What is Peaberry Coffee? (Explored)

different types of coffee beans

Peaberry coffee is a “flawed” bean which is a naturally occurring mutation present in robusta and arabica coffee varieties.

The term “flawed” is used because only one bean develops inside the coffee cherry instead of two.

And that makes the peaberry coffee unique and different from other coffee varieties that you might have tried.

So, to better understand what peaberry coffee really is, I have compiled some important info in this article to help you out a little.

The later part of this post will briefly discuss what makes peaberry coffee special and how to prepare this beverage close to perfection.

Now, don’t stop scrolling as you’re in for something interesting!

Peaberry Coffee Meaning

Peaberry coffee is also referred to as a “caracol” which is the Spanish word for “snail” which is also closely associated with Tanzanian coffee.

I can read your mind. That’s pretty weird to even associate such a coffee variety to snail!

Peaberries form when just one ovule develops and the other is rejected during fruit development, resulting in a single seed. 

This might be caused by three primary factors:

  • the inability of one of the two ovules in the ovary to be fertilized and set seed
  • the inability of the endosperm to develop further
  • incompatibility of the two parents upon pollination

Such conditions allow the remaining seed to grow into a rounded form with adequate endosperm development within the coffee. 

Several circumstances can contribute to the failure of fertilization or endosperm development in one of the ovules which are as follows:

  • unfavorable weather circumstances resulting in floral abortion (environmental conditions)
  • inadequate pollination
  • parental incompatibility during pollination
  • genetic flaws. 

While peaberries are typically unappealing commercially due to their deformed shape, they do have a growing market.

What Makes Peaberry Coffee Different?

Cup of Peaberry Coffee

Well, peaberry coffee tastes different from normal coffee beans because of the bean shape leading to different roasting characteristics.

Moreover, peaberry coffee is more acidy and has complex aromatic ranges.

There are also claims that peaberry coffee roast better and evenly than flat beans because of the more rounded shape that rolls easily.

What’s so Special About Peaberry Coffee?

What differentiates peaberry coffee is that the beans have been carefully selected and preserved.

As I mentioned earlier, peaberry coffee is a “flawed” bean.

In fact, 5% of harvested coffee beans have this kind of peculiarity making the peaberry coffee special and more distinctive.

Peaberries are an extremely rare fruit, accounting for just 5-7 percent of a plantation’s total harvest of coffee beans.

However, some argue that the main advantage of peaberry beans is that they have been thoroughly chosen, which is vital for best quality regardless of bean structure.

In other words, I can say that the distinctiveness, taste, and roasting characteristics of peaberry coffee makes this coffee variety special and unique.

Peaberry Coffee Beans

Peaberries are round or oblong in form and are bigger and denser than the typical beans. 

As per the National Coffee Association USA, around 5% of the world’s coffee has only one bean inside the cherry.

Peaberries are carefully sorted for special offers because some people believe they are sweeter and more flavorful than ordinary beans.

The possible incidence of peaberry was recorded at the Jimma National Coffee Research Center for two consecutive seasons involving Ethiopian recognized coffee varieties.

The results showed that there were no significant differences in germination, emergence, and subsequent growth of seedlings between peaberries and regular beans.

Where Does Peaberry Coffee Grow?

Peaberry coffee beans grow everywhere, as long as temperatures allow them.

Peaberry coffee beans grow in several places across the globe.

The best conditions for coffee trees to grow can be found worldwide mostly in the equatorial zone known as “The Bean Belt,” which is located between latitudes 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south.

Arabica and robusta are the two most significant coffee species in the commercial coffee industry.

Arabica favors high heights as well as rich soil, whereas robusta necessitates a greater temperature and can sustain in lowland areas. Plus, the mono sperm type of Coffea Arabica has a significant potential to yield peaberries.

Moreover, Coffee Arabica is a descendant of the first coffee plants found in Ethiopia producing fine, delicate, fragrant coffee and account for around 70% of global coffee production. 

Arabica coffees garner the best rates on the global market. 

The best arabicas are cultivated at high elevations, often between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level, however ideal height varies with closeness to the equator. 

The most essential condition is that temperatures remain mild, preferably around 59 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with approximately 60 inches of rainfall each year.

How to Roast Peaberries?

Roast them quite evenly.

Due to their rounder form, even roasting reduces sharp edges and allows the berries to roll around the roasting chamber more smoothly, which may enhance heat transfer during the roasting process.

The best quality peaberries are achieved at an air temperature of 250 °C and a roasting period of 5 minutes.

