What is peaberry coffee?

Peaberry coffee beans are rare and rather pricey. Let’s find out what makes them so special…


Every coffee bean is magical. But peaberry coffee beans – they really are unique. And did you know that you might be brewing them right now? Oh, la la…


Close up shot of roasted coffee beans


What is peaberry coffee?

Peaberry coffee describes a coffee bean with a rare and specific type of defect. Chop a regular coffee cherry in half, and you’ll find two seeds snuggled together. A parchment layer surrounds the seed, plus a pulp layer (mesocarp), a slimy parenchyma and an outer skin called an exocarp.


red coffee cherries growing on coffee plant in Colombia


Cut a peaberry coffee cherry in half and you’ll see all the same layers, but instead of two coffee seeds, you’ll find just one. The peaberry coffee bean is larger and more rounded than its couple-growing cousins because it can take up all the space within the cherry.

While a regular bean has one round and one flat side (where the two beans grew facing each other), a peaberry coffee bean is curved all the way round. Shape is key: you might find one seed growing on its lonesome but it ain’t peaberry if it ain’t rounded.

Peaberry coffee beans occur when one bean fails to pollinate, leaving its partner to grow solus. We don’t know for sure why this little marvel occurs but we know that it does – and that it’s pretty cool!


Flotation tanks full of red and yellow coffee cherries at El Carmen in El Salvador


Where does the name peaberry coffee come from?

Grab that trusty bag of Birds Eye from the freezer and take a look at a little pea. What shape is it? Round?

Now, think of the peaberry… it’s round, too. And that’s where the name ‘peaberry’ comes from! Peaberries are so-called because they are round like a pea.

We also refer to peaberries by their Spanish name, caracolillo. This means ‘little snail’ in Spanish and reflects the peaberry bean’s round shape. Cute!



Is peaberry coffee arabica or robusta?

It’s important to remember that peaberry coffee is a type of coffee bean defect, not a variety of coffee or place of coffee origin. This means that peaberries can be high-quality arabica or low-quality robusta.

Peaberries can also be any coffee varietal (individual varieties under the arabica or robusta ‘heading’). So you might find Typica peaberries, or Bourbon peaberries, or Caturra peaberries, or…


White sacks of coffee cherries in Las Galeras, Colombia


Does peaberry coffee taste better?

Coffee buffs often see peaberry as superior, but others think that this as a myth.

So, why might peaberry coffee taste better? Think of a spoiled single child. They don’t have to share, do they? A peaberry coffee bean is much the same; they can enjoy all the nutrients themselves. No need to share with a beany twin.

Because of this, peaberries can be denser. Fans of these round beans also say that they taste:

  • brighter
  • sweeter
  • more complex

than regular coffee beans.


Overhead shot of coffee pouring into a mug from a moka pot



How to roast peaberry coffee beans

The roast is another reason why some believe peaberry beans are superior. Normal coffee beans have a flat edge, which can burn more easily than rounded edges. This isn’t a problem for a skilled roaster like our Andy, but some say that the curved peaberry shape gives you a more even roast.

But who knows? Very little research into peaberry roasting has been done, so it might all be a myth…


roasted coffee beans in cooling drum at Two Chimps coffee roastery


It’s also worth noting that you can get some exceptional peaberries and some pretty standard ones. All the same variables that affect normal coffee beans affect peaberries. Factors like variety, processing method and roast quality all play their part.

  • Buying some peaberries grown at very low altitudes? They might not be the best.
  • Maybe you’ve got awesome beans but don’t brew them quite right? Your coffee’s gonna taste a bit off.



How to brew peaberry coffee beans

You don’t need to take any extra steps if you want to brew peaberry coffee beans. Simply take the same approach to your usual coffee brewing and think about whether it’s a light or dark roast.

Different roast types work well with different brew methods.

  • Light roast coffees suit the cafetiere device or filter methods
  • Medium or dark roast coffees quite like pressure methods (an espresso machine, Moka pot or AeroPress)


Spooning ground coffee from Two Chimps coffee tin into cafetiere



Why is peaberry coffee so expensive?

Peaberry coffee is rare and expensive. The coffee community see these beans as a prized item because they account for only 5-10% of all the coffee cherries growers harvest.

There’s quite a bit of extra sorting involved in separating the peaberries from regular beans, which is the reason for those extra pennies.

Growers don’t have to sieve out the peaberries after the harvest. So keep an eye out if you buy whole beans – you might just spot a round little fella in your bag! You can purchase pricey bags of just peaberry beans from certain suppliers, but we think spotting one in amongst your favourite coffee is way more magical!


close up of roasted coffee beans



Does peaberry coffee have more caffeine?

Remember what we said about lone-growing peaberries taking all the nutrients? It’s the same with caffeine. Rather than sharing caffeine with their bean buddy, they can enjoy it all themselves. This means peaberry coffee beans can be a little higher in caffeine than regular coffee beans.

But, again, other factors are in on the action. Are the peaberries robusta rather than arabica? They’ll contain more caffeine. Are they a light roast? Then they might have a smidge more caffeine.

Producers can decaffeinate peaberry beans, too, so peaberries can contain no caffeine at all!


Two chimps coffee tin lid on white background surrounded by coffee beans


Is peaberry coffee the very best? Or is it all a myth (possibly)…

What’s not a myth? That freshly roasted speciality coffee is DELICIOUS.


Keep things simple and have speciality coffee delivered to your door with Two Chimps.


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