Peaberry coffee: What is it?

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If you’re curious about peaberry coffee, it’s time to learn more. What are they exactly? Are they special? How do you roast them?

In this article, we’ll explore the topic of peaberry coffee and answer your questions!

What exactly is Peaberry coffee?

Peaberry, which is referred to as caracolillo in Spanish, is a type of coffee bean and is quite uncommon.

Normally, the cherry fruit of the coffee plant contains two seeds, which eventually become what we call coffee beans.

However, sometimes only one of the two seeds develops. Approximately 5% of all coffee beans harvested have this feature. This rounder bean is what we call a peaberry.

They occur when one ovule fails to pollinate during the formation of a coffee cherry. One seed develops within the cherry and is larger and rounder than regular coffee seeds.

Why is it called Peaberry?

Peaberries get their name because of their unusual, round shape, which looks a bit like a pea.

In contrast, normal coffee beans are sometimes called flat berries.

Note that it’s possible for only one regular flat-sided seed to develop inside a coffee cherry, not all one-seeded cherries are true peaberries.

Are they better than regular coffee beans?

Peaberry coffee beans on the left, regular coffee beans on the right

Some people think that the single bean of a peaberry, unlike a double-bean coffee, has more room and resources to develop a richer flavour. This, fans of peaberry coffee say, can lead to it tasting sweeter and more flavourful than coffee made from the rest of the beans from the same bag.

While they are often considered superior, the official verdict is still out on whether peaberry coffee actually tastes any better than regular coffee.

This is largely due to the difficulty in testing the hypothesis, with peaberry coffee varying from batch to batch in the same way that regular coffee does.

The quality of the peaberry is influenced by all the usual factors including variety, environmental conditions, nutrients, altitude, processing method, roasting, and more.

Does Peaberry coffee have more caffeine?

Some studies do indicate that peaberries often have more caffeine than normal beans. The Tanzanian Peaberry, in particular, is reported to have high caffeine content.

However, the verdict appears to be out on this matter also.

Where do Peaberries grow?

A peaberry coffee bean can be found on any coffee plant around the world, as they are a natural mutation.

It doesn’t matter what variety or where in the world the coffee plant grew, or whether it is arabica or robusta, they all produce a percentage of their fruit with only one seed.

How are peaberries collected?

Often peaberries will just be left in the batch along with regular beans, which is why you can sometimes find them in your bag of coffee.

However, premium/specialty grade coffee producers will sort the beans after harvesting. This is not only to collect the peaberries to sell separately but also to ensure there are no odd-shaped beans included with the regular beans, as they will roast differently.

After harvesting and drying the coffee cherries, workers use a large sift to sort the peaberries from the normal beans, roast them, and package each type of berry separately. This process is labour intensive and takes a lot of time.

Roasting Peaberries

Peaberry coffee beans are slightly different from regular coffee beans, so some adjustments to roasting are required.

Since the peaberry beans are naturally closed due to their rounded shape, they can take a little longer to roast. However, their round shape also helps them move evenly through the drum roaster.

Many roasters find that the best approach is to roast them at a lightly lower temperature but for a longer period than usual.

As with any new style of bean, trial and error is the name of the game!