Best Green Coffee Beans for Espresso

Updated Nov 26, 2023 • Donna Lu

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Are you a lover of espresso and would love to enjoy a fresh cup every morning? All you need is the best green coffee beans for espresso to save the trip and cash spent at Starbucks. Curating the perfect espresso is more than just using the coffee maker.

The right coffee beans can go a long way to helping you create the perfect brew – whether the crema, taste, body and acidity balance. Nonetheless, a good espresso goes beyond the use of “dark roast” beans. Want to know why? Here’s our complete guide to the best green coffee beans for espresso.

What Are The Best Green Coffee Beans For Espresso?

You can find the best green coffee beans for espresso in many regions. These include African, Asian, and Latin American coffee beans.

1. Ethiopian Harrar Green Coffee

Ethiopian Harrar Green Coffee

Processing: Naturally sun-dried

Harvest period: October to February

Ethiopia’s high altitude coffee growing regions allow its beans to grow slowly and develop a deep and robust flavor that’s perfect for espresso. Believed to be the first place to harvest coffee in the world by many, Ethiopia produces one of the best coffees.

Further, if you want to sample exotic coffee, this is probably where you should be looking you’re your options. The Ethiopian Harrar variety is a great option to start with. The wild Arabica variety is grown at pretty high altitudes of almost 7000 feet in Oromia state (formerly known as Harrar).

The coffee develops a pretty distinctive profile, featuring a heavy body with intense aroma and spiciness. When sipping on your espresso, you get strong berry, earthy, and chocolate fragrances. On the other hand, the wild Ethiopian Arabica varieties produce a beautiful robust Moka flavor complemented by berry notes of blueberries and blackberries.

Additionally, you will get flattering tasting hints of apricot, cinnamon, cardamom, and some smokiness for the ultimate coffee drinking experience.

2. Kenyan Arabic Green Coffee

Kenyan Arabic Green Coffee

Processing: Fully washed and sundried

Harvest period: November to December

Kenyan coffee is grown on high elevation plateaus, producing some of the best coffee varieties. When it comes to the best green coffee beans for espresso, coffee from this region simply cannot miss out on the list.

Kenyan Arabica green coffee produces a complex flavor profile that makes it great for espresso. After all, unbeknownst to the untrained palate, espresso is not all about bitter, dark, and heavy coffee profiles. The balance is quite important.

Kenyan coffee develops a rich and heavy body complemented by its wine-like acidity. In fact, by drinking the coffee, you will appreciate how it opens up with a rich, intense wine-like acidity and ends on the dry side. But, the pleasant wine-like flavors never fade, forming part of the dry wine-like aftertaste.

On the other hand, its aroma is fresh and floral with a floral, fruity, and berry taste. But, what makes Kenyan coffee exciting is that you can experiment and explore different Arabica coffee varieties. This is because Kenyan coffee is grown in different regions of the country.

Note: Bigger coffee beans in Kenya possess more oils. This, in turn, boosts their taste and aroma profiles. These types of beans are usually graded Kenya AA (the highest grade). Ask your vendor for Kenyan AA green coffee so you can brew one of the best tasting espressos.

3. Brazilian Arabica Green Coffee

Brazilian Arabica Green Coffee

Processing:  Unwashed or washed Natural drying

Harvest period: May to September

Brazilian Arabica coffees from varieties such as cerrado or bourbon Santos produce some of the highest quality espresso blends. So, this is coffee you should have in your kitchen cabinet if you are a lover of espresso.

These Brazilian coffee varieties can easily be roasted dark without accumulating an overly bitter taste. You still get to enjoy the milder balanced taste unleashed by the beans even after dark roasting. With relatively low acidity, Brazilian coffee is more on the nuttier and sweeter side or bittersweet and chocolatey side.

4. Sumatran Gourmet Arabica Coffee

Sumatran Gourmet Arabica Coffee

Processing: Wet hulling

Harvest period: September to December/ March to July

If you want to experience a not-so-strong cup of espresso, coffee beans from this Asian region are your best option. The coffee is ideal for people who are sensitive to the high acidity of coffee. Developing a full body, Sumatran coffee is earthier with low acidity and herbal notes.

