Espresso Patronum!
August 16, 2017 7:54 PM   Subscribe

We have an espresso machine that we use constantly for lattes. What are some good espresso beans for us to order?

For my birthday eons ago, Mr. Kitty got us a Rancilio espresso machine and coffee grinder and seriously it is life changing.

We have gotten a few beans we've liked like

These are awesome, but we are getting a little bored with them. We tried some of the local coffee shops/roasts in Philadelphia and have had meh experiences. For example, we paid an absurd amount for a small batch local roast and it literally tasted like pickles. Pickled espresso. Curse you Chestnut Hill Coffee!

I went to Old City Coffee today and got some small bags to try, but could use some internet finds since trekking to Reading Terminal is an event with an 18 month old.

So MeFites - what are your best whole beans for lattes/espresso?

The rating system:
We order everything on-line. On-line ordering is a huge perk.
Extra points for Amazon ordering.
We like dark roasts with a more oily bean.
Preferably roasted to order like Vivace.

Please keep me caffeinated and sane in these troubling times.
posted by Suffocating Kitty to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a machine like that and non-oily beans work better. What does the manufacturer recommend? Using oily beans in my machine produces lackluster results. This matters!

A quick google for your brand indicates the #grind you might use is particular to each individual machine, also possibly that there is a dedicated set-up process for different types of beans? I was skimming but that seemed the gist. Don't feel shame, my machine also required reading forums and watching youtube videos and the like. Some fiddling, too.

Jones Coffee in Pasadena. They grow and import, then roast onsite in Pasadena, California. Best. Coffee. Ever.

I'm sure they mail order, maybe even through Amazon. But just call them and order direct! They will discuss your machine and choices endlessly until you can choose! It's whatthey do!!
posted by jbenben at 8:24 PM on August 16, 2017

The best coffee I have ever had, hands-down, is Flying Goat. You can order online! It's wonderful, I will drive up to Santa Rosa whenever I'm in the bay area just for the coffee. My dad agrees and he's a retired engineer who knows waaaay too much about coffee. My second favourite is Alchemy, you can order online but they're based in Sydney and I'm not sure if they ship overseas or how much it would cost. It's good though. I like Hairy Chest.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:07 PM on August 16, 2017

It's not clear whether the OP appreciates that each bean variety requires the grinder and the machine to be optimised. Just because the setup for one bean works fine, does not mean another bean will result in a similar good quality dose. This means a degree of experimentation is required when starting out with a new bean.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:35 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you haven't tried them yet, Elixr coffee (15th and Walnut) is hands-down the best coffee in the city. Pricey, but I still splurge on beans from there every so often.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:19 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Intelligentsia coffee is my favorite. Black cat espresso beans. The flavor profile changes over the course of the year as the seasons change and the available beans change.

In STL, we enjoy Shaw Coffee, but it doesn't look like they sell espresso beans specifically. They do make a holiday blend coffee in December that is delicious.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:01 AM on August 17, 2017

I like Old City as well , but the most obvious answer is La Colombe. Did you not like them?
posted by desuetude at 6:30 AM on August 17, 2017

Both Lavazza and Vivace would kind of be considered Italian style coffees (at least in their approach to Espresso). This is does make your hunting a little more difficult, because most 3rd wave (and whatever comes after that) shops are typically doing medium to lighter roasts, moving towards single origin coffees instead of blends, and shying away from the Italian style. If you're looking to stay in the lavzza/vivace wheelhouse, I'd 2nd La Colombe, multiple offerings they have sit in that zone.

If you're looking to branch out, ReAnimator is local to you, and do a fairly good job. Their espresso might be a bit brighter than you're used to, but they sell little samplers, which can help cut down on the experimentation process. They say that their Foundation blend is more in line with italian style espresso, but I'm going to put a hot nickel down on the fact that it's still lighter than what you might be looking for. I've not had their Foundation blend, but have had others, and they tend to be pretty great.

Tandem Coffee Roasters is also pretty fantastic. I've not personally tried their Stoker blend, but I trust them to do a good job in every direction. Fantastic coffees overall.

The larger original 3rd wave outfits like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture will all have something in the range that you're looking for (and have great online stores). Stumptown's French roast is surprisingly functional as an espresso. Intelligentsia does have several espresso blends, the aformentioned black cat is nice, but falls outside of the parameters of what you're describing you like. Their El Diablo is probably more appropriate. Counter culture's Forty-Six and Big Trouble are probably worth a bag to try.

Most espresso works best in certain parameters; ask your roaster what recipe they suggest (usually, this will be in Dose:Time:Yield format) Since you're on a home machine, you'll need to adapt that recipe a little bit, but they should be able to get you into the right space. Even the best roasted coffee in the world can taste sour and acrid through an espresso machine if improperly dialed in. If a roaster can't give you even a basic recipe for a home machine, they're really not worth purchasing from.

Extra points for Amazon ordering.
Ehhhhh, I have worked with places that supply coffee through amazon, and I would highly suggest nixing this from your requirements. It directly contradicts your roast-to-order desire. Amazon coffee is probably really old, really gross coffee. This might not be universal, but most reputable brands stay away from this distribution model.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

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