The many different colours of coffee beans

If you asked a group people what the colour of coffee is, then the chances are that all of them (or nearly all of them) would say brown or a version of brown. This is because most people only see coffee when it’s dark brown, but coffee cherries are in fact, red, yellow and green before they are processed and the seeds or beans are roasted.

In this blog, we discuss the coffee process and the different colours of coffee.

When coffee is handpicked it’s extremely important to pick only the ripe cherries. The ripe cherries are characterised by their red or yellow colour and it’s the fully developed bean, which is found inside the coffee cherries that will give the coffee its best flavours.

Red and yellow coffee cherries

Ripe coffee cherries are either red or yellow.   Like many fruits, they are green when they grow and as they ripen they change colour. Whether they are red or yellow depends on the varietal. Once the beans have been picked, the coffee cherries will then be depulped, fermented, washed and finally dried in the sun. The drying process can take several days depending on how much sun there is. The external layer of the bean – which is called the parchment – is then removed. For maximum freshness, coffee beans should be picked when their colour is the brightest (regardless of whether they are red or yellow). If they are a dark red or a dark yellow colour, then they are overripe.

Green coffee beans

Once picked and processed, coffee beans are green in colour. At this stage of the process, all that is left is the pit of the cherry or a green coffee bean. These beans vary in colour, from greyish green through to a yellow-green depending on what region they are from.

Brown coffee beans

During the roasting process, coffee beans turn from green to tan then brown. The longer they are roasted, the darker brown the beans will be. Roasted coffee beans never turn black, but they may be a very dark brown. If they are black then they are burned and can’t be used for brewing.

Definition: Officially, coffee is a brownish colour that represents the colour of a roasted coffee bean. Different types of coffee beans have different colours when they are roasted and the colour of the coffee represents an average. The first recorded use of coffee as an actual colour name in English was way back in 1695!

The many different colours of coffee beans