It’s well known that there are myriad ways to use coffee beans for brewing, whether for espresso-based drinks, pour-over, French press, cold brew, or any other method coffee lovers can think of. However, what if you want to eat coffee beans as they are? Are they edible? And is it even safe to do so?
As with many coffee-related subjects, answering those questions is more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Indeed, the response will differ depending on many factors, including the type of bean and the number you consume.
This article details the question of whether you can eat coffee beans to give you all the information you need the next time you’re tempted to pop one or two into your mouth when you open a bag. Let’s get started.
Can You Eat Coffee Beans?
To best answer the question, it’s helpful to understand where a coffee bean comes from.
Coffee is sourced from coffee cherries. Coffee growers pick the cherries from the coffee plant before processing them into dry green beans. Then, coffee roasters roast the coffee to a specific level. This means that the coffee flavor you experience in the cup is because of the development of the bean in the roasting process.
Can You Eat Roasted Coffee Beans?
Now we’ve outlined the roasting process, we know that coffee beans are no more than the roasted seed of coffee cherries. So, can you eat coffee beans? The short answer is “yes.” Eating coffee beans is the same as eating a roasted nut. However, you’ll be surprised if you expect them to have the same flavor as a cup of coffee. Nevertheless, they are safe to eat in moderation.
Can You Eat Raw Coffee Beans?
The good news is you can also eat green coffee beans. However, green coffee beans are harder to chew than roasted beans and have a more bitter flavor, so it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy green beans as much, if at all.
Raw coffee beans also have a high acid content. One thing that works in their favor is green coffee beans are richer in antioxidants and nutrients than roasted beans. Still, overall, this is unlikely to compensate for the unpleasant taste and difficulty of chewing them.
Can You Eat Coffee Grounds?
Coffee grounds are also completely safe to eat in moderation. However, ground coffee is not dissolvable, it’s rough and hard to swallow. You’d better brew coffee using the grounds instead of eating them directly.
One of the best ways to enjoy ground coffee is to use them in baking, protein shakes, or smoothies. You can also use them as a dessert topping or grind them very finely and use them in place of ingredients like cinnamon. It’s well worth experimenting to figure out the best way to eat coffee grounds.
What Do Coffee Beans Taste Like?
Of course, there are different roast levels to consider when eating coffee beans. Darker roasted beans are the easiest to chew, but they tend to be more bitter than lighter roasts. Espresso coffee beans also have a slightly smoky flavor. The aftertaste of coffee oil is unpleasant, too, and it is more prevalent on darker roast beans.
On the other hand, lighter roast beans are denser and, therefore, harder to chew. We’ve tried eating different single-origin beans, including Kenyan and Ethiopian coffee, and none of them had any floral or citrus notes or acidity as we chewed them. However, there was a distinctly nutty flavor.
We found all the beans we tried were quite different in flavor from brewed coffee. However, Arabica beans are less bitter than Robusta beans. Nevertheless, most coffee beans are bitter to some extent. Many coffee lovers like to eat espresso beans with chocolate coating, as its sweetness offsets the bitterness for a more balanced flavor.
Pros And Cons Of Eating Coffee Beans
- Coffee beans are full of antioxidants. In particular, chlorogenic acid is prevalent, which reduces the risk of diabetes and helps reduce inflammation. Not only that, but some studies point to it as containing cancer-fighting properties. While the amount of chlorogenic acid in the beans depends on factors, including the roast level, coffee beans are generally considered one of the best sources.
- It’s a quick and easy way for caffeine consumption. Keep in mind that, on average, eight coffee beans have the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee, so it’s important not to over-consume. However, caffeine is excellent as a means of boosting energy, alertness, mood, memory, and performance. In addition, consuming coffee beans directly ensures it is absorbed by the body quickly, so you won’t need to wait long for the full effect. Another potential benefit of caffeine is that it quickens metabolism, aiding weight loss.
- Consuming coffee is thought to have other benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and liver problems. At the same time, it’s also thought to help with brain disorders such as depression.
