Bourbon Coffee Beans: A Taste Worth Savoring

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

Our review process | Our team

When you come across the term "Bourbon coffee beans," what comes to mind? Some whiskey-infused coffee that packs a punch, perhaps? As much as these beans share a name with the legendary Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, you'd be wrong, very wrong.

When you come across the term “Bourbon coffee beans,” what comes to mind? Some whiskey-infused coffee that packs a punch, perhaps? As much as these beans share a name with the legendary Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam, you’d be wrong, very wrong.

As a coffee addict, I love exploring different coffee varieties. The bourbon coffee variety, in particular, fascinates me with its sweet, velvety, balanced goodness. When you sip on this premium coffee, you’re not drinking any old cup of joe. You’re experiencing a real gem in the coffee world.

So, without further delay, let me introduce you to these world-class coffee beans!

What Is Bourbon Coffee Exactly?

You may already know that Robusta (Coffea robusta) and Arabica (Coffea arabica) are the primary commercial coffee species. 

But the world of coffee is so much wider. To date, scientists have discovered at least 129 species in the genus Coffea. Most are insignificant, occurring in nature in very small quantities. 

However, two other commercially-viable coffee species exist apart from Arabica and Robusta: Liberica (Coffea liberica) and Excelsa (Coffea dewevrei). These coffee species grow well in parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Where Does the Bourbon Coffee Variety Fit In?

Now, let’s go further down this rabbit hole to understand where Bourbon coffee beans fit. 

Coffea arabica has three main sub-species: Arabica Heirloom, Arabica Typica and Arabica Bourbon. But it gets even more complicated from here! There are countless types of Arabica coffees that come from these three subspecies. 

These (I couldn’t possibly list them all here) include:

  • Kona

  • Jackson

  • Yirgacheffe

West Indies Cover

Now that we understand where these coffee beans come from, I can begin to discuss their origins. 

Bourbon coffee, as with all Arabica coffee, originated in Ethiopia. From here, coffee made its way to Yemen, and from there around the world. In each growing region, Arabica and, indeed, Bourbon coffee plants have given rise to an enormous variety of prized varietals and cultivars. 

But hold on a minute: what are varietals and cultivars, you may ask? And is it important to know the difference? Well, a varietal is a natural mutation in a coffee plant, and a cultivar, a human-induced one. And yes, it is important to know the difference. 

For a new varietal to occur, a natural mutation must happen spontaneously and randomly. I won’t go deep into the science here, but this process results in reproductive cells known as spores. Each of these cells contains half the chromosomes of the parent cell and combine to give the new plant new genetic properties. Interestingly, this type of mutation is common in Arabica coffee plants

On the other hand, human-induced mutations, which occur in a lab, involve selective breeding using cross-pollination. This process alters the genetic material of the coffee plant, producing cultivars.

Varietals and cultivars have improved qualities that growers prize. Chief among these are pest and disease resistance and higher yields. In short, these processes give the coffee plant a chance to thrive in its new environment.

A few examples of prominent Bourbon varietals/cultivars worldwide include:

Red Acaiá

A rare natural mutation of Mundo Novo, this Bourbon/Typica coffee variety grows in Brazil. It is well adapted to the local growing conditions and thrives above 800 masl (meters above sea level).

This coffee has a sweet aroma and bright citrus acidity. It boasts delectable notes of chocolate, nuts and caramel. 


Growing Coffee Cherries

This natural mutation of the Bourbon coffee variety thrives at 1,200-2,000 masl. The cup profile is sweet and balanced with a citrus acidity and distinct honey-maple notes.

Here’s something of interest: Bourbon coffee beans are native to Ethiopia. But guess what? The first Caturra seeds spontaneously mutated in Brazil, in the growing regions of Espirito Santos and Minas Gerais. Cool, very cool! Incidentally, this is where we at Coffeeness source our coffee beans.


Arabica Bourbon, or Moka, originated in the port city of Moka, Yemen, in the 13th century. These beans gave rise to the Bourbon coffee variety the French established in the Réunion Islands. 

Yemeni moka coffee beans thrive at 2,000-2,900 masl. They’re full-bodied and earthy when brewed, with distinct chocolate and fruit tones.

SL28 and SL34

Curiously scientific-sounding, these two Bourbon Arabica varieties originated in Kenya in the 1930s. They’re named for Scott Laboratories, an agricultural research center where scientists first discovered them. 

Coffee researchers first identified SL28 in Tanzania, and SL34 at a coffee estate in Kenya. These two Bourbon coffee beans boast superior cup quality and improved yields. They thrive at elevations in excess of 700 masl. 

SL coffee varieties have a bright acidity and deep berry and wine notes, making for the perfect breakfast coffee.

Villa Sarchi

Developed in Sarchi, deep in the West Valley, Costa Rica, these plants are tolerant of strong winds due to their dwarf stature. As such, they thrive at elevations as high as 1,600 masl. However, Villa Sarchi is susceptible to leaf rust and coffee berry disease.

Villa Sarchi Bourbon coffee beans are sweet and fruity with a crisp, clean finish. They have distinct raspberry, pepper and marshmallow notes. It’s one of the few coffees that can keep its original flavor characteristics well into the second crack stage of the roasting process.


Arabica Coffee Beans

Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon coffee variety. This varietal, native to El Salvador, is famous for its dwarf size and complex flavor profile. It grows at altitudes of 1,000-1,750 masl. 

