Did you know that a coffee bean is actually a seed? This fun little fruit is much like a cherry and is about the size of a small grape. The seed takes up a majority of the fruit with a thin layer of pulp on the outside. Unripe cherries start as green and as they ripen a majority turn red but a few varieties do ripen to yellow and very occasionally, you’ll find a yellow-red hybrid that ripens to orange. Like any fruit, the more ripe the fruit, the more sugars in the fruit. The more sugars in the fruit, the tastier the coffee bean will be! Much like any globally-shipped fruit, different producers harvest at different stages of ripeness.
The seed itself is covered in several additional protective layers, the parchment and silverskin, both which are removed in processing. Most coffee cherries contain two seeds that face each other. Occassionally, only one seed forms and those are called peaberries. We talked about more peaberries in this blog post on our Sumatra.
Coffee pulp has been a wasteful byproduct of the coffee industry but there have been attempts in recent years to make use of it. The most common and least wasteful use use has been composting the pulp which makes a very nutrient-rich fertilizer. Some places use dried coffee pulp can be brewed into a tea. An entrepreneur recently started making coffee flour. There’s also been effort to water to treat coffee wastewater and turn it into biogas. Quite a variety of uses for a byproduct!
Top image from: http://worldofcaffeine.com/caffeine-gallery/cross-section-of-coffee-cherry/
Coffee cherry image from: http://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/node/2928