile burned out. Indeed, all you will be getting is the taste of the roast and not the coffee bean. The best espresso coffee beans usually come packed full of the beans’ natural flavors.

While the Hawaiian Espresso beans from Koa will give you the best all around taste, the best espresso beans for you may indeed be others on the list. Much of what you go for will come down to your specific taste and the flavors you enjoy the most. For you, the best coffee beans for espresso making will likely fully depend on whether you’re normally a fan of light, medium, dark or very dark roast coffees. If you’re still unsure, check out some more best espresso beans reviews. Never buy your beans without full knowledge of what you’re getting into. The best beans for espresso brewing are out there. Make sure your next espresso experience is the best it can be!

Our Best Pick: Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso