Peaberry Coffee: Rare and Legendary

Most people don’t think about the different kinds of coffee beans when sitting at home sipping a cup of Joe. Descriptors like “peaberry coffee” or “shortberry coffee” aren’t in their vocabulary. Coffee is either ground or whole bean and that’s about it.

Most people don’t think about the different kinds of coffee beans when sitting at home sipping a cup of Joe. Descriptors like “peaberry coffee” or “shortberry coffee” aren’t in their vocabulary. Coffee is either ground or whole bean and that’s about it.

However, if you take some time to read about the culture of coffee, it’s fascinating to learn about what makes normal beans normal and special beans special. If you’ve never heard of peaberry coffee before today, you’re in for a real treat!

Not only does the name sound intriguing, but peaberry coffee is supposed to be a superior variety in comparison to other coffee beans. Let’s explore the wonderful world of peaberries and why they’re held in high esteem.

What Is Peaberry Coffee?

When you look inside most coffee cherries you’ll find two “seeds” or “beans,” as we like to call them. The flat parts of these twins face one another, while the rounded parts face the outside world.

Occasionally one of the two seeds doesn’t develop, so the lone seed has a natural mutation and fills the entire space. Only 5-10 percent of coffee cherries grow this way, creating a rare magic. This only child is what is used to make peaberry coffees.

peaberry coffee bean mutation

Peaberry coffee beans are smaller, have a rounder shape and are downright cute. Some might say that since peaberry beans get the space all to themselves, they grow even sweeter for us. That sounds like the meanderings of an only child, for sure!

That said, there’s some truth to this tale. Since the single developing seed receives all of the nutrients of the coffee cherry, it will often taste sweeter and is known to have more caffeine as well.

Other Factors

Peaberry coffee beans beside regular coffee beans.

Like with any fruit, the amount of sunshine, soil and humidity also impacts sweetness in a coffee crop. So, different varieties of peaberries and different growing regions will yield varying levels of sweetness.

What I find odd about this natural mutation is that coffee cherries with peaberry coffee beans can grow alongside coffee cherries with two seeds on a single plant. I guess all neighborhoods have families with different numbers of children. Some coffee cherries even have triplets!

Once harvested, peaberries have to be separated from other coffee beans. Sometimes this is done entirely by hand. More often than not though, a machine that separates coffee beans based on size and weight is used. Still, occasionally peaberries make their way into regular batches of coffee beans.

If you’re extra vigil when you open your next bag of coffee beans you might find an elusive peaberry coffee bean that evaded detection. 

Where Does Peaberry Coffee Grow?

Where is peaberry coffee grown?

Peaberry coffee beans are most famous when they come from specific regions like Tanzania, Kenya, Kona, Jamaica and Brazil. However, they can be found in any region where regular coffee beans are grown. It’s more about finding coffee cherries with singular seeds inside that have mutated into peaberry growths.

Is Peaberry Coffee Superior?

Is peaberry coffee better?

The word on the coffee streets is that peaberry coffees are superior when compared to the taste of regular coffees. Are you missing out on a special peaberry taste by not experiencing this legendary cup of coffee?

Answers to that question are mixed, so don’t be fooled by the hype! With any coffee bean, there are low quality and high quality versions available in the market. Being “peaberry” doesn’t instantly mean a coffee bean is amazing. What it does mean is that it’s more rare.

The general consensus among coffee experts is that the peaberry taste is sweeter than regular beans. It does have a reputation of being a superior coffee bean in the upper aromatic ranges, but despite the different flavor it’s also not consistently superior.

Farming methods, the terroir of the place it’s grown, weather conditions for a particular year, harvesting practices, roasting practices and brewing methods also play a part in what coffee tastes like once it reaches your cup.

Regional Flavor Profiles of Peaberry Coffee

Peaberry coffee flavor profile.

Given your growing curiosity about peaberry coffee cherries and seeds, I’ve put together a summary of flavor profiles from various regions.

Each description covers the acidity, flavor and body you can expect from the natural mutation of a cherry within a coffee crop in each area.

Tanzania Peaberry

Picking peaberry coffee cherries in Tanzania.

Tanzania is the home of Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano which is the highest peak found in Africa. You’d have to overcome 19,341 feet (5,895 meters) to reach the top.

