10 Tips to Choose and Brew the Best Espresso Beans

By | February 26, 2015

Espresso Photography ShotsChoosing the best espresso beans for your morning jolt is a matter of personal taste and of knowledge. There really isn’t anything especially magical about espresso coffee beans, but when you are drinking your morning espresso, you will notice the difference.

What are the best espresso beans?

Espresso beans are coffee beans that have been dark roasted and designated to make that type of espresso drink.

While light roasts aren’t suitable for espresso, or most medium roasts for that matter, dark roasted coffee beans are quite suitable for making espresso coffee. You can read more about coffee roasts. You can also learn about how to roast coffee.

Espresso beans are dark roasted because darker beans offer more sweet notes. The minute amounts of sugar inside the beans caramelize, making the espresso slightly sweeter and avoiding a bitter aftertaste.

How do I tell: 5 Tips to Buy the Best

You won’t really be able to know exactly which are the best espresso coffee beans until you try them. But there are some basic clues that can help:

1. Where you buy them: Avoid buying espresso beans from places where stock turnover is low, or where storage isn’t the best. If you do find espresso coffee beans in your local store be careful that they are not old.

Some beans are sold from bins and it’s essential that they be freshly roasted; air is one of the coffee beans’ worst enemies, robbing them of all the special properties that make espresso so tasty and satisfying.

2. Check the facts on the pack: If you buy espresso beans in a bag be sure to check the roasting date so that you don’t get beans that are old enough to have lost their flavor; also, what hints about the contents do the roasters provide – single estate, multi-regional, traditional blend?

3. Watch the price: Typically, when you buy coffee beans you’ll notice that some blends are roasted dark for a reason – the coffee beans aren’t the best quality, so over-roasting masks the poorer flavor. These coffee beans will typically be cheaper than you’d otherwise pay. So don’t be too cheap if you are looking for the best espresso beans!

4. Look, smell, and taste: Buying good coffee beans should also be a sensory experience:

  • i. When you look, what do you see? The different colors and depths of colors can stimulate or depress appetite?
  • ii. What about the smell or lack of smell? Can you detect an aroma that pleases you or turns you off completely?
  • iii. What about the taste? Try a coffee bean in your mouth. They are edible, and eating one may help you to determine whether it’s the best espresso beans.

5. Try before you buy: Would that you could… In some stores, you do have the opportunity to try different types of coffee before you buy them home. While commercial coffee brands are pre-packed to certain standards, so you’ll already know what to expect, trying varietals or single-estate coffee beans may help you discover better quality coffees!

Where can I buy the best espresso beans?

Finding the best espresso beans can be difficult if you don’t have a local shop that roasts their own beans. You will rarely find beans of the quality you need for good espresso in your local grocery store.

Those beans are commercially produced and bagged, sometimes reaching the store weeks after they are packaged. In fact, by the time they are loaded for shipment they’ve already lost most of the qualities that would make a good cup of espresso.

I’ll be including a list of the best espresso bean stores online and offline that I find, in the meantime, why not share which stores you like or don’t like!

Online Sales: Prompt and Freshly Roasted

Thanks to the internet, you also have access to some of the best espresso beans roasted all over the world. If you order on a Saturday you will more than likely receive your beans on the following Friday at the latest.

Most roasters use ground shipment; very few of them offer faster delivery by air. If they are packed properly, however, they will arrive in good condition with all the freshness you want for a good cup of espresso.

What have you Bean Roasting?

You do have the option of roasting your own beans, which isn’t that difficult once you learn the process and perfect your timing and skill. Roasting machines are fairly inexpensive and if you don’t have access to a nearby shop that roasts their own beans you’ll want to consider this option.

Of course, you’ll find that you will be looking for quality green beans that you can use. Be careful to roast only enough beans to last for a few days to a week; freshly roasted beans will retain the quality needed for espresso for only a short time.

Storage: Always Key to Good Coffee

Be sure to store both your unroasted and roasted beans in airtight containers in a cool, dry place—not the refrigerator or the freezer where condensation can ruin the beans. It is also best to grind only as much as you need for the day, although some people prefer having a few days’ coffee ready for the espresso machine.

I find that even leaving the coffee beans in a sealed bag tends to let the flavor slowly diminish over the days that I don’t store the coffee beans well. This is more so, if you are storing coffee that is already ground.

Making the Best Espresso

Depending on the grind of the coffee beans, you may find that you have a number of choices for your espresso coffee about how you prepare the final cup. The most obvious way, of course, is using a proper espresso machine.

But some coffee brands produce coffee that is ground for both espresso machines and other coffee makers, too (I’m still not quite sure how that is done!). You’ll find that you may be able to use the coffee (if it is not too fine) in a moka pot or a drip coffee maker or even a French press. Check out more about the best coffee makers.

However, espresso beans really demand a proper espresso maker, so that’s my recommended route if you have access to one. The espresso maker method of making coffee uses pressure to force water through the fine coffee grounds as opposed to drip or other methods of brewing coffee.

It tends to result in a much better extraction for the espresso, with a fuller flavor, a delightful crema, and a satisfied coffee drinker! Whether you roast your own beans, buy them locally or order from a roaster’s internet site, nothing beats freshly roasted beans when it comes to a good cup of espresso, made with the best coffee beans for espresso.