Are Coffee Beans Nuts, Legumes or Beans? Surprising Answer!

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Coffee beans and nuts in a crate.
Table of Contents
Coffee beans and nuts in a crate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Coffee beans are not actually nuts, but rather seeds that come from the cherry of a coffee plant.
  • The classification of coffee beans as seeds sets them apart from true nuts and legumes.
  • Coffee bean production involves several important steps, including harvesting, sorting and washing, depulping, fermentation, drying, hulling and polishing, sorting and grading, and roasting.

Are Coffee Beans Nuts, Legumes or Beans?

Coffee beans are not considered nuts, but rather seeds that come from the cherry of a coffee plant.

Despite their name, coffee ‘beans’ aren’t actually beans at all; they’re seeds from the picturesque Coffea plant.

In this inviting exploration into the world of coffee, we’ll unravel the mystery and delve deeper into what exactly a coffee bean is. Get ready for an eye-opening journey that will forever change how you see your cup of joe!

Explanation of coffee beans as seeds

Despite their name, coffee beans are not technically beans. In botanical terms, they’re classified as seeds from the Coffea plant. These seeds are found inside bright red or purple fruits commonly called cherries.

Each fruit typically contains two seeds which, when matured and processed, become what we know as coffee beans. Similar to other types of seeds, coffee beans have potential for germination under optimal conditions – contributing to more Coffee plants.

This classification separates them from true nuts like walnuts or almonds whose hard outer shell encapsulates a seed that doesn’t carry the capacity to sprout into a new plant itself.

It also differentiates them from legumes such as pinto or black beans that belong to an entirely different botanical family. While semantically associated due to common language use and physical resemblance, coffee ‘beans’ hold their unique identity in the world of botany and horticulture.

Differentiating between nuts and seeds

Coffee beans are often mistakenly classified as nuts, but in reality, they are seeds. This distinction is important because nuts and seeds have different botanical properties. While nuts grow from specific types of plants, coffee beans come from the cherry of the Coffea plant.

Nuts typically have a hard outer shell that encases the edible portion, while coffee beans have a softer outer layer that is removed during processing. Another key difference is that seeds are typically produced by flowering plants and serve as a means of reproduction, whereas nuts are fruits themselves.

So next time you enjoy your cup of coffee, remember that it’s not just any old nut – it’s a unique seed with its own classification!

The Classification of Coffee Beans

Coffee beans are botanically classified as seeds that come from soft-shelled fruits called cherries.

Explanation of coffee beans as seeds

Coffee beans are actually seeds, not beans or nuts as their name may suggest. They come from the fruit of the Coffea plant, which is commonly referred to as a coffee cherry. The seeds inside this cherry are what we know and love as coffee beans.

These seeds have a hard outer shell that protects them during the germination process. Unlike true nuts that grow on different types of plants like walnuts, pistachios, and almonds, coffee beans are unique in their classification as seeds rather than nuts or legumes.

Their classification as seeds sets them apart from other types of beans and further emphasizes their significance in the world of coffee production.

Scientific classification and botanical family

Coffee beans, despite their name, are not classified as beans at all. Instead, they are categorized as seeds that come from the fruit of the Coffea plant. Scientifically speaking, coffee beans belong to the botanical family Rubiaceae and are considered to be a type of seed called a “pip”.

This classification sets them apart from true nuts like walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. Coffee beans have a hard outer shell that protects the germinating seed inside. So while coffee beans may resemble nuts in appearance and texture, it is important to remember that they are actually seeds from the cherry-like fruit of the Coffea plant.

Comparison to other beans and legumes

Coffee beans hold a unique place when compared to other beans and legumes. Their differentiation lies not just in their taste, but also in their botanical classification.

FactorCoffee BeansOther Beans and Legumes
ClassificationSeeds of the coffee plantLegumes
AppearanceSimilar to nutsVary in shape, size and color
ProductionGrown in specific regions known as coffee originsGrown globally in various soils and climates
UseMain ingredient for coffee productionUsed in a variety of dishes, from salads to main courses

Despite the common misinterpretation, coffee beans are not classified as legumes. They’re the seeds of cherries from the coffee plant. They might share some physical similarities with other beans and legumes, but they have their own distinct classification.

