What Is A Coffee Bean or Seed?

A coffee bean is NOT a bean. It is the seed of the coffee cherry. End of article?


Just kidding.

There are many different questions we can ask that play into the uniqueness coffee bean. Is it Arabica or Robusta? Where was the bean grown? How much caffeine is in a bean? Is it a traditional bean or a Peaberry bean? What’s the difference between a coffee bean and an espresso bean? (Hint: Absolutely nothing). This list goes on and on and on. However, I think the best place to start is at the beginning, so let’s go back about, oh, 1200 years or so. Yes, we have been addicted to coffee for a very long time.

It is believed that an Ethiopian herdsman first discovered the coffee cherry around 850 A.D. At first, the fruit of the cherry was used as an alcoholic drink with a special kick to it (which we now know to be caffeine), but soon the process of boiling the coffee seeds became popular, and the drink we know of as coffee was born!

The coffee berry, grown on a coffee tree and picked when ripe, usually contains two coffee seeds. These seeds are encased in five layers: the silver skin, the parchment skin, a slimy layer, a pulp layer, and the outer skin. These layers are removed to reveal the coffee seed, a green, unroasted coffee seed with minimal flavor. These coffee beans are then heat roasted to bring out their wonderful flavor and ground in many ways to create our coffee that we know of today. 

A Peaberry bean occurs when there is only one coffee seed within the coffee berry, instead of two. Some believe, these seeds are richer than normal coffee seeds, but that topic is still up for debate.

The two primary types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. These beans are genetically different; the Arabica strain contains 4 sets of chromosomes, while the Robusta contains 2 sets of chromosomes. Arabica grows best at higher altitudes, while Robusta thrives at lower altitudes and are more hardy plants, with great disease and pest resistance. Arabica strains are mellower, containing earthy, chocolaty, citrusy and fruity flavour profiles, while Robusta strains are generally bolder in flavor. Generally, Arabica beans have less caffeine and antioxidants than Robusta coffee beans.

Coffee plants are grown all over the world, specifically close to the equator. At Coffee Co-Mission, our current growers are in Kenya, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Colombia, Costa Rica and Indonesia.

Happy Brewing!
June 01 2015

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