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Espresso Beans: Which to Brew and Which to Avoid

Yes, you read that right—I actually don't recommend many of my coffees for brewing in an espresso machine. The hallmark of espresso is its intensity. This brewing method also enhances the natural acidity of the beans, which is usually quite noticeable in high-quality coffees. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right beans.

Navigating the Coffee Choices: Making Sense of Options.

 Choosing the right beans for espresso is a tricky topic. However, your starting point should always be your own taste preferences. Not what’s trendy or recommended by authorities. Don’t get me wrong—it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new flavors now and then. But I recommend doing this at coffee shops or coffee events, where you can often try different coffees for free (BTW, “free” is one of my favorite flavors :D). However, when you buy a pack of espresso beans, you need to consider that this will be your coffee for at least the next month, so it better be good for you.

Tailored Recommendations: Aligning Coffee to Your Taste.

How do you choose an espresso coffee that you’ll enjoy? First, ask yourself how you’ll drink it. Do you actually drink espresso, or do you prefer americano or lungo? Or maybe it’s just a base for milk beverages coffees (like cappuccino), or with other additions? Do you sweeten your coffee? Or maybe you need universal beans because you serve a whole coffee shop menu at home?

These are important questions because, for example, simpler in sensory profile coffees often work better with milk. Take White Sheep Espresso—a classic Brazil, which is mainly chocolatey with some dried fruit notes. As an espresso, it will be just a good everyday coffee, though without fireworks. It combines super well with milk, giving that dessert effect in a cappuccino. Although coffee trendsetters think that Brazilian beans in espresso are passé, trust me, it’s a universal, good choice. Especially if you’re just starting your espresso journey.

Many beginners simply don’t like pure espresso. Such a concentrated taste in one sip is just too much. Although I am a World Barista Champion, where espresso is the main course, I also didn’t like drinking it at first and preferred milk beverages. And I also used to choose classic blends with Robusta in a more Italian style at first (sic!).

Maximizing Coffee Potential: What Really Matters?

 If you’ve already got used to acidity in coffee and like pure espresso, try something from Central or South America, like from Guatemala, Peru, or El Salvador. Varieties like Bourbon or Caturra naturally have a higher body (density), and coffees from these countries are more interesting, more complex. They have more aroma and fruity notes. If you like “fruit bombs,” then you should try beans from Colombia or even Africa. These coffees brewed as espresso are REALLY SOMETHING!!! For example, my Colombia Tabi natural tastes like cherry liqueur with chocolate, or the Pink Bourbon variety, which will be a very complex espresso, juicy with various acidity dimensions.

What coffees do I not recommend for espresso? I consider washed processed coffees difficult. They are often very intensely acidic, citrusy, and it’s hard to find balance. The hardest espressos for me are Kenyas with washed processing. These hard beans are often roasted too lightly to preserve their floral and currant character, which can be very dominating. And it might be somewhat controversial… but I also think that most Geisha variety coffees should be drunk as pour-over coffees, not espresso. They just have many layers and facets that often open up at different temperatures, and condensed espresso, in my opinion, does not show 100% of their potential.

How I Judge Espresso: Insights Ahead

How do you navigate through the myriad of options? On my store page, I always mark whether a coffee is suitable for espresso. And before I recommend beans in the showroom, I always ask about taste preferences and brewing rituals. Most often, when we find that perfect pack together, the next question arises: “How do I know if I’m maximizing the potential of the beans?”. Unfortunately, there are no hard guidelines on when coffee is good. No TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter, extraction percentage, brewing time, or even the hottest recipe from a YouTube star guarantees that you’ll like the coffee. What do I use to judge espresso? Read in my next post!

Agnieszka Rojewska


The content available on the blog is a presentation of the author's opinions, views, knowledge or experience, but does not constitute a form of individual advice on any matter. Before making a decision on an issue that is important to you, always seek individual advice from a specialist.

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© 2024 Agnieszka Rojewska

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