A great espresso isn’t just a drink; it’s a moment of pure, concentrated coffee bliss. It begins with the finest quality beans, carefully selected and expertly roasted to unlock deep, rich flavors. The grind is crucial – fine, even, and just the right coarseness to ensure optimal extraction. When brewed, a perfect espresso boasts a rich crema, the golden-brown foam that crowns the coffee, hinting at freshness and quality. The flavor should be intense yet harmonious, with a full-bodied richness that balances bitterness, acidity, and sweetness. What is the best espresso? We’ve done the research to make your taste buds happy.
Choosing the best coffee beans for espresso comes down to a combination of bean type, roast level, and personal taste preferences. Espresso is traditionally made with a medium to dark roast. This roasting level brings out a richer, bolder flavor ideal for espresso, with lower acidity and a fuller body. As for bean type? Here’s the breakdown:
Types of coffee beans for espresso:
- Arabica: Known for its sweet, soft taste and higher acidity, Arabica beans are widely favored for their complex flavor profiles, which can range from berries and fruits to nuts and chocolates.
- Robusta: These beans are stronger and more bitter, with a grain-like overtone and peanutty aftertaste. They generally contain more caffeine and are often used in espresso blends for their crema-enhancing qualities.
- Blends: Many espresso blends use a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans. The Arabica beans bring nuanced flavors and aromatics, while the Robusta contributes body, crema, and a caffeine kick.
But there’s more to espresso than just taste. Indulging in a daily shot of espresso is not only enjoyable but could also ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Italian scientists say the concentrated drink eliminates harmful proteins that can accumulate in the brain and cause neurons to die. So, every sip of espresso might not only be a treat for the palate but also a cheer to your health.
With so many espresso bean options on the market, it can be hard to find the best of the best. Don’t worry, we’ve done the work and sourced the top six brands that make the best espresso according to what is most recommended across 10 expert reviews. We also included a bonus option on our list that recommends a coffee subscription so you don’t have to choose! Is your favorite missing from the list? Comment down below with your recommendations.
The List: Best Espresso, According to Coffee Lovers
Intelligentsia Coffee has led the charge to bring higher coffee quality and sustainability to the marketplace. Black Cat Classic Espresso is one of the Chicago-based company’s signature offerings that’s been a favorite. According to The Coffee Folk, “Blended with honey-processed coffee beans from Brazil and a washed Colombian from the Tolima region, Black Cat Classic Espresso has all the attributes you would expect in a premium espresso.” It has flavor notes that include “marshmallow, raw sugar, and dark chocolate” and has “exceptionally balanced acidity, body, and flavor.”
According to the Coffee Chronicler, “This particular coffee is dark, mysterious, and rounded. It has flavors of chocolate, caramel, and molasses. This coffee is also low in acidity, which means that it’s suitable for milk-based drinks or those folks with sensitive stomachs.”
What’s all the hype around the Black Cat blend? TheAppBarista writes, “An espresso that freshens you up and doesn’t bring the annoying jitters along? We’ve found one for you. These beans will give you a comfy cup of coffee with a syrupy and chocolaty feel.”
This medium roast is Stumptown’s flagship espresso and drip blend. According to Serious Eats balances “brightness with body and sweetness.” The website adds, “They use citrus, dark chocolate, and raisin as their main flavor descriptors. Though Stumptown has always been protective of exactly which coffees are in the blend at any given time, its goal is to feature coffees from all three major growing regions: Latin America, Africa, and Indonesia.”
According to Coffee Vibe, “Hair bender is by far the best medium roast coffee bean on the market today. Stumptown maintains that the quality comes from the production of the bean far before the roasting of the bean. While Stumptown has a great reputation all around, their commitment to quality from growing to shipping is truly what they special.”
This is a great choice for anyone looking for a flavor-packed caffeine boost. “Fans of this popular bean brand can’t get enough of its toffee-forward flavor, which also has hints of citrus, dark chocolate, and cherry for a smooth, well-rounded taste,” writes Best Products.
This is Best Products’ Editor’s Choice and it has more than 74,000 positive reviews on Amazon for quality and taste. The website says, “Reviewers describe being completely ‘hooked’ on Lavazza after their first cup. ‘The espresso drinker who prefers a stronger taste and full body will also certainly enjoy this roast blend,’ offers one helpful 5-star review.”
