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Are Coffee Beans Actually Beans?

Are you one of the people who think coffee beans are real beans? You’re not alone.

Most people often confuse coffee beans with real beans, although the two are not the same.

You’ll be surprised to know that, no, coffee beans are not actual beans.

And in this article, you’ll learn a thing or two about coffee beans and find out why we call them ‘coffee seeds’.  

But before we jump in, first things first:

Why do we call them ‘coffee beans’?

Have you ever asked yourself why we call coffee beans’ coffee beans‘?

Is it because they look like real beans, or are they real beans?

Let’s clear this right away: a coffee bean may look like a bean, but it is actually not a bean.

A coffee bean is a seed of the coffee plant that you usually find inside purple or red coffee cherries.

Coffee roasters would normally dry the cherry out to make cascara or a cherry tea.

One of the reasons we call them ‘coffee beans’ is because they resemble real beans visually.

We call beans that we brew to make a cup of joe are roasted seeds from the coffee cherry, which is like a fruit.

Coffee cherry has roughly six layers, which are stalk, skin, mucilage, parchment, silver skin, and seed. 

The coffee cherry has an external skin called the exocarp; underneath it, you will find a thin layer of the parenchyma, a slimy layer when you touch it.

What you don’t know is that it’s nearly impossible to recognize coffee from an actual coffee plant.

A coffee tree has green and waxy leaves that generally grow opposite each other in pairs.

Why? Because you need to prune coffee trees to be a tad shorter, and the end product, which is usually brownish, will be green. 

How does a fresh coffee seed look?

A coffee bean that’s bursting with freshness will usually have a glossy and shiny look.

If you see it from a distance, you may think someone has dipped it in an oily substance, which you will get from each coffee seed.

So the more mature a coffee seed is, the more the oily substance will fade away.

There are typically three types of coffee seeds that you can find: Robusta, Liberica, and Arabica.

You can plant any of those coffee seeds and nourish them to grow into coffee beans that you can brew one day.

Remember, any of those beans will take on different flavors when you harvest them.

Are all coffee beans seeds?

This question can be tricky, especially if you’re not an expert.

According to NCA, a coffee bean is a seed that you can use to dry, roast, and grind to make coffee.

If you don’t like to process the grain, you can always plant a coffee seed to become a coffee tree that will bear more coffee beans.

What’s the difference between a coffee bean and a coffee seed?

You may ask, is there any difference between a coffee bean and a coffee seed?

The answer is a big, resounding NO.

A coffee bean and a coffee seed are essentially the same things.

The coffee beans that you usually roast grind, and brew are the seeds of a coffee tree.

However, each coffee tree will have different coffee seeds; hence various coffee seeds have different flavors and sizes.

A tree that bears coffee beans can grow 30 feet tall, but you can always prune it to be shorter.

Last thoughts

Lastly, coffee beans are also considered fruit or nuts by other people.

Some people mistake coffee beans for nuts with legumes and multiple seeds inside a pod.

But coffee beans can’t be nuts as they usually don’t grow inside a hard shell. 

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