What Are Coffee Beans?

What we think of as coffee beans are actually seeds from a cherry-like fruit. Just like how the ripeness of any other fruit impacts its flavor characteristics, the same goes for coffee.Coffee Beans

The perfect mature green coffee bean has uncommonly thick walls that act as tiny reactors for heat-driven chemical reactions. These reactions determine the desired flavors and fragrances of your cup of joe.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Its invigorating effects are produced by a compound called caffeine, which is extracted from the roasted seeds of the Coffea canephora plant. The beans are then ground and brewed into a hot beverage that is drunk with milk or cream. Although there are many theories about how and when coffee was discovered, most agree that it originated in Ethiopia, where it is still produced today.

A goat herder named Kaldi is said to have first discovered the energizing properties of the coffee plant around 850 AD. According to legend, he noticed that his herd became wired after consuming bright red berries from a particular bush. He brought some of the berries to the abbot at a local monastery, where the monks roasted them and brewed the first cup of coffee. The monks then shared the discovery with others, which eventually spread across the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.

The berries are actually the seed-bearing body of the coffee plant, which is a type of woody evergreen shrub. The fruit has a thin skin, with two beans that are tightly bound together within a layer of pulp called the mesocarp. The seeds are covered by another slimy, paper-like membrane called the endocarp or parchment. The endocarp is actually a biologically-important layer that protects the seeds from germs and insects.

Unlike many fruits, which are green when ripe, the coffee cherry is red, purple, or yellow when ready for harvest. The coffee plant produces up to 10 million cherries per year. Almost all of them are grown in the Bean Belt, which encompasses the area between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. This region includes parts of Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.

Once coffee was introduced to Europe, it quickly gained popularity. However, the energizing drink was also associated with the slave trade and war. Eventually, European colonial powers took over most of the coffee-producing regions in the Americas, including Haiti and Brazil, where 2/3 of the world’s coffee is now grown.

Health Benefits

Coffee beans are chock-full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are healthy for the human body. These nutrients and phytochemicals can help fight free radicals that damage cells and increase the risk of chronic diseases. Coffee beans contain chlorogenic acid, an anti-inflammatory polyphenol that is a natural cancer preventive. It also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. This compound has been found to inhibit the growth of tumors and lower blood glucose levels in diabetes sufferers.

Other polyphenols in coffee beans have been shown to reduce the formation of oxidative stress in the liver and colon, which can lead to cancer. In one study, people who drank two cups of coffee a day were 43 percent less likely to develop liver cancer than those who drank no coffee. Other studies have linked coffee drinking with a reduced risk of liver disease, gall stones and Parkinson’s disease.

Research has also found that caffeine in coffee beans acts as a mild antidepressant. It helps stimulate the brain to release dopamine, which is a mood-enhancing chemical. This may explain why coffee is sometimes called a pick-me-up drink. People who have diagnosed depression have reported improvements in their condition after consuming coffee.

Coffee is also a great source of potassium, riboflavin and B vitamins. It has been shown that coffee has the ability to ward off heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. In addition, researchers have found that those who drink more than four cups of coffee a day are at significantly lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a disabling neurological disorder that affects young adults.

However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should limit your coffee consumption. Too much caffeine can cause heart palpitations, anxiety and even birth defects. It can also be dehydrating and irritate the stomach. Besides coffee, coffee bean extract is also used in skincare essentials because it promotes the growth of new skin cells, concealing fine lines and wrinkles. It is also known to be a natural exfoliator and improves skin complexion, leaving it radiant. Additionally, it is a popular ingredient in hair care products because it promotes thicker and longer hair.


The flavor of coffee beans depends on how they are grown, roasted and mixed with other ingredients. For example, French Vanilla and Hazelnut flavors do not occur naturally within the coffee cherries. Instead, brewers add these flavoring compounds after the roasting process. This is a precise science that involves several variables including bean, growth characteristics, roasting temperatures and syrup incorporation. Experienced brewers know how to maximize the potential of each batch of coffee beans and how to blend them to create unique, delicious flavor profiles.

Like wine, a cup of coffee can have notes that evoke certain feelings or memories. These flavors can be a result of chemical compounds that form during growth (due to climate, soil, altitude and farming methods), or during processing. For instance, if a bean develops a chemical compound that is commonly found in caramel, your brain will interpret this as having a flavor similar to caramel.

As a general rule, whole coffee beans will absorb more flavor than ground coffee. To get the most out of your cup of joe, choose a medium or dark roast with a full flavor profile. Coffee from Central American and Colombian farms are often the most familiar to Americans because they are commonly used in coffee chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. They offer a light, well-balanced and slightly acidic flavor.

Another great way to find a cup of coffee you will enjoy is to select a regionally harvested bean. Brazil beans are known for their chocolatey flavors, while Hawaiian and Ethiopian coffees have a more floral or fruity taste. If you like a more herbal or citrus taste, try selecting a coffee from Indonesia or Papua New Guinea.

Flavoring oils are also used to give coffee beans a particular flavor, and they come in a wide variety of natural flavors as well as some less-natural ones. The most common flavoring oil is propylene glycol, which has been approved by the FDA as safe for use in food and drink products. However, some consumers are concerned that this same ingredient is also used as antifreeze and a degreaser in industrial cleaning products.


Coffee beans contain the natural stimulant caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine), which provides a boost of energy. In fact, a 28-bean serving of whole, unroasted coffee beans contains more than 95 milligrams of caffeine, which is similar to the amount in a large cup of brewed coffee. But don’t overdo it: consuming too much caffeine can cause unpleasant side effects such as anxiety, nervousness, trouble concentrating and stomach upset.

The caffeine content of coffee beans varies depending on the bean type and roasting method. For example, dark roasted coffee beans have higher caffeine levels than light-roast varieties. This is because darker roasted coffee beans lose some of their mass during the roasting process, so more beans are needed to make up the same weight.

Other factors that influence the caffeine content of coffee beans include their size and how long they are roasted. Smaller coffee beans have more caffeine than larger ones, and a shorter roasting period decreases the amount of caffeine in the beans.

The coffee plant produces caffeine as a means of defense. It is toxic to many pests, so the plant uses it to keep insects away from the fruit and seeds. The coffee plant also grows at high altitudes, and the plant’s caffeine helps it survive the harsh conditions of these environments.

One of the more interesting facts about coffee beans is that they contain a significant amount of lipids. In particular, they have a significant proportion of fatty acids and esters. These lipids form a waxy coating on the exterior of the bean, protecting it from oxidation and insect damage.

The fatty acid and esters in coffee beans are important to human health, since they have antioxidant properties. These compounds can help prevent heart disease, lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. They are also believed to enhance the absorption of vitamin A and increase the effectiveness of folic acid. Aside from these nutrients, coffee beans contain a variety of other micronutrients such as potassium and manganese. Both of these minerals are important for healthy bones, muscles and the brain.