Water runoff from Mount Kilimanjaro enriches the soil below. Found on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, this volcanic soil is rich in minerals.

Together, the volcanic soil and African climate create an ideal ground for growing coffee cherries, some of which will develop into peaberries.

Flavor Profile:

  • Medium-light bodied
  • High acidity
  • Chocolate
  • Dark Fruits
  • Blackcurrant
  • Citrus
  • Floral Notes

Kona Peaberry

Picking peaberry coffee cherries in Tanzania.

Rare Kona peaberry beans come from the Kona Coffee Belt on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kona Peaberry grows at 1,500-2,000 feet (457-609 meters) in volcanic soil from the active Mauna Loa volcano and dormant Mauna Kea. The volcanos shield the coffee trees from wind and create ideal weather conditions for cultivation of coffee cherries.

Kona Peaberry Coffee is considered to be the champagne of coffees because it’s rarer than the others.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Full-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Fruity
  • Nuts
  • Spice

Ethiopia Peaberry

Pouring coffee in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian coffee is world famous. The region of Yirgacheffe is known for its peaberry coffee, but technically speaking it can grow anywhere coffee is grown in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Peaberry Coffee tends to be medium-bodied with a low amount of acidity. Cherry, plum and chocolate flavors, along with lemon, bergamot and jasmine are characteristically true of what you’ll find in your cup.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Medium-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Cherry
  • Plum
  • Chocolate
  • Lemon
  • Bergamot and Jasmine

Kenya Peaberry

Mount Kilimanjaro as viewed from Kenya.

In spite of a dark history of coffee cherry production, Kenya currently produces some of the most valued coffees in the world. Kenya Peaberry Coffee is no exception.

Geographically, Mount Kilimanjaro is just across the Kenya-Tanzania border. So, like Tanzania, Kenya benefits from the wonders of volcanic soil.

Characterized by a winey, sharply acidic feel, Kenya Peaberry has fruity, berry like notes of blackcurrant and strawberry. The citrus flavors of lemon and a hint of guava can also be detected.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Full-bodied
  • Sharply acidic
  • Blackcurrant
  • Strawberry
  • Lemon 
  • Guava

Sumatra Peaberry

Picking peaberry coffee cherries in Sumatra.

Sumatra peaberries are grown on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Fertile volcanic soil and significant annual rainfall are part of the terroir that creates the unique flavor that finds its way into each Sumatra coffee cherry.

Sumatra Peaberry Coffee beans brew coffee that is low in acidity. The flavors are often characterized as earthy and even mushroomy. Brown spices like clove and cinnamon shine through, as do chocolate and caramelized brown sugar.

Flavor Profile:

  • Full-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Earthy
  • Spicy
  • Chocolaty
  • Caramelized sugar

Thai Peaberry

Cofee cherries growing in Thailand.

Thai peaberries grow at 4,900 feet (1,493 meters) above sea level. These beans tend to have cherry flavors, chocolate overtones and floral notes of honeysuckle.

Though people tend not to think of Thailand when they think of coffee, Thai Peaberry Coffee Beans enjoy a cult following of people in the know.

Flavor Profile:

  • Full-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Cherry
  • Chocolate
  • Honeysuckle

Vietnamese Peaberry

Coffeee cherries growing in Vietnam.

Coffee cherry growth in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is rather impressive. Though not native to Vietnam, coffee has become part of mainstream Vietnamese culture.

Unlike many parts of the world where people are always on the go, the Vietnamese enjoy coffee socially and often sit in sidewalk cafes for hours.

With Vietnam Peaberry Coffee you can make a splendid brew with a lush body and dark chocolatey taste. Yum!

Each coffee seed is sun-dried inside its coffee cherry, which develops the natural sweetness of this Robusta coffee, which is known for a higher caffeine content.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Full-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Rich and dark
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate

Blue Mountain Peaberry

A coffee cherry tree in Jamaica.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Peaberry Coffee is known for being flavorful and well balanced. In fact, Blue Mountain Peaberry Coffee is one of the most renowned coffees in the world. It also has an expensive price tag to match!

Dried in the sun on concrete slabs, Blue Mountain Peaberry Coffee has a low acidity that’s bright and clean. Orange peel and chocolate characterize this amazing coffee, as do floral notes and buttery cream overtones.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Full-bodied
  • Medium acidity, bright and clean
  • Orange peel 
  • Chocolate
  • Floral
  • Buttery

Brazil Peaberry

A farmer holding coffee cherries in Minas region of Brazil.

