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Can You Eat Raw Coffee Beans?

raw coffee beans

Most of us have probably had chocolate-covered espresso beans at some point. Maybe they were given to us as a gift. Coffee lovers typically prefer to drink their beans. So, if they eat them, they stumble upon them like Kaldi’s goat.

The problem with chocolate-covered espresso beans is that they run out too quickly. They’re tasty. It doesn’t matter that we are grinding the coffee in our mouths. The unpleasant texture of coffee grounds is made more palatable by a little bit of sweetness. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Yes, “in a most delightful way.”

But what about eating raw, unroasted coffee beans? Why would someone do that when they can have them with chocolate? We will see that there are some health benefits. But are there major drawbacks that we should be concerned about? Let’s take a look.

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Are Raw Coffee Beans Poisonous? Can You Eat Raw Unroasted Coffee Beans?

The short answer is that yes, you can eat raw, unroasted coffee beans.

It is sometimes thought that roasting removes any harmful elements from the coffee bean. But this is a misperception. We’re not talking about eating an undercooked chicken breast. You’re not going to get salmonella from eating raw, green coffee beans. The thing you will have to worry about the most is over-caffeination, which can occur quickly if you are eating coffee beans of any kind (especially chocolate-covered beans!).

If you are going to try eating raw coffee beans for the first time, don’t expect a nice nutty flavor as you would get from roasted coffee. Raw or green coffee beans will taste very acidic, sour, and woody. Many people opt for green coffee extract that they can take as a supplement instead of chewing the beans or slurping down a cup of green coffee.

roasted coffee beans and raw coffee beans
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Raw Coffee Beans?

The hype with green coffee started in 2012, when Dr. Oz recommended it to help with weight loss, claiming that no exercise or diet restrictions were necessary. People have been increasingly consuming green coffee extract since then. But what about the benefits of eating raw coffee beans?

Antioxidants

Coffee is a well-known source of antioxidants. In fact, if it weren’t for coffee, we in the western world might be a little antioxidant deprived. The main antioxidant in coffee beans is chlorogenic acid. When coffee is roasted, some of this can be released and lost with time. Even if the beans are roasted and brewed shortly after, the extraction process doesn’t bring every potential benefit out of the grounds. However, consuming whole green coffee beans is a great way to get the most antioxidants out of the bean.

green coffee beans

Fiber

Even though coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the Western diet, they’re not exactly the number one choice when considering fiber supplements. However, coffee beans are high in fiber. 30 beans contain about 3 grams of fiber which is 10% of your daily value. So, if you are looking for a fiber supplement, here you go. Just be ready to be buzzing!

Caffeine

We’ve heard that caffeine can stunt your growth, can cause high blood pressure, and other misinformation about caffeine. Caffeine consumed in moderate amounts is not thought to interfere with a young person’s growth. Regarding blood pressure, even though within a few hours after consumption blood pressure is elevated, there is little evidence to suggest that moderate consumption increases the risk of hypertension. Caffeine also improves memory, mental capacity, and mood.

handful of raw coffee beans
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Are the Downsides of Eating Raw Coffee Beans?

Heartburn

The lighter coffee is roasted, generally speaking, the more acidic it will be. Many people prefer dark roast because they prefer the flavor profile. Lighter roasts can accentuate more acidic and fruity notes in the bean. So, when it comes to green coffee, you are at the end of the spectrum that has the most acidity. People with acid reflux or who are sensitive to acidic foods should avoid eating raw coffee beans. In addition to the acidity of the bean itself, caffeine also has the potential to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing reflux of stomach acid.

Taste

We all take our coffee a little differently. Some like it straight black while others like doctoring it up with cream and sugar. Perhaps the biggest downside to green coffee, and consequently chewing coffee beans, is that there is not really a good way to mask the flavor (even with chocolate!)

Digestive Issues

With a lot of fiber and acidity in the beans comes the potential for an upset stomach and getting backed up. This is made all the more confusing when we consider that coffee is a proven laxative. But fiber and the laxative effect don’t exactly cancel each other out. It could just end up leaving your body to work overtime. Remember, in order for the fiber to work, you have to drink plenty of water, not just more coffee.

a sack of raw coffee beans
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Many Coffee Beans Are Safe to Eat?

Probably 20 to 30 coffee beans at the most are safe to eat. You might be thinking that this is roughly equivalent to only a tablespoon of grounds which renders about 4 ounces of brewed coffee. While that is true and might not seem like a lot, you have to remember that when you are eating the whole bean, you’re getting more than just the caffeine and antioxidants. You’re getting fiber and calories as well.

Can You Eat Decaf Coffee Beans?

Yes, you can eat decaf coffee beans. If over-caffeination is your biggest concern when eating coffee beans, then decaf could be your answer. However, this doesn’t mean you can go absolutely nuts (or beans!).

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Final Thoughts

If you are interested in jumping on the green coffee bandwagon, you might want to try green coffee extract first. Chewing straight espresso beans can be unpleasant enough for some. Going straight for green coffee beans might be too unfamiliar of a flavor to make you want to keep trying it. If you are wanting green coffee for the antioxidants and weight loss benefits, you might want to try a capsule of green coffee extract instead.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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Aaron Rice

Aaron is a Pacific Northwest native who enjoys coffee, playing guitar, and playing cribbage with his wife. He is currently a graduate student in Boston, Massachusetts.

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