The Ultimate Guide: 13 Reviews – Best Espresso Beans of 2018

Feb 15, 2018 @ 11:02 pm

For a good shot of espresso, everything has to fall into place. From the grounds to the coffeemaker to the water temperature, everything has to be perfect.



If one component fails, the espresso won’t have as rich of a shot as it should. Even so, there is one element that is more important than others – the beans.


Like we always say, if you want the best shot of espresso possible, you need to use the best espresso beans. Using bad beans will always result in bad coffee.


No matter if you’re using the best possible equipment, if the beans are stale, tasteless or badly processed, you’ll end up with a shot that is too acidic, too bitter, or just not right. Espresso needs to be sharp and strong, but at the same time needs to be able to show off the coffee’s flavor profile.


A bitter aftertaste from your shot of espresso will definitely ruin your morning coffee experience. To help you avoid having such a horrible experience, we sat down as a team to round up our favorite 13 best espresso beans on the market in 2018.


It was impossible to visit all the coffee shops in the world, not to mention in the US, so we know we might have missed some of your favorites.


Anyways, this is our take on it. On the list, you’ll find some of our favorite single origin coffees, some of the best espresso blends we could find, and even some local favorites, which we are sure you have not heard about before.


If you ever have the opportunity to try out any of the coffee beans from these coffee shops, not just what we chose as their best espresso bean, take it! We promise you won’t be disappointed.


Something You Should Know


There are a couple things to keep in mind while reading through this list, which we want you to know.


  • You might be wondering why we are promoting other coffee roasters coffee when Blue Penguin has coffee too. The truth of the matter is that if you truly love coffee, you owe it to yourself to try as many different coffees as you can. Not only will you expand your taste profile, but you’ll also start to understand what you like best.


  • Like our other ‘best of’ lists, this is not a straight ranking from 1 – 13. In fact, this best espresso beans list, we just put it in alphabetical order to make it easier for you to reference.


  • There are hundreds of thousands of amazing coffee shops and coffee roasters in the world. We know we obviously missed some. So if you are a coffee roaster, think you should be on this list, and are not, don’t be offended by it. Just let us know and we’ll see ourselves if your coffee is worthy of this list.


Best Espresso Beans of 2018


1. Bicycle Coffee Co. – Espresso Blend


bicycle coffee espresso blend - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


Bicycle Coffee Co. is one of our favorite coffee roasters to pop-up in recent years.


Honestly, we found out about them through the inspirational Ted Talk, their CEO and founder gave. Such an unreal story about following your passions and truly putting the work into something you believe in.


Guess how Bicycle Coffee Co. got its name?


It got its name from the fact that the founder started the company by roasting small batch coffee in his homemade roaster and delivering everything on a bike. Even the first Bicycle Coffee farmers market stands were built on a bike.


They’ve since opened up a couple shops in the San Francisco Bay area and have even expanded to Japan.


They never forgot where they came from, though and still carefully roast each small batch with love and deliver on a bike.


The espresso coffee blend offered by Bicycle Coffee Co. is one of the best blends around, and they’ve chosen the beans carefully to create a perfectly balanced flavor, with a solid body and great texture.


Their espresso is best consumed with milk, as its natural flavors become greatly enhanced and the texture becomes even richer and sweeter.


The special touch to their espresso blend is a special dry process coffee they add which gives the final shot a rich and fruity aftertaste.


You may also want to try their decaf. Always organic and made without the use of chemicals, the beans are a vegan’s dream. The process used in removing caffeine hasn’t destroyed the flavors, and all richness and vibrancy have been retained.


Flavor Profile: Balanced and fruity



2. Blue Bottle Coffee – Hayes Valley Espresso Blend


blue bottle coffee - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


If you know anything about specialty coffee you know the name. Some people might say that Blue Bottle Coffee is a sell out now after Nestle Corporation bought them out a few weeks ago. Even so, they still roast some of the best coffee in the world.