The Origin and Production of Coffee Beans

Coffee beans have a long history of cultivation, dating back centuries in countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen.

History of coffee cultivation

Coffee cultivation has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. The practice of growing coffee plants originated in the ancient Ethiopian highlands, where it was discovered that the cherries of the Coffea plant could be processed into a delicious beverage.

From there, coffee cultivation spread to other regions of Africa and eventually made its way to the Arabian Peninsula. It was Arab traders who first introduced coffee to Europe in the 16th century.

Since then, coffee has become one of the most popular beverages worldwide, with different countries developing their own unique methods for cultivating and processing coffee beans.

Process of coffee bean production

Coffee bean production involves several important steps to ensure the beans are harvested, processed, and prepared for roasting. These steps include:

  1. Harvesting: Coffee cherries are hand-picked or mechanically harvested when they are fully ripe. This ensures the highest quality beans with optimal flavor.
  2. Sorting and Washing: After harvesting, the cherries are sorted to remove any damaged or unripe ones. They are then washed to remove any dirt, debris, or residual pulp.
  3. Depulping: The outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed through a process called depulping. This can be done mechanically or by fermenting the cherries in water until the skin loosens.
  4. Fermentation: Once depulped, the coffee beans are fermented in water for a specific period of time to break down any remaining layers of mucilage on the beans.
  5. Washing and Drying: After fermentation, the coffee beans are thoroughly washed to remove any remaining residue. They are then spread out on large drying beds or patio surfaces to dry naturally in the sun.
  6. Hulling and Polishing: Once dried, the outer husk of the coffee bean, known as parchment, is removed through a process called hulling. The beans may also undergo polishing to further refine their appearance.
  7. Sorting and Grading: The coffee beans are carefully sorted based on size, color, density, and defects such as broken or discolored beans. This helps determine their grade and quality.
  8. Roasting: The final step in coffee bean production is roasting, where the green coffee beans are heated until they reach their desired level of roast. This process significantly affects the flavor profile of the finished coffee product.


Despite their appearance, coffee beans come from the cherry of a coffee plant and are not classified as legumes like other types of beans.

By recognizing this distinction, we can appreciate the unique nature of coffee beans and better understand their role in the production of our beloved beverage.


What types of coffee beans are there?

The two most common types of coffee beans are Arabica beans and Robusta beans. Arabica beans are known for their delicate flavor and acidity, while Robusta beans have a stronger, more bitter taste.

Are coffee beans considered nuts?

No, coffee beans are not considered nuts. While they may have a nut-like flavor, they are technically seeds and not classified as nuts.

Are coffee beans considered legumes?

No, coffee beans are not considered legumes. Legumes are a type of plant that produce seeds in pods, like beans and peas. Coffee beans are not produced in pods and therefore are not classified as legumes.

Can coffee beans be called beans?

Yes, coffee beans are commonly referred to as beans due to their similar appearance to other types of beans. However, it’s important to note that they are technically seeds.

Why are coffee beans called beans?

Coffee beans are called beans because they resemble other types of beans in shape and size. However, they are actually the seeds of the coffee plant’s fruit.

Can coffee beans be considered nuts?

While coffee beans may have a nut-like flavor, they are not classified as nuts. They are seeds that come from the fruit of the coffee plant.

Can coffee beans be considered seeds?

Yes, coffee beans are seeds. They are the seeds of the coffee plant’s fruit, commonly known as coffee cherries.

Can coffee beans be used to make coffee?

Yes, coffee beans are used to make coffee. After the beans are harvested from the coffee plant, they are roasted and ground to produce coffee.

Where do coffee beans come from?

Coffee beans come from the fruit of the coffee plant, which grows on coffee trees. The beans are the seeds of the fruit.

About the Author:
Oliver Bennett, a seasoned barista, focuses on the technical aspects of coffee-making. His journey from local cafes to specialty coffee shops has equipped him with skills in the science of coffee, from grind size to latte art. Oliver's articles and how-to videos delve into brewing techniques and coffee science, fostering a community of home baristas and elevating the home coffee experience.