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Anatomy of a Coffee Bean: Coffee Bean Basics

Read time: 2 mins
Anatomy of a Coffee Bean: Coffee Bean Basics
John H. Jul 03, 2024

So you’re interested in learning about the anatomy of a coffee bean? Well, let me start by blowing your mind - coffee beans aren't really beans at all!

They are actually seeds found inside a coffee cherry. Coffee trees grow these cherries, and when they are ripe, they turn a bright red* color, signalling that they are ready to be picked. When you think of coffee beans, you probably imagine the small brown ones you see when you open your latest delivery from Fresh Roasted Coffee! But those beans are just a tiny part of a bigger fruit.

The Outer Layers

Let's start with the outside of the coffee cherry. There are three layers:

1. Exocarp: This is the outer skin of the cherry. It's thin and green at first but turns red as the fruit ripens.

2. Mesocarp: Underneath the skin is a layer of sweet, edible pulp. It starts out firm but gets softer as the cherry ripens.

3. Endocarp: The innermost layer surrounds the coffee bean, also known as the parchment. It's made up of tough cells that protect the bean as it grows.

The Inner Layers:

Now let's talkImage showing the anatomy of a coffee cherry. From outer layer inward  - shows Exocarp, Mesocarp, Endocarp, Silver Skin, Endosperm, and Embryo layer. Photo Credit to Katelinne Harner about the coffee bean itself. Inside the cherry, there are three layers:

1. Silver Skin: This is the outermost layer of the bean. It's thin and covers the bean as a protective coat

2. Endosperm: Most of the bean is made up of this layer. It's where all the flavor and aroma come from

3. Embryo: This is the tiny part of the bean that has the potential to grow into a new coffee tree.

Life Cycle of Coffee Beans

Growing coffee beans is a long process that starts with planting a seedling. It takes about five years for a coffee tree to produce fruit. The fruit goes through several stages, from flowering to ripening, before it's ready to be harvested. Once the cherries are picked, they go through a process to remove the outer layers and reveal the beans inside. Then, the beans are roasted to bring out their flavor. Finally, they're ground to make the coffee grounds you use to brew your morning cup.

A cluster of small white flowers, each with five thin petals, against dark green leaves of a coffee tree. Photo Credit to Alexandre Trouve

Two soil coated hands lifting a pile of coffee cherries that range from red to orange to yellow to green, out of a woven bowl. Photo Credit to Rodrigo FloresClusters of green coffee cherries on a brown coffee tree branch with green leaves. Photo credit to Max Letek

Choosing the Right Grind

The way you grind your coffee beans can affect the flavor of your coffee. There are different levels of grind, from extra-fine to coarse, depending on how long you want to brew your coffee. Espresso requires a fine grind, while cold brew needs a coarse grind. Read more about coffee grinder types here in our previous blog!

A white bowl full of brown coffee beans and a silver, metal spoon sits in front of a fresh roasted coffee breakfast blend brown coffee bag with a red and white label, lying on a cream surfaceSo the next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, take a moment to appreciate all the hard work that went into growing and roasting those beans. From the cherry on the tree to the grounds in your cup, each step plays a part in creating the perfect brew.

 *Ripe coffee cherries are usually red though some yellow and even pink varietals exist!




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