There is a reason why you will always see a long line in front of their coffee shops. Plus, we don’t see the buyout as selling out. We see it as validation of how popular specialty coffee has come.


From its humble beginnings delivering coffee out of a Peugeot 505 Wagon in Oakland, California, Blue Bottle Coffee has grown into an international specialty coffee success story.


They have a wide variety of coffees that will satisfy all of your cravings. From Ethiopia to Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and back, there is no place Blue Bottle Coffee hasn’t ventured to find the best beans.


What we are here to talk about, though, is their Hayes Valley Espresso Blend. This espresso blend uses a mix of coffee beans from Brazil and Guatemala.


It is by far their darkest espresso, which was specifically created for their Kiosk on Linden Street in San Francisco. It has great chocolate tones, minimal brightness, and makes for a complex straight shot. In milk, as Blue Bottle Coffee describes, it “tastes like chocolate Ovaltine”, which we can definitely confirm after trying it for ourselves.


Flavor Profile: Lower tone, minimal brightness, an explosion of chocolate



3. Commonwealth Coffee – Ontology Espresso Blend


ontology blend - best espresso bean - blue penguin coffee


Next up is Commonwealth Coffee out of the booming Denver coffee scene. If you have never heard of them before, you’re welcome!


They definitely know what they’re doing, roast a complex, yet delicate cup of coffee, AND have some of the best packaging in the industry. Although, they have a bunch of mouthwatering coffees to try, the Commonwealth Coffee Ontology Espresso Blend is more than enough to satisfy the nit-pickiest of palates.


The blend has been carefully chosen to facilitate harmony between elements, with every element being piled on top of another to create a unique and irresistible taste.


The elements we’re talking about here are two spectacular coffees from El Salvador. The Finca Buenos Aires – Natural and Finca Buenos Aires – Washed. This is the 9th version of Commonwealth Coffee’s Ontology Espresso Blend and is one of their best.


The final brew will surprise you with complex jasmine, caramel, plum and baker’s chocolate flavors. Which makes for a legit straight shot or the solid backbone of an espresso-based drink.


One of the cool things about Commonwealth Coffee is how much they like to experiment with their blends.


They’re often combining coffees most people are not even thinking about combining, which is exciting for all of us coffee lovers. Here’s what we have to say. If you’re curious, try their Ontology Blend. If it’s not for you, there’s something in Commonwealth Coffee’s selection that will definitely fit your tastes.


Flavor Profile: Hint of jasmine, plum, caramel and baker’s chocolate



4. Crema Coffee Roasters – Tres Banderas


tres banderas - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


Nashville, TN is a mini-mecca for killer coffee. There are plenty of notable shops in this part of the dirty south, but even here, Crema Coffee Roasters shines through the noise.


Crema began its journey over 10 years ago as a humble little team of dreamers. They renovated a mechanic shop, bought some used gear, and began flinging spro to the thirsty citizens of Nashville. If you ever get the privilege of visiting the Crema roaster HQ, you’ll notice two things:


  • They are obsessed with the human experience. The shop is a community hub for those wanting to enjoy good coffee together.


  • Photos of farmers and coffee are everywhere. They build relationships with the incredible farmers and individuals who get so little credit for their contribution to the coffee industry. They know that without farmers and relationships, none of this would be possible.


Oh, and did we mention that their coffee is amazing?


The espresso blend we are featuring is Crema’s, Tres Banderas. It’s made up of coffees from Honduras, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. Crema talks about their blending process saying that they “tried something a little different with this espresso by balancing the sweet chocolatey body of the Guayabales with the tart and fruity Shakiso.”


The end product is a full-bodied spro with a savory and fruity clash. The taste is reminiscent of custard apples and coconut. This blend isn’t over-roasted, and it’s not overly tannic or acidic. The shots pull well, and the mellow, savory ripeness pairs exquisitely with milk.


