Are Coffee Beans Vegetables? Answered

Since a bean is a vegetable, does this mean that coffee beans are vegetables? Discover a definitive answer to “Are coffee beans vegetables?”.

Are coffee beans vegetables?
Technically, beans are not vegetables; they are legumes

Almost everyone we know loves coffee and starts every morning with their favorite cup of Joe – and I’m one of them! We love coffee for its taste and caffeine kick, which can help us keep going all day long. 

However, if you ask Google if a coffee bean is a vegetable, you may find differing opinions. If you try searching “is coffee a vegetable,” one of the first results that you will see is “Yes, it is, it’s made from a bean, and a bean is a vegetable.” Now, you may be thinking that you’ve already found the correct answer, right? 

Despite this brief and very to-the-point answer, this statement has one flaw. Technically, beans are not vegetables; they are legumes. Coffee beans are not even beans; they are seeds!

Coffee grows on shrubs and bushes, and these shrubs produce little red fruits known as coffee cherries. Coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries. So, if coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit, that must make it a fruit, right? 

Are Coffee Beans Fruits?

Although the coffee cherry is a fruit, the coffee bean is only a part of it. The coffee cherry may be hard and bitter on the outside, but it has a juicy and sweet flesh on the inside. Underneath the flesh is an unpleasant layer that often feels a little slimy but is needed to protect the coffee bean inside. 

So, do coffee cherries taste like coffee? I don’t think so.

Some people compare it to the taste of a mango or a watermelon, while some say it smells like rosewater or hibiscus. Although the pulp is edible, its slimy texture makes it a fruit that most people would never want to pick and eat.

The answer to the question “Are coffee beans vegetables” is no. Coffee beans are seeds, and the coffee cherries they produce are fruits.

How Do Coffee Plants Grow?

You may know how to make coffee from start to finish, but it is also crucial to understand how it grows. So, without diving too deep into the science of plants, here are the key points about how the coffee plant grows and how it produces that delicious coffee bean.

The coffee cherry is a small, fleshy fruit that usually becomes red particularly when it’s ripe. Sometimes, it appears like small purple fruits, and sometimes it takes on a yellowing hue.

Coffee cherries grow on tall shrubs and bushes and have dark green, waxy leaves. They usually take about one year to begin flowering, then at least one more year for a newly planted tree to start bearing fruits.

Pick one coffee cherry and try removing the husk – you will find an inner pulp layer. Peel apart that pulp, and you will find one of these two things inside: two coffee seeds with flat sides that appear like the usual coffee beans or one single round bean also known as a peaberry.

Less than 10 percent of all coffee cherries contain a peaberry – it is more common for them to produce two flat beans. Each bean is extracted from the fruit, dried out, and roasted, regardless of whether there are one or two seeds. After that, you can grind these coffee beans and place them in your French press or Moka pot.

You can read our guide on how to make French Press coffee at home and our Moka Pot coffee brewing guide.

How Coffee Beans Are Harvested

How coffee beans are harvested?
Sometimes, they are “strip picked” from the tree limb to gather a large number of them at once

Most of the time, coffee cherries are harvested and picked by hand. The older the coffee tree, the more coffee cherries it can produce. So, sometimes, they are “strip picked” from the tree limb to gather a large number of them at once. 

There are two different processes for extracting the coffee beans.

The Dry Method

The traditional method is called the dry method. With this method, you spread the coffee cherries out in the sun, rotating and turning constantly, letting them dry naturally. Coffee roasters then mill, hull, and extract the beans from the inside using specialized machinery.

The husk of coffee cherries, which is the fruit's skin known as cascara, dries out in the sun. Some people use it to make herbal tea, known as cascara tea. 

Try a cup of cascara tea to load yourself up with all the benefits of coffee cherries without actually eating the fruit. It contains high levels of caffeine and antioxidants that can help you fight off diseases.

The Wet Method

The wet method process starts by separating the good coffee cherries from the bad ones. Then, remove the skin of the good ones, throw the husks away, and pull out the seeds.

With this method, most coffee growers soak and ferment the seeds to get rid of the remains of the pulp or fruit that surrounds the bean. Remember that it’s crucial not to over-soak or over-ferment the seeds – they need to be handled correctly. 

No matter what method you use, all coffee cherries have to go through drying and milling. The last step is roasting, but before that, the beans are dubbed “green coffee beans.” They only turn into those delicious brown coffee beans after being roasted.

Where Do Coffee Plants Grow?

Where do coffee plants grow?
The three main types of coffee plants, with different varieties growing in different parts of the world

There are three main types of coffee plants, with different varieties growing in different parts of the world. The bean's flavor is affected by how and where it is grown.

Arabica

Approximately 60% of all coffee beans produced come from the Coffea Arabica plant, also known as Arabian Coffee. Arabica plants can be found worldwide, although the majority are native to Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. They can also be found in Guatemala, Mexico, and some parts of India.

Coffee plants thrive in mild temperatures with high humidity – most countries that grow Arabica plants are subtropical. They thrive best when grown at high elevations in lots of shade but do not freeze.

However, not all Arabica beans are the same – there are more than 20 varieties of Arabica beans in the world.

Kona coffee, which is cultivated on the slopes of volcanoes in Hawaii, is one variety you may have heard about. Its subtropical climate and its elevation and altitude make Kona one of the best (but also most expensive) coffees in the world. 

Despite the nuance in its varieties, Arabica is known as the most popular type of coffee bean in the world. It has a slightly sweeter flavor than other types, with citrus, berries, and chocolate notes.

Robusta

Robusta coffee beans come from the Coffea canephora plant, and they account for almost 40% of all coffee beans produced in the world. These coffee beans are primarily grown in Africa and Indonesia, and they can grow at much lower elevations than the Arabica coffee beans. 

Robusta beans have a stronger, more intense flavor than the sweet Arabica bean and twice as much caffeine. Coffea canephora plants produce significantly more coffee cherries than Arabica plants, making Robusta a cheaper alternative.

That’s why most instant coffees and cheap grocery store brands use Robusta coffee beans for their products. 

Liberica

Liberica coffee beans make up only about 2% of the world's coffee. Liberica is a plant that grows primarily in West Africa, Malaysia, and the Philippines – countries where the temperatures usually vary from 65°F to 80°F, and rarely fall below 32°F.

Excelsa coffee beans also grow in Southeast Asia – they used to be classified as their type of coffee bean, but they are now considered part of the Liberica family. These coffee beans sometimes grow in subtropical climates because they need humidity, but they are also best grown in places where temperatures range between 65°F to 80°F.

If you haven’t tried Liberica or Excelsa Coffee beans, don’t worry because you’re not alone. These coffee beans are tricky to find.

Related article: Is Coffee A Vegetable Or Fruit?

Author

  • Danico Dacillo became a fan of coffee when he was in college 'cause it helps him stay awake. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, but now working as a content writer. His passion for writing started when he was still in grade school -- as a sports news writer.