Break away from the Starbucks stranglehold with these eight must-have espresso beans.
We understand: you’re addicted. And who could blame you? You're inundated with a Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts on every corner, not to mention an aisle's worth of beans on offer at any grocery store. But while those may do the trick, there’s so much more to the life of a true espresso-lover. There’s a whole world of exotic and amazingly complex beans sourced from producers who put their hearts and souls into harvesting every last caffeine-laced seed. Come and take a deep dive into these amazing espressos that deserve a place in your daily grind.
Ritual Coffee Sweet Tooth Mamani, $17 per 12 oz
(Photo courtesy of Ritual Coffee Roasters)
Sourced from Bolivia, this two-farm blend is harvested at 5,000 to 5,300 feet, which is the altitude sweet-spot for coffee production. The resulting blend of plum and red currants hits you from the inside-out.
Stumptown Hair Bender, $14 per 12 oz
(Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters)
Unlike single-origin espressos from one producer, this blend of Latin American, East African, and Indonesian beans combines five to eight coffees together in a fight for your affections, with notes of chocolate, caramel, jasmine, Meyer lemon, apricot, and pineapple.
Blue Bottle 17ft Ceiling, $19 per 16 oz
(Photo: Clay McLachlan / Claypix.com)
Like taking a hot rod and stuffing a new Corvette motor under the hood, Blue Bottle’s 17ft Ceiling espresso is what happens when you reverse-engineer an Italian staple and then substitute organic beans in its place. The result is a nutty and caramel-heavy pull with the cream to match.
Intelligentsia Black Cat, $15 per 12 oz
(Photo: Andy Wickstrom for Intelligentsia Coffee)
The line of Black Cat espressos - classic, analog and organic - has been around nearly 20 years, and is the product of direct trade partnerships with the brand's producers. The resulting espresso boasts flavors of caramel, sweet candy, and citrus, and cuts a direct path to your taste buds like a machete cutting through the jungle.
La Colombe Fishtown, $12.95 per 12 oz
(Photo courtesy of La Colombe Torrefaction)
There’s a reason “creative types” will sit in a La Colombe store for hours, and it’s not just for the free Wi-Fi. Their Fishtown has a lot going on - fruity notes, thick molasses, sweetness - but it finishes clean and makes short work of that overly relaxed brain of yours.
Verve Coffee Roasters The Sermon, $15 per 12 oz
(Photo Courtesy of Verve Coffee Roasters)
Verve recommends its blueberry and dark chocolate-laced espresso for cappuccinos, but we went straight to the point and poured up a double. Like sipping a fine blended Scotch, The Sermon tastes best when taking your time, letting your lips savor the heavy body.
Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters' Nueva Llusta, $17 per 12 oz
(Photo courtesy of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)
Bringing together the beans of seven farms in (you guessed it) Nueva Llusta, Bolivia, Phil & Sebastian experimented with the region til they got the formula just right with this spectacular blend of chocolate, vanilla, and black cherry; like a black and white cookie with a kick.
Porto Rico Civet coffee, $100-$400 per pound
(Photo: Getty Images)
Also known as “Kopi luwak” in Indonesia, civet coffee is the upper echelon of joe. The beans are eaten and then passed through the Asian Palm Civet’s (basically a big rodent) digestive tract and then naturally expelled. The animal's stomach cause the beans to ferment and its enzymes infuse them, which is what gives it the distinctive and perfectly smooth taste. Workers then collect, clean, and wash the anal gland-laced coffee. Do your research before splurging though; civets are sometimes kept in awful conditions to mass-produce the brown nugget nectar.
Breville Oracle, $2000
Photo Courtesy of Breville USA
For our testing we used the Breville Oracle, which is like keeping a barista captive in your home or apartment. Everything is automatic and using it couldn’t be simpler. One-touch grind and tamp - with the built-in burr grinder - makes a perfect single, double, or Americano, and even steams your milk. It’s one step away from intravenously injecting the espresso straight into your bloodstream.