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Can You Eat Coffee Beans? Yes! (+ 3 Big Reasons You Should)

extreme close up of coffee beans on tan paper, can you eat coffee beans
coffee beans for eating
coffee beans to eat

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If you’re low on energy and searching your pantry for a snack with a kick, you might be eyeing that bag of coffee beans, wondering, “Can I eat coffee beans?”

It stands to reason that something we grind up and brew with hot water should be perfectly acceptable to consume by the handful, but is this the case?

If you’ve considered this, you’re not alone. Many of us have sampled coffee beans for eating rather than brewing and enjoyed a handful covered in chocolate. 

But are coffee beans you can eat somehow different from coffee beans to brew? Let’s take a closer look at coffee beans and find out.

Can You Eat Coffee Beans?

Can coffee beans be eaten? In a word, yes!

In fact, eating coffee beans has been a common practice for many years. Coffee beans are totally edible, but the taste and texture will vary depending on the bean.

Let’s look at the beans themselves to help us answer the question, “Can you eat coffee beans?”

close up of red and green coffee cherries on the tree, Are coffee beans fruit
What are coffee beans

What Are Coffee Beans?

A coffee bean comes from the fruit of the coffee plant. Wait, are coffee beans fruit?

Yes and no. The coffee “bean” is technically a seed from the fruit of the coffee plant. These fruits are called coffee cherries. Unprocessed coffee beans (seeds) may be used to grow a coffee plant.

So, like many other commonly consumed seeds like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, coffee seeds may also be consumed. But can you eat coffee beans raw? 

While technically, it is safe to eat raw coffee beans, we’re not sure you’d want to. Let’s take a look at the difference between green coffee and roasted coffee beans to eat.

looking into a burlap sack filled with green coffee beans, Eat raw coffee beans
Is it safe to eat coffee beans
Can you eat coffee beans raw

Green Coffee vs. Roasted Coffee

Green coffee beans (or raw coffee beans) are unroasted coffee beans. 

Green coffee beans and roasted coffee beans have unique physical attributes, and there are marked differences in how these two forms of coffee beans taste.

Unless you’re roasting your beans yourself (and if you are, good for you!), you’re most likely buying roasted coffee beans.

Green coffee beans are denser and contain more moisture than roasted coffee beans. You’re likelier to break a tooth on a green coffee bean, so these aren’t the best coffee beans to eat.

In addition to their hard texture, green coffee beans will have a grassy, sour taste that many will find off-putting. The traditional sweet, roasty flavors we expect in a coffee bean are developed during the roasting process.

But even with all that roasty goodness, a crunchy, gritty coffee bean is still a far cry from a rich shot of espresso. Many will find the flavor of coffee beans unpleasant unless they’re coated in chocolate.

And while chocolate-covered espresso beans are delicious, the added fat and sugar offset the beneficial nutrients in coffee beans.

Coffee cherries on basket lid, Coffee beans you can eat
Coffee beans for eating
Coffee beans to eat

Is It Safe To Eat Coffee Beans?

Okay, now we know you can eat coffee beans, but is eating coffee beans bad for you?

No, it is perfectly safe to eat coffee beans. In fact, there are several beneficial nutrients in coffee beans, making them a smart snack for many. 

But, like any food containing caffeine, there may be potential side effects of eating coffee beans that are worth considering. Can you eat whole coffee beans if you are sensitive to caffeine? 

If you strongly react to caffeine, you’ll want to eat coffee beans in moderation. There is an increased risk of rapid caffeine absorption when eating coffee beans vs. drinking coffee.

On average, eight coffee beans provide equivalent caffeine to one cup of brewed coffee.

Close up of red coffee cherries on tree, Nutrients in coffee beans

Is It Healthy To Eat Coffee Beans?

Eating coffee beans is perfectly safe, but can you eat coffee beans as a healthy snack?

That depends.

If you are sensitive to caffeine or caffeine interacts with a medication you’re taking, consult your doctor before eating coffee beans. Or, choose a decaf bean instead.

However, if you are a frequent coffee drinker (slowly raises hand) and you know how your body reacts to caffeine, the nutrients in coffee beans may qualify them as a wholesome snack.

Airscape coffee storage canister in turquoise
Airscape Stainless Steel Coffee Canister

Coffee beans are loaded with antioxidants. Brewing with hot water can reduce the total antioxidants in the beans; therefore, eating whole coffee beans instead may provide an extra antioxidant kick.

Coffee beans are also high in fiber, something brewed coffee simply can’t provide. But can you eat coffee beans without the heartburn from brewed coffee?

Unfortunately, no. Eating coffee beans vs. drinking coffee may cause worse heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.

This is because coffee beans contain substances, like catechols and others, that contribute to acid production in the stomach, in addition to the caffeine and acid themselves.

Brewing the coffee beans removes some of these substances and reduces the overall acidity of the coffee.

Asian palm civet in puddle on busy street, Animals that eat coffee beans
Animal who eats coffee beans
Cats eat coffee beans
Monkeys that eat coffee beans

Animals That Eat Coffee Beans

We’re not alone in our obsession with all things coffee.

There are several species of animals that eat whole coffee beans, too. In fact, coffee cherries and their seeds are part of a nutritious diet for many species.

These include bats, birds, monkeys, elephants, and the most infamous of all, Asian palm civets.

The civets are most well-known for their fondness for coffee cherries and the subsequent “cat poop coffee,” known as Kopi Luwak.

Many animals, like the civet, enjoy eating the entire coffee cherry, seed, and all. Others, like monkeys and bats, eat the fruit of the coffee cherry but spit out the seeds.

But can you eat coffee beans eaten by monkeys? Technically, yes. You can eat coffee beans eaten by monkeys (or any other animal) first, although we’re not quite sure why you’d want to. 

Kopi Luwak and other coffee beans produced from digested or spit-out beans are thoroughly cleaned before drying and are perfectly safe coffee beans to eat.

But if you ask us, we’ll stick to the coffee beans you can eat that weren’t in another creature’s mouth (or intestinal tract) before ours.

Cup of black coffee beside cup of coffee beans on wood surface, Eating coffee beans vs. drinking coffee

Eating Coffee Beans vs. Drinking Coffee

Can you eat whole coffee beans instead of drinking coffee each morning? Sure!

If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to brew a cup, grabbing a handful of coffee beans to eat will provide a boost of caffeine and antioxidants to get you going.

While you can eat coffee beans for caffeine, be mindful not to overindulge. You’ll only need about eight coffee beans to get the amount of caffeine you’d have in a cup of coffee.

The added fiber from the beans may also affect your digestion differently than a cup of brewed coffee, so keep that in mind when heading out the door. 

Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker

Closing Thoughts: Can You Eat A Coffee Bean?

So, can you eat a coffee bean? Of course, you can. Is it safe to eat coffee beans? It sure is. Is it bad to eat coffee beans? No way!

Whether you prefer them plain or covered in chocolate, coffee beans are safe to eat, and the nutrients in coffee beans make them a healthy snack.

While coffee beans should be consumed in moderation to avoid a significant caffeine rush, they offer the same (or better) benefits as drinking a cup of coffee.

So, get creative and crunch away.

Can you eat ground coffee beans? Absolutely. In fact, you can use ground coffee beans instead of instant coffee in a pinch when baking. Give it a try!

Happy snacking!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters