Yup, Eating Coffee Beans Is A Thing
When you think about coffee, you probably immediately associate it with a hot or cold drink. But, as with most things we enjoy, there are different ways to enjoy the effects of caffeine outside of just sipping your morning cup of Joe.
Below we discuss why eating coffee beans is a real thing and what you need to be aware of regarding the reasons why you might want to do so and any related concerns.
Can you eat coffee beans?
The gist of it is yes, coffee beans can be eaten, and it might sound unappealing at first, but it can be a tasty, stimulating snack and offer some benefits!
But before you go selling off your coffee maker and snacking on the beans themselves, let’s quickly discuss what exactly a coffee bean is first.
A coffee bean is produced from the cherry of the coffee plant. These fruit-bearing plants come in different varieties but all of them grow in tropical countries.
People or machines then harvest the fruit or coffee cherry, which is then de-pulped where the beans are separated from the fruit. These seeds then undergo different coffee processing methods to become unroasted green coffee beans.
These raw coffee beans are then sent off to roasters where they roast the beans to complement the coffee’s species and origin. The roasted coffee beans are then packed and shipped to cafes, supermarkets, and even your home.
Now that that’s settled take a look below at what type of coffee beans you’d prefer whether you’re drinking or eating them.
Eating Roasted Coffee Beans
Most people are familiar with roasted coffee beans. Roasting has a major impact on the coffee but does it do the same when you eat coffee beans instead?
In some ways, it does when it comes to caffeine and flavor.
Lightly roasted coffee beans can have as much as 50% more caffeine than beans that have a dark roast profile because they weigh more per bean. Caffeine is lost by volume during the roasting process, and the darker you go, the each individual coffee bean contains less caffeine due to its reduced overall weight.
On the opposite side of the coin, coffee tends to become more bitter when it is roasted longer. Dark roasted coffee beans can taste a bit smokey with a harsh, bitter flavor, which is further enhanced when you eat them. It’s why if eating them, most people enjoy dark roasted coffee beans covered in chocolate or buying dark and covering them in chocolate at home…Yup it’s a thing!
Roasted coffee beans are easier to chew because of their brittle texture. Your coffee grounds are also safe to eat, but chowing down on grounds might be a little extreme. Instead, these could be better used as an ingredient for your food or pastries.
The lighter the roast, the more acidic the roasted coffee beans can taste, and if that’s not a problem for you, great!
Eating Raw Coffee Beans
If you want to take it up a notch, you might have considered munching on raw coffee beans instead. But, be warned that they will be dense, difficult to eat, and taste completely different from roasted coffee beans.
Raw coffee beans is undoubtedly an acquired taste. Most can taste highly acidic or astringent and tend to have woody, earthy, and grassy flavors. Nonetheless, munching on the raw beans might result in an aching jaw as it can be quite super tough to chew.
Instead, most people buy raw coffee bean extract. A powdered substance which can be added to foods or capsulated for easy consumption without tasting the flavor.
So why bother eating raw coffee beans at all if they don’t taste good?
Well, they contain higher amounts of antioxidants and caffeine.
Chlorogenic acid is a major antioxidant found in coffee that decomposes during the roasting process. According to a study documented in the Journal of Immunology Research coffee beans may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes partly due to the presence of this acid.
While other recent research has investigated its use for any health benefits associated with weight loss. Although, the study was small and only concluded that there was a reduction on overall cholesterol levels.
As green coffee beans haven’t undergone the roasting process yet, you’ll enjoy a higher amount of caffeine and Chlorogenic acid at its unadulterated peak if that’s your thing that is.
If that hasn’t piqued your interests, there are plenty of other reasons for you to eat your coffee beans instead of grinding and brewing them.
Why would you eat coffee beans?
Eating coffee beans has the same nutrients and health benefits as a brewed cup of coffee, but in a more concentrated form.
While there are benefits to eating coffee beans, which can persuade people to prefer it over their usual cups of coffee, there are also some drawbacks you need to take a look at before making the jump.
Coffee beans are a good source of antioxidants that can help protect and regulate your body. These antioxidants can be found in many foods like chocolate, tea, fruits, and vegetables but it is most abundant in coffee.
As touched up earlier, one antioxidant, Chlorogenic Acid, and its consumption are associated with managing blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
However, the roasting process can reduce the chlorogenic acid concentration by up to 50% – 70%. So, if you’re looking into eating coffee beans to consume the highest amount of these acids, it’s best to go for a very light roast or consume green coffee beans.
If you want to increase your fiber intake, eating coffee beans can also supplement your diet better than drinking a cup of coffee. Typically 30 (3.7g – 4g) coffee beans can provide 3 grams of fiber. On the other hand, brewing one cup of coffee uses more roasted beans and an 8 oz (237ml) cup of coffee will only net you 1.5 grams of fiber.
As noted above, while the research suggests coffee beans can be a helpful addition to your diet for health benefits, you should be aware of additives. Especially if you enjoy things like chocolate covered coffee beans, as these will naturally contain sugar and fat.
Like most things, eating and brewing your beans should be consumed in moderation. Coffee and by extension, caffeine, can have adverse effects on your health if you consume it excessively (according to the FDA that means any more than 400mg caffeine per day)
Heartburn is another concern, especially if you have a sensitivity to acidity. Coffee beans are naturally rich in acids, which are what impact the flavor of your favorite brew. These chemicals, like cafestol and catechols present in coffee beans, can increase stomach acid production. Note – these are more prominently found in whole beans compared to brewed coffee.
