What Is The Best Roast For Espresso? (For Perfect Espresso)

Last Updated on July 14, 2023 by Barry Gray

I think there’s nothing better than a good Espresso. The aroma and flavor that comes from a perfectly pulled shot of that dark liquid has the ability to help perk up even the worst of days.

But that ability to make such a positive difference is only possible with one thing: the roast.

And that got me thinking that not everyone will be aware of the best roast that will make the perfect Espresso. So, I’m about to change that.

The best roast for your Espresso does slightly depend on your own personal coffee preference. If you wish to go for an intense flavor and aroma, use a dark roast. If you want to dial things back a bit, opt for a medium-dark roast for a slightly more subdued experience. But if you are new to an Espresso, perhaps a medium roast is a great starting point due to being more balanced.

What that shows is you do not have just one option when it comes to your Espresso. It’s way more versatile than some people are aware of.

But don’t worry; I will explain everything you need to know to get the perfect Espresso for your own taste.

what is the best roast for the perfect espresso

Is a Darker Roast Best for Espresso?

While you could theoretically use any type of roast to produce an Espresso, I would also tend to veer on the darker side. 

When you have a darker roast, it does mean there’s less acidity in the coffee, and the flavor is more intense. For most Espresso lovers, those are two important factors that almost define what an Espresso is.

But there’s more to this than simply me telling you to go and get a dark roast for an Espresso. 

Different Roast Versions

arabica beans for making espresso

During my time of making and drinking Espresso, I’ve tried various blends to see the difference it makes to the final result. I’ve identified three versions that I feel stand out, and I’ll explain why.

  • An Espresso Roast – This is a classic Espresso roast crammed full of flavor and darkness. Some brands will use it in a blend, but don’t be afraid to use this simple Espresso roast on its own to make a powerful shot.
  • An Italian Roast – I love a good Italian roast. It’s very dark, but the flavor hits you like an express train. I also appreciate the crema that’s delivered by this roast which just takes the flavor aspect to a whole new level. This blend is perfect if you plan to make either a Latte or a Cappuccino, as it works well with milk.
  • A French Roast – This is another favorite, and I admit it’s not too different from the Italian roast. However, I tend to find a French roast to be the heaviest of all, so only use it if you do love a darker coffee. 

There are, of course, different roasts out there, but I would advise you to use one of these three to get a fantastic Espresso at the end.

But I think I should simplify things a bit and quickly take you through what the different roast levels would deliver to your Espresso. It should make life easier for anybody still wondering what the difference is between a light roast through to a dark roast.

Is a Light Roast a Good Idea for Espresso?

I’ll kick things off with a light roast. For me, this would be a no-go when it comes to an Espresso. 

I feel an Espresso made from a light roast will be lacking in pretty much everything. It will be flat and lack some body, which you need, and it’s just not appealing at all.

Your Espresso will just taste weak.

If you only have lightly roasted beans in your possession, then avoid making an Espresso. Light roast beans are better used for alternative types of coffee such as a pour over.

Is a Medium Roast a Good Idea for Espresso?

A medium roast is the absolute minimum roast you can use to make an Espresso, but I would still rather avoid it if I had any choice.

A medium roast is not quite as acidic as a light roast, so it’s more pleasant to drink. Also, it doesn’t have the full-body flavor you get from a dark roast, 

I feel a medium roast can work well for people new to Espresso and their Espresso machines. It won’t deliver the same punch a dark roast will do, so it will come as less of a shock to the system.

But I still believe it doesn’t deliver the perfect Espresso, and it doesn’t have the same body or richness to it that I expect from an Espresso.

Is a Medium-Dark Roast a Good Idea for Espresso?

If you go to a coffee shop and ask for any coffee drink with an Espresso as its base, chances are it will be a medium-dark roast used in the creation. This is because a full-on dark roast is often too much for people to cope with when it comes to their Espresso, so a medium-dark just dials things back a bit.

It’s intense without being too overpowering. It’s heavy without weighing you down.

