So we all love drinking coffee, right? We also love it as a flavoring in cakes, and cookies, and sauces. And the scent of freshly ground, freshly brewing coffee, is one of the pleasures in life.
But has it ever occurred to you that there are times when eating coffee beans is an option too? You get all the effects of a coffee drink, in a tiny, convenient package. Sometimes the beans even come covered in chocolate, for extra energy and flavor.
Can You Eat Coffee Beans?
Well, it certainly didn’t do Kaldi’s goats any harm, eating coffee beans, back in the day. In fact, the legend goes that those goats are the original reason for our having coffee as we know it today. Their boisterous behavior after munching the coffee plant alerted the monks at the nearby religious house that eating coffee beans just might be worth further investigation.
Before they’re selected, dried, and roasted, coffee beans start life as the seeds of the cherries of the coffee plant. Much of the coffee plant is edible, like a large majority of plants. The bitter taste and tough texture of coffee beans, though, means that they need a little processing first to be palatable.
Can You Eat Unroasted Coffee Beans?
So yes, you can eat coffee beans. The real question is whether you should. And what kind of coffee beans can you eat, anyway? Is it only roasted coffee beans that are safe to eat? Before they’re heated, they’re green. So can you eat raw, green, unroasted coffee beans, for instance?
Well, again, you can eat green beans raw, but their texture means they’re not the easiest food in the world to chew. Once they’re roasted, the consistency does soften somewhat.
Is Eating Coffee Beans Healthy?
Wondering about whether coffee is healthy? Well, wonder no longer. Coffee, plain and simple, is a pretty beneficial substance. It’s when you start adding cream, sugar, and syrup, and all those other lovely additives that it’s not quite so healthy for you. Although that’s more to do with the added fat and calories. The basic benefits of coffee stay the same.
Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. It’s also a major source of antioxidants for many of us. Medics and scientists have even started to discover that coffee can help with all kinds of chronic conditions. These range from some kinds of cancer to Parkinson’s disease. As well as helping you stay alert, it contains potassium, niacin, and magnesium.
Coffee beans are still coffee, so you’re still getting all those benefits. They just come in a more concentrated form so you need to be careful how many you consume. When you savor a cup of joe, those beans are dissolved in water, so the caffeine effect is more diluted. Coffee beans are a great source of fiber, though.
Since coffee beans are pretty gritty and hard in texture, you do also need to have good teeth and a pretty strong jaw to enjoy them. In fact, some doctors have suggested that coffee beans should be added to the list of foods to check how well someone can chew food.
How Many Coffee Beans Can You Safely Eat?
Since coffee beans offer such an intense coffee experience you need to be a little careful how many you eat. An average 8 fluid ounce cup of non-decaffeinated ordinary-strength coffee contains around 95 mg and a single coffee bean contains around 6 mg.
So around 15 coffee beans will give you the same amount of caffeine as one cup of brewed coffee but the caffeine is much more condensed.
Around the world, the government agencies who have our best dietary interests at heart recommend no more than 3-5 cups of coffee a day. Of course that all depends on the size and caffeine content.
After all, you get the best benefit out of coffee when you consume it in moderation. And a Deathwish coffee, say, is going to be a lot stronger than your average medium Starbucks blend.
And then there are one or two folks who would probably be best sticking to brewed coffee rather than eating coffee beans. If you’re an expectant mom, for instance, or if you’re breast-feeding a baby, then it’s probably best to stick with caffeine as a beverage.
Are There Any Bad Side-Effects To Eating Coffee Beans?
Due to the concentrated nature of the caffeine when you’re consuming only the bean, some of the side effects you might ordinarily get from drinking coffee might be a little more extreme. These might include heartburn, stomach upsets, a need to visit the bathroom more frequently, and insomnia.
When you eat coffee beans, you’re consuming the whole seed. It’s not diluted with water, or milk, or honey, sugar or syrups as it would be in a brew.
Does It Matter Whether I Eat Light Or Dark Roast Beans?
When you’re thinking about eating coffee beans, not all coffees are created equal. It might seem a little strange at first, but the levels of chlorogenic acid are higher in a lighter roast. In case you’re wondering why that’s such a big deal, chlorogenic acid is one of the substances in coffee with the health-giving properties.
So while you might think that a darker roast will be better for you when you’re munching those coffee beans, a lighter roast has a slightly higher concentration of caffeine. That lovely color we associate with coffee beans, from a gentle tan to a deep, lush, almost maroon brown? That’s thanks to the roasting process.
Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans: I Was Eating Those Beans
And then there are chocolate-covered coffee beans. You’ll often see them sold as chocolate-covered espresso beans, although espresso isn’t really a type of coffee, it’s a brewing method.
These beans are just perfect as a snack. Keep them as an emergency pick-me-up in the glove compartment. On long, dark, winter drives where gas stations and coffee stops may be few and far between, it’s not unknown for me to have an open bag right next to me on the passenger seat.
I was eating those beans as a cross between a snack and a reviving beverage alternative. I mean, coffee AND chocolate. In a small convenient form that I could enjoy on the move, AND that helped me stay alert on the road. What’s not to like?
Does Eating Espresso Beans Help You Lose Weight?
You might already know that drinking coffee, black coffee anyway, can help with weight loss as part of a calorie-controlled diet. So does the same apply to coffee beans?
Well, some research studies would seem to indicate that yes, eating coffee beans can help you lose weight. In one investigation, carried out in India, the participants lost an average of 17 pounds in the 22 week research period.
How About Eating Coffee Grounds?
Many in the medical world wouldn’t recommend consuming coffee grounds in large quantities. Again, however, a small serving added to a dish of oatmeal, say, would be unlikely to do too much harm. Even eating them “neat”, as it were, shouldn’t be too detrimental, as long as you eat only small amounts. Just be prepared, as with the beans, for the fact that some side-effects of drinking coffee might be a little amplified.
Conclusion: Is Eating Coffee Beans A Good Idea?
So we all know that caffeine, in moderation, is good for us. And coffee comes in all kinds of great formats, not just ground coffee, or instant, or brewed. Other formats available now include sprays and chewing gum.
We also know that good things often come in small packages. And while sometimes we really need coffee to come in an ultra-convenient form. So eating coffee beans can be a perfect way to get a quick, and super-tasty, caffeine hit. Make mine a chocolate-covered espresso…
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!