Brazil peaberry coffee beans provide for a rich and smooth taste with nutty overtones. Brazilian farmers in the Carmo de Minas region are harvesting this coffee that has respectable flavor and richness.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Full-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Raspberry

Costa Rica Peaberry

A coffeee tree branch in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Peaberry Coffee is considered one of the world’s most prized coffees. Grown at an elevation of 5,200 feet (1,584 meters) above sea level, this fabulous coffee cherry produces a seed with flavors of honey, lemon, apricot, almond and brown sugar.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Light-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Almond
  • Brown sugar

Columbia Peaberry

Sack of coffee from Columbia.

Straight from the coffee triangle of Columbia, this peaberry coffee cherry yields a bean that is balanced with a pleasant acidity. Bright florals, chocolate, cinnamon and walnut enliven your palate.

Flavor Profile: 

  • Light-bodied
  • Low acidity
  • Bright florals
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Walnut

Guatemala Peaberry

A coffeee tree branch in Costa Rica.

Rich volcanic soil characterizes the Antigua region of Guatemala. Located between the Agua, Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes, mineral-rich volcanic soil provides farmers with ideal conditions for growing coffee cherries.

Guatemala Peaberry Coffee is full-bodied and has a medium level of acidity. Juicy strawberry flavors, together with subtle notes of smoke and spice give peaberry coffee from Antigua a great reputation.

Flavor Profile:

  • Full-bodied
  • Medium acidity
  • Juicy Strawberry
  • Spicy
  • Smokey

Peaberry Coffee Flavor Profile Comparison Chart

 AcidityBodyFlavors
TanzaniaHighMedium-lightChocolate, dark fruits, blackcurrant, citrus and floral notes
KonaLowFull-bodiedFruits, nuts and spice
EthiopiaLowMedium-bodiedCherry, plum and chocolate with notes of lemon, bergamot and jasmine
KenyaHigh, sharp acidityFull-bodiedBlackcurrant, strawberry, lemon and guava
SumatraLowFull-bodiedEarthy, mushroomy, spicy, chocolaty and notes of caramelized sugar
ThaiLowFull-bodiedCherry, chocolate and honeysuckle
VietnameseLowFull-bodiedChocolate, nuts
Blue MountainMedium, bright and cleanFull-bodiedOrange peel, dark chocolate, floral notes and creamy overtones
BrazilLowMedium to full-bodiedChocolatey and nutty with hints of raspberry
Costa RicaLow, sweet and brightLight-bodiedLemon, apricot, honey, almond and notes of brown sugar
ColumbiaLowLight-bodiedBright florals, chocolate, cinnamon and walnut
GuatemalaMedium-lightFull-bodiedStrawberry, spicy, smokey

How to Buy Peaberry Coffee

Roasting coffee.

Like with any coffee, you’re best to purchase your beans from a roaster with ethical sourcing practices. When you find a roaster that is paying farmers a fair price for their coffee, chances are that their business model will include a backstory about the coffee plantation, quality single origin coffee beans and brewing recommendations.

In other words, you want to know where your coffee beans are coming from so you can avoid cheating a family of farmers and obtain good quality coffee.

In addition, buy small batches of beans at a time. Coffee roasters will roast your beans right before mailing them to you. The beans themselves will only stay fresh for eight weeks or less. Best case scenario is buying more right before you run out and only buying two pounds or less per shipment. Peaberry coffee can be expensive, so you definitely don’t want it to lose flavor before you enjoy it.

Peaberry Coffee vs Regular Coffee

Pulling a shot of espresso.

Biologically, there isn’t a lot of difference between peaberry coffee and regular coffee. It’s as simple as regular coffee having two seeds in the coffee cherry while peaberry is an anomaly that only has one seed.

Experts believe that the additional space that the peaberry beans have allows them to grow into a sweeter bean. Some people also say that peaberry beans present more flavor than regular coffee beans. 

One of the biggest differences between the two is that they are differently shaped beans. Peaberry beans are rounder and much smaller than regular beans. Regular coffee beans have a flat side whereas the peaberry bean does not. Peaberry beans are also more dense.

