Roast Type: Light Vs Medium Vs Dark Roasts
Coffee bean roasts can have a big impact on espresso extraction. Darker roasts tend to produce more espresso crema, while lighter roasts can taste more bright and acidic. Darker roasts also tend to produce more chocolate and caramel notes, which most people tend to love - especially in milk drinks. Lighter roasts reveal the more subtle fruity flavours of the coffee berry, and may often taste sour if not carefully dialled-in for a good extraction.
Medium-dark roasts are often referred to as the 'sweet spot' for espresso, and are a good compromise between the two extremes that often produce a well-rounded espresso. Medium-dark roasts are also easier to extract, and generally will take less time to dial-in and find a good level of extraction.
Always Use Whole Beans, Ground Fresh
For the best taste and extraction, use whole bean coffee ground just before it's used, and avoid packaged coffee which is pre-ground. Coffee quickly becomes stale once ground and often loses much of its flavour within hours after grinding.
If you don't currently use a grinder with your espresso setup, we recommend taking a look at the best entry level coffee grinders, here.
Arabica Vs Robusta
When choosing espresso beans, it is important to consider the type of coffee bean and their origin. Arabica beans are grown in high altitudes and tend to be more expensive, but they also produce a sweeter and more complex espresso shot. Robusta beans are generally less expensive and have a but have more bite and produce a thick rich crema.
Generally, the easiest types of coffee to extract use a blend of both Arabica and and Robusta. This blend of the two coffee types is used with traditional Italian brands and tends to produce a well rounded body and thick velvety crema goodness that many people have come to love.
Use Freshly Roasted Coffee Or Coffee With Nitrogen Flushed Packaging
The best tasting espresso always starts with fresh coffee. Stale coffee can often present as sour tasting, and reduce the amount of crema and full bodied aromas we know and love from quality espresso. As such, we always recommend either using freshly roasted coffee, or buying coffee with nitrogen flushed packaging.
Nitrogen flushing is a safe non-toxic practice to remove the oxygen during packaging. As such, coffees that follow this process stay shelf-stable and fresh for many months after roasting. This is a common practice in places such as Italy, and with big brands like Lavazza and Illy. That being said, we still recommend drinking your coffee within a couple weeks after opening the packaging, or to be sure to use a vacuum sealed coffee container to keep your beans fresh for longer periods of time.
Avoid Oily Beans
The reason oily coffee beans should be avoided is because they can damage your coffee grinder. The oils from the beans will coat the grinding mechanism in a tar-like substance and eventually cause it to break down. This will require you to either replace the grinder or send it in for repairs, both of which can be expensive. It is therefore best to avoid oily beans to prevent this from happening.
To identify if a bean is oily, check for thick shiny and glossy oil coating the surface of the coffee bean. The oil will often be so intense it will often have droplets of oil which can visibly rub off on your fingers. An ideal high quality and non-oily bean for espresso should have a matt non-shiny finish.
Top Coffee Bean Recommendations
Caffe Mike Oro
Lavazza Super Crema
Illy Classico Coffee Beans