If you’ve walked into your local coffee shop and seen peaberry on the menu, you may be wondering what it is and why it can be one of the most expensive items available. If these questions have crossed your mind, this guide to peaberry coffee is for you. Find out what peaberry coffee is, how it is different from other coffee beans, and what to look for when trying or buying it.
What is Peaberry Coffee?
If the word peaberry makes you think of something used to make creamy vegetable soup or baked into pastries, rest assured it is coffee and not a tiny green vegetable or pie filling. When it comes to coffee, the word peaberry describes the coffee bean itself, not the origin or variety. Also referred to as caracol (Spanish for snail), peaberry coffee is a naturally occurring mutation present in arabica and robusta coffee varieties where only one bean develops inside of the coffee cherry instead of two. Peaberries occur in coffee varieties and growing regions worldwide, including Hawaii’s growing regions and coffee farms from Kona to Kauai.
Anatomy of a Coffee Cherry
To better understand exactly how a peaberry is different from other coffee beans, it is essential to know a bit about the anatomy of a coffee cherry. The coffee beans you grind and brew for your morning cup of joe are the processed and roasted seeds of the coffee fruit.
Several layers of fruit and skin protect coffee seeds. The outermost surface of the coffee cherry is called the exocarp. Underneath the exocarp lies the mesocarp, a thin layer of fruit pulp. After the pulp, coffee beans are covered by a slimy layer called the parenchyma and then a papery endocarp, more commonly known as the parchment.
Usually, two flat coffee seeds are formed inside of the parchment layer in most coffee cherries and covered by yet another thin membrane called silver skin. However, in a peaberry coffee cherry, one seed fails to grow, and a singular round seed is formed instead. It’s not well known why this natural mutation occurs in 5-10% of harvested coffee cherries, but some theories suggest that environmental conditions or insufficient pollination could be contributing factors.
Harvesting Peaberry Coffee
From the outside, coffee cherries that contain peaberries and coffee cherries that have two seeds look the same and are harvested in the same way. We use mechanical harvesters to collect up to 180,000 pounds of coffee cherries per day from the 3,100-acre Kauai Coffee farm. Once the cherries are harvested and dried, the peaberries are sifted from the larger beans, roasted, and packaged separately.
Roasting and Taste
Because peaberries are the only seed inside the coffee cherry, they tend to be smaller, rounder, and denser than their two-seeded counterparts. These characteristics can affect how evenly the bean roasts, which can affect the flavor. Peaberry lovers and some professional coffee graders also believe that because the single peaberry bean receives all of the nutrients of the coffee cherry rather than sharing with another seed, peaberries can have more caffeine and taste sweeter than other beans as well.
Kauai Coffee Estate Reserve Specialty Peaberry Coffees
We’re proud to offer peaberry fans several products to love! Learn more about each one below and try free samples at the Kauai Coffee Visitor Center. Order online or subscribe and save for direct-to-door shipping anywhere in the world.
- Dark Roast Estate Reserve Peaberry: Intense and lively with a pleasantly dry and smoky character when settled.
- Medium Roast Estate Reserve Peaberry: An arousing cup of coffee with a sweet fragrance and bright, citrusy flavor notes. It is a coffee brimming with tropical sunshine!
- Dark Roast Mundo Novo Peaberry: Sweet finish with a medium body.