Flavor Profile: Well-balanced mouthfeel with hints of plum, coconut, and dark chocolate.



5. Dogwood Coffee – Neon Espresso


neon espresso - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


One of our local favorites in the Minneapolis area and one of the original hot spots for specialty coffee in Minneapolis.


When we first got started in the coffee industry, Dogwood Coffee was one of our favorite places to go to learn about coffee and to spark some creativity in what we should do with Blue Penguin. We didn’t keep returning just for coffee either. Their packaging and branding have always been spot on.


And we love the fact how the packaging hints in a way at the flavor profile of the coffee you’re about to taste. Today we’re here to talk about Dogwood’s Neon Espresso Blend.


This is by far one of the best espresso coffee blends we have tasted in the world and we’re proud to say it’s a local brand. Dogwood is always tinkering with their blends, but right now, the Neon Espresso contains beans from Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ethiopia.


Dogwood has always been known for its bright tasting coffee profiles. Keeping consistent with what they’ve always done, the Neon Espresso Blend is bright, sweet, and as Dogwood puts it “has a syrup and candy-coated finish which lingers like a Minnesota goodbye.”


Flavor Profile: Citrus flavors, sparkling fruit, and a sweet tang



6. Driven Coffee Roasters – Impact Espresso Blend


impact espresso - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


Next up is one of our freshest local finds in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. It’s crazy to think we didn’t know about this place until a little bit ago when Nick, one of the partners reached out to us. Not only does Driven Coffee Roasters roast some bomb coffee, they also focus on the greater purpose coffee can lead to.


They live out this philosophy by donating 5% of all their web sales profits to organizations which advocate positive change.


We love that about them, but what we love more is their coffee. Driven Coffee Roasters roasts all coffees small batch style which allows them to ensure all roasts are of the highest quality. The coolest part about their roaster is that they are able to dial in and save roast profiles digitally to ensure consistency from roast to roast.


What has us excited over here for our best espresso beans list is Driven Coffee’s Impact Espresso blend.


The blend is a medium roast of 4 different coffee beans from Mexico Chiapas SHG, Brazil Santos, Colombia Excelso, and Guatemala Antigua.


If you don’t care much for espresso (which we’re not sure why you have read this far), then this blend is also great for drip or pour over style brewing.


Flavor Profile: Rich sweetness, notes of walnut and a hint of smokiness



7. Gold Stripe Coffee Roasters – Spro Bot


spro bot - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee
Source: Gold Stripe Coffee


Nestled away in the flatlands of West Texas exists a roastery producing the delectable tastes and aromas of familiarity. Zach and Zane, the two brothers and operators at Gold Stripe, began bringing good coffee to the world in 2012.


The coffees at Gold Stripe are roasted for both common drinkers and craft veterans alike.


Their small tasting room only fits around eight people, acting as one of the only specialty coffee joints in Lubbock, TX.


Gold Stripe ships to those who desire good coffee. Sure, the company is small, but they are one of the best.


Now let’s talk about the coffee…


Spro Bot is Gold Stripe’s flagship espresso. Its dynamic flavors and juicy body will grace your palate regardless of which brew method you use.


The Spro Bot blend is made up of coffees from Gold Stripe’s Santa Isabel – Guatemala, El Jardín – Colombia, and Risaralda – Colombia coffees.


They describe their espresso as “thick, creamy, with nutmeg and cinnamon spice, prune, and a hint of very ripe orange cantaloupe.” If you’re savvy behind an espresso machine, you’ll find that this blend just works.


It pairs incredibly with milk, tasting reminiscent of persimmon and horchata.


Good espresso blends are a dime a dozen. Great espresso blends, however, are the mark of a barista’s true companion. Spro Bot is indeed great, and it will serve you well. It’s creamy, easy to dial in, and it tastes like spices and fresh cantaloupe…what more could you want?


Also, note that the coffee tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if brewed 10 days post roast on an Aeropress. It’s something to behold.


