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 the most expensive item 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 that should be used to make creamy vegetable soup or baked into pastries, rest assured it is, in fact, coffee and not a small green vegetable or pie filling. When it comes to coffee, the word peaberry describes the coffee bean itself, not the origin or variety. Also known as caracol (Spanish for snail), peaberry coffee is a naturally occurring mutation present in arabica and robusta coffee varieties where only one bean is present 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 little bit about the anatomy of a coffee cherry. The coffee beans you grind and brew for your morning cuppa are the processed and roasted seeds of the coffee fruit. Coffee seeds are protected by several layers of fruit and skin. Processing removes these protective layers so coffee beans can be dried and roasted.
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.
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. In a peaberry coffee cherry, one seed fails to grow, and one, 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 contain two seeds look the same. During the harvest season, 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 to be roasted and packaged separately.
Roasting and Taste
Because peaberries are the only seed inside of 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 varieties and roasts to love! Learn more about each one below and try free samples at the Kauai Coffee Visitor Center or Kauai Coffee 2 Retail store on Kauai! Order online 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: A sweet fragrance with hints of lemon. The acidity enveloped in sweetness carries through into the long finish. An arousing cup of coffee – sweet, bright flavors that tease of citrus. Here is a coffee brimming with tropical sunshine.
- Dark Roast Kauai Blue Mountain Peaberry: The round aroma complements gentle hints of fruit.
- Dark Roast Mundo Novo Peaberry: Sweet finish with a medium body.
- Dark Roast Poipu Estate Peaberry: Fruity finish with a smooth medium body.
- Medium Roast Red Catuai Peaberry: Smooth, gentle acidity with sweet citrus notes and buttery mouthfeel.
- Medium Roast Acaia Peaberry: Smooth, frothy cup with flavor attributes of milk chocolate, mocha, and caramel notes. The finish is bright and sweet.
- Holiday Peaberry: Delicately sweet and subtle. Flavor simplifies but lingers in a resonantly dry finish. This is a mixture of Medium and Medium/Dark Roasted Peaberries.