The best coffee beans for espresso

Espresso beans are roasted for a longer period of time than those used for manual methods like plunger or drip coffee. Since they are roasted longer, usually reaching a medium-dark roast, the coffee has a deeper flavour, removing a lot of the acidity in the process. The result is a full-bodied coffee perfectly suited to the espresso coffee making process.

Espresso blends, or an espresso roast, tend to be comprised of several single-origin beans. Single-origin means the coffee was grown in a specific geographic location and has unique characteristics. Blended coffees come from multiple origins and work to complement each other to create a specific taste that favours the brew.

With the huge amount of coffee currently available, it can be difficult to know which option is best for your home espresso. To help you in your search, below we look at some of the best espresso beans in Australia and answer a few frequently asked questions regarding this particular type of coffee.

The Best Espresso Beans

Industry Beans Rose Street Espresso Blend

This is a great option for people that want a strong coffee flavour profile while maintaining specialty coffee quality. It is full-bodied and cuts great with any milk of your choice. The tasting notes are similar to those of brown sugar and cocoa butter due to the dark roast.

Roasted in Fitzroy, Melbourne, this espresso blend is made out of three single-origin beans: Brazil, Tanzania and Papua New Guinea which together emphasise the sweeter notes. These beans are perfect if you like a strong espresso that can work very well in milky coffees like a flat white. If you drink your espresso straight you should be able to pick up on the nuttier notes. The bag comes as whole coffee beans or you can opt to have it ground for espresso.

Pablo & Rusty’s Porter St Blend

Pablo and Rusty offer freshly roasted specialty coffee. Their Porter St Blend is a classic espresso blend with chocolate, maple syrup and caramel notes. It works great with any espresso-based drink due to its bold flavour and complex body. This coffee has a dark roast.

If you like more classic flavours like chocolate and caramel, this blend is for you. It is suited for those who like a classic espresso and for those that enjoy a more velvety drink with milk. This coffee can be purchased either as whole bean or ground coffee.

Byron Bay Coffee Company Organic Espresso Beans

Byron Bay Coffee Company was established in 1989. The company has a Rain Forest Alliance Certificate, uses recycled materials for its packaging, and powers its roasting facility with solar panels.

This espresso blend is made with four single-origin coffee beans: Mexico, Brazil, Ethiopia and Honduras. It has a medium roast, lighter than most espresso beans, and is also certified organic. Unlike most coffee espresso roasts that feature low acidity, this coffee has a prominently sweet acidity.

The coffee has butter and chocolate notes. It is a great option if you want to taste some acidity and enjoy a lighter roast all while leaving a small carbon footprint. The bag comes with whole bean coffee.

What makes a coffee bean great for espresso?

Varieties

All coffee bean varieties come from the Coffeea plant, a plant that is part of the Rubiaceae family.

Most coffee beans are either Robusta or Arabica, two of the most popular species from this plant. However, most of the coffee we know and drink comes from Arabica beans. Robusta beans tend to have a slightly more bitter flavour and are mainly used in instant coffee and sometimes for espresso. Arabica beans have higher quality and are more expensive than Robusta.

Arabica beans can be found almost everywhere and they branch into hundreds of sub-species. When buying coffee, most of the time you should aim to get beans from the Arabica family since these tend to taste better when you make a cup of coffee.

Most coffee bags show the origin of the beans and the variety – don’t be afraid to ask around if you are unsure. Baristas and coffee shop employees tend to be knowledgeable about this subject and should be able to answer which variety they are using in their coffee.

Roast

As we mentioned, most of the coffee that is roasted for espresso tends to lean towards a darker roast over a medium roast. This means that the beans are roasted for a longer amount of time to obtain a deeper flavour; usually after the second crack.

When roasting, water evaporates from the bean and sugars start developing, changing the cell of the bean and fracturing it – that is what we call crack. Most roasts tend to end before the second crack leaving the coffee in a medium roast. Allowing the beans to reach a second crack creates a path for specific tasting notes to show.

Roasting beans for a longer period of time releases oiliness, creating a fuller feeling in the mouth. These beans have a lower acidity level. It is important to remember to always check the roast date in order to ensure that the coffee is fresh.

RELATED: How To Make A Long Black

Grind

Beans that are destined for espresso need to have a finer grind because they are meant for espresso machines; the coffee grounds need to mimic the texture of sand and be very fine.

Some bags that are labelled as “espresso beans” or “espresso blend” usually have ground coffee but others have whole beans. If you do not have a grinder at home you will want to opt for pre-ground coffee.

A tip for knowing if your ground coffee will work for an espresso machine is by pinching the grounds with two of your fingers. The grounds should clump slightly in the centre and dissipate on the outside. If they do not clump you need a finer grind setting. If they clump all around, opt for a slightly coarser grind. Remember, espresso roast is oilier than a lighter roast and this should be noticeable when comparing the two.

Espresso Coffee Bean FAQ

What kind of coffee beans do you use for espresso?

The best beans for espresso are those with a medium to dark roast. Dark roast coffee has classic notes like chocolate, nuts, spices and caramel. and it produces a richer crema. The beans stay consistent throughout the body in order to deliver a rich taste. Espresso beans can come in a blend of several origins depending on the brand; this works to balance all the different tasting notes. You can usually find the beans either as whole beans or pre-ground.

What is the perfect grind for espresso?

Espresso beans are meant to be used with an espresso machine or a method that mimics the pressure of one. In order to pull a great espresso shot, you must have a fine grind, almost like sand (or about 400 microns). Grinding this small allows for a greater surface area so that the shot can be extracted correctly resulting in balanced tasting notes with low to almost no acidity.
Most grinders have a setting that works well for espresso. We suggest experimenting with grind settings to taste.

What coffee beans are used in normal coffee?

Typically, coffee beans that are meant to be used in other methods besides espresso have a lighter roast, ranging from light to medium-dark. The beans vary in grind size depending on the method of brewing. However, coffee beans are very flexible and most can be used for black coffee, drip methods or other manual brewing methods like Aeropress.
You can use any type of coffee bean for coffee other than espresso, it all depends on your preference regarding roast and flavour.

What is the smoothest coffee bean?

The answer to this question depends on the person’s preferences. Some people might say that South American (specially Brazilian) coffee is the smoothest while others might argue that Central American coffee is smoother. There is also a small consensus that claim Blue Mountain coffee, from Jamaica, is the winner.
We recommend that you try different origins and blends to see which one you like best according to what you want to find in your brew and the taste you are trying to achieve.

How can you tell a good coffee bean?

Usually, coffee beans go through a quality control process that starts at the harvest and ends with roasting. Coffee graders have cupping sessions where they rank the aroma, flavour, sweetness and defects of a coffee. Regular coffee drinkers can tell if a coffee bean is of good quality based on the aroma, taste, and how fresh it is.

Is any coffee grown in Australia?

Most coffee needs tropical conditions (humid and hot weather) to survive. This means that some coffee does grow in Australia, but only in certain areas. You can find coffee trees growing on the tropical Atherton Tablelands as well as in southeast Queensland where subtropical conditions are present. Coffee can also be found in northeast New South Wales.