Flavor Profile: Creamy body, cinnamon spice aromatics with a touch of nutmeg, and hints of ripe orange cantaloupe.



8. Greater Goods Coffee Roasters – Kickstart


kick start - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


The Austin, TX area is home to some fantastic roasters and shops. It’s a weird town with a great taste in music, tacos, and coffee.


There’s a roastery located right outside of Austin in the town of Dripping Springs, TX. It’s called Greater Goods, and it’s off the chain.


Greater Goods is an award-winning ma and pop roastery. Upon opening, the company took the Austin area by storm with their dedication to charity and philanthropic work.


Their 5-person team operates out of a full-blown roasting and coffee lab; practicing environmentally friendly ways of crafting their product.


The Kickstart blend is a prime example of the tenacity and meticulousness of the roasting team. They describe it as “an espresso power ballad”, and in our opinion, “power ballad” is an understatement.


Kickstart is made up of coffees from Sumatra, Mexico, and Guatemala.


While the blend isn’t very complex or acidic, it is incredibly smooth. The chocolate and caramel notes in this coffee come alive when brewed in espresso form. There’s even a hint of floral rosemary that plays with the sweet chocolate tastes.


It’s an astonishingly versatile blend that can be brewed on almost anything. Even as it ages, the Kickstart blend remains consistent and charming. It will be a coffee you want to come home to.


Flavor Profile: Notes of vibrant caramel and chocolate with a smooth, juicy mouthfeel.



9. Heart Coffee Roasters – Guatemala El Diamante


el amate - best espresso bean - blue penguin coffee


Next up on our list is the Heart Coffee Roasters out of the always inspiring coffee scene of Portland, Oregon.


Their inclusion shouldn’t be much surprise to any coffee nerd or any true coffee aficionado out there.


The roaster has won a crazy amount of awards for the spectacular light roasts they produce which includes being included on Thrillist’s 2017 “The 21 Best Coffee Roasters in the Country” and Eater’s 2016 “20 of the Best Coffee Shops in Portland”.


One of the reasons why we admire Heart Coffee Roasters so much is that they are not afraid to go against the grain and be different from the masses.


One of their main philosophical differences when it comes to espresso is that beans used for espresso should not be roasted differently.


In fact, since 2014, Heart Coffee Roasters has used only one roasting profile across its beans regardless of brew type after figuring out that espresso brewed with their filter roast profile was sweeter, juicier, cleaner, AND easier to extract.


Pretty cool, huh?


For those of you who typically take your espresso with a dark roast, trust us and try any of Heart Coffee’s beans.


Our favorite Heart Coffee bean to use for espresso right now is their Guatemala El Diamante. A complex mix of fruitiness and dark chocolate. We have yet to try their entire selection, so if you try something other than the Guatemala El Diamante, let us know what you think.


Flavor Profile: Dark chocolate and sweet fruit



10. Intelligentsia Coffee – Honey Badger Seasonal Espresso



Of course, we were going to include Intelligentsia Coffee on this list.


The powerhouse out of Chicago is one of the major reasons why Third Wave coffee has grown so quickly in the last few years.


They were one of the pioneers in the Direct Trade business practice of forming relationships straight with the farmers instead of relying on importers and exporters.


Intelligentsia, by far has some of the best single origin espresso beans you can buy through their Black Cat Espresso Project.


It’s now called a project as the process they went about creating the original blend is representative of the Intelligentsia style.


Put another way, it’s Intelligentsia’s pursuit of the perfect espresso.


As of January 2018, Intelligentsia offers 6 different espresso blends through their Black Cat Espresso Project. Today, we want to talk to you about their incredibly complex and sweet Honey Badger Seasonal Espresso.


You know where the Honey Badger name comes from?


Well, the Honey Badger of course! This badger loves its sweets and is naturally a lover of honey, a perfect name for this espresso.


