Farmers harvest Arabica beans on a coffee plantation in Jalapa, Guatemala (lower right).
Quicklist: Different Types of Coffee Beans
- Jamaican Blue Mountain
- Mundo Novo
- Villa Sarchi
Coffee beans are actually fruit seeds found inside bright red berries. The word ‘coffee’ comes from the Arabic term for ‘wine of the bean.’ The legend goes that Ethiopian shepherds noticed that their goats became energized after consuming coffee berries. A monk then drank the berries and discovered that the beverage kept him alert.
By the 16th century, the cultivation of coffee beans had spread to Yemen, Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
Coffee is next only to crude oil when it comes to the world’s most traded commodity. Global consumption reaches approximately 2.25 billion cups of coffee each day. The best climates for growing coffee beans are known as The Bean Belt and this includes Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Sumatra, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, and Ethiopia.
Grown mainly in countries straddling the equator there are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. A third, Liberica, native to western and central Africa, is less commercially available. Excelsa coffee beans, thought to be a category unto themselves, have recently been reclassified as part of the Liberica family.
Below, in alphabetical order, we outline each type of coffee bean and explore some other favorites.
1. Arabica Beans
Over 60 percent of the world’s coffee is made out of Arabica beans. The beans are grown at high altitudes and receive the perfect amount of shade and rainfall for taste. Arabica trees are usually fairly small – no more than six feet in height – and they are generally easy to take care of.
Arabica beans are bright and slightly acidic, and they come in a number of varieties of both aroma and taste, such as Bourbon, Blue Mountain, Typica, and Caturra.
Sample the coffee on your front palate where sweetness and salinity are found. Arabica bean coffee is always better tasting when you serve it hot or with a pour-over or drip coffee maker, mainly because the taste of the beans diminishes if you serve the coffee with creamer or when it’s cold.
2. Bourbon Beans
French monks developed the Bourbon varietal from Arabica beans in the 18th century on the island of Bourbon (now La Réunion). The beans have a very fruity flavor with a sweet caramel undertone. Popular in the Americas and throughout Africa, Bourbon is the predecessor to many other types of coffee beans found on the market today.
3. Catimor Beans
A hybrid cross between Timor and Caturra coffee beans, Catimor strains are mostly found in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and India. The trees produce quickly and have high yields.
4. Catuai Beans
Developed in the 1950s and ’60s in Brazil, the Catuai coffee bean has numerous variations and features some of the better qualities of a good Brazilian coffee. The coffee is slightly acidic and has undertones of sweetness to it.
5. Caturra Beans
A mutant variety of the Bourbon coffee bean, the Caturra bean was developed in Brazil in the 1930s, even though it did better later on once it was planted in Colombia and Central America’s higher altitudes.
These beans produce coffee with a bright citrusy taste and a light body. It is also a predecessor to many other varieties of coffee beans, including the Maracatu and Catimor.
6. Excelsa Beans
Grown mostly in Southeast Asia, the Excelsa coffee bean is completely different than other types of beans, even though it has recently been classified as part of the Liberica family. It has a nice almond shape and is often used in blends to bump up the taste.
Enjoying this type of coffee bean on the middle and back sections of the palate results in the best flavor. Mainly considered a light-roast coffee, the bean has both a fruity and tart taste.
7. Geisha Beans
Geisha is actually a misspelling of the area where the beans first originated — in the Gori Gesha forest, in southwestern Ethiopia. The beans produce exceptionally high-quality coffee that features both floral and sweet notes.
8. Icatu Beans
The amazing part about choosing Icatu beans for your next cup of coffee is the number of flavors you can taste in them, including plum, chocolate, and berry, which come out fully if the coffee is dry-processed. A Catimor hybrid that originated in Brazil in 1993.
9. Jackson Beans
Jackson coffee beans grow in Burundi and Rwanda, and the flavor is similar to the Bourbon type of beans with a delicate acidic taste.
10. Jamaican Blue Mountain Beans
Of all the coffee grown in Jamaica, this one is perhaps the tastiest. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, introduced to the island in 1728, was one of the first cultivars brought to the New World. The coffee is mildly acidic, light and balanced in flavor.
11. Jember Beans
Hybrid coffee beans originated in Indonesia. Often called S795, Jember coffee beans are full-bodied and rich, and their taste is like a combination of caramel, maple, and brown sugar. Developed for its hardiness in the 1940s Jember is a combination of the Kent and S228 coffee beans.
