What the best roast for espresso is for me may not be the best for you. Another person’s treasure may be your trash and vice versa. It is very subjective, and very opinionated – double so in the coffee world as there is so much snobbery.
I approach the topic of the best espresso roast from a technical standpoint based on my own extensive knowledge.
Of course, there is some wiggle room for my opinion.
If you are in a rush, here is the quick answer.
The top baristas are insistent that medium or medium-dark roasts are the best roast for espresso shots. Dark roasted coffee beans have a shiny exterior due to the coffee oils. They are dark, like a very dark chocolate, almost black. They are roasted at a higher temperature than light roasts.
Keep reading as we dig down and detail the topic of finding the best roast for an espresso.
What Is An Espresso Roast?
An espresso roast is a green coffee bean that has been taken to another roast level with the objective of producing a great tasting shot of espresso. They are not a different or better green coffee; they are specifically roasted at a higher temperature to bring the coffee oils to the exterior of the beans.
The oil on the exterior of the coffee beans helps to produce a higher quality of crema.
That, in a nutshell, is all an espresso roast is – a coffee bean that has been roasted at a higher temperature and is darker than others.
Read: Where to buy espresso beans
What Is The Best Roast For Espresso?
Pulling the perfect shot is important; 67% of all coffee drinks made worldwide are an espresso shot. Thus, honing your barista skills and perfecting your espresso brewing skills is important.
You will also need the best bean and the best roast to make the best possible espresso.
Your Espresso beans need to be roasted before you can use them so that you have got the best possible taste out of them, and a fabulous rich crema on top. Coffee fans and coffee lovers have the choice of various roasting levels and a whole range of different types of beans to brew espresso shots that make an amazing cup of coffee.
The best roasting level for espresso will depend on your own personal taste.
Let’s talk about the best roast for espresso and the roast profiles, starting with…
Read: Strongest espresso beans
Dark Roasts – Is A Dark Roast The Best Roast For Espresso?
Dark roast espresso beans are roasted at 437F (225C) to 473F (245C) depending on which of the 4 dark roast profiles the beans are being roasted to, Full city, Vienna. French and Italian are the 4 roasts that make up the dark roast category.
The high temperature removes almost all the water content and is almost burnt. You will notice a shiny oily exterior on the coffee beans as well as a very dark brown, almost black color.
The darker roast produces a darker color and more oils on the outside of the coffee beans.
You will experience a full-bodied coffee from dark roasted coffee beans, typically with a smoky, almost burnt taste. It’s a very dense coffee and a very intense shot of espresso. A dark roast tends to be the popular choice amongst coffee aficionados.
Also, it has to be said that dark roast coffee beans are not for everyone. Some espresso lovers find the coffee too dark and too intense for them and prefer a medium-dark roast, which is, perhaps why expert baristas insist that a medium-dark roast is the best roast for espresso.
With that said, let’s crack on and talk about medium roasts.
Medium Roast – The Best Roast For Espresso According To Expert Baristas
Medium roasted espresso beans have been roasted at 410F to 426F (210C To 219C) and are of a lighter brown color than dark roasts, but do not have visible oil on the exterior of the beans. This is what most people will expect when they think of a coffee.
Lighter coffee beans don’t have the level of darkness or the intensity of flavor that the darker ones have.
The benefit of medium coffee beans is their less acidic and richer, more balanced taste, and they produce a more mild espresso. Their caffeine content is higher than dark roasts but less than light roasts.
For many coffee lovers, a medium roast is unlikely to produce the espresso shot that they are looking for. Firstly, they are too light and, secondly, they lack their oils to produce thick, rich crema on top.
This is why medium-dark roast wins out. The slightly higher temperature and extra roasting time results in an intense aroma and slightly more oils making their way to the exterior – or nearer to the exterior. The taste is like spicy caramel and bittersweet chocolate, all the high quality flavors.
Medium-dark espresso beans have slightly more body than medium roasts but less than a dark roast. Many expert baristas and coffee influencers are adamant that this roast, a medium-roast, is the best for making shots of espresso.
Light Roasts – An Earthy Experience
Lightly roasted espresso beans are roasted at 385F to 401F (196C-205C) and are roasted to the first crack only. Once the beans start to crack, the roasting ends.
The result of this is that you have an earthier taste that contains all the flavors of the origins. Their color is a pale brown. It is said by health experts and coffee experts that light roasts have higher levels of antioxidants, particularly chlorogenic acid, which is found almost uniquely in coffee beans.
Do Light Roast Make A Great Espresso?
It’s a different shot, that is for sure, and very different from what you would expect an espresso to taste like. It is difficult to pull off without it ending up tasting sour. You’ll need to practice a bit, adjust your dose.
If you can do it, you might just enjoy it!
What Are The Best Espresso Beans To Use For Your Roast?
There are four main types of coffee beans: Excelsa, Liberia, Robusta and Arabica. Most likely you have only heard of the latter two. That’s normal, because they make up 90% of all coffee sold globally.
