13 Espressos That Will Elevate Your Morning Routine

Making a decent cup of morning brew is a big deal, and the best coffee roasters will be the first to tell you that the taste and aroma of coffee are much more complex than wine. Just try a sip of it without the milky froth or funky syrups, and you'll find yourself drifting to faraway, exotic places. And if you swap your Americano or latte for a rich, dark espresso, get ready to be absorbed by the mystery of the ancient beverage we drink so casually each day.

So what's the difference between coffee and espresso? They both come from the same bean; espresso is just more finely ground and concentrated. The tiny cups stem from 15th-century Cairo, but the first coffee machine that applied precise, high pressure to push coffee through a filter appeared in Milan during the early 20th century.

It all starts with the right bean, and we're here to help you choose the one that best fits your favorite espresso style. Whether it's an authentic Italian classic or a new-wave roast, you'll be pleased with your new morning pick-me-up!

1. illy Intenso Espresso

When Dr. Francesco Illy started illycaffè in 1933, he hoped make the best coffee in the world. Not only did he found one of the world's foremost coffee brands, but his ingenuity led to the creation of the Illeta, an espresso machine that functions much like today's. It wasn't the only invention Dr. Illy gifted to the coffee world, however; illycaffè still uses the same pressurized packaging technology the company patented in 1934 and delivers outstanding freshness no matter the destination.

Today, illy's fine Arabica blend and sustainable bean selection have placed the company among the top coffee brands in the world. For many years, illy's espresso blend has been a gold standard for espresso-making, consumed daily in 140 countries worldwide. The Intenso blend offers everything that a good cup of espresso should have: a full-bodied taste with deep notes of cacao and a subtle aroma of dried fruit. It's not as acidic as the Classico blend, but we'd recommend getting the whole bean for a less rigid cup of espresso with fully developed aromatics.

2. Volcanica Tanzania Peaberry

Volcanica is a family-run company better known by single-origin coffee aficionados, and, like its name suggests, it sources its coffee beans from volcanic zones in various parts of the world. Anyone looking to add a fine touch to their morning routine can browse through a large collection of Volcanica's single-origin coffees; there's definitely something to quench anyone's thirst for adventure.

One Volcanica bean has gained particular attention from coffee experts at Coffee Review: Tanzania Peaberry achieved an outstanding score for its unique flavor profile and distinguished aroma — it's a bean that can make your morning ritual worth waking up for.

Peaberry isn't an ordinary coffee, however. It grows as a single seed in a coffee cherry instead of the usual two, packing double the flavor of an ordinary bean. Peaberries are very rare and represent only about 5% of the coffee grown in the world, and Tanzanian peaberries are considered among the finest. The pristine conditions and rich soil of Mount Kilimanjaro give Volcanica's Tanzania Peaberry beautiful fruitiness and floral notes with hints of cacao and oak. It's slightly sweet with very little acidity, making for a memorable cup of espresso.

3. Kicking Horse Coffee Cliff Hanger Espresso

The Kicking Horse Coffee company has been on the coffee scene since 1996. The Canadian coffee roaster is better known for producing great organic and fair-trade Arabica blends, which are definitely worth all the hype. Kicking Horse has made a commitment to producing organic fair-trade coffee, and it didn't go unnoticed; in 2017, Lavazza acquired a majority share in the company. Things are looking very good for organic coffee lovers as Kicking Horse Coffee continues its expansion.

So which Kicking Horse Coffee blend would make the best espresso? Well, Cliff Hanger Espresso ticks all the boxes. The blend comes from Indonesia and South and Central America and immediately hits the nose with blackcurrant, brown sugar, and milk chocolate aromas. It tastes like wild berries with syrupy notes of chocolate at the end and gives just the right kick you need to get on your horse each day.

4. Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso

Seeing a black cat in the morning doesn't always mean you'll be doomed for the rest of the day. That could also be said about the Black Cat Espresso blend from Intelligentsia, which has been the company's lucky charm for years. Sam Sabori, coffee director at Intelligentsia, has been the man responsible for keeping the brand's flagship espresso blend in tune over the years. In an interview posted on Intelligentsia's website, he admitted that while the company tries to keep its signature blends the same (or close to the same) each season, the Black Cat Espresso has evolved in response to improved farming and processing. He noted, "If we had the ability to give you Black Cat from six years ago, you wouldn't believe me."