12. Kent Beans
Developed in India in the 1920s, these beans have a very light taste and both floral and spicy undertones.
13. Kona Beans
Kona coffee beans trace their lineage back to Guatemalan seeds introduced to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1892. With a clean, balanced, and rather mild taste, the beans come in many different varieties.
14. Liberica Beans
Liberica beans are larger than other types of coffee beans and have a somewhat irregular shape. Their aroma is a combination of fruity and floral undertones.
15. Maracatu Beans
A cross between Caturra and Maragogype coffee beans, the Maracatu beans are very large and are grown in Central America at higher altitudes. It is a very acidic and fruity type of coffee bean.
16. Maragogype Beans
Brazilian coffee bean grows very large in size, which is one of the reasons they are sometimes called Elephant Bean coffee beans. Maragogype features a heavy and buttery flavor with hints of citrus and floral undertones.
17. Mocha Beans
Coffee beans are originally from Yemen and named after the Rea Seaport (Mokha) from where it was shipped around the world. Arabian Yemen coffee is justly famous for its notes of chocolate, cinnamon, and cardamom.
18. Mundo Novo Beans
A hybrid Bourbon-Typica coffee bean that produces heavily and is resistant to most diseases. Seeds from source plants were first combined in Mundo Novo, Brazil in 1943.
19. Pacamara Beans
Hybrid coffee beans originated in El Salvador in 1958. The coffee itself offers a perfect balance of floral and citrus flavors, along with a little acidity and a touch of sweetness.
20. Pacas Beans
A mutation variety from El Salvador, these beans produce a lot of stock and do better at higher elevations. It is sweet and acidic with spicy and floral undertones.
21. Pache Beans
Guatemalan beans feature two unique varieties: Pache Colis and Pache Comum. They produce heavily and offer a very smooth taste, enhancing their reputation as a blender coffee.
22. Robusta Beans
If you’re looking for a coffee that goes great with cream and sugar and tastes good even when it’s iced, the Robusta coffee beans are worth trying.
They are the second most popular type of bean when producing coffee, and the trees are practically immune from any type of disease. Robusta beans are sturdy and can withstand high altitudes, especially where there is occasional rainfall and plenty of suns.
Interestingly, the beans’ ability to be resistant to many diseases is directly due to the fact that it has a lot of caffeine in them – twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans.
For best results, you should drink this type of coffee on the back palate where the bitter taste buds are located. Robusta beans have a low level of acidity and a nice, smooth taste, with a hint of chocolate.
23. Ruiru Beans
Wild Arabica bean developed in Kenya with a very unique flavor that tastes a little like Robusta coffee beans.
SL stands for Scott Laboratories, the name of the Kenyan research center that developed the cultivars in the 1930s. High-yield SL varieties make up nearly 90 percent of that country’s exports in coffee.
25. Villa Sarchi Beans
Hybrid bean, first developed in Costa Rica, does best when grown organically. It has a tad of acidity and a medium-bodied taste, as well as undertones of fruit and sweetness.
26. Villalobos Beans
Grown in Costa Rica, Typica natural mutation grows best at higher elevations. It is highly acidic and provides a lot of sweetness as well.
Anatomy of a Coffee Cherry
Best Type of Coffee Beans for Various Coffee Beverages
Best Coffee Beans For Espresso
Most people wonder if they can just use regular coffee beans to make espresso. The answer to that is that you should probably avoid doing so. The typical café uses a special blend of espresso beans that don’t filter the same way as regular coffee.
There are three main reasons to choose espresso beans instead of regular coffee beans when making expresso:
- The tradition of espresso beans as they are roasted is much darker than regular coffee.
- Many espresso beans taste better with milk and may go well if you use a milk-based drink, such as a latte or cappuccino to fill in the remainder of the beverage container.
- Espresso beans are actually cheaper than many regular coffee beans.
Best Coffee Beans For French press
Light or medium-roast Arabica beans will work well with your French press.
Best Coffee Beans For Cappuccino
The Italian breakfast classic, where milk makes up much of the beverage, goes best with dark roast coffee beans.
Best Coffee Beans For Iced coffee
The best way to make an iced coffee in your own home is to use beans that create a full-bodied coffee in order to avoid some of the tart and bitter taste that comes with other types of coffee beans.