Arabica beans have a better, more vibrant taste and a greater level of acidity. They also have less than half the caffeine than Robusta beans.
Robusta beans are cheaper, and much stronger than Arabica beans. They also have a lighter flavor and are less acidic. These are the less popular of the two. Despite having more than double the caffeine they are out sold 2 to 1 by Arabica beans. They are often used in lower quality blends to boost the caffeine content.
By far the best beans, in terms of taste, are Arabica.
What To Look For In Beans And Roasts – Single Origin And Blends
Now we have the roast covered and what type of bean, now, what about the origins and blends. Single origin coffee beans produce a cup of coffee that has a consistent taste and with flavors and notes from the location where the beans were grown.
These make for a truly great coffee and a top-notch espresso. A blend contains a mix of 2 to 3 or more different coffee beans from different locations, producing a coffee that is a blend of a different taste and flavor.
And yes, a blend makes for an excellent shot and a world-class cup of coffee.
It’s really a personal choice. Some people love a well-thought-out and excellently roasted blend while others have a preference for a single origin.
It is worth getting to know single origins and how they taste to get a good idea of how a blend will taste. African beans tend to be naturally dried and produce an earthier and sharper flavor. Brazil coffee cultivation and processing are known to use wet processing (as do Colombia) and frequently honey processing. The result is a sweeter flavor.
Here are some other factors to consider.
The Aroma: Your espresso coffee beans should have a rich and pleasant aroma and do not have a burned smell. Even the darkest of roasts should not have a burnt aroma.
Color: The color or darkness of the roast should give you some indication of the intensity of the bean and roast. Darker beans have been roasted for longer.
Organic And Fair Trade Certification: Look for coffee that is certified as fair trade; it makes better coffee and is more ethical.
Branding And Packaging: Use a coffee brand that vacuum seals their coffee bags. This will keep them fresh while they are being transported. Once you get them, store them in your coffee canister.
Is French Roast Good For Espresso?
a French roast is very good for brewing an espresso. It is a very dark roast, darker that full city and Vienna roast and lighter than an Italian roast. It’s the 3rd darkest of the 4 dark roasts. A French roast will give you light citrus like notes while being deep, smoky, full-bodied and intense.
Espresso Roast Vs French Roast
An espresso roast will produce a shot that has notes of caramel while being sweet and heavy. A French roast will be smoky, intense and slightly citrusy. Both work well for pulling shots but have slightly different results and tastes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Best Roast For Espresso
Is Light Roast Or Dark Roast Better For Espresso?
Coffee lovers have a preference for darker roasted beans for an espresso due to the shots being less acidic. Light roasts can taste great when used to brew and espresso, thanks to the floral and fruity flavors, but they are more difficult to pull and often end up sour.
Is There A Special Roast For Espresso?
Dark roasts are more popular for brewing an espresso shot due to the subtle bitter flavor and full body in your cup of coffee. An Italian roast, also known as an espresso roast, is the special roast for pulling espressos.
today, in the third wave of coffee, it is more common to use any of the 4 dark roasts and even medium-dark roasts to make a shot of espresso. Even medium roast coffees are used, and get more flavor from the beans into the cup of coffee.
What Beans To Use For Espresso?
The vast majority of coffee beans used in an espresso are Arabica coffee beans. Even blends are 75% to 80% Arabica, often they are 100% Arabica.
Is French Roast For Espresso?
a French roasted coffee bean is good for espresso brewing as it is a very dark roast. French roasts produce a smoky flavor that has light citrus notes. They are more complex than an Italian roast. It is intense and may not be for those that enjoy a medium roast.
What Roasts Are Best For Espresso?
The best roast for espresso is unquestionably a dark roast with French roasts and Italian roast being the best for an intense and deep flavor and a high quality thick rich crema.
What Kind Of Coffee Is Best For Espresso?
If you want an amazing espresso, seek out premium quality single origin or blend that is a French or Italian roast. The quality of flavor in your shot of espresso will largely depend on the quality of your beans and how fresh they are. Use beans that have been roasted no longer than 7 days ago.
Should You Use Light Or Dark Roast For Espresso?
Light roasts will give you a much better flavor for pour over coffee brewing and other similar methods. To get the best flavor for an espresso, a dark roast is better, much better.
What Is The Best Grind Size For Espresso?
The best grind size for an espresso is 200 microns. The grind size is like sand. It is important to get the grind size correct as too small will result in a bitter flavor, and too large will produce a sour taste.
When you have the wrong grind size, it will affect the flow rate of your hot water.
Frappé-ing It All Up – Best Roast For Espresso
If you have read this far, instead of just scrolling down, you have a great idea of what the best roast for espresso is and what to look for in top quality espresso beans.
Espresso, like any other coffee, is a personal thing. What you love, another may not love. Many expert coffee lovers consider medium-dark to be the best roast for espresso shots due to getting more flavor from the beans into your cup yet not missing out on the deep body and dark flavors.
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