Even the world’s best espresso machine won’t give you the cup of coffee you’re looking for unless you get the best beans to match.
The good thing is, you can get great beans for every taste and from all over the world delivered to your doorstep.
We tested and (happily) tasted a variety of quality whole bean coffee brands to determine which are the best coffee beans for espresso of 2021.
The parameters we followed for the best whole bean coffee brands were:
Not only do you want coffee beans that taste great, but you also want them ethically sourced as well.
Ethically sourced products are better for the planet and for the people employed to farm these beans.
The keyword there is employed; you want the coffee farmworkers to be paid fairly for their hard labor.
We understand that not everyone has the same taste buds, so we wanted to deliver a list of the best coffee beans for different preferences.
These are our favorite options when testing the best coffee beans for espresso:
- Lavazza Super Crema—Best Italian Roast
- Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso—Best Organic Espresso Bean
- Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roast—Best Dark Roast
What to Look for in Coffee Beans
If you’re not yet a coffee bean connoisseur, let us give you a few pointers.
Much of bean selection depends on your taste, so while we can tell you what to look for, it’s up to you to decide which espresso is your favorite.
Arabica vs. Robusta
There are the most common coffee bean varieties:
- Arabica: Often considered more flavorful and aromatic, arabica is cultivated in Latin America, Arabia, Eastern Africa, and Asia. It’s delicate and requires higher altitudes to grow.
- Robusta: A rounder and cheaper bean, robusta has more caffeine than its sibling Arabica. It’s grown in Brazil, Western and Central Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia. It’s often used in commercial blends.
Single-Origin vs. Blend
This is a frequent conversation for coffee lovers.
Single-origin means that the coffee comes from one producer or region, while blends are mixed from numerous locations.
There’s not necessarily one that’s better than the other.
Single-origin coffees may allow you to appreciate some particular characteristics of a region fully.
A blend can have a fuller, more balanced taste.
What Coffee Beans Do You Use for Espresso?
For best results, choose espresso beans.
Many coffee lovers love medium to dark-roasted Arabica coffee beans for their espresso.
However, this is a matter of personal taste.
Blends from different geographic locations give you nice variety and can deliver a balanced taste.
Even a mix of arabica and robusta, like with the Lavazza Super Crema, when selected and roasted carefully, can be smooth and well-suited for espresso.
What Roast Is Best for Espresso?
Espresso is, by definition, a strong shot of coffee, so many people choose a dark roast, and it has the traditional Italian espresso flavor.
However, it’s a matter of taste, and since the coffee is already strong on its own, you may like keeping the roast lighter.
A darker roast also doesn’t mean the coffee has more or less caffeine.
If you’re not sure you can handle such a concentrated dose of flavor, go for a medium one.
What Are the Best Espresso Coffee Beans for Automatic Machines?
Every brand is different, but you’ll probably like to have medium-roasted beans, like the Lavazza Super Crema, for an automatic espresso machine.
They’ll taste great on their own and when combined with milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
The main reason to stick to a medium roast is that it’s usually less oily.
When the beans are roasted very dark, they tend to push oils to the surface.
These oils are sticky and may end up clogging your automatic machine.
There are also darker roasts that are quite dry like the Koffee Kult beans, but otherwise, they’re best left for manual espresso machines.
To learn the dangers of using oily, dark-roasted beans in an automatic espresso machine, watch this video.
Can Regular Coffee Beans Be Used for Espresso?
You can use any type of bean, but an espresso won’t really taste like one unless you use espresso beans.
How Fine Should the Grind Be for Espresso?
One really important thing for your coffee flavor is to grind the beans for the right setting.
A too fine or coarse of a grind leads to poor extraction and may make your coffee bitter.
If you’ve been using another type of coffee machine, you should change your regular settings.
A drip coffee machine or a French press uses a coarse grind, while espresso requires a fine setting.
The exact setting depends on your machine.
Another important thing for the best results is to have even grounds.
This result may be tougher to achieve with a blade grinder.
If your machine doesn’t do the work for you, invest in a good burr grinder.
What Factors Drove Our Ratings
- Crema: A nice, thick layer of natural crema on top of your coffee is crucial after brewing, as it proves quality and taste.
- Richness: A full body and rich taste were priorities in each of the whole bean varieties.
- Price: Quality whole beans are more expensive than supermarket brands, but they shouldn’t break the bank.
Product reviews were also a large part of our research, to ensure verified buyers were happy with their purchases, and to compare our findings with the reviews.
Here at The Healthy Treehouse, we value quality over quantity. If we felt that the cost was greater than the value of what the item included, that product would be excluded from the list.
The Top Espresso Coffee Beans Reviewed
Top-Rated Best Coffee Beans for Espresso—Best Italian Roast
Lavazza Super Crema Coffee Bean
- One pack of 2.2 pounds whole bean coffee, medium espresso roast
- Mild, rich, and creamy medium roast espresso with notes of brown sugar and hazelnuts
- Made with 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta beans, blended and roasted in a nut-free facility in Italy
- Best for espresso machine
For those looking for the real Italian experience with their brand new espresso or cappuccino maker, you can’t get much better than the Lavazza Super Crema.