Medium roast coffee beans from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, or Honduras will provide sweet, creamy, or chocolatey flavors.
Best Coffee Beans For Latte
You can’t go wrong with some Peruvian coffee beans when you are trying to make the best-tasting latte possible. Peruvian beans have low acidity and bring a sweet taste to the beverage.
Best Places to Buy Coffee Beans Online
Imagine walking into your favorite coffee shop and inhaling the aroma of just-roasted coffee. You know it’s going to taste good, and you also know that the people who made this coffee are dedicated to their craft.
You can relive this feeling every time you open a fresh bag of whole-bean coffee from the roasters listed below. They are dedicated to creating the best coffee and sharing the experience with others.
Rook Coffee Roasters
For folks who have a discerning palate and enjoy the richest-tasting coffee, Rook Coffee Roasters offers high-quality beans from farms in Columbia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
The beans are hand-picked at the peak of ripeness and then roasted under close supervision. Some of their most popular blends are the “Sumatra,” “New Orleans Style” and “Roller Coaster.”
Before roasting, Rook’s coffee is tested to ensure that it meets stringent quality standards. Finally, the beans are packaged by hand to ensure freshness and flavor. The goal at Rook is to produce coffee with the best flavor and richness so that every cup is a true pleasure for coffee enthusiasts.
Their motto is “ridiculously good coffee from people who care,” and their actions seem to support that statement.
Dogwood Coffee Co.
Dogwood Coffee Company is a Minneapolis-based micro-roaster that was founded in 2010. It began as a partnership between two friends who shared a love for good coffee, dogs, and hockey.
The company is affectionately called “Dogwood” after the dogwood tree because it’s Minnesota’s state tree, and also because its white flowers resemble puffs of steam when the wind blows through them in the springtime — the perfect representation of the smell of fresh coffee.
Flavor offerings include the whole-bean “Single-Origin” from Kenya and Columbia, as well as blends with fun names like “Mix Tape, Pan-O-Rama, and Zamboni.” Their “Bear Hug Espresso” is also worth checking out.
Madcap Coffee Company
At Madcap Coffee, they believe that great coffee begins with quality beans. They source the finest beans from around the world and roast them to perfection. The name “Madcap” means unconventional, which is what this company aims to be.
Their business is built on the idea that high-quality beans are worth the cost, and that roasting them instead of buying pre-roasted beans is better in terms of quality and freshness.
While plenty of people like their coffee “just black,” just as many people haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore all the wonderful things you can do with coffee, from espresso martinis to cold brews. Their coffee flavors feature notes of fruits, florals, and more.
PT Coffee Roasting Company
Founded in Topeka, Kansas in 1993, PT Coffee Roasting Company has a strong commitment to quality. This commitment means that they roast only the best coffee beans available from around the world, carefully choosing from more than 3,000 different varieties of beans. Their seasonal blends, signature blends, single-origin, and espresso are all roasted in small batches for freshness.
The company was named 2015 Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine and has also been reviewed by the premier industry resource, Coffee Review.
In addition to their best-selling espresso blends — “Flying Monkey Espresso,” “Flatlander” and “Southpaw” — their single-origin favorites include “El Porvenir Tabi Washed,” “Lote Valeria Washed” and “Gesha Washed.”
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Stumptown Coffee Roasters was founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2003 by a man named Duane Sorenson. The company is known for its dedication to sourcing high-quality coffee beans from dedicated farms in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ethiopia.
A variety of single-origin coffees and signature blends are available for purchase online, as well as at Stumptown cafés across the nation.
Stumptown utilizes a direct trade model with growers to establish relationships that encourage quality coffee production. Soil composition, climate, culture, and other factors contribute to the quality of the coffee beans.
By establishing these relationships with growers, Stumptown can offer a competitive price to consumers while still offering growers incentives to continue producing quality beans.
Coffee varieties include “Bourbon,” “Villalobos,” “Geisha” and “Ethiopian Heirloom” in their single-origin and signature flavor blends like “Hairbender,” “Blend Shuffle” and “Holler Mountain.”
Spyhouse Coffee Roasters
When it comes to coffee, not all roasters are alike. Spyhouse Coffee Roasters brings a unique style to their coffees and the way they produce them. They are dedicated to using only the finest, freshest beans they can find and roast their coffees in small batches on a parabolic roaster.
