The Best Coffee To Use In An Espresso Machine

Best Coffee To Use In An Espresso Machine
I’ve found that the simple questions asked by beginners are usually very common. Most beginners have the same questions:What coffee is best for espresso? Is espresso roast the same as espresso? Can I use espresso coffee beans in my coffee maker? Etc.

For instance, at the store you will see all the big brand ground coffee containers and near the top shelf in inevitably a group of coffees will be labeled Espresso.

In most cases these are perfectly fine to be used in an espresso machine but the ground coffee from the big brands are going to be ground much to coarse for your machine… not to mention the flavor you’ll get from them is just not going to be up to snuff.

If you are one of those people wondering what coffee to use in an espresso machine then keep this in mind:

An espresso machine will make excellent coffee (espresso) from freshly ground beans. Anything you buy at the store that is pre-ground will not be fresh compared to buying whole beans and grinding the beans yourself at home.

When beans are ground the oils are released. It is the oils that makes espresso great and in many cases it’s the oils that make french press coffee great too. The problem with these oils is that once they are released they start evaporating and oxidizing. In layman’s terms the flavor of the oils loses it’s potency in short order.

If you use a standard drip coffee maker you may not be able to tell the difference but in a fancy espresso machine you need to use the correct beans otherwise the quality of your espresso will be noticeably lower.

Yes, you can buy the espresso grind found at the supermarket but the better option is to grind your own espresso with a quality coffee bean grinder. I have a post on hand crank grinders here. Just make sure to use a coffee bean that has been roasted quite dark as this is the traditional way of drinking espresso.

Whatever you do, don’t use coarse grind in an espresso machine or a standard pre-ground coffee like Folgers. The final product will just not turn out right at all – no matter how expensive your espresso machine was when you purchased it.

And you know what? Everything above has everything to do with partical size. I haven;t even touched on espresso roast yet so before we look at the best coffees to use for making espresso let’s do just a bit more learning.

What is an Espresso?

Many people think that espresso and brewed coffee are just the same. Or that espresso is just a bitter version of brewed coffee. Or that espresso is simply black coffee, no sugar and creamer.

If you tell this to a coffee aficionado, you will receive some lecturing on the basics of coffee and espresso.

Espresso is coffee that’s brewed by forcing a small amount of very hot pressurized water through finely ground espresso beans. This method creates a crema on top (a creamy, thick foam). It’s impossible to recreate that without an espresso machine. – eHow

Espresso is a kind of coffee. But not all coffee is an espresso. It takes a special process to be able to extract espresso from coffee beans.

Important Elements That Make a Good Shot of Espresso

The key to achieving a good shot of espresso requires three elements: roast, grind and, pressure.

  • Espresso Roast – There is a special way of preparing coffee beans for espresso. Often, these beans are roasted to a darker finish to create a stronger and bolder coffee taste than regular drip or brewed coffee. If you are planning to make espresso at home, opt for espresso beans and grind them on demand.
  • Espresso Grind – Regular brew is coarse. But espresso beans need to be grounded to a fine powdery texture. This kind of grind slows down water penetration and requires pressure to extract the perfect espresso shot. It will be a good investment to have a burr grinder for your homemade espresso.
  • Espresso Pressure – This is the third and most important element because pressure is what makes espresso so creamy and flavorful.

Espresso machines work by forcing extremely hot water through finely ground coffee at enormous pressure—ideally, nine times atmospheric pressure, or nine bars. That’s about 130 pounds of pressure per square inch, or roughly twice the pressure in your average truck tire.

Here are Some Great Coffee Beans to Use in an Espresso Machine

Coffee beans for espresso is not like any other beans. It takes a special roasting process to achieve the perfect espresso roast. For one, espresso roast is darker than ordinary coffee beans used for drip coffee and French press.

Here’s a roundup of highly recommended coffee beans to use in an espresso machine.

Stumptown Hair Bender

  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Organic: No
  • Origin: Indonesia, Latin America, Africa
  • Notes: Toffee, chocolate, cherry, rich, smooth, creamy

With its unassuming packaging, it picks your interest as to the quality of this brand. But don’t get fooled by its simplicity. It’s rich, dark and almost fruity flavor can perk up your mornings and invites you to a great after dinner espresso shot.

Kicking Horse Coffee 454 Horse Power

  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Organic: Yes
  • Origin: Indonesia, Central America, South America
  • Notes: Velvety, earthy, low acidity, notes of chocolate and nutmeg, exceptionally balanced

This is a strong espresso roast but with less acidity and sweeter, lighter after taste. If you cannot tolerate the strong coffee after taste but still crave for that dark espresso shot, you must try this coffee roast.

Blue Horse 100% Kona Dark Roast

  • Weight: 1.0 lb
  • Organic: No, but from a small single-family farm in the Kona region of Hawaii Island, Hawaii
  • Origin: Hawaii Island, Hawaii
  • Notes: Chocolatey, hints of almond and vanilla, almost raw and “volcanic” in flavor

This is Kona coffee in its finest. Harvested straight from Kona region, you can easily taste the “volcanic” flavor in every cup, which has been the trademark of Kona coffee. This is perfect for those high-end superautomatic espresso machine.

Read More – Why is Kona Coffee so Expensive?

Lavazza Crema e Gusto

  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Organic: No
  • Origin: Brazil, Africa, Indonesia
  • Notes: Full-bodied, rich and intense, notes of chocolate

This is espresso down to the core. It’s bold, dark and full body taste is popular among Italians. If you want something that authentic espresso drinkers love, you will never be disappointed with the Lavazza brand.

Camano Island Sumatra Dark Roast

  • Weight: 1.0 lb
  • Organic: Yes
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Notes: Full-bodied, sweet, fruity, low acidity, touch of nuttiness

The Sumatra Dark Roast is extremely full-bodied with low acidity and features a sweet, fruity flavor with touch of nuttiness. It’s warm with a touch of spice and incredibly delicious.

Jungle Coffee Howler Monkey

  • Weight: 1.0 lb
  • Organic: Yes
  • Origin: Costa Rica
  • Notes: Smoky, dark chocolate, caramelized sugar cane, roasted nuts, extremely smooth

Grown in volcanic soil just below 2,000 feet, this is the optimal conditions for top-notch Costa Rican coffee. This roast is smooth, dark, bold and without any harsh, bitter aftertaste.

Death Wish Coffee

  • Weight: 1.0 lb
  • Organic: Yes
  • Origin: Peru
  • Notes: Smooth, highly caffeinated, notes of cherry and chocolate

It’s the perfect coffee roast if you want an espresso that’s so hardworking, you get a great kick after one shot. Death Wish coffees tend to be highly caffeinated and they are quite strong too.

This leads me to a simple question.

Have you ever tried truly great espresso? Like memorable espresso that stands hand and shoulders above anything else you’ve ever had before.

If yes, surely you will want to get a shot of this thick, creamy and bittersweet liquid again.

Brewed coffee is one thing. But espresso is like the caviar of the coffee world. The perfect, just-right temperature and creamy espresso is every coffee lover’s dream.

Finding the right coffee roast that you love is one step to creating that great shot of espresso. Start with the list presented above and then try your hand at a local coffee roaster in your town. I’m sure you’ll find something you love.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

Wait, Wait...There's More!