Have you ever found yourself wandering down the coffee aisle, trying to decide what kind of beans for espresso will produce a great cup of coffee? If you don’t know how to find the right kind of beans, it can be a daunting task to choose, considering how many different brands are available.
Do you simply pick up a pack labeled “espresso beans” and call it a day? Or is there a better way to choose the best kind of beans for making espresso? Let’s find out!
Common Misconceptions On Espresso Beans
There are some common misconceptions floating around when it comes to espresso beans, such as:
Myth: “Espresso beans are a specific type of bean”
Truth: Technically, there is no one type of coffee bean that’s strictly used for making espresso. Espresso refers to a method of brewing coffee, and you can use any kind of coffee bean you want depending on your flavor preference, brew strength, and amount of caffeine.
Myth: “Espresso is always bitter.”
Truth: If you have bitter-tasting espresso, chances are you brewed it incorrectly. You may have over-roasted the beans or over-extracted the coffee. If you do it correctly, espresso does have a rich, deep, and somewhat smoky taste, but it should not be unpleasantly bitter.
Myth: “Espresso has a lot more caffeine than drip coffee.”
Truth: If you compare espresso to drip coffee by volume (i.e., 1oz of espresso vs. 1oz of drip coffee), espresso contains more caffeine since 1oz of espresso contains 30-50 mg of caffeine. However, drip coffee often comes in larger volumes (at least 8 oz), and each ounce of drip coffee contains 8-15mg of caffeine. Thus, if you’re going by standard sizes, a regular serving of drip coffee contains much more caffeine compared to a regular serving of espresso.
How to Find the Best Beans for Espresso
The trick to finding what kind of beans for espresso is best is knowing what to look for; a cup of espresso is only as good as the beans used!
Here are four factors that will affect the quality of the beans that you choose in making your espresso, and how each factor will affect the final taste and quality of the finished brew:
There are two major varieties of coffee beans that you will find on the market: Arabica and Robusta. While both beans can be used to make espresso, Arabica is more popular and widely used compared to Robusta for several reasons.
First, Arabica beans are hardier, which means that they can stand up better to the longer roasting process necessary for making beans used for espresso. Second, Arabica has a milder, more mellow taste. Third, Arabica beans have less caffeine. Finally, Arabica beans have more flavor notes compared to Robusta beans, allowing consumers to enjoy different layers of flavor in their espresso.
This is why most coffee brands are made from either 100% Arabica beans, or a blend that uses more Arabica than Robusta.
Many people already know that espresso beans need to be dark roast to bring out the oils necessary to produce the deep flavor and rich crema for an espresso.
However, did you know that there are degrees of dark roast? If the beans have a dark, shiny, and oily surface, it is an Italian or French roast. However, if the beans are dark but dry, it is a full city roast. Between the two degrees of dark roast, the former is preferred because it helps bring out the crema.
The origin refers to where your coffee beans were grown, and it plays a part in the flavor and price of the beans. Most coffee brands use a blend of beans from different origins because it is cheaper and allows the manufacturer to create a certain flavor profile. Gourmet coffee makers, however, can opt to use single-origin beans if they want to highlight a certain flavor of the beans. Single-origin beans are more expensive.
The fresher the beans, the better the quality of your espresso. Always check the manufacturing date on your beans; 2 months should be the maximum time allowed. Beyond two months, the quality of the beans will have deteriorated.
Branded vs. Unbranded Coffee Beans
If you live somewhere with a local farmer’s market, you might have chanced upon a stall or two selling their own blend of beans. Ask the seller if they have dark roast beans and what kind of beans they use in terms of variety and origin. Typically, it’s easier to gauge the freshness of beans from small independent sellers because you will be able to touch, see, or even taste the beans before you purchase them.
However, if you’re unsure where to get high-quality unbranded coffee beans, it would be better to stick with trusted brands from your local supermarket.
Grinding Your Beans
The best way to ensure fresh coffee grounds for your espresso is to grind them yourself right before brewing. If you love making your own espresso at home, a grinder is a necessity! For espresso beans, an electric conical burr grinder works best. They are quiet, easy to use, and has precise grinding settings to produce the fine grind required for making espresso.
Electric conical burr grinders can be quite pricey; however, you should consider it an investment if you’re looking to make the best possible espresso at home. If you bought high-quality beans, it would be a disservice if you used a cheap grinder! Know more about espresso beans.
Some Final Thoughts from the Earl
So, in a nutshell, what kind of beans for espresso is best? You need to use 100% Arabica or an Arabica-heavy blend dark roast beans. If possible, go for French or Italian roast. The beans should be freshly ground right before being brewed, and you need to use a quality espresso machine with the right amount of pressure and heat. All of these steps will ensure that you end up with a great cup of espresso with a delicious layer of crema!