Yet, it produces a deep and satisfyingly rich, almost syrupy finish. The coffee produces sweet tasting notes of chocolate, licorice, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. But, Sumatran coffee grows in three different regions, i.e. Mandheling, Lintong, and Aceh.

So, you should expect a little variation in flavors. Some varieties like those from the Lintong region have a slightly toned-down mouth feel than the other two regions.

5. Sulawesi Arabica Green Coffee

Sulawesi Arabica Green Coffee

Processing: Washed and sundried

Harvest period: July to September

Another popular Indonesian coffee variety, Sulawesi Arabica is the ultimate espresso coffee harvested in the Asian region. Varieties used include bourbon, pacas, and pacamara. Coffee from this region tends to produce a silkier body with a smoother finish and nuanced acidity.

The coffee produces aromas of chocolate and almond with warm tasting notes. These include smoky, sweet chocolate and ripe fruit, and spicy notes that feature cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper.

6. Mocha Java

Mocha Java

Also known as Arabian mocha java coffee, Mocha Java is a classic espresso roast coffee. The blend’s complex and balanced flavors provide just the right characteristics for a traditional espresso roast. The mocha java blend shouldn’t be confused with the term mocha used to describe a specialty coffee drink in many cafes and coffee shops.

Instead, this refers to a coffee blend of Arabica mocha coffee from Yemen and Indonesian java Arabica beans. Funny enough this blend is one of the oldest coffee blends, tracing its roots to the 15th century when Yemen was the world’s busiest port due to it being the primary sea route to Mecca.

The coffee blend was eventually concocted thanks to sailors coming from Java Island. A mocha java blend typically contains one part Yemeni coffee and two parts Indonesian java. The coffee blend develops by combining Yemeni Arabica coffee’s intensity and wildness with Indonesian java’s clean and bright smoothness.

Note: Some coffee roasters use a bit of robusta in this blend to boast its caffeine content and crema.

7. Honduran Arabica Green Coffee

Honduran Arabica Green Coffee

Processing: Fully washed and patio dried

Harvest period: November to April

Honduran coffee is one of the few coffee varieties that is ideal for espresso that boasts a soft and balanced acidity. The Latin American coffee, however, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to taste or aroma. 

It boasts an elegant blend of vanilla and hazelnut aroma with a chocolatey and nutty taste. Plus, it is presented quite immaculately in the cup thanks to its round and medium body.

8. Cuban Arabica Coffee Beans

Cuban Arabica Coffee Beans

Cuban Arabica coffee is a popular option for espresso for nearly two decades. Traditionally, the bean is dark roasted for the classic espresso roast. Cuban coffee is also ideal for this type of drink as its beans develop a unique taste when in contact with the heat of the espresso machine. The sugars in the beans react with the heat to produce a uniquely sweet taste.

Primarily grown in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, the coffee can be enjoyed from a conventional espresso machine or take the more traditional Cuban approach. After roasting the beans, pulverize them in a wooden apparatus, steep the coffee in hot water, and then strain the grounds in a cloth bag – you will have fresh coffee instantly!

Note: Cuban coffee exports have struggled significantly, primarily due to the infamous US embargo and poor infrastructural challenges in the country. But, the renewed relations in 2016 by President Obama saw the introduction of authentic Cuban coffee by some American brands to the market.

9. Colombian Arabica Green Coffee

Colombian Arabica Green Coffee

Processing: Washed and sundried

Harvest period: September to December

Colombian coffee tends to develop a milder taste even when dark roasted, just like Brazilian coffee. This coffee is smooth and mellows out the intense acidity and bitterness that comes with many other coffees.

When it comes to taste, the coffee largely exhibits chocolate and nutty-tasting notes complemented by hints of fruit, caramel, appeal, and berries. But, you can also come across varieties with alittle citrusy and spicy hints.

