Complete Guide to Peaberry Coffee

Complete Guide to Peaberry Coffee

If you see peaberry on a coffee shop menu, you might wonder what it is and why it's so expensive. If these questions have crossed your mind, this guide to peaberry coffee is for you. Learn about peaberry coffee, its unique qualities compared to other beans, and tips for trying or purchasing it.

What is Peaberry Coffee?

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 Peaberry 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 use for your morning coffee are the processed and roasted seeds of the coffee fruit.

Left: Cross-section of a coffee cherry with two seeds inside. Center: Cross-section of a peaberry coffee bean inside the coffee cherry. Right: Cross-section of a coffee cherry with three seeds.

Left: Cross-section of a coffee cherry with two seeds inside. Center: Cross-section of a peaberry coffee bean inside the coffee cherry. Right: Cross-section of a coffee cherry with three seeds.

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.

How to Brew Peaberry Coffee

Peaberry coffee can be prepared using your favorite brewing method. Use our grind guide to find the best grind size for your brewer. Using the right grind for your brewer and hot water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit will ensure you are able to extract maximum flavor from your delicious peaberry beans.

In general, a coarse grind works best for preparation with a French Press, medium grinds work well in automatic drip and pour over brewers, and fine grinds are best for espresso machines.

kauai coffee peaberry coffee prepared

Photo: @ksushas on Instagram

100% Hawaiian Peaberry Coffee from Kauai

We’re proud to offer peaberry fans many unique 100% Hawaiian coffees 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.
  1. Dark Roast Estate Reserve Peaberry: Intense and lively with a pleasantly dry and smoky character when settled.
  2. 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!
  3. Specialty Peaberries: Available in limited quantities throughout the year. Join the Kauai Coffee mailing list to be notified when they become available. 
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