More generally, whole coffee beans contain the highest levels of compounds like cafestol and kahweol. Found in the coffee’s oils, they can lead to increased production of “bad” cholesterol or Low-Density Lipoproteins.
Another (very) compelling reason to regulate how much beans you can eat is that coffee may have a laxative effect in some of us. While many people aren’t susceptible to this drawback, it’s best to keep it in mind if you’re a part of the 30 – 40% who may feel this side effect of consuming coffee.
If your a fan of the flavor, eating coffee beans is also not the best way to enjoy them. Most roasted coffee beans can taste bitter, while raw coffee beans have harsh and earthy flavors. The varietals or species of your coffee won’t matter as they will all tend to taste the same too.
Does eating coffee beans give you caffeine?
We’ve mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of eating coffee beans, but does it deliver the same energizing effects as drinking coffee?
Yes, the short answer is that eating coffee beans can give you the caffeine boost faster with a reduced amount of coffee consumed. Caffeine is absorbed more in the mouth’s inner linings when coffee grounds are chewed rather than passing through the digestive tract.
Coffee beans also contain more caffeine when compared to liquid coffee. One coffee bean can average around 5 – 10 mg of caffeine. An 8 oz cup of a drip or brewed coffee uses 7 grams of coffee beans and has 65 – 120 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine levels can also depend on the roasting profile or species of your coffee beans. As a result, you might want to start by eating coffee beans that you usually use to brew your own coffee but in a smaller amount.
How many coffee beans can you eat?
It might sound fun, but spending all day and eating chocolate-covered coffee beans or even just regular roasted coffee beans can have some unpleasant side effects if you overdo it too much.
As coffee beans can give you more caffeine than a brewed cup of coffee, it is best to watch out for your coffee consumption, especially if you’re eating it.
Caffeine tolerance can differ for many people, but most health professionals recommend the maximum daily intake for an adult is around 200 – 400 mg of caffeine or around 4 cups of coffee.
Be cautious about your caffeine intake, especially if you’re sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine from coffee may result in adverse effects none of us enjoy.
I probably don’t need to tell you, but remember that caffeine is addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can include headaches and irritability. Whereas consuming too much can lead to restlessness.
A general rule to follow if you’re considering what kind of coffee beans to purchase is to note that some varieties have more caffeine than others.
The Robusta variety has a higher concentrated amount of caffeine compared to other varieties. A typical Robusta coffee bean generally has 83% more caffeine on average compared to an Arabica coffee. But, these will also taste much more bitter than your usual brew.
Chocolate and Coffee? Yes!
If you find that eating unroasted or roasted coffee beans might sound unappealing, you might find some alternatives that better suit your needs. The most recognizable type is the chocolate covered coffee beans you can find in supermarkets.
These sweet and tasty treats can take a lot of the edge off in eating coffee beans but be warned that they contain high sugar and fat levels.
They’ll also have higher caffeine levels and one chocolate-covered coffee bean contains approximately 12 mg of caffeine.
Like anything, monitoring your coffee bean consumption is essential if you’re one to pop bean after bean into your mouth. Remember, you’re likely to feel more of an effect regardless of if the coffee beans contain a slightly smaller amount of caffeine than your regular beans.
The average amount of coffee an average adult can eat per day is likely around 20 – 80 coffee beans, or if you prefer a sweeter snack, up to 33 chocolate-covered coffee beans based on the 200 – 400 mg limit for caffeine. But, start low and try a couple before heading into munching down a whole bag!
Ultimately it will depend on the type and variety of coffee you’ll get and your daily caffeine intake.
How does munching beans compare to a brew?
While you might consume higher doses of caffeine and antioxidants when you’re eating coffee beans, there’s a reason why many people like to brew and drink coffee.
Many people who brew coffee can attest that making the cuppa is a big part of the experience as much as drinking coffee and won’t get it by eating coffee beans.
Almost all roasted beans will taste the same if you munch on them, and you won’t enjoy the various flavors and aromas from a brewed coffee.
Drinking coffee also goes down better and doesn’t take too much time to get used to instead of chewing on the beans themselves.
More generally, If you are sensitive to the effects of coffee, it may be better to have it as a drink as the effects of coffee are magnified when you eat them.
It may not be the best way for most people to get their caffeine fix but eating coffee beans is safe, assuming you eat a few at a time and avoid the usual side effects of coffee.
Maybe the next time you buy your beans, you might consider eating them if you don’t mind the flavor and texture. You can also dip them into chocolate and enjoy them as a tasty snack if you want to reduce the bitterness.
Just keep an eye out on how many coffee beans you end up consuming, and you’ll enjoy all the benefits of coffee with little to no drawbacks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is chewing coffee beans bad for your teeth?
If you’re eating unroasted coffee beans, they’re dense and hard to chew. Naturally, this is going to give your teeth much more work to do compared to munching down on roasted beans or drinking a cup of Joe. Stick to eating roasted beans if you enjoy the coffee flavor and want something easier to chew.
What are the best coffee beans to eat?
It depends. If you’re looking for something flavorful, then you should stick to the roasted kind. Want something sweeter? Try chocolate covered ones! Although, these will contain sugar and thus naturally bad for your health.
Does eating coffee beans make you poop?
It depends. If you feel the laxative effect of coffee when sipping on a cup of Joe, then it’s likely you’re going to feel the same when eating them too. If not, start munching down!
Ex-Barista and now coffee writer
A life long coffee drinker, Philip has been looking for new ways to enjoy coffee since he started in the coffee industry in 2017. His favorite coffee is a light roast Rwandan single origin. If he’s not binging on food shows or trying out new coffee recipes, you can catch him here at Sip Coffee!