Are Coffee Beans Beans or Nuts?

Have you ever taken a sip of your piping hot coffee and wondered the age-old question: ‘Are coffee beans beans or nuts?’ If so, you’re not alone. This article will answer all your biggest questions, such as what they are, where they came from, and many other things. 

Are Coffee Beans Beans or Nuts? The Answer

Are coffee beans beans or nuts? They’re neither. In fact, although we call it a coffee bean, and it looks like a bean, it is actually a seed. 

I bet you weren’t expecting that! 

In short, they are coffee plant seeds. They are harvested from the coffee plant fruit. The fruit is red, round, and is known as the ‘cherry’, by coffee enthusiasts. 

In comparison, a nut is a fruit that is made up of a hard shell and a seed. This is definitely not coffee seeds or the coffee plant fruit they are harvested from. 

So, next time you are sipping a delicious coffee, just remember that it’s seeds that you are drinking and not beans! 

Are Coffee Beans Made Using Nuts?

As mentioned before, a coffee bean is 100% a seed. 

However, when they’re roasted, some beans are combined with roasted pine nuts and cacao, to create a deliciously smooth and sweet nut flavor. This particular type of coffee is called piñon coffee. 

Is a Coffee Bean Technically a Legume?

No, it’s a seed! How many times do I need to tell you? (Kidding, of course)

Although a seed and a legume are very similar, there are differences. Although both a seed and a legume involve a fruit, coffee leaves don’t curve as easily, whereas legumes do. 

Could you Say That a Coffee Bean is a Berry?

Look, we need to have a word about your listening skills.

A coffee bean is a seed, and although the fruit it comes from is often called a ‘cherry’, it is not actually part of the berry family, and only contains a cherry-like fruit

Berries are defined as fruit with thin, fleshy layers around them. Examples of this include blueberries, eggplants, and tomatoes. Because of this, coffee beans (seeds) are not berries. 

The Coffee Cherry: What You Need to Know

As we mentioned earlier, the coffee bean is the seed inside the cherry, which grows on a coffee plant. The trees first start with white blossoms, before evolving into green coffee cherries. They then ripen, changing color from green to red/pink. At this point, coffee farmers start to pick them so they can be used for your coffee. 

The outside of the cherry is extremely hard and quite bitter to taste. Underneath this is the sweet flesh of the cherry, and underneath another layer is the coffee bean. The outer shell of the cherry is like this so it can protect the seed within so the coffee bean doesn’t get damaged. 

How are the Cherries Processed?

The cherries are processed in two different ways. 

The first is the natural method. This is where the cherry is completely dried. After this, the skin and the pulp are carefully removed so that the farmers can get to the good bit (the coffee bean). 

The second method is the washed process. Here, the coffee beans are removed straight away and then fermented in water. 

The different processes provide different tastes. The natural method provides a coffee that is much sweeter than its washed counterpart. In comparison, the washed method creates a coffee that is smoother and more acidic. The washed way method of processing coffee is more popular in the industry. 

What Types of Coffee Beans are Used to Make Coffee?

There are three different species of coffee beans: arabica, robusta, and liberica.

The Arabica Coffee Bean

The most well-known is arabica. This is the most popular by far, accounting for around 75 to 80% of all coffee production. The biggest difference between arabica and the others is that arabica is completely self-fertile, meaning that it can be self-pollinated. What’s more, arabica has much lower caffeine than the other types of coffee beans. 

If you go to any cafe, there is an extremely high probability that the coffee you drink there comes from the arabica coffee bean. 

The Robusta Coffee Bean

Robusta, on the other hand, is much cheaper and has a higher caffeine content in comparison. In fact, after World War 2, when money was scarce, robusta coffee was extremely popular, thanks to its cheaper price. However, the taste is the biggest difference between the two. 

Arabica is much nicer on the tastebuds for the vast majority of people, so as soon as people could afford the slightly higher price, cafes changed from robusta to arabica. 

The Liberica Coffee Bean

Liberica, in comparison, has less than 1% of the market share of coffee beans. 

These beans are quite unusual compared to the other two, mainly because they are shaped like a teardrop and their trees can reach 65 feet!

So, what else makes them different?

One big difference is that the Liberica coffee bean has low acidity and more of an intense and lingering fruity taste. Many liberica coffee drinkers have noted a much less bitter taste compared to arabica and robusta. 

Where Do They Come From?

One coffee-related question on everybody’s lips is: ‘where did they come from?’ 

The large majority of coffee beans that are used to make your coffees are grown in what is known as the ‘bean belt’. This is an area situated around the equator, and the most popular countries that grow coffee beans there are Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. 

These areas are perfect for coffee plants to grow and make great coffee beans. 

However, just because they are grown near the equator doesn’t mean that they will taste the same. Climate, soil type, and several other factors all influence the taste that coffee beans produce. 

Arabica beans are mainly grown at 1300 to 8000 feet altitudes. South America, and in particular, Brazil, are the biggest exporters of arabica beans. 

In comparison, Robusta beans are grown all over, from Africa to Vietnam. With this type of bean, they are grown at altitudes that can reach up to 3200 feet high. 

Liberica beans are native to Africa but have also been naturalized in Asian countries such as the Phillippines and Indonesia. 

Are Coffee Beans Beans or Nuts: A Summary

So, by now you should know the answer to this question and many others. 

Although the fact that a coffee bean is actually a seed can be confusing, at least you have this interesting fact to share with your friends. What’s more, it’s sure to give you some thought the next time you wonder which coffee bean to choose when wanting a cup of coffee. 

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