It's no secret that the Hoxton Coffee guys and girls are all about rich, tasty coffee beans - but did you know that the humble bean is far more versatile than we often imagine?
Coffee isn't just a tasty, caffeinated brew - it's also a delicious snack. Adding organic, flavourful coffee to baking and cooking is a perfect way to bump up your coffee quota.
Today we wanted to chat about whether eating coffee beans can possibly be good for you (hint - it is!) and share some inspiration to take your dinner game to the next level.
Are Coffee Beans Safe to Eat?
Let's be clear; a coffee bean isn't actually a bean (surprise!). It's a seed which grows inside the coffee plant fruit.
When coffee is processed, the goo around the seed and outer fruit is stripped back to leave a powerful seed that is then roasted.
Like almost every other seed on the planet, you can safely nibble away on a coffee bean, and it's a food source that goes back way further than our modern espresso machines!
Our ancestors would eat coffee seeds for energy as a vital nutritional source during hunting, but we'd suggest a slightly more refined approach than snagging raw beans straight from the branch.
The typical coffee bean snack is a chocolate-coated bean, which you can buy in most supermarkets - however, it's the chocolate and sugar that make this a tad unhealthy, not the seed!
What Do Coffee Beans Taste Like as a Snack?
Now, if you were to eat a raw, green, unroasted coffee bean, it might not be a velvety smooth flavour (or texture) - it's safe, but you'd find that an unroasted bean is very hard and a potential filling disaster.
The flavour is also more acidic and earthy than a rich roast because those smoky undertones don't come out until the beans are roasted.
A roasted coffee bean is a whole other ball game.
Although the texture is still a little gritty, the punchy notes are incredible, and you can experience different tastes depending on the lightness or darkness of the roast you choose.
Most people prefer a dark roast coffee bean - but it's all down to personal taste!
The Benefits of Eating Coffee Beans
Coffee beans add a big dash of fibre to your diet (essential for healthy digestion) and are also jammed with antioxidants, which are thought to help reduce inflammation and mitigate risks of developing certain cardiovascular conditions.
The natural oils within the seed are also linked to cognitive performance - which you might expect if you need a cup of Proper Strong to get going in the morning!
We get that we might be biased in favour of coffee, so check out this article about the Evidence-Based Health Benefits if you're not convinced.
The caveat is that if you have any underlying conditions or feel tempted to eat a whole bag of beans in one sitting, it might not be such a good thing.
Coffee consumption in large quantities isn't recommended for kids, pregnant or breastfeeding people, or folks with some health indicators that mean caffeine isn't their friend, per the National Library of Medicine.
If none of those applies, you're golden - but you might get heartburn if you get stuck into your coffee beans too enthusiastically.
Do You Get the Same Caffeine Content From Eating Coffee Beans?
Nope - eating coffee beans delivers more caffeine because the coffee is more potent and concentrated.
If you were to eat a big handful of 28 beans, you'd get the same effect as drinking three and a half cups of strong black coffee.
That's because brewed coffee washes out a bit of the grounds when you filter the coffee with water, whereas eating a whole bean means you get 100% of the caffeine content.
Therefore, if you're sensitive to caffeine, limit yourself to a few beans at a time.
Three Ways to Eat Coffee Beans
So, you're doubtless dying to try this unusual snack!
First, let's talk about bean prep. You can eat your coffee beans straight from the bag or whip up your own batch of chocolate beans - this recipe from In the Kitch works through all the steps.
It's as simple as melting your chosen chocolate, adding the beans, and setting them in the freezer, so a quick and easy option if you're short on time.
For the more adventurous coffee lovers, we like these ideas:
- Choc Chip Coffee Cookies: made with finely ground coffee and an optional cup of toasted nuts or cherries for extra oomph!
- Steak With Coffee and Chilli Rub: a punchy rub made with ground coffee, mustard, salt, pepper and chilli powder - what a way to add some serious flavour to your summer BBQ!
- Slow-Baked Coffee Carrots: a surprisingly sweet and smoky twist on a Sunday roast staple, with medium roast coffee beans, garlic and olive oil.
Coffee goes amazingly well with a massive suite of flavours, so it's not just a bean that's best eaten smothered in chocolate!
Give these recipes a go, or create your own unique dish with Hoxton's East End Blend (medium to dark roast) or House Blend (medium roasted) and let us know how you get on.
Maybe we'll even get a Hoxton Coffee cookbook in the pipeline!
Frequently Asked Questions: All You Need to Know About Eating Coffee Beans
Not quite reconciled to the concept of eating coffee beans instead of filtering them into your morning cup? Here are the answers to some common questions.
Can I Eat Normal Coffee Beans?
Yep - you don't need to buy an overpriced bag of chocolate beans to try eating coffee - try a medium or dark roast bean, and get creative in the kitchen.
We'd suggest limiting your consumption, as coffee beans can be quite hard and contain a high caffeine dose, but coffee is safe to eat.
You can even use leftover grounds in compost, plant food or as an all-natural fridge deodorant (this Guardian article has loads of other ideas).
Are Coffee Beans Safe for Children or Animals?
No - just like you'd not give a double espresso to your child or hamster (we hope!), you can't feed coffee beans to pets or kids.
Caffeine is fine for most adults to consume but can be very dangerous to kids or animals and is toxic to dogs and cats - and, we'd assume, to hamsters too.
Keep the beans to yourself, but don't panic if a curious little person has a lick - they're highly unlikely to enjoy the bitterness of a raw coffee bean.
Can I Eat Coffee Beans on a Diet?
Well, the chocolate-covered variety isn't going to do your calorie consumption any favours, BUT caffeine is thought to be useful if you're looking to burn fat.
Provided your beans aren't soaked in sugar (or chocolate), they can be a healthy alternative to crisps or sweets.
A typical serving of beans has around ten calories, without any carbs, fat or sugar, and the caffeine boost is commonly used to get an extra pump on during a workout.