Flavor Profile: A mix of Peru, Colombia, and Burundi with a buttery, citrus profile.



11. Sight Glass – Owl’s Howl


owls howl - best espresso beans - blue penguin coffee


These people are all about community. Sight Glass serves coffee in more than four of its own locations in San Francisco, and it’s featured at coffee bars all over the United States.


Despite its popularity and size, Sight Glass continues to roast with integrity – offering micro roastery consistency to thousands of people.


Sight Glass believes that “knowing the story behind your coffee—where it was grown, how it was processed, and who handled it along the way—is a powerful link from the cup to the wider world.”


The specialty coffee industry is more saturated than ever, and it’s getting harder to find those that keep mindfulness at the forefront…Sight Glass undeniably does.


Owl’s Howl is a beloved and prominent expresso blend amongst many craft cafes.


Many shops around the US find that the blend’s refined and complex profile is best for everything espresso.


Depending on the seasonal blend Sight Glass uses, flavor notes of the Owl’s Howl can range from pineapple to chocolate-covered cherry to jolly rancher.


Sight Glass rotates the blended seasonal offerings of the Owl’s Howl throughout the year to promote the utmost freshness and quality.


Right now, the blend consists of Huila – Colombia, Yetatebe, Shakisso – Ethiopia, and Hunapu, Guatemala coffee.


The result is a sticky and juicy bodied espresso with notes of chocolate-covered cherry and candied lemon. You NEED to try this espresso. It will change your world.


Flavor Profile: A deep, honey-like body, with notes of ripe berry, chocolate-covered cherry, and sweet candied lemon.



12. Spyhouse Coffee – Orion Espresso



One of the best espresso beans has to be contained inside Spyhouse Coffee’s Orion Espresso bag. Spyhouse Coffee has been around for long enough to understand what makes a good espresso, and what beans make it possible to make an excellent shot.


That’s why they worked hard and searched high and low to compose their flagship product – Orion Espresso. Its name comes from the brightest constellation, the Orion, which rests right above the equator, above the famed coffee belt.


What defines Orion Espresso? The balance of its components and an elevated taste due to components supporting each other.


The beans have been carefully selected to facilitate sweet taste with a chocolaty aftertaste. The brew should be able to hold up well on its own, as well as being able to take on milk, and still taste great.


A great tasting brew also has to be a good-looking brew, so Orion is made to reflect all the smoothest chocolate tones to bring a complete high-quality espresso experience to the person drinking it.


Flavor Profile: Blend of chocolate and sweet fruits



13. Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters – Hometown



“Sweet Bloom is dedicated to connect, in a very meaningful way, the producer with the end consumer.”


You’ll find Sweet Bloom on the shelves of specialty cafes all around the country. Located in the bustling mountain city of Denver, CO, Sweet Bloom yearns to provide an immersive and worthwhile experience.


It’s a company that aims to educate everyone involved in the buying and consumption process.


Instead of just maintaining a decent direct trade relationship with farmers – simply buying and selling their coffee – Sweet Bloom hosts education events for their wholesale and retail customers. They bring transparency to every part of the consumption process.


Andy Sprenger is the mastermind behind the amazing roasting and business processes behind the company. His team is made up of the best minds in coffee.


The Hometown blend is one of our absolute favorites. It’s a luscious, user-friendly blend that is extremely forgiving to the craft brewing novice.


Hometown is a mixed Heirloom varietal blend.


Aromatics of almond, clover-honey, and sweet bread practically exploded out of the group head when we pulled a shot of espresso with this coffee. The notes on the bag of sweet praline and blackberry were spot on. When milk is added, it almost has a deep chocolate taste…kind of like chocolate milk.


It’s wonderful.


Its light acidity mixed with its praline sweetness makes for a solid shot of spro. Get a bag of this ASAP


Flavor Profile: Very sweet coffee headlining a balanced acidity – notes of cocoa nibs, praline, and blackberry.


Leave a Reply