This coffee boasts a medium body and balanced acidity. It also has distinct notes of caramel, lemongrass and green tea, with hints of ginger, pepper and clove. 


Pacamara bourbon coffee beans are a hybrid of Maragogipe (a Typica mutation) and Pacas. Prevalent in Brazil, this premium coffee has superior cup quality but is susceptible to coffee leaf rust.

Pacamara coffee thrives at 915-1,220 masl. The beans are larger, yielding a coffee with a medium body and distinct citrus acidity. Coffee lovers prize this brew for its floral jasmine-like aroma and chocolate, raspberry and cinnamon notes. 

Where Are Bourbon Coffee Beans Grown?

Bourbon coffee beans were originally cultivated in Yemen. From here, French missionaries introduced them to the Indian Ocean island of Réunion (originally Bourbon). In fact, this is where the beans get their name, in honor of the French Bourbon dynasty, who once ruled over the island. 

Rwandan Coffee Growing Regions

The French planted the first stock of coffee in 1708, which failed. However, further attempts in 1715 and 1718 resulted in successful crops. Soon after, these coffee plants underwent a mutation to yield the Bourbon coffee variety we know and love today. 

Since then, this coffee has spread to several growing regions in the coffee belt. In Latin America, growers first planted them in Brazil in the 1800s. They’re also prevalent in:

Notably, the Bourbon coffee variety is less widespread than other coffee varieties. This is because it needs particular soil and climatic conditions to thrive.

Generally, the Bourbon coffee variety thrives at higher altitudes with a temperate climate and distinct wet and dry seasons. It also needs moderate rainfall of 60-100 inches (150-200 centimeters) and fertile, well-draining soil.

The Bourbon coffee variety also benefits from shade-growing, which protects it from damaging strong winds. 

Why do growers prize Bourbon coffee beans so much? These premium beans are so popular for various reasons, not just their improved yields and superior cup quality.

Firstly, these coffees thrive at high altitudes, resulting in a slow-maturing cherry. As such, these coffees have time to develop the complex flavor profiles for which they are famous. At grading, these coffees consistently have cup scores in excess of 80/100.

Secondly, these coffees are super sweet thanks to their high glucose and fructose content. As a result, these specialty coffee beans have a smooth, silky and buttery finish.

Lastly, these coffees have excellent disease and pest resistance overall. This means improved yields over time, a deciding factor for tropical coffee farmers. 

It’s no surprise then that Bourbon coffee beans feature among the most expensive coffees in the world! Brew single-origin bourbon coffee beans in the French press, Aeropress or as a pour over. Dark roasts are especially popular as espresso blends.

Bourbon Coffee Cup Profile

Before we discuss Bourbon coffee cup profiles, it’s important to note that terroir plays a huge role. Curiously, this can play out in the same growing region. 

Take South American coffee, for example. Brazilian bourbon coffee is nutty and full of caramel notes, while the Colombian variety is floral and citrusy. Similarly, Hawaii Kona bourbon coffee beans tend to yield a more delicate cup compared to the Ka’u Bourbon coffee variety.

Coffee processing impacts cup profiles even more. Washed Bourbon coffees are cleaner with a brighter acidity. In contrast, dry-processed Bourbon coffee beans are heavier in body with a lower acidity. And don’t even get me started on fermented coffees. That’s a whole other ball game! 

Brasilien Kaffeefarm 2022 Aufguss Cupping

Finally, your coffee’s roast profile will significantly affect its taste. White, light and medium roasts tend to keep their original taste characteristics compared to dark roasts.

Now, do Bourbon coffee beans have a distinct taste profile depending on varieties? Oh, yes, they do! 

It would interest you to know that Bourbon coffee also falls into three distinct bean varieties: Red, Yellow and Pink Bourbon. All three bean varieties have different cup profiles.

Red Bourbon coffee beans have excess glucose, resulting in a smoother, silkier cup, fuller body and nut-like creamy sweetness. On the other hand, the Yellow Bourbon coffee variety has excess fructose. This leads to a sweeter, juicier cup. This coffee is super fruity with considerable notes of apricot, banana and tropical fruit. 

Now onto the darling of the specialty coffee world: Pink Bourbon. This hybrid of Red and Yellow Bourbon coffee beans is silky in texture due to its excess glucose. It’s also super-sweet like Panamanian Geisha and some washed Ethiopians. Coffee lovers prize its honeysuckle, pink lemonade, peach and jasmine flower notes. 

Final Thoughts: Bourbon Coffee Elevates the Coffee Experience

As I wrap up this exploration of Bourbon coffee beans, I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about the weird and wonderful world of coffee varieties.

The Bourbon coffee variety isn’t your ordinary Arabica; it’s sweet, it’s bold and it’s downright delicious. In my opinion, this is the coffee bean you need to brew if you’re looking to change up your home brewing routine. The flavor will make you wanna kick back, relax and savor every last drop!

Bourbon Coffee Beans FAQ

Bourbon coffee beans come from the Arabica subspecies, Bourbon. Generally, this coffee variety has a sweet taste, velvety body and smooth finish. 

A varietal is a naturally-occurring mutation of the Bourbon coffee variety. In contrast, a cultivar is a lab-developed mutation of Bourbon coffee beans.

Bourbon coffee is a variety of the Arabica coffee plant.

Bourbon coffee primarily grows in parts of East and Central Africa, and in some Central and South American countries, notably El Salvador, Brazil and Costa Rica.

Your coffee expert
Team Image
Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Notify of

0 Kommentare
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Table of Contents