Are Coffee Beans Considered A Nut? What Exactly Are They…

Coffee beans are the key to a great cup of coffee, and understanding what a coffee bean is helps you make the right choice. Many people wonder, 'are coffee beans nuts?' They look very similar, but the answer may surprise you.

In this article, we’ll pull back the curtain on coffee beans and tell you what they are. You’ll know exactly what coffee beans are when you’ve finished reading. We’ll start by comparing a bean vs nut.

Coffee beans are not nuts. Coffee beans are seeds from the Coffee plant, whereas nuts are hard-shelled pods. A coffee plant cannot produce nuts. The fruit produced by the coffee tree contains coffee seeds.

This means a coffee bean is a seed produced by a coffee tree. You can also get coffee fruit, such as small edible coffee cherries, but a coffee cherry is not a nut. This is why many people confuse coffee beans with nuts when the more accurate term is coffee seeds.

The bottom line is that coffee cherries contain seeds, and the seed inside is what a coffee bean is commonly known as. Coffee cherries grow on the coffee plant and aren’t nuts. For starters, they’re usually red or purple and look like berries! But not all seeds are the same variety.

Are Coffee Beans Considered A Nut? What Exactly Are They…

OK, So What Exactly Are Coffee Beans Then?

Coffee beans are actually the product of the coffee cherry, which grows on the coffee plant. Every coffee bean is a seed.

But with all these similar terms, it’s challenging to describe coffee beans well. In this section, we’ll make a few comparisons so you can classify coffee beans appropriately.

Are Coffee Beans Legumes?

Coffee beans from the coffee plant are not legumes. The latter is a type of food, and they all grow in pods on their respective plants. Peanuts, peas, and lentils are some examples. Unlike legumes, some types of nuts possess an inedible hard shell.

But coffee does not come from a nut, and nor is it inside a pod. Instead, coffee beans are grown as seeds inside the coffee fruit of a coffee plant. These fruits are harvested and processed to extract the seeds. This is how you can classify coffee beans compared to legumes.

Are Coffee Beans A Fruit?

Coffee beans are actually a type of seed. This seed is found inside actual cherries, which grow on coffee trees. Coffee beans are technically beans because they‘re only part of the cherry.

A coffee cherry contains the coffee seed, so we refer to it as a stone fruit. But it is also a fleshy fruit. Its sweet flesh is edible, and you can even eat raw coffee beans. Of course, the best use of the bean from the fruit is to produce whole or ground coffee.

The fruit of the cherries is negligible in value, so the vast majority of the actual cherries have the beans removed before being returned to the soil. Only the seed is valuable to coffee growers.

Are Coffee Beans A Berry?

Coffee beans are not a berry. This is why we refer to a coffee bean and not a coffee berry or cherry. Coffee trees grow brightly-colored fruit containing the seeds of the coffee. Because the bean is just a seed, the coffee grows inside a fruit.

Coffee science tells us that the colors of a coffee cherry influence its properties, so this fact of nature helps when deciding what coffee plants are to be harvested. [1]

However, it’s important to note that coffee berries do not belong to the berry family, despite the name. The fruits of a coffee plant are a stone fruit, comparable to ordinary cherries.

There are two seeds in every coffee cherry, which are the fresh beans that eventually go into making your cup of coffee.

Fruit composed of two seeds is the best way to know you’re dealing with coffee beans. If there are multiple seeds, it’s not a coffee fruit, so it shouldn’t be treated as such.


What Types Of Coffee Beans Are Used To Make Coffee?

There are two main types of coffee beans used to make coffee. When you extract the seeds of the coffee plant, you’ll soon notice them. They are Robusta and Arabica beans.

Arabica coffee beans are the most common, followed by Robusta and Liberica. If you weren’t aware and see a green bean, it’s not yet mature enough, so you shouldn’t use green coffee beans.

Types Of Coffee Beans

Arabica Coffee Bean

According to the International Coffee Organization, 2019/20 data showed 95.99 million bags of Arabica bean coffee compared to 73.36 million bags of Robusta coffee. [2] Many coffee plants grow in South America, with Brazil being one of the top exporters.

The Arabica variety is self-pollinating, has lower caffeine content, and has a smoother taste compared to Robusta coffee. This is why they’re commonly referred to by retailers selling coffee.

Robusta Coffee Bean

Robusta coffee was the preferred source of coffee after World War 2 because it was cheaper to source the seed. But with a less appealing taste, the switch to Arabica came swiftly when costs came down.

Liberica Coffee Bean (Rare)

One bean that's commonly referred to as a rare variety is the Liberica bean. In the book Food, Science and the Culinary Arts, the authors mention it's only produced in small quantities and has fewer varieties than Arabica and Robusta beans.


Frequently Asked Coffee Bean & Nut Questions

Are nuts ever added to coffees?

Knowing that coffee beans are beans and the seeds are beans still leaves the question of whether nuts ever get added to coffee. They are, and which nut or bean combination gets chosen is down to you. Many are available, and all sorts of flavors are possible.

Which nut goes well with coffee?

There are several types of roasted nuts that go well with coffee. Pecans and hazelnuts are two examples. But there are numerous combinations depending on your taste preferences. It’s worth experimenting to see what you like best, but be aware the flavors are often subtle.

Do any nuts have caffeine?

Most types you’ll buy in your local store or online contain no caffeine. The outer shell doesn’t make a difference, and there are no other visible signs of caffeine content.

Can I drink coffee with a nut allergy?

In most cases, there should be no risks if you drink coffee while being allergic to nuts. Most of the coffee you’ll buy originates from coffee fruit and is nut-free. But make sure not to buy any marketed as having nut flavors.

Why is my coffee nutty?

If you’re buying coffee with a nut flavor, you’ve probably purchased a nut-flavored coffee. This won’t have anything to do with the coffee fruit. The best course of action is to check the ingredients list.


Conclusion

Now that you've reached the end of the article, you'll know how to differentiate a coffee bean from a nut and how the two relate to each other.

Coffee can be flavored with nut extracts and blended with them. But the coffee beans themselves are not nuts.

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210784315000534
  2. https://www.ico.org/