I think the medium-dark roast is the best option for most people with their Espresso. It delivers everything you want, but for some people, it’s still not enough if you love the idea of having an Espresso that provides the biggest punch out there.

Is a Dark Roast a Good Idea for Espresso?

Not everyone loves a dark roast Espresso. It has such an intensity in both richness and flavor that some individuals are unable to cope with it.

I get it. I’ve had some experiences where even I feel a dark roast is just over-delivering on the taste front, and I do enjoy a strong coffee.

My advice would be to avoid using a dark roast for an Espresso unless you are an experienced coffee drinker. Even then, I would suggest taking some time exploring different beans and being aware the bitterness of the bean could hamper your taste experience. 

How Do I Choose the Right Espresso Roast?

coffee beans for espresso

I’ve had several conversations with friends and family over the years about coffee. I admit that some hate coffee (but apparently, you cannot divorce blood relatives because of this), while others admit they knew nothing about it.

Sure, they had all heard about Espresso but became confused as to how I could select the right coffee to ensure I produced an Espresso I loved.

The truth is that it’s easier than you think.

It has taken time for me to come to terms with the type of coffee I enjoy. I admit, I’ve had a few failures over the years, both in how the Espresso was prepared and also the beans that were used.

I don’t want you to fall into the same trap or problems. So, here are my tips for helping you choose the perfect Espresso roast without making as many mistakes as I did.

  • Understand your taste preferences – Do you prefer something fruity and floral or darker and more chocolate or caramel flavors?
  • Sweet or bitter? While most beans used for Espresso are on the bitter side, perhaps scale it back a bit by moving to a medium roast rather than a dark roast to reduce the bitterness.
  • Bold or mellow? If it’s a bolder flavor, opt for a dark roast. If it’s mellow you prefer, go for a lighter roast.
  • What are you drinking it with? I prefer using a more complex flavor when it’s a straight Espresso, while a more simplistic flavor is best when making anything other than an Espresso, as some flavors would be lost when milk was added.

I could go on and on about various aspects of the beans, but I feel the key is knowing what you like. When you break it down to the four points mentioned above, it should lead to it becoming an easier decision for you.

What are the Perfect Beans for an Espresso?

ground coffee for espresso

I’ve spoken about the roasts up to this point, but what about the bean itself? Again, I have a few points I’d like to cover that will help guide you in the right direction for achieving that perfect Espresso.

  • Location – Typically, beans from Africa will be more fruity and floral. In contrast, beans from South America will have more of a caramel and chocolate taste, making them smoother.
  • Freshly roasted – Try to use beans that are freshly roasted. It means you will have a better taste experience as older beans lose their punch and a significant amount of flavor.

My Recap on the Perfect Roast for an Espresso

Getting the perfect roast to produce the perfect Espresso makes a huge difference to your experience. Yet, some people struggle to do this, so here are my key points that will hopefully make your life that little bit easier.

  • Opt for a medium-dark roast for the perfect Espresso
  • Dark roast will be too strong and over-powering for most people
  • A light roast is too weak and underwhelming, leading to a flat Espresso
  • If new to an Espresso, perhaps begin with a medium roast
  • Learn what you like from a taste perspective to help identify the perfect beans
  • Experience tastes from fruity and floral African beans to chocolatey beans from the Americas

But do you know the best thing about coffee? The ability to try so many different beans leads to such a variety of flavors coming through that it need never be boring.

My advice? Try small batches of different beans and make a note of the flavor profiles to narrow down which options are best for your taste buds.

It will be worth it all in the end. 

My Conclusion

Personally, I would always opt for a medium-dark roast when making an Espresso. I just love the intensity that comes with it, but it’s perhaps not the best option for people starting out.

If you are new to Espresso, opt for either a medium or a medium-dark roast. It will tone down the flavor just enough to make it more pleasurable for most people.

But please take the time to explore the flavors of different beans when making Espresso. I promise it will change your overall experience, and you will then open up the world of different Espresso-based coffee drinks that are out there.