How To Select The Best Beans For Espresso

How To Select The Best Beans For Espresso

When you use the best beans for espresso, you end up with exactly that – the best espresso shot possible, provided you have the right equipment and skills to make a great shot.

By the time you have finished reading this article, you will know exactly what goes into picking the very best beans for espresso and what the best espresso beans are for making a latte and what the best Italian espresso beans are.

Keep reading as we dig down and zoom in on this very topic!

Are The Best Beans For Espresso Arabica Or Robusta?

This is quite a complicated question as it is often debated. I personally used to avoid robusta beans until I moved to Vietnam, literally the Kingdom of Robusta beans.

Seriously,

do not underrate or dismiss Robusta beans out of hand.

Arabica beans are by far the most popular, with 60% of the coffee beans sold in the world are Arabica outselling Robusta beans 2 to 1!

The reason for this being is they provide a much better flavor profile with sweeter, caramel, chocolate and nutty hints, often with tones of berries with a pleasant acidity and slightly bitter undertones.

Robusta beans have an earthy, bitter and grain like tastes and a nice peanut like after-taste. They are less sweet and have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans.

Both Arabica and Robusta when they are freshly roasted and to a dark roast profile have the capability of producing a great, tasty espresso shot with a thick, rich crema on top.

Speaking of which,

when it comes down to brewing an espresso, you can get away with breaking the normal coffee brewing rules and still end up with an amazing coffee with a great taste and rich crema.

Worthy of note is that many espresso blends, even the best Brazilian coffee, will have about 20% Robusta to boost the caffeine content.

Are The Best Beans For Espresso Arabica Or Robusta?
Robusta or Arabica, which is best?

Read: Good Espresso Beans

What Is Distinctive About Espresso Beans?

Some newbies on their coffee journey try to get away with using regular coffee beans to brew an espresso shot, which can be done, but the end result is not quite there nor a full on proper espresso.

You can get the same quality result when using coffee beans that you would use for making a drip or pour over coffee that you would for a shot of espresso.

Using espresso coffee beans will ensure that you get a much better espresso experience and that full, proper espresso taste that you are familiar with.

Espresso beans are roasted to a darker roast level than other types of coffee and, put simply, regular beans will get you regular to average shot and not that classic espresso with the thick creama.

Also,

espresso beans are much better with milk based coffee drinks like a cappuccino, flat white, cortado, mocha and macchiato, for example.

Light roasts and medium roasts just will not cut through the milk in the way that a dark roast or an espresso roast or espresso blend will. You’ll just end up with a very milky coffee with little to no flavor of the coffee coming through.

What Is Distinctive About Espresso Beans
Espresso beans are distinctive

Read: Types of espresso

Can You Use Espresso Beans For Latte?

Yes,

it is ideal that you use good quality espresso beans for brewing a latte. Regular beans, a light roast or medium roast or even a medium dark roast are very unlikely, no matter how flavorsome they are, to cut through the milk. Anything less than an espresso roast or a dark roast will not do that.

If you have ever been served a latte that is overtly milky, the reason is most likely not because of too much milk being used. It is highly probable that non-espresso beans and non dark roast ones.

If it is flavored lattes that you like to drink, please do ensure you are using a dark roast to get a great mix of the milkiness and the flavor of your choice coming through.

What Are The Best Espresso Beans For Lattes?

What is best is very subjective and depends on each individual and their preferences, tastes and likes. Many coffee experts insist that Peruvian coffee beans, Ethiopian and Brazilian to be the best.

I’ll definitely add dark roasted 100% Colombian beans to that list.

Peruvian beans are much loved due to their low acidity, earthy tones and with vanilla and chocolate undertones.

Here are what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Espresso Beans For Lattes:

All must be roasted to a dark roast beans.

  • 1. Ethiopian Coffee Beans Single Origin Yirgacheffe.
  • 2. Organic Peruvian coffee beans, By Volcanica.
  • 3. Peets single origin 100% Brazilian coffee beans.
  • 4. Don Pablo 100% Colombian Supremo Dark Roasted
  • 5. Indonesian Sumatra Mandheling Dark Roasted Beans.
  • 6. 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee Bean.
  • 7. Don Pablo Subtle Earth Honduran Marcala.
  • 8. Kenyan AA By Crafted Coffee.
  • 9. Mayorga Organic Coffee Cuban Coffee Beans.
  • 10. Sumptown Coffee Roasters Hairbender Espresso Beans.
What Are The Best Espresso Beans For Lattes
My favorite coffee!

What Beans Does Starbucks Use For Latte?

Starbucks uses beans that are sourced from Latin America and Asia. The beans are finely ground and uniquely roasted as dark as they possibly can be without burning the beans.

The taste profile has a bold flavor and notes of caramelized sugar and molasses. Starbucks Espresso blend has been in use since 1975 and remains unchanged.

You can buy their Espresso in shop or online.

How Many Shots Of Espresso Are In A Latte?