- Bad for the teeth. Chewing coffee beans will stain your teeth far more quickly than drinking brewed coffee, particularly with denser, light-roasted beans. Also, because they’re harder to chew, they stay in your mouth longer, leading to the chance of more staining.
- It can cause heartburn. Some compounds in coffee beans lead to stomach upset in some people. That’s because compounds, including caffeine, increase stomach acid, which can cause heartburn.
- Leading on from the previous point, eating roasted coffee beans is generally not too friendly on your stomach, in part because of the compounds that lead to heartburn, but also because coffee grounds are hard to digest.
- Another issue is eating coffee beans doesn’t offer as pleasant a flavor as brewed coffee. That’s why many people choose to eat chocolate-covered espresso beans, which are far more enjoyable.
- Eating coffee beans can also create a laxative effect. So, if you suffer from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, it’s something you need to consider.
- Other potential side effects of eating coffee beans include bloating and nausea, disturbed sleep because of the caffeine, increased anxiety, and withdrawal symptoms like headache and tiredness.
How Many Coffee Beans Can You Eat Per Day?
Caffeine in coffee beans is higher than in liquid coffee. Your body absorbs the caffeine you’ve eaten more quickly than the caffeine you drink. This is worth bearing in mind as you’ll get a more immediate caffeine hit when eating it, even when considering the following guidelines.
How Much Caffeine In Whole Beans?
A single espresso bean contains between 6 to 10 mg of caffeine. Arabica coffee beans generally have less caffeine than Robusta coffee beans.
The recommended daily maximum caffeine intake for adults is 400mg. Because of this, coffee bean consumption between 20 and 30 beans is safe.
However, you should reduce this amount if you drink coffee during the day too. As we mentioned earlier, around eight beans make up a cup of coffee, so aim to reduce your intake by this much per cup you drink.
If you go beyond the daily recommended coffee consumption, you are more likely to be beset by some of the downsides of it that we mentioned in the last section.
If you experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms, gradually reducing your intake is recommended. Also, it could be wise to avoid eating coffee beans altogether if you’re pregnant.
Coffee Beans Snack – Chocolate-Covered Coffee Beans
Chocolate-covered espresso beans are one of the most popular ways to consume coffee beans. One of the main reasons people enjoy them is the sweetness of the chocolate offsets the bitter coffee, making them more palatable. Also, they offer a satisfying crunch and a delicious outer layer of softer chocolate to make for another appealing contrast. You can find a lot of chocolate-covered either in milk or dark chocolate coffee bean recipes online.
They are versatile, too. As well as eating them on their own as a tasty treat, you can use them as edible decorations in baked goods, including cakes.
Of course, chocolate-covered beans also offer a caffeine boost and have the same antioxidant benefits as eating coffee beans without chocolate, but they’re a lot tastier. Not only that, but, as well as being readily available in outlets including Starbucks, they’re easy to make chocolate-covered coffee beans at home.
Remember that chocolate tends to be moreish, so be careful not to eat too many in one sitting. Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate. So, chocolate-covered coffee beans increase the intake of caffeine. The advice offered in the last section – to consume between 20 and 30 a day should be reduced in moderation even though they’re more palatable when covered in chocolate!
As this article has explained, eating coffee beans is safe in moderation. In addition, they can offer plenty of health benefits, including helping fight inflammation or prevent diabetes, thanks to the naturally abundant antioxidants.
Not only that, but they’re an excellent way to get a quick caffeine hit if you don’t have time to make coffee in the morning. Meanwhile, if you eat chocolate-covered espresso beans, they’re easier to eat and delicious too.
Like drinking coffee, too much can lead to unwanted side effects, including stomach upset and bloating. However, as long as you stick to the recommended guidelines, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy whole coffee beans and take advantage of the range of health benefits they offer.
You may need to experiment to find the exact roast level that works best for you, but once you have, you may find eating coffee beans becomes a satisfying and healthy snack you can enjoy regularly.