While small tweaks were made to improve the quality of the finished product, Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso blend has retained the sleek and robust profile that captures the essence of some of the best beans available in Brazil. Sabori and the team have managed to extract all the beautiful fruity sweetness from the beans, giving this espresso a decadent molasses-like syrupiness — you simply can't go wrong choosing this classic blend from Intelligentsia.

5. Death Wish Espresso Roast

The story of Mike Brown, the founder of the Death Wish Coffee Company, is one of humble beginnings. Before entering the coffee business, Brown was working an accountant job in New York until he decided to take a break to figure things out. Soon enough, he'd started a coffee shop in Saratoga Springs, learning the hardships of running his own business.

The idea for Death Wish came in response to his customers frequently requesting the strongest brew he had. Brown did some research and, shortly after, introduced his new blend, giving customers just what they asked for and more: "The World's Strongest Coffee."

Death Wish is the darkest and meanest cup of espresso you will ever drink, but instead of bitterness, you'll find profound chocolate and cherry notes and a caramel finish. Brown crafted a devilish blend made of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans roasted to perfection. Robusta is known to contain double the amount of caffeine of Arabica beans. No wonder he told Forbes, "Just one cup is all I need."

6. Lavazza Super Crema

Lavazza is an iconic Italian coffee brand with a history spanning more than a century. What began as a Turin shop opened by the great Luigi Lavazza in 1895 still remains in the hands of the Lavazza family today. The company has grown exponentially and is always searching for new espresso blends that capture the essence of the famous Italian beverage.

The best way to understand the secrets to a perfect Italian espresso is by tasting it. Each of Lavazza's signature blends has its own following, and although it's hard for us to pick just one, Lavazza Super Crema offers just the right touch of creaminess we want with our espresso. It's a beautiful blend of Arabica and wet-polished Robusta beans, combining hazelnut nuttiness and sweet notes of sugarcane — a very delicate cup that works beautifully with any number of coffee recipes you can make at home.

7. Gevalia Espresso Dark Roast

Gevalia is a household name representing the luxurious heritage of Swedish coffee around the world.  Coffee is very popular in Sweden, and that's what gave rise to Gevalia's famous blends. The company was started in 1853, and today, it offers over 20 fine blends and single-origin coffees, each of which illustrates Gevalia's meticulous bean selection. The company states that it will never settle for anything less than perfect.

With that promise in mind, let's take a closer look at one of our favorite espresso blends, Gevalia Espresso Dark Roast. Above all, it produces a very smooth cup of espresso. Dark and full-bodied, it has very little bitterness to it, and enhanced caramel undertones offer a nice touch of sweetness at the end. It's easy to see why Gevalia was favored over its rival Starbucks in a 2013 independent taste test, and since owner Kraft introduced it to the U.S. grocery market in 2011, it has become a luxurious import we all can enjoy.

8. Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast

Coffee Bros. is a new kid on the block, riding the third wave of coffee roasters that focuses on unique blends and single-origin beans, and we think it's up to a good start. The company was started in 2019 by brothers Nick and Dan Hunnewell, and their small-batch roasting operation in New York City quickly picked up speed. So what's all the hype about? Well, to start with, Coffee Bros.' small-batch roasting on demand means you will never get stale beans. What really makes the company stand out from the crowd is its lighter-than-usual roasts. With an emphasis on extracting sweetness from the beans, Coffee Bros. does an incredibly good job at capturing lighter aromatics. 

Coffee Bros. Espresso Roast, named by Homegrounds as 2023's best overall espresso, makes for an unusually bright cup, with a delicious presence of strawberry and vanilla. The bean selection is immaculate, combining authentic Arabicas from Colombia and Ethiopia, and it is sure to surprise you. If you ever get bored of your darker-than-night espresso roasts, this is a brand to watch. Although Coffee Bros. ships small batches to Amazon, the easiest way to get a taste of it is to order direct — batches are roasted every Saturday!

9. Lifeboost Luxuriance Espresso Bean

Who says drinking coffee can't be healthy? Dr. Charles Livingston, co-founder of Lifeboost Coffee, seems to think it can and only sources the cleanest 2% of coffee beans in the world. Lifeboost sources its premium organic beans from high-altitude plantations, always grown in the shade and ripened to perfection. The careful selection process at Lifeboost involves hand-picking only the best beans, washing them with spring water, sun-drying, and testing them in the lab for any toxins and contaminants. And if that doesn't get you excited, each roast comes from an approved single origin, so with Lifeboost, you always know what's in your morning brew.

