How to Choose the Best Beans for Espresso Roast

About 83% of Americans drink coffee. Espresso is a full-bodied coffee that is usually served in “shots.” Rich and deep in flavor, espresso is often served with steamed milk to create cappuccinos and cafe lattes.

As espresso becomes increasingly popular, consumers are becoming discerning coffee connoisseurs. If you are a roaster purchasing coffee prudently, it is important to distinguish varietals with your customer’s tastes in mind. The best beans for espresso have been carefully cultivated for optimal flavor. Here’s how to select yours.

1. Inspect The Date

To select espresso beans optimally, When drinking your coffee, folks will be looking for something that is between two weeks and two months old. Peak flavor for the best espresso is between days seven and fourteen. After the fourteenth day, the flavor will begin to fade.

2. Arabica Vs. Robusta

When selecting the best beans for espresso, decide what you believe are the optimal proportions of Arabica and Robusta beans. Each species has something unique to offer a consumer.

Robusta beans are earthier, stronger, and — well— robust compared to Arabica beans. Alternatively, Arabica beans are more desirable to consumers for its brightness, sweetness, and diversity of notes depending on its variety. Rich notes of chocolate, berries, flowers or citrus are featured in Arabica beans, depending on each cup’s upbringing. Robusta beans primarily grow in Africa and Indonesia, whereas the more coveted Arabica beans are grown throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America — Columbia in particular.

Arabica beans are more challenging to cultivate than its more robust cousin, as Arabica beans are more susceptible to diseases such as coffee rust and the Robusta species produce beans faster. Arabica grows best in higher, more coveted altitudes than Robusta beans, and as a result, Arabica flavors are far more gentle. Cultivation challenges, combined with higher market demand, lead to Arabica beans costing more than Robusta.

Robusta is not without its unique features, however. Crema — the delectable brown foam on top of an espresso shot that vastly enhances a connoisseur’s experience — is easier for a barista to produce when pulling shots with Robusta beans. Consider adding 5 to 15 percent Robusta beans to your espresso blend. But beware — a ratio greater than this will make your espresso too bitter for your customers. Avoid beans with the label “100% arabica”, as this is often untrue. Arabica beans, with its diverse varietals, are produced differently depending on which region is cultivating them.

Each region of Arabica bean has its distinct altitude, temperature, humidity — and each region creates its process depending on its unique challenges and culture. These factors affect coffee bean size and texture of the Arabica bean, and thus the flavor. These are coffee varietals, which will be explained more in-depth below.

3. Caffeine

Fact: the shorter coffee beans are roasted, the more caffeine it retains. It stands to reason that a cup of light roast has more caffeine than its darker alternative. However, this is a common misconception. Darker roasts have lower density, which means to brew an equivalent amount of light roast coffee, you need more beans from your dark roast. A cup of light roast coffee is technically higher in caffeine than a cup of light roast, but not noticeably so.

Disregard caffeine amount in regards to selecting a roast level most appropriate for your customer base. If your customers want a smooth taste with varying acidity levels, go for a dry, lightly roasted coffee bean. If your customers desire bolder flavors, go for beans that have been roasted a bit longer.

4. Serving

Espresso traditionally offers its connoisseur a balance of flavors. Espresso shots from an espresso blend are still the most popular. However, with single-origin coffee rising in popularity over the past few decades, an increasing amount of coffee shops are beginning to experiment with single-origin espresso offerings. Single-origin coffees are prized for being exemplary in one fashion rather than offering the balanced experience that more traditional espresso blends will.

Think about how your customers will be drinking their coffee. If they will be drinking their espresso black, consider experimenting with a single-origin to pull their espresso shots from. However, your coffee shop likely has a significant amount of customers who favor their espresso with steamed milk for a latte or a cappuccino. To satisfy everyone, play it safe and roast an espresso blend.

Good coffee is picked when it is fully ripened, and manually sorted to avoid bad beans. Do not select a coffee with unknown origins.

5. Consider Country of Origin

Sun exposure, soil composition, and precipitation will all affect the quality of a coffee bean. As such, a quality coffee procurer selects beans grown where quality coffee thrives. Columbia is world-famous for producing high-quality arabica beans. Available in large and smooth grains, Columbian Arabicas are rich in aroma and flavor diversity. Columbian coffee varietals are frequently sorted by the size of each bean.

Costa Rican coffee has a classic taste. These Arabica beans are frequently grown in rich, volcanic soil. Costa Rican coffees are smooth and soft, with a rich, walnut flavor.

Ethiopian coffees are grown in the highlands of the Eastern part of the country of small peasant farms. Coffees produced in this part of the world are spicy and often fruit-forward; astringent and delicate on the palate like fine wine. Ethiopian coffee farms frequently produce the finest Arabicas in the world.

Jamaican coffee is smooth and mellow with hints of rum. It is very expensive, and exports of the famous varietal Jamaican Blue Mountain are regulated as highly as they are prized. Guatemalan coffee grows in mountainous areas, where it develops an intense, tart flavor. The coffee produced in the volcanic regions of Guatemala has a heavy flavor with a chocolatey aroma and hints of smoke.

Uniquely, Guatemalan coffees are sometimes disparate with their famous boldness,  oftentimes featuring a light and bright aftertaste with hints of citrus, especially from the renown Antigua region.

6. Learn More About Coffee Varietals

In the wine industry, a varietal describes a wine made from a specific variety of grape. These give a wine a particular taste and profile. It is the same for coffee beans.

Same as wine varietals in regards to the grapes they are made from, a coffee varietal describes coffee made from a specific variety of coffee plant. Wine varietals such as Zinfandel or a Merlot are akin to single-origin coffee varietals like Geisha, or the previously mentioned Jamaica Blue Mountain.

Some varietals, especially highly prized varietals, are transported to other regions and take on characteristics from its new region while retaining some characteristics from its original region. Geisha varietals come from Ethiopia originally and are amongst the most highly prized single-origins grown. After being transplanted and grown in Central America (Panama in particular), Geishas keep their famous floral flavor while featuring notes unique to Central American soils. Similarly, Jamaican Blue Mountains are sometimes available from Asian countries.

Some coffee varietals are hybrids of both Arabica and Canephora (Robusta) species. Farmers choose varietals they want to grow not only based on consumer demands, but also for production capabilities and resistance to disease. Hybrid varietals not only feature flavors of both species, but also their special growth characteristics.

When selecting the best beans for Espresso in your blend, research and taste test the unique flavors each varietal has to offer. Research your market to lead you towards varietals with flavors customers in your area demand.

The Best Beans For Espresso

Your best beans for espresso will depend upon the type of bean your roasters will be roasting. Learn about varietals from different regions before finalizing your decision on which optimally fresh beans to blend with, and be sure to know exactly what your customers want. Great coffee beans will make great coffee, so research thoroughly.

For great Ethiopian and Costa Rican-grown coffees, contact us today.