Whether you’re crazy about your regular coffee beans or want to venture out and try something new, the most important thing is that appreciating coffee in all its forms is what makes you a coffee lover

Stay Caffeinated and never stop experimenting with coffee!

Peaberry Coffee FAQ

Yes, It’s a natural defect that just so happened to produce a miracle coffee cherry with a single bean inside. While a regular bean grows in a set of two seeds, a peaberry grows as one individual seed.

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Many believe that peaberry coffee is a superior coffee bean while others believe it’s just the same as normal coffee beans. For this reason, it’s really a matter of opinion. However, peaberry coffee is definitely more rare because only 5-10 percent of coffee cherries yield peaberries.

The cost of peaberry coffee is highly dependent on the variety of peaberry coffee bean that you purchase. Kona peaberry coffee, for example, can go up to $245 a pound since it’s so rare. Other peaberry coffee can be purchased for as little as $25 per pound. Just know that the quality of each is not the same across the board.

Peaberry coffee is a naturally mutated and rare coffee bean. Only 5-10 percent of a coffee bean harvest will yield peaberry coffee beans, so it’s really a matter of supply and demand.

On top of that, the sorting and roasting process for peaberry coffee requires additional time and steps.

Peaberry coffee can grow anywhere coffee cherries are grown. However, the best peaberry coffees come from Tanzania, Kenya, Kona, Jamaica and Brazil.

Peaberry coffee is most commonly arabica. However, robusta peaberry coffee is also available and widely appreciated.

To make the best out of a coffee cherry, the seeds have to go through a roasting process.

There are things to consider when you roast this special bean because it’s rounder in shape and denser than regular coffee beans.

First, the peaberry coffee beans have to be separated from regular beans before they are roasted. In reference to roasting, this is because they are typically different in size and heat will be transferred differently.

A roast profile has to be created because they are round and dense which makes roasting difficult. They cannot be roasted like other beans. Experts suggest that “uncommon beans need uncommon parameters.” They need more attention during roasting because it can take longer to get to the center of the bean.

A slow and deliberate roast is the best way to get the flavorful body that makes this bean so special. Roasting machines are perfect for peaberry coffee beans because their rounder shape allows them to roll better.

The special part about the peaberry bean is that it is so rare. 90-95 percent of coffee cherries grow two coffee beans inside. Only 5-10 percent produce a peaberry coffee bean.

There seems to be a lot of differing opinions on this. You may have to go on your own adventure and try them out for yourself. Many people think they are superior while others don’t think they are special at all. We strongly suggest trying out all of these wonderful flavors.

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There’s mixed opinions about whether peaberry coffee has more caffeine than regular coffee beans. It’s highly dependent on the type of coffee bean as well as the processing, roasting and brewing methods. Obviously, robusta peaberry will have more caffeine because robusta has more caffeine than arabica.

The terms caracol and peaberry are one and the same. Caracol, which means snail, is the Spanish word for peaberry. Peaberries look like small snail shells because of their rounded shape.

How do you grind peaberry coffee?

Peaberry coffee can be ground in a hand coffee grinder or electric coffee grinder. Just keep in mind that peaberry coffee beans have a rounder shape than regular coffee beans. They are also more dense in nature, so you want to be careful not to overwhelm your grinder.

Is peaberry good for espresso?

Peaberry coffee beans make amazing espresso! Many peaberry coffee beans, such as those from Tanzania, are used for espresso because they are dark and rich in flavor.

You don’t just want to brew your peaberry coffee any old way. You need the right temperature and method to extract all of the flavor stored inside the beans. Afterall, peaberries are not just normal coffee beans and should be treated with some respect. 

You want the water to be the perfect temperature for effective extraction. What you’re looking for is a temperature of 195-205 fahrenheit.

Using a French press is the ideal way of getting the best coffee flavor because of the immersion brewing process. The key is to add 1 rounded tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee for every four ounces of water.

Briefly stir and allow the grounds to interact with the water like a slow dance. Allow the dance to progress for four minutes so it can steep and settle to the bottom. Then plunge the French press slowly. You’ll want to serve the coffee immediately to prevent over extraction.

Alternatively, you can use a drip coffee maker or pour over method like a Chemex or Hario V60. For these methods you’ll want to use a medium grind.

Experiment with various methods until you get your coffee just the way you like it.

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