Note: Colombian coffee is abundantly available on the market, which helps to lower its cost. It’s a great option if you want to enjoy a cup of espresso daily without breaking the bank.

10. Congolese Arabica Green Coffee

Congolese Arabica Green Coffee

Processing: Fully washed and sundried

Harvest period: March to June

A bonus destination coffee, the Congolese Arabica bourbon coffee variety complements a cup of espresso pretty well. Grown at almost 7000 feet above sea level, the coffee variety develops a full body with bright and citric acidity.

It releases a sweet and chocolatey aroma when brewed and tasting notes of citrusy and dark fruits. You will get a combination of berries, raisins, and plums in your cup. But, unlike your regular east African coffee, Congolese coffee is not easy to get your hands on.

With decades of ongoing conflict, getting harvested coffee out of the country for export isn't the smoothest process. So, you shouldn’t expect to find the coffee readily available on grocery store shelves like you would with Kenyan, Tanzanian, or Ethiopian coffee. Either way, if you stumble on this variety, you definitely want to give it a try.

Note: Popular coffee brands that carry this variety include Blue Bottle Coffee CO. which makes the Three Africans coffee.

Where To Buy Green Coffee For Espresso

Green espresso beans in a bag

You can purchase green coffee beans from espresso from most coffee bean vendors, whether coffee roasters or Amazon. Green coffee goes through a series of supply chains from exports that sell by the tins to importers (sell a minimum of 100 lb bags) to smaller coffee roasters.

Smaller coffee roasters break down these large consignments into smaller quantities that can be handled by individuals. This includes anything from 5 to 50 lb bags. As expected, with such a long supply chain, costs will increase due to transport, labor, processing, and storage factors, to mention a few.

So, what the exporter pays per pound on the beans isn’t what you as the end user will necessarily pay for a pound.

How To Choose The Best Green Coffee for Espresso

Espresso in a blue mug

Key Characteristics

To get the best tasting espresso, pay attention to four key characteristics. These include balance, sweetness, lower acidity, and a higher presence of chocolate and ripe fruit tasting notes.

Consider More Than The Roast

Making the perfect cup of espresso is more than just the roast. The choice of green beans plays as much of a role in affecting the flavor of your drink. In this case, in addition to the characteristics of your coffee (acidity, flavor, etc), think of your supplier, and try to go with a consistent supplier with coffee harvested within a reasonable time to ensure it remains at peak flavor.

If you are a consistent drinker, buy in bulk to avoid disappointment. You can always refer to the harvest season of different single-origin blends so you know how to choose the right beans. Even with the best roasting and brewing practices, you can never improve the taste of poor green coffee beans.

Types of Coffee Blends

When it comes to the actual blends you use, our recommendations above serve as guidance for achieving the best flavors and drinking experience. But, what coffee you actually use comes down to your own preferences. But, it’s a good idea to consider some key facts.

  • Single-origin: Ethiopian produces excellent low acidity and is quite consistent in its availability. It also ages pretty well. Colombian coffee Is good for experimenting and a bang for your buck. nit, the natural processed coffee doesn’t age as well.
  • Sweetness: Ethiopian and Latin American coffee produced the sweetest espresso if this is what you are looking for.
  • Vibrant coffee: African and Colombian coffee tends to produce more vibrant espresso with more acidity due to their washing process

Consider The Full Process

After choosing the best green coffee for espresso, the next two important processes to guarantee a delicious cup are the roasting and brewing. After all, a process like roasting, when done right, does an outstanding job of controlling and taming the acidity of your coffee. So, make it a point to practice these processes well.

Ultimately, no matter how much we try to fight this fact, good espresso is made using medium to dark roast beans (but especially dark!). So, as a general rule of thumb, go for a single origin or blend that does well when dark roasted.

Meet the expert

Donna is a coffee lover and freelance writer from Tanzania. Coffee runs deep in her family, tracing its roots to her grandmother’s running of their first coffee farm in the mid-70s. During the summer seasons, she enjoys writing and co-running her grandmother's small robusta coffee farm with her sister in northwest Tanzania.

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