This medium roast has an exceptionally rich crema that transports you right to Rome.
The blend is an interesting mixture of 60 percent Arabica beans from India, Brazil, and Colombia together with 40 percent Robusta beans sourced from Indonesia and Vietnam.
It’s smooth and mild, suitable for all tastes, but still has enough body.
The flavor is sharp but not bitter and includes notes of honey, almonds, and dried fruits.
Our best-tasting coffee beans go to the Lavazza, partially due to the beautiful rich crema on top of every espresso brew.
The blend of Arabica and Robusta made for an interesting brew, which had all the richness and none of the bitterness that you may expect.
The price is a steal for the 2.2 pounds of high-quality coffee beans you receive.
Kelly (verified purchase) stated this in April 2020: “Super Crema is right. This stuff is so creamy that you don’t need to add milk to your espresso! The only problem is that now we are spoiled and don’t like the average espresso!”
Why Buy This Coffee
If you like a creamy, rich, and flavorful espresso with exceptional nuances, this is for you.
If you are just starting out buying and grinding whole bean coffee, this is the perfect one to start with.
Top-Rated Best Coffee Beans for Espresso—Best Organic Espresso Bean
Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso
- One pack of 35.2 ounces medium-roast whole coffee bean, organic, fair-trade
- Silky and complex body
- Clear notes of smooth cocoa and black currant
- Beans sourced from Africa, Indonesia, Central, and South America, roasted in Canadian Rocky Mountains
- Best for espresso, cold brew, pour-over, drip, and French press
This Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso is a fair trade, organic, kosher, and shade-grown medium roast from the Canadian company Kicking Horse.
It’s made from 100 percent Arabica beans and includes clear notes of cocoa and black currant.
The blend is smooth and complex and on the darker side.
The beans are sourced from Africa, Indonesia, and Central and South America, and roasted in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The crema yield is impressive with this brand; we really enjoyed the creamy silkiness.
Silky, chocolatey, and complex; for those who like very rich and strong coffee, this is for you.
The price is reasonable and comparable with the first espresso bean variety, even though this brand is fully organic.
Stephen (verified purchase) had this to say in January 2019: “The chocolate undertones are very noticeable, and the complexity of the flavor gives it a leg up on any other espresso I have had. When I make lattes with it for other people, I have been asked if I added chocolate syrup.”
Why Buy This Coffee
Hard-core coffee drinkers will love this strong and fresh coffee.
If you like to make homemade barista coffee drinks, the strong flavor penetrates through lots of milk, sugar, and cream.
Top-Rated Best Coffee Beans for Espresso—Best Dark Roast
Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roast
- One pack of 32-oz whole bean coffee, organic and fair trade
- Small-batch, dark-roasted coffee
- Great aroma with chocolate and cinnamon notes
- A strong and bold taste but smooth and clean-tasting coffee; not bitter
- Full-bodied, rich whole coffee blend from Columbia, Guatemala, and Sumatra
- Best for gourmet espressos
- Easy ordering, shipped within hours of roasting
We wanted to give you a very strong coffee in this review, and this Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roast from Florida company Koffee Kult doesn’t disappoint.
It’s non-oily, so you can use it in an automatic machine without fear of blockage.
However, it’s not as heavy as many other dark roasts.
This coffee has a great, balanced body, and it’s fair trade and organic.
It also has a toasted, woody taste without being too strong.
When you use it for espresso, you’ll especially love the flavors of chocolate and cinnamon.
Thick, rich crema lined our mugs beautifully with this espresso.
The strength and richness are more pronounced in this dark roast.
Like the other offerings, these amazing fresh coffee beans are of a similar price.
Ethan (verified purchase) said this about the beans in April 2020: “Remarkably low on acidity. Almost surprisingly smooth and lacking bitterness. It has a deep, dark flavor great for espresso.”
Why Buy This Coffee
If you like to ethically buy all products, this organic fair trade coffee is right for you.
The delicious smell from this bag indicated the freshest coffee beans that we tasted.
Death Wish Coffee claims to make the world’s strongest coffee, and it may be true.
This Death Wish brand, in particular, is a very intense dark roast that will definitely wake you up in the morning.
It is quite oily, so we wouldn’t recommend it for an automatic machine.
Also, check out the sweet, balanced Stumptown Coffee Roasters Hair Bender with touches of cocoa and citrus.
To make espresso, you’ll need either a French press or an efficient espresso maker.
If you’re living on a tight budget, there are also really great budget espresso machines, which we have reviewed here.
We also reviewed the best commercial coffee makers for your offices or events.
Sometimes, coffee grinders and makers come in two-in-one machines, and you can read all about those here.
It’s time to wake up to all of the flavorful espresso coffee brands out there.
The best coffee beans for espresso in 2021 are the Lavazza Super Crema beans.
They have a full, balanced, medium to dark roast that brings Italy right to your home without having to spend too much.
The rich crema on top is simply delicious, and you’ll likely end up not using milk to enjoy it to the fullest.
Even still, it’s great for combinations like lattes and cappuccinos as well.