Can You Eat Coffee Beans?

Last Updated: by: Amanda T

coffee beans pile

Perhaps you’re running out the door with no time to brew a fresh pot, perhaps you’ve just been given an intriguing bag of beans and you can hardly wait to try a little bit, or perhaps you’re just curious. Whatever the reasoning, if you find yourself wondering about eating coffee beans, you’ve come to the right place for answers.

The short answer is yes, you totally can eat coffee beans – but we’re going to consider this question while looking at a handful of different varieties of bean.

Coffee Cherries

Believe it or not, coffee actually begins as a fruit similar to a cherry. The beans that we know and love are actually the tough inner pits of these strange fruits, and so we’re going to start at the beginning and talk about eating the fruit itself.

These little fruits actually don’t have a whole lot of flesh around their seeds – just a thin layer of fiber and gooey substances – but if you were to peel away this flesh and taste it, you might be a bit surprised. Because almost all of what we think of as distinctive coffee notes only come out during roasting, these cherries actually taste nothing like your morning cup.

In fact, thanks to all this fleshy protection, coffee cherries actually taste remarkably sweet. If you’re super motivated to understand all that goes into creating coffee, it may be worth it to taste a whole variety and think about how they compare. With enough practice, coffee connoisseurs can begin to pick out distinctive varietal differences in these cherries – and it’s these subtle variations that hint at the dramatic differences present after roasting.

Green Beans – Can You Eat Raw Coffee Beans?

These so-called “green beans” are nothing like the vegetable. In fact, green bean is simply a term for coffee beans that have been stripped of their fruit, but have not yet been roasted.

Interestingly, beans in this stage are actually incredibly durable and resilient. Once dried properly, these beans can be shipped all around the world without too much worry. This means that – in many ways – green coffee beans are treated as a commodity, much like sugar or cotton. On their own, these beans are not particularly interesting, and their flavors are hardly varied at all.

It likely would not be too pleasant to bite into one of these tough little beans. Expect a woody texture and a tart taste. For this reason, snacking on green coffee beans has never really caught on – but we do recommend going ahead and trying some if you’re curious.

Can You Eat Roasted Coffee Beans?

At this stage in processing these beans, we’ve finally arrived at something that should be familiar. Picture the hoppers of delicious-looking beans above your favorite baristas, or the aromatic beans you can pick up at a grocery store – this is what we’re talking about now.

Though it’s not particularly common to eat these roasted beans on their own, this does happen all the time. For example, coffee roasters routinely bite into these in order to monitor their process, and curious home baristas should have no qualms about sampling their beans before brewing.

roasted coffee beans

Image credit: Andi_Graf, Pixabay

In fact, roasting brings out all the interesting flavors and aromas in coffee. These beans will all have a pleasant taste, and they’ll all be slightly varied.

Feel free to chomp away on these beans – but be careful about eating too many. In fact, since we’ve finally arrived at a form of coffee bean that’s actually quite enticing, and may lead to a lot of snacking, it’s worth discussing the health benefits and concerns of eating coffee beans.

Health Effects

Caffeine

In general, there’s not too much to worry about when it comes to snacking on coffee beans. The biggest concern would be caffeine consumption, but a typical cup of brewed coffee contains about 16 times the caffeine of a single bean. This means that you’d have to eat around 66 beans in order to even come close to what doctors suggest as an upper limit of daily caffeine consumption. 66 beans may not seem like a lot, but it’s very unlikely that your happy snacking would get you anywhere close to that number.

That said, eating coffee beans should be considered alongside your other caffeine consumption if you are concerned about not overdoing your daily amount. Make sure to keep track of your caffeine consumption and make responsible health choices.

Acid Reflux

Aside from caffeine, there is another important factor to consider while consuming coffee beans. Many people suffer from acid reflux disorder (also known as gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD). This is a health condition in which acids in the stomach may flow back up into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation.

In much the same way that a typical cup of coffee can exacerbate this issue, so too can eating coffee beans.

But aside from these two issues to keep in mind, there actually is very little to worry about when it comes to consuming coffee beans.

chocolate and coffee beans

Image credit: ulleo, Pixabay

Chocolate-Covered Beans

Now it’s worth mentioning our absolute favorite way to consume coffee beans. Like anything, these beans are so satisfying when covered in chocolate.

Not only does the chocolate coating provide a pleasant shell to bite through, but the chocolate also adds a little bit of sugar to dampen the bitterness of the bean. It really is wild, how satisfying these beans can be – and they make a great gift or stocking-stuffer.

Trader Joe’s has long sold these beans (in a couple of different varieties) and its brand is certainly the most common. If you’re close to a Trader Joe’s, you definitely owe it to yourself to pick up a package. If you’re not near a Trader Joe’s, these beans can also be found online.

You can see our breakdown of the best chocolate-covered beans of 2019 here.

Can You Eat Coffee Grounds?

You may be wondering about eating ground coffee. Like the other forms of coffee beans listed above, yes, you can eat coffee grounds…but there really isn’t much reason to.

Unlike green beans, roasted beans, or coffee cherries, coffee grounds will simply be difficult to handle and a challenge to swallow. If you’re really intent on choking down some coffee grounds (maybe just out of sheer curiosity), don’t worry – they pose no serious health risks if consumed in moderation.

Consider using any extra grounds as an addition to your skincare routine, or as a wonderful fertilizer for your garden.

We hope this has answered all your questions about eating coffee beans. Enjoy your snacking.


Featured image credit: Nile, Pixabay