Coffee Chronicler also recommends this brand’s Espresso Italiano blend saying, “This is truly an all-around coffee. You can use it in milk drinks or enjoy it as a straight shot. It performed nicely when I tested Lavazza’s blends a few years back.”
You don’t have to fork over the big bucks for this tasty blend. “Specialty espresso beans can be fairly pricey, and if you’re looking for a quality product that costs a little less, the Illy Classico Espresso is a classic option,” according to Taste of Home. “This popular espresso comes pre-ground, so it’s ready to measure into your portafilter, and the medium roast offers notes of caramel, orange blossom, and jasmine. Plus, it comes in a pressurized can that helps preserve the aroma and flavor for longer than a bag.”
This brand’s reputation precedes it. Coffee Chronicler writes, “This is precisely the same blend that the world barista champions used in 2001 and 2002. While Illy will not win any competitions in the highly snobby and advanced coffee world today, it won’t disappoint in the cup.”
Plus, it’s authentic to espresso’s roots. “Italian espresso brand Illy has a bit of a cult following here in the States, and for good reason: This finely ground espresso coffee is made from slow-roasted 100% Arabica beans for a rich, super-smooth taste,” according to Best Products.
Coffee Chronicler was impressed with this blend saying, “It’s a crowd-pleaser, and it works great both as a straight shot and as the base in a milk drink. The coffee was medium-roasted to bring out the natural sweetness, making it ideal to recommend to both seasoned home baristas and people new to espresso.”
If you don’t have an espresso machine and you’re using a moka pot (a stove-top or electric coffee maker), Taste of Home says, “The Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast will deliver a well-balanced, medium-roast brew with flavors like strawberry, sugar cane, and vanilla. The brand recommends this roast for moka pots and AeroPress coffee makers, and the natural sugars in the espresso lend themselves well to lattes and other milk-based drinks.”
It can be hard to find a good espresso, but have no fear with this brand! TheAppBarista states, “Only a few medium roast blends produce good espresso, and this is one of them. It contains 100% Arabica beans from Colombia and Ethiopia and holds a satisfying sweetness.”
Experts recommended a few dfferent blends from this reputable coffee chain and producer. TheAppBarista likes their Arabian Mocha Sanani blend. They say, “Peet’s is known for its limited-edition, freshly roasted specialty coffees which they sell in small quantities for flavorful consumption. Mocha Sanani is made with 100% Arabica beans from Africa and Arabia and has hints of chocolate and hazelnut, which is nothing less than a paradise for espresso lovers.”
According to Best Products, Peet’s Dark Italian Roast Coffee takes the cake. Why? “Reviewers gush about the smoky, yet slightly sweet flavor of the dark Italian roast from Peet’s Coffee. Many have noted that they’ve never experienced a bitter or burnt aftertaste from Peet’s, even though this blend is considerably darker than other varieties.”
Bonus: Trade Coffee Subscription
Can’t decide which roast to buy for your espresso? You don’t have to! Instead, try out a subscription service that delivers delicious espresso blends right to your doorstep. Multiple experts in our research mention this service as a great way to try new variations all the time. The Coffee Folk writes, “If you find yourself experiencing option anxiety from all the espresso choices in front of you, then signing up for a subscription with Trade Coffee is a great stress-free option for sampling a variety of espressos. Trade Coffee specializes in individually curated coffee subscriptions that ship out selections based on your preferences.”
According to Serious Eats, “Trade works with a variety of specialty coffee roasters who ship directly from their roastery to your home, so you always get a fresh roast. You can let their algorithm select for you, or you can override their choice with your own pick. Examples include Klatch’s chocolatey and citrusy House Espresso, PT’s vanilla and brown sugar-like Southpaw Espresso, or Huckleberry’s milk chocolatey and nutty Blue Orchid Blend.”
Coffee Chronicler says emphasizes the ease of use that comes with this subscription: “Most coffee subscriptions can be difficult to recommend because they focus on a specific roasting style. Trade Coffee is unique because they are hooked up with a bunch of different top-notch roasters. You get particular coffee recommendations based on your brewing method and coffee preference.”
You may also be interested in:
- Serious Eats
- Coffee Chronicler
- Taste of Home
- Best Products
- Coffee Vibe
- Majesty Coffee
- The App Barista
- The Coffee Folk
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.