7 Tips For Picking The Best Coffee For Espresso

There is no difference between beans used for coffee and espresso. Beans are chosen for particular flavors. Here’s how to pick the best coffee for espresso.

best coffee for espresso
Numerous coffee-making devices including the rise of the at-home espresso machine

Making brewed coffee is certainly not done in the same way that it was decades ago. Technology has come a long way over the last few decades with numerous coffee-making devices including the rise of the at-home espresso machine.

While regular coffee has been simple to make at home in the past, we now have the ability to brew many other ground coffee beverages as well. The espresso blend is one that many of us love. However, with the ability to brew espresso at home comes to the confusion about which coffee beans are the best to buy for a great cup of espresso.

A quick search on the internet yields many options. Strong, bold, fruity, smoky, fair trade, and more. All these labels don’t mean much when it comes to guaranteeing good taste or if it is ethically sourced. No matter how good your espresso machine and barista skills are if the espresso roast isn’t good, then neither is the brewed coffee you will make.

Learn how to choose the beans for your espresso that suit your individual tastes and preferences, so you know you are getting a great drink every time.

Tips for Picking the Right Beans

A close up of a glass of beer on a table, with Coffee and Espresso

1. Espresso Beans and Coffee Beans are the Same

Don’t be fooled by beans labeled as an espresso beans. There is no difference between beans used for coffee and espresso. Beans are chosen and roasted for particular flavors but are not specifically made for espresso.

Espresso is a way of making coffee, not the beans themselves. An espresso drink is what you get from a brewing process, the flavor from the coffee bean selected.

That being said, there are blends designated to be espresso coffee but that is for flavor, not actual drink. Those blends could be used to brew coffee as well.

2. Learn Which Bean or Blend Works Best For You

Try out various beans and blends. Some blends and beans come across as bitter in Espresso but there are other options so you can have a lovely rich complex flavor in your beverage.

Fruity or floral smells, some spice or pine, perhaps citrus as well can all be discovered if you pick the right beans.

While many of us may not know it, coffee is a fruit. It is one that comes in different varieties similar to apples. When you find a personal preference then you may learn to gravitate to coffees you like more than others.

Certain countries and various regions may have more appeal than others. You may favor a lighter roast compared to a medium roast or darker roast, and the coffee grind brings out different flavors as well. It is similar to apples in that you may enjoy certain ones for eating and others for culinary purposes.

Personal preference and chemical makeup will play a role. Some coffees are sweeter than others and some more bitter. Sugars in the beans mean each type of bean when brewed will taste different. Trying a variety will narrow down your preferences.

3. Use Your Local Coffee Shops Knowledge

Coffee and Espresso

If you have a local café you like to frequent then talk to a barista about the coffee the shop uses. If you like the taste, they should be able to tell you about what they are using in the espressos. Knowing what they are using can help you choose the coffee you prefer or at least offer a head start on a region or country of origin.

4. Use Fresh Coffee Beans

If you want your espresso to be top-notch, then freshly roasted coffee beans are the best options. Espresso is best if the beans used are 7-21 days from their roast.

This timeline will be reflected in the crema. This is the top layer of the coffee drink that occurs when the hot water combines with the fresh grounds.

It offers a good depth of flavor to the espresso itself. As the beans get farther away from their roast date, they lose the CO2, and this will reduce the amount of crema when the espresso is made and diminish its full flavor potential.

5. Use a Darker Coffee Roast

The best style of roast for espresso is a darker roast. The deep, bold flavor makes an espresso stand out.

Darker roasts don’t change as drastically as they get older. They are more reliable over time. Darker roasts also taste better when milk is added. They often have deep notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts so work well with espressos and other coffee drinks with added milk.

The taste of a dark roast that has sweet vanilla or fruit flavor can be great in espresso as can maple, chocolate, or nut.

6. Find a Specialty Coffee Roast That Has Balance and Consistency

A cup of coffee sitting on top of a wooden table, with Espresso and Coffee bean

You do not want to fiddle around each day trying to get that flavor exactly right. Find a roast that will give you your desired taste each time it is brewed.

However, there are also many places where you can buy small batches if you have time to try something new. Maybe a limited edition brew that has some new and innovative flavors. Have your go-to brew but enjoy some innovation as well so you aren’t stuck in an espresso rut.

7. Find a Roaster Who Shares Your Personal Values

This is important in a time where social justice and advocacy have become more prevalent. While there are many good beans to choose from, you can ask questions about their history.

Checking on how the land is treated and if the farmers and workers are paid fairly is important. How are the beans roasted and shipped? How is freshness ensured? These are all questions that can be asked so making your coffee bean choice matches your personal ideals.

Finding coffee roasters that have these answers can lead you to a good bean as well as one that makes you feel good about using it.

The Final Word on Picking the Best Coffee for Espresso

Whether you are new to brewing espresso at home or someone who has it down to a science, choosing a good coffee for an espresso is important if you want the best espresso possible.

Follow these tips to find a roaster and the beans that suit your taste buds. Good doesn’t mean expensive. There are lots of great coffee bean options that will make your home espresso taste perfect.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.