Last Updated on September 29, 2021 by John Moretti
Brewing the perfect cup of espresso is a noble goal but one that takes a lot of hard work to get right. For example, you need to find the best roast level for your beans. Doing so requires you to understand a variety of different elements surrounding this process. Full knowledge should make it easier for you to not only choose an excellent roast for your beans but brew espresso that you’ll love.
Espresso beans must be roasted before grinding to ensure that you get the highest taste profile. Coffee fans can choose between multiple roasting levels and several types of beans to create a fantastic cup of coffee. The roasting level varies depending on your taste. The perfect cup of espresso can come at many levels, though most people will have their preferences to consider here.
- Medium-Dark – An excellent blend of taste profiles
- Dark – Great for those who want an intense cup of espresso
- Medium – Good starting point for many espresso brewers
Various Types of Bean Roasting Options
Before you start roasting your espresso beans, it is essential to know the different roasting levels. Typically, they break down into three different categories: light, medium, and dark. Your fresh coffee beans will have a light green color and a moist texture. They’ll produce a relatively rich smell but must be roasted to create beans to grind for coffee. But which of these roasting levels is suitable for espresso? Let’s break down each of these options to see how they suit different people and espresso needs.
Light Roasts – An Earthier Espresso Taste
Lightly roasted beans are heated to a point around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit and will experience cracks on the bean’s surface as the moisture is drawn out. Once these first cracks appear, the roasting process ends. As a result, lighter bean roasts typically contain an earthier taste similar to the natural flavor of a pre-roasted coffee bean. Their overall color is a soft pale brown shade.
Many coffee experts claim that these beans produce the best level of antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid. That’s because darker blends often cook away these items at a higher level. Lighter beans are also more acidic, producing a bigger punch and potentially increasing your risk for indigestion. Do they make a great espresso? That probably depends on your taste as a coffee fan.
Most people will tell you that light beans make for a pretty unappealing espresso. The coffee has a flatter taste that does not match the finish or flavor profile or a deeper and darker espresso. I strongly suggest that you don’t use light beans to get the perfect espresso blend. While it is always possible to use them in this way, doing so is more likely to disappoint.
Medium Roasts – A Good Starting Point for the Perfect Espresso
Medium roast beans progress past the first few cracks and reach heat levels of at least 410-430 degrees Fahrenheit. They have a darker brown texture and don’t have any visible oil on their surface. For most people, this roast is closer to what they expect from a coffee bean. Lighter beans simply don’t have the same level of darkness or flavor intensity.
Medium coffee beans typically have a richer taste and less acidity, producing a reasonably balanced taste that works well for those who want a sufficiently mild espresso. They do have less caffeine than lighter beans, which may work for those who have a low tolerance for this substance. However, medium roasts are probably unlikely to produce the perfect espresso for most people.
They’re simply not dense enough in flavor or darkness to feel right for an espresso. That’s why some brewers go for medium-dark roasts, which roast about 25 degrees Fahrenheit higher than regular medium roasts. This extra roasting time produces an intense aroma and a higher level of high-quality flavors, including tastes that range from bittersweet chocolate to spicy caramel.
You’ll find medium-dark espresso beans have a higher body volume and produce the kind of full and round flavor you want from an espresso. Many fans insist that medium-dark is the perfect espresso roast, as it provides an ideal blend of flavors. However, dark roasts may also be an excellent option for a broad array of other coffee fans.
Dark Roasts – As Dark as Beans Get
Dark roast espresso beans roast at up to 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit and strip the bean of moisture to a nearly burnt level. You should notice an oily texture on the surface of these beans, along with a very dark texture that is as close to black as non-burnt beans get. That extra cooking time helps to produce a fascinating blend of different taste profiles.
For example, you’ll get a full taste out of dark roasted coffee, including a smoky aftertaste that will linger long after you finish your drink. You might even get some traces of burned beans in your drink, which may suit many peoples’ tastes. Those who love a very dense and intense espresso swear by dark roast beans as the best option and work hard to produce them.
That said, the average espresso fan may find this roast is far too dark for their needs. Most coffee shops and brewers stay away from dark beans for this reason and prefer medium-dark roasts. As a result, it is fair to say that medium-dark roasts are probably your best choice for the perfect cup of espresso. However, dark roast beans have their fans in the coffee world.
Whatever option you choose, it is crucial to understand the various techniques to roast coffee beans for espresso. You can probably handle these steps at your home, cutting back on the need for a secondary roaster. Roasting your beans makes it easier for you to find that perfect cup of espresso and cuts back on your experimentation time and frustration.
The Most Effective Roasting Method for Your Espresso Beans
Purchase a coffee bean roasting machine and carefully follow these steps to produce the perfect roast for your espresso needs.
- Dry your beans before roasting to get them to a yellowish color
- Roast them to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit and stop if you want light beans
- Continue roasting to higher levels and stop after they reach a brown color to get medium beans
- Roast them a little bit longer to darken the brown and produce medium-dark beans
- Leave your beans roasting until they’re nearly black to get dark roast beans
The Best Espresso Beans for Your Roasts
Coffee espresso beans come in two different types: Arabica and Robusta beans. The first type is the most common and has a milder taste with a higher level of acidity. You get less caffeine from Arabica, which makes it a good option for those who want a softer espresso.
Robusta beans have their benefits, however. They are a little cheaper, produce a sweeter taste and a higher caffeine content. As a result, they work well for those who want a very potent espresso. Read the label of your beans to find what type is available for you.
What to Look For in Your Beans and Roasts
Which of the two espresso bean types is the best option for you? That depends on many different factors. For example, the origin of your beans will vary and can affect their taste. Single-origin beans produce a consistent taste profile, while multiple-origin beans may produce a broader array of flavors and a higher overall quality. The location also affects your taste profile.
For example, beans from Africa typically use the natural drying method due to controlled water sources. As a result, they often have a sharper and earthier taste than those produce in Brazil. Brazil’s higher water content lets them use water-washing methods or even honey processing. As a result, you’ll get a sweeter flavor from most Brazilian coffee beans than you would other types. Other factors to consider when choosing espresso beans include:
- Color – This indicates the intensity of your roast. Light brown beans have been roasted for shorter periods, while darker beans have been roasted longer.
- Aroma – Your espresso beans should have a pleasant odor that doesn’t have a burned smell. Even dark roasted beans shouldn’t smell burnt. If they do, your beans were cooked too long.
- Organic Certification – Look on your bags to find organic certification for your beans. These use no chemical preservatives but may not last as long.
- Packaging and Branding – Try to find a coffee manufacturer that uses vacuum-sealed packages to keep your beans and grounds as fresh as possible for long periods.
The Perfect Cup of Espresso Waits for You
As you can see, finding the best cup of espresso is not an impossible task. You just need to work at it and spend time balancing what beans are available for you. Mastering the roasting process also helps here because it allows you to create the perfect blend of flavors and aromas for your espresso needs.