Here are a few measures to be taken:

  • Put the beans in the cylinder and shake it to see how many beans will be lost when roasting prior to batch roasting.
  • The beans are small and round and they burn out much faster than regular large beans, requiring lower temperatures.
  • The roasting time is shortened to avoid getting burned for the same reason that the roast is done immediately.
  • It must be closely monitored during the roasting process as hearing the pop sound when they crack may be more tricky. Otherwise, they might burn to an undesirable degree.
  • The beans create a lot of chaff and are difficult to work with, particularly when using the drum method.
  • As a result, air roasting is recommended for peaberry coffee since it separates the chaff from the others in a different chamber.

Let me warn you that roasting peaberry coffee is more difficult than roasting large beans due to the size and form of the bean.

To discover more, watch the video below.

Brew Guide to Peaberry Espresso.

Does Peaberry Coffee Have More Caffeine?

Peaberry coffee beans are flatter and longer than Robusta so they have less caffeine.

Studies show that peaberry coffee has the greatest caffeine content by weight and variety, with 1.42 g of caffeine per kilogram of coffee

So it does seem to have a higher caffeine content as compared to other arabica coffee beans, which typically have a caffeine content of about 1.2 g.

For reference, below are the caffeine levels of several coffee varieties:

VarietiesCaffeine Content %VarietiesCaffeine Content %VarietiesCaffeine Content %
Brazil Bourbons1.20Kenya AA1.36Colombia Supremo Dark1.37
Celebes Kalossi1.22Kona Extra Prime1.32Frying Espresso1.32
Colombua Excelso1.37Mexico Pluma Altura1.17Frying French1.22
Colombua Supremo1.37Mocha Matari (Yemen)1.01Frying Vienna1.27
Ethiopian Harrar-Moka1.13New Guinea1.30Mocha-Java1.17
Guatemala Antigua1.32Panama Organic1.34Decaffeinated: All mixtures (Sweet process)0.2
Indian Mysore1.37Sumatra Mandheling-Lintong1.30
Jamaican Blue Mountain1.34Tanzania Peaberry1.42
Java Estate Kuyumas1.20Zimbabwe1.10
Caffeine Content of Different Coffee Varieties

Based on the table, the Tanzania Peaberry, which is a very rare African coffee, has the highest caffeine content.

The Tanzanian peaberry is one of my favorite African coffees. It’s not sour or bitter and has a wonderful aroma. I highly recommend finding this coffee if you happen to be on a holiday in Tanzania!

Why is Peaberry so Expensive?

Peaberry is more expensive because it requires special care.

Arabica trees are expensive to grow since the appropriate location is steep and difficult to access. Aside from that, the trees are more susceptible to disease than robusta, and they need more attention and care.

Several people believe that peaberries are better than regular flat beans in terms of quality and flavor. 

There are two reasons for this: 

  • the taste strength of two beans is contained in a single bean, and 
  • the round form of the beans results in a more consistent roast

While the first notion is unfounded, the rounded form of the beans does benefit in the roasting process. 

The excellent quality of peaberry coffee is most likely due to a more rigorous sorting procedure than that of flat beans.

Moreover, certain acids, esters, and phenolic chemicals are found from both extracts, which could be the goodness of peaberry coffee beans and probably one of the reasons why it’s more expensive.

Fun Fact:

This sort of coffee is linked to masculine stylishness in Indonesia because of its powerful flavor.

Would you like to learn another interesting fact about coffee in general?

If so, click here!

Is Peaberry the Best Coffee?

With all the other coffee varieties marketed globally, the question of whether peaberry coffee should be branded the “best” is still being debated.

Some claim that peaberry coffees are of the highest quality you’ll ever come across.

Moreso, these supporters say that once you’ve tried to experience them, your entire view of coffee will dramatically transform, and you’ll be willing to pay extra dollars without any hesitations.

Whilst others argue that you will hardly notice any difference despite paying extra for needless sorting and specialized roasting.

However, when all is said and done, the adjective “best” is highly subjective most of the time.

What’s best for one individual may not always be what’s best for everyone.

In the case of peaberry coffee, there is enough data to justify that, regardless of its peculiarity, such beans are of excellent quality.

It’s up to you to decide if it’s the “best” coffee but I suggest you try it for yourself to see if they’re worth the buzz and cash.

Final Thoughts

Who would have imagined that coffee, despite being one of the most intricately-made beverages in the world, also had a flaw?

Peaberry coffee, made from irregular misshapen beans, has a rich and powerful flavor with a stronger kick of caffeine you most certainly don’t want to miss out on.

It costs a little extra, but consider it a limited edition version of your favorite beverage.

It’s true what they say: nothing is perfect. 

However, the term “imperfect” with peaberry coffee seems to give a whole different perspective on it.

So, what are you waiting for?

Go and have a taste of this “imperfect” coffee today!

Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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