When it comes to espresso, Lifeboost has something very special: a luxurious dark roast from Nicaragua that will leave even the pickiest of coffee experts pleased. Lifeboost Luxuriance Espresso Bean is bold and rich, with an added touch of smokiness, and is equally good with added milk and sugars. It's always freshly roasted on order, so be sure to get your sample for a test run — we're almost certain you'll be ordering more.

10. Temple Coffee Roasters Dharma Espresso Blend

Temple Coffee Roasters has only been around since 2005, but it already operates eight coffee houses in the U.S. and runs a coffee roastery in Sacramento, California. Sean Kohmescher, the founder of Temple Coffee Roasters, got the idea to open a coffee shop during a trip to Indonesia. He wanted to create a place that would remind him of the country's temples, a place where the best coffee would gather people to share and enjoy precious moments and conversations. Kohmescher definitely succeeded, and Temple Coffee Roasters has become a respectable brand for quality coffee as well.

Kohmescher's company puts sustainable sourcing at the core of its operations, so you can rest assured you are getting fairly traded coffee from around the world. Dharma Espresso Blend is a beautiful symphony of three different beans, ethically sourced from Brazil, Guatemala, and Ethiopia; each of them adds its own element for a wholesome and rich cup of espresso. The Dharma blend gives off deep notes of chocolate layered with a more subtle sweetness of dried cherries and spicy aromatics. Dharma Espresso Blend scored very high in Coffee Review's taste test, and we think this blend is here to stay for many cups to come.

11. Stumptown Coffee Roasters Hair Bender

Since day one, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has stood firm at the forefront of specialty coffee in the U.S. Led by prominent founder Duane Sorenson, the brand established itself as one of the pioneers of the third-wave coffee movement. Although Peet's Coffee bought the company in 2015, Stumptown continues to be focused on its core values: direct trade with the growers, paying above the market price to the producers, and sourcing some of the world's best beans.

Stumptown's Coffee Roasters prides itself on following its Direct Trade model. You can find an open list of all the trade deals with the growers the company currently works with on Stumptown's website. The brand's transparency and integrity can be seen on each Stumptown coffee bag as well; you will always find detailed information about the coffee you're drinking, showing the level of commitment the company has put toward its buyers and growers.

Now, let's talk espresso. Stumptown's Hair Bender is the company's flagship blend, and the first ever created by Sorenson. It's truly magnificent, with a pronounced citrus freshness, a dark, chocolatey body, and a sweet finish from the raisins. No matter the brewing method, the complexity of the beans shines through beautifully, making Hair Bender an instant favorite. Try it in an espresso martini

12. JBC Coffee Roasters Twisted V.7 Espresso

JBC Coffee Roasters is a true candy shop for coffee geeks. With over 150 coffees ranked above 90 by Coffee Review, you know the company can select and roast an inspiring brew. JBC was equally praised by Forbes, which put it among the top U.S. roasters in 2018. 

Looking at JBC's portfolio of specialty coffees, it's easy to get all wrapped up in the details, but we wanted to touch upon a special blend: Twisted V.7 Espresso. It's one of a few staple blends that have perennially been on the menu at JBC, and it's a true espresso lover's delight! It marries the full richness of a classic espresso with new-wave aromatics seamlessly. The resulting cup is nutty and sweet, with hints of cacao, dried plum, and lingering aromas of rose and freshly cut fir. The best part — it's an affordable specialty coffee for your daily routine.

13. Roadmap CoffeeWorks Espresso Giusto

Roadmap CoffeeWorks, also known as Lexington Coffee Roasters, has been on the coffee map for over 30 years, but to find its roastery, you will definitely need a map. Located just outside Lexington, Virginia, the coffee shop still provokes the same reactions three decades on: Visitors are stoked to find world-class coffee in such an unassuming location. It sure makes for a good story, and when Johanna Read from USA Today visited, she praised the coffee as "some of America's best." Roadmap CoffeeWorks has won many awards, including Golden Bean Roasting Competition medals, and has been listed among the 30 coffees of the year by Coffee Review five times.

Espresso Giusto is one of the seasonal coffee blends offered by Roadmap Coffee Works. The origins rotate each year; 2022's blend was a mix of quality beans from Columbia, Guatemala, and Mexico. Coffee Review named Espresso Giusto the "best value” coffee that year. The decadent, syrupy roast featured hints of dark chocolate, almond butter, dates, and a beautiful spicy nutmeg finish. Espresso Giusto is always roasted to order, so you're guaranteed to get the freshest beans possible.