What Coffee Beans Make the Best Espresso

Before diving into the coffee beans to make the best espresso, let’s spend a minute on what espresso is. Espresso is coffee brewed by pumping nearly boiling water through tamped ground coffee in a very compact portafilter basket with measured extraction rate and pressure. A shot of espresso is about 1 U.S. fluid ounce in size with about 7 grams of ground coffee. Oftentimes you’d find people varying the amount of coffee for more or less intensity. To pull a perfect shot entails many variables in harmony combined with the right techniques. The right coffee beans (fresh and right roast) certainly are one of the very important elements.

The Same Coffee Beans for Different Brewing Methods

The coffee beans used in making espresso is the same as in drip coffee although the freshness, consistency of grind size and the degree of roasting are more critical in producing espresso shots full of aroma, flavor, body and crema.

Two Common Varieties – Arabica and Robusta

There are two varieties of coffee beans that are commonly known as “Arabica” and “Robusta”.

Arabica is very highly regarded in the world of coffee originated from Africa such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. It’s favored in the traditional Italian espresso blends with a fuller-bodied taste and more crema. It accounts for 70% of the coffee production in the world. Arabica is more susceptible to coffee leaf rust and other types of disease.

Robusta on the other hand, is hardier and more resistant to diseases and can be cultivated in lower altitudes under warmer climate. It’s often used as a cheaper substitute for arabica in coffee blends. It’s more bitter with up to 50% more caffeine than arabica.

Most of the commercial coffee blends are a mix of these two coffee species with varying ratios. The higher the arabica, the more expensive it is.

Espresso Roast – Just a Type of Darker Roast

You might be thinking then why you often see coffee labeled as Italian espresso roast. The taste and color of coffee is greatly influenced during the roasting process. Roasting types range from light, medium light, medium, medium dark and dark.

The “espresso” here correlates with medium dark or dark roast where the seeds are roasted in high temperature (400F or so) and caramelization kicks in to change the color of the seed. It’s more sought-after in espresso brewing thanks to its bolder and a more sugary flavor.

A word about how to store coffee. Store fresh coffee in an airtight container away from moisture, heat and sunlight.

The bottom line is that you may choose any type of bean and roast that might fit your taste profile and works well with your coffee grinder and espresso machine. It’s known that oily beans don’t work well with espresso machines that have a built-in burr grinder as the beans tend to clog up the burrs during grinding.

The biggest challenge or thrill is to dial everything just right. Testing one variable at a time and be patient!

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