The answer to this is going to surprise you and perhaps make you think twice about which latte you order at Starbucks.

A regular latte that you make at home or get a regular coffee shop is made with a single shot of espresso unless specifically requested.

(I love my latte with a double shot of espresso).

At Starbucks, a tall latte is made with only one espresso shot while their Grande is made with a double shot of espresso.

Normal logic would have you think that a Starbucks Venti has a triple shot, but, unfortunately, logic is out of the window here as a venti has only two shots of espresso with the rest made up of milk and froth.

Basically, you are getting a latte that has more milk and less coffee.

No bueno, Starbucks, no bueno!

Best Italian Espresso Beans

I’ve got this section here simply because it was something that I was asked by email. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as Italian espresso beans or any type of Italian coffee beans as Italy does not have the climate to cultivate coffee.

When coffee lovers ask about Italian beans, they are in reference to beans from an Italian brand.

 Here are what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Italian Espresso Bean: 

  • 1. Pellini Top.
  • 2. Caffe Mauro Centopercento.
  • 3. Bazzara Dodicigrancru.
  • 4. Espresso Bar Perleo.
  • 5. Caffe Vergnano Gran Aroma.
  • 6. Lavazza Gran Espresso.
  • 7. Illy Classico Who Bean Coffee.
  • 8. Pellini No 82. Vivace.
  • 9. FORTE by Felicori Zecchini
  • 10. Aromitisco Premium Italian Ground Coffee.
Best Italian Espresso Beans
The Very Best Italian Espresso Beans

What Espresso Beans Do Italians Use?

Well, since espresso coffee originates in Italy, a great question to ask is which espresso beans do Italian use.

In Italy two brands that stand out are Illy and Lavazza with Lavazza seen as the high-end coffee beans for using to make an espresso and Lavazza more commonly used to brew up homemade espresso’s with a Moka pot.

For those not at all familiar with Italy, it is literally two distinct countries in one, while some may argue three due to each part. North, South and Central all being very different culturally, gastronomically and economically.

As far as coffee goes, Italy is two nations, North and South. In the North, Arabica beans are preferred, whereas in the south, Arabica does not dominate so much, with tastes split between Arabica and Robusta beans.

What Is The Most Popular Espresso In Italy?

Based on sales, the most popular espresso in Italy is, by far, the original Lavazza Rossa which is a blend of Brazilian Arabica beans and African Robusta.

The second most popular is Lavazza Crema e Gusto, which is a blend of South East Asian Robusta beans and Brazilian Arabica.

In third place is Lavazza Qualita Oro which is a 100% Arabica beans, a blend of 6 beans that come from Central and South America.

Frequently Asked Questions Related To The Best Beans For Espresso

There are a lot of questions that get asked about espresso beans and espresso shots. Here are the most common ones.

Can You Use Any Beans For Espresso?

Yes,

while it is, by all means, technically true that any coffee beans can be used to brew an espresso. Starbucks even has a blonde espresso that is certainly worth trying. The best results for brewing lattes and for getting a great thick crema will come from dark roasts and espresso roasts.

That is not to say trying out a cheeky medium or medium dark roast occasionally to enjoy the flavors of origins with a good quality single origin coffee.

Do I Need Special Beans For Espresso?

No,

specialty or special beans for an espresso do not necessarily make for a better shot of espresso. There is not one particular coffee bean or location of bean that makes a better espresso. By far the biggest determining factor is the roast and the brewing skill and technique when it comes to pulling a great shot.

What Beans Does Starbucks Use For Espresso Drinks?

I touched on this earlier. Starbucks uses a blend of Latin American Asian beans in their espresso blend. The exact ones and the proportion of each is a trade secret. They are roasted as deeply as possible with out burning.

The degree of roast is also unnamed. “As dark as possible without burning” leads me to think just before it reaches an Italian roast and deeper than a French roast.

To be honest, they use great beans!

What Roast Is Best For Espresso?

Undoubtedly, a dark roast is the best roast for Espresso shots. No matter what kind of espresso based drink you are making, a dark roast always gets you better results.

Final Thoughts, Frappé-Ing It All Up, Best Beans For Espresso

By far and without a question of doubt, the best beans for Espresso are dark roasted beans. Only a dark roast will give that dark, deep and full-bodied flavor and a great thick crema on top. 

…And cut through the creaminess of the milk in a latte or cortado. 

Coffee is love, it's more than love — it's a passion of mine. I've had the luck to have travelled and enjoyed the most exotic of coffee's and unique flavors, brewing methods and techniques of making the perfect coffee from Thai hill tribe coffee to Indonesian volcanic coffee, Malaysian coffee that comes in a tea bag and the array of flavors in Vietnam, from Vanilla to Orange to Coconut to Avocado to even salt coffee and the famous egg coffee. The best part of my coffee adventures is getting to mix with the locals over a nice brew and learning how they make it! I'm cited and referenced on Google Scholar for the topic of coffee.

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