The peaberry coffee bean is something of an enigma to most home brewers.
Even in the world of specialty coffee, it’s a type of coffee bean that divides opinion.
Some consider it to produce a superior cup of coffee. Others claim its qualities owe more to marketing than its unique growing conditions.
I’ve rounded up all the questions that are most commonly asked about the peaberry bean, and provided the best answers I can.
(Want to learn more about home coffee brewing? Take a look through my guide for other brewing methods, buying guides and more.)
Where Is Peaberry Coffee From?
The peaberry is a growth mutation in the regular coffee plant, but there are two main sources of peaberry coffee in the world.
It’s predominantly associated with Tanzanian coffee production. There is, however, a Kona variety of peaberry coffee. This is the market name for coffee grown in Hawaii.
Be warned though: it can be expensive stuff compared to other types of coffee.
Is Peaberry Coffee Arabica?
Not exclusively, no.
Peaberry refers to the coffee bean, rather than the particular variety.
It’s derived from a mutation that exists in both arabica and robusta coffee plants.
This mutation results in a coffee cherry that contains just a single bean, instead of two.
The more common coffee beans have an oval shape, which occurs as it grows against its neighbour.
The peaberry coffee bean is rounder in shape as its growth is unrestricted. Hence the “pea” prefix in its name!
How is Peaberry Coffee Made?
Following on from the previous answer, the peaberry is formed when a solitary bean develops within a coffee cherry. Normally there’d be two such beans.
During the growing stage – and for reasons not entirely understood* – the second bean fails to grow within the coffee cherry.
This occurs between 5 and 10% of the time in typical coffee cherry production.
(* Speculation on the peaberry’s unusual growth is rife. The jury’s out on whether this is a result of poor pollination or the environment during any given growing season)
Is Peaberry Coffee Less Acidic?
If they’re roasted correctly, the average peaberry is more flavorful but packs less acidity.
It’s not an easy process to get right, however, which is part of the reason why they are so expensive compared to regular coffee beans.
First they have to be separated from the rest of the “normal” harvest, then they have to go through a precise, dedicated roasting process of their own.
What Does Peaberry Coffee Taste Like?
Take two beans from the same crop – one peaberry, the other a regular bean – and you should detect a difference in taste between them.
The resulting brew from the peaberry is often perceived as a much richer variant of its “normal” counterpart.
You’ll notice new depths of flavor when you drink this mutated version.
What’s The Best Peaberry Coffee?
Taste is, of course, an extremely subjective thing. What tickles my tastebuds may not do the same for you.
With that said, Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Tanzanian Peaberry is widely cited as the best all-round take on this unique coffee experience.
For a beginner, it’s your best starting point. These beans are pretty pricey, so it’s good to start here and then explore more refined flavors if you find the results worthwhile.
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How Much Caffeine is in Peaberry Coffee?
There’s no definitive answer when it comes to the caffeine content of a peaberry bean.
It seems intuitive to think that it must contain more flavor and caffeine properties. It gets the whole cherry to itself after all, right?
That doesn’t appear to affect the actual growth process of the bean, however.
The balance of opinion suggests that there is fractionally more caffeine in a peaberry coffee bean.
Even if that is definitively the case, it shouldn’t really influence your decision about whether to drink it or not.
It’s much more important to consider a) the taste and b) the cost of indulging in this type of coffee experience.
How To Roast Peaberry Coffee Beans
Given the cost involved – and the expertise required – I don’t recommend you attempt to roast your own peaberry beans.
Even the most experienced home roasters can struggle to get good results here, and it’s an expensive way to learn the art of coffee roasting!
The peaberry requires a very specific roast to get best results. They’re smaller, rounder and denser than regular coffee beans, which means they need to be very carefully prepared.
If you’re determined to give it a go, however, here’s a video that shows one method of getting the job done.
How To Brew Kona Peaberry Coffee
There are no unusual steps to take when it comes to brewing peaberries over any other coffee bean.
I do think that it becomes more important to take care of the basics though, and go the extra mile where you can.
Here are some tips that I think will help you get the most out of your peaberry beans.
Use Whole Beans
Always start with whole beans, rather than ground coffee.
The main reason to make peaberry coffee is to maximize the flavor. Once a bean shell has been cracked open, it rapidly starts losing its flavor and aroma potential.
I recommend a medium or – at most – coarse grind for the best results. I’ve got a guide to the best grinders you can use for French Press coffee, which should work well here.
Use Filtered Water
It’s easy to focus on the coffee bean and forget that the greater part of the coffee you drink is the water you add to it!
To do justice to the peaberry, you really want to use filtered water. If you don’t have plumbed-in filtering, you can buy an inexpensive filter jug easily enough.
Brew Ratios & Time
For a peaberry brew, I recommend using 6 oz of water for every 2 tablespoons of coffee once it’s been ground.
As for the brewing time and method, four minutes in a French Press is about the right amount of time to get a good extraction.
Phew! That should answer just about any question you might have about the peaberry coffee bean.
Hopefully you’ve now got all the information you need to start exploring this wonderful side of the coffee world.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more