Spyhouse has four signature flavors: “Bold and the Beautiful” for those who love a dark, rich, full-bodied coffee; “Iyenga Peabody” (Tanzania) for those who prefer a lighter, smooth flavor; Ethiopian “Kindo” for fans of spicy coffees; and Ethiopian “Yirgacheffe” for those who like their coffee sweet.
To reduce environmental impact, the company uses compostable packaging and other environmentally friendly practices to reduce its impact on the planet — and it’s not just lip service: Spyhouse makes sure all employees take part in ongoing recycling education to ensure the company continues to be an eco-friendly force in the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do coffee beans come from originally?
Coffee can be traced back to the Ethiopian plateau before the 15th century. It quickly moved to the Arabian Peninsula, where it then began to be transported throughout the world.
Where are coffee beans grown? How are coffee beans grown?
Most coffee beans are grown in what is nicknamed the Bean Belt. This is an area that borders the equator and spreads between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. This area encompasses parts of Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East.
Coffee beans are actually seeds. The coffee plant grows like a tree and produces a round fruit. Inside this fruit are two seeds, what we call coffee beans.
How are coffee beans harvested?
In most areas, coffee beans are picked by hand to ensure only the ripe ones are chosen. In rare cases, a machine harvester completely strips a coffee plant, but this causes even the unripe beans to be picked.
How are coffee beans roasted?
Raw coffee beans are put into a cylinder that is heated. The cylinder roasts the beans at 240 degrees for between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on the type of roast wanted. They are then moved to a cooling tray and finally through a machine that removes any stones and other debris.
Do coffee beans go bad? How long do coffee beans last?
If they are vacuum-sealed, coffee beans last for approximately six months. If you freeze them, they will last longer. The beans may get moldy if kept longer and will lose much of their original flavor.
Can you grind coffee beans in a blender?
Yes, you can grind coffee beans in a blender. The grind is coarser but put in only 1/4 of a cup at a time and use a medium speed until you get the grind you like.
How many coffee beans per cup?
While the strength of your coffee will ultimately determine the perfect number, on average it takes about 160 coffee beans per cup of coffee. Type of grind, coffee strength, and method of brewing will all factor in but start with the 160 and adjust from there.
Are coffee beans a fruit? Are coffee beans legumes?
Coffee beans are neither a fruit nor a legume, they are seeds. The coffee plant produces a fruit that, when broken open, contains two seeds. These are the actual coffee beans.
Do coffee beans have caffeine?
There are, on average, six mg of caffeine in each coffee bean, but this varies with the type of bean. Robusto beans pack a full 22 milligrams of caffeine in each bean and Arabica beans have twelve.
How are coffee beans flavored?
Coffee beans are flavored with special oils. The flavor is blended in an oil base, which helps the flavors stick to the beans. Once the beans have already been roasted, the flavored oil is sprayed on the beans.
The beans are then placed into a rotating cylinder and tossed for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. They are then allowed to dry as the flavor soaks in.
Are coffee beans edible?
Both roasted and raw coffee beans are edible. The raw ones are harder to chew than the roasted ones. You need to limit the amount you eat at once, however. The beans are full of caffeine and even healthy antioxidants, but too many may cause stomach upset.
Can you bring coffee beans on a plane?
For domestic travel, there will likely be no problem, although you may want to make sure the bag is easily recognizable. International travel is a bit trickier. Many other countries don’t allow plants, soil, seeds, etc to enter the country.
If you are entering the United States, you will not be allowed to enter Hawaii or Puerto Rico with beans, but in most other cases, you will. You just need to declare them at customs.
What are coffee beans made of?
Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant. A coffee plant is a large bush that often grows to tree height if not maintained. It develops red, cherry-like fruit that contains two seeds. The seeds are coffee beans.
Why are some coffee beans oily?
Coffee beans that are roasted too long often crack open and the interaction with air allows the natural oils within the bean to leak out.
Can coffee beans be frozen?
Freezing coffee beans is possible but not normally recommended. Freezing will keep the beans fresh longer but unless you pack them in airtight bags or other containers, the beans will absorb moisture and crack and will absorb the odors and flavors of the other things in the freezer.
Can coffee beans be composted?
Composting coffee beans is very beneficial. Just like used coffee grounds, the whole beans will break down and provide a natural fertilizer that will nourish any plants the compost is used on.