WMF UK Coffee Machines Blog

What is a coffee bean?

22-Mar-2019 10:00:24 by WMF Marketing Team


If someone asked you what coffee is, what would your reply be? A delicious caffeinated beverage? A kind of bean used to make drinks? Both answers would perfectly valid of course, but we'd bet very few people would say answer that coffee is a plant. Coffee is so popular all around the world, but rarely do we think about the process of growing it, and in fact many people aren’t even aware that coffee comes from a fruit! Understanding where your coffee comes from and how it’s produced can be a very important factor in making sure you’re getting the right coffee for you.

Coffee comes from cherries?

This is often a surprising fact for many coffee newbies, but coffee beans are actually the seeds of the coffee cherry. These are grown on trees mostly in tropical climates with very high elevation and can naturally grow to be over 9m tall! Coffee trees are covered in pairs of green, waxy leaves, with the cherries growing along its branches. It can take in the region of 3 to 4 years for coffee trees to bear fruit, but once it does, the average tree will produce around 10lbs of ripe coffee cherries each year. This equates to about 2lbs of green coffee beans, so think how many trees it must take to keep you in lattes all year round!

pexels-photo-1459339A coffee cherry starts out green, then as it ripens it will slowly change colour, usually to bright red although this can vary dependant on the type of coffee. The skin of the cherry is called the exocarp, and just inside this is a layer called the mesocarp, or the pulp. Then inside this is the inner layer of the pulp called the mucilage, and under that is a layer of pectin which surrounds the seeds.

The coffee seeds themselves are what we know as the beans. They usually come in pairs which are covered by a thin skin that we call the parchment. Around 5% of coffee cherries only contain the one seed, which is usually much larger. These are called peaberries and are sometimes sold separately at a premium price.


How coffee beans are made

Ultimately the two things that need to happen to coffee cherries for them to be sold commercially as coffee beans is they need to have the fruit removed, and they need to be dried. There are several different ways this can be achieved that all have an impact on the sweetness level of your coffee, here are a few terms to look out for: 

Natural – This means the coffee was dried with the fruit still on, then removed later.

Washed – Fruit removed before the drying process

Pulped natural – Skin removed but pulp left on for coffee to dry

Honey processed – Mucilage left on for the drying process

Parchment coffee – Beans sold with the parchment left intact


With all this variety out there, you need to make sure your machine can keep up and always produce the best tasting espresso possible. That’s why WMF have pioneered the Dynamic Coffee Assist system, which monitors and automatically adjusts settings like the coffee quantity and grinding angle, leaving you to focus solely on looking after your customers. Dynamic Coffee Assist is available for the WMF 1500 S+ and WMF 5000S+ coffee machines

Download a brochure to see the full range.


Topics: Coffee Brewing, Coffee Beans, Coffee industry, Coffee news, Coffee plant

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Written by WMF Marketing Team

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