Anatomy Of A Coffee Bean

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What Is A Coffee Cherry?

A coffee cherry is a fruit that grows on the coffee plant/tree. This is the part that farmers harvest, once they are ripe and ready.

The coffee cherry is comprised of several parts, despite its small size. While many simply enjoy a cup of coffee, they may not understand what is behind it.

To better understand this, understanding the different parts of the cherry is vital. The following explains the different parts of the coffee cherry, from the outside/skin towards the inside/center.

Generally, the cherry is divided into two main parts: the pericarp and the seed.


The pericarp is further subdivided into the skin, mucilage, and parchment. This is the outer three layers of the cherry.

Outer Skin

The outer skin of the coffee cherry, scientifically referred to as the exocarp or epicarp, is the outermost layer. This is what you see once the fruits develop, or are harvested.

Commonly, many will refer to it as the peel. The color of the skin will vary, depending on the coffee variety. In its early stages, the color will be green; as it matures and ripens, the color will vary, with the common colors varying between red and yellow.


Mucilage, also known as the mesocarp, refers to a thin layer of pulp or flesh. Before the cherry is ripe, this part remains firm, but as it starts to ripen, it resembles a gel.

This gel-like substance is rich in sugars, which acts as a source of energy. That explains the alertness that people experience after drinking coffee.


Parchment, also referred to as the endocarp, is the most inner part of the pericarp. It plays the role of enfolding the bean.

As the parchment matures, this part will harden, gradually. Over time, this part will determine the size of the bean; it cannot grow further, due to the hardness of the bean.

The Seed

The seed is comprised of 3 parts, including the silver skin, endosperm, and the center cut/embryo. The size will vary amongst cherries.

Mainly, each cherry comes with two beans, but in some rare cases, you will find just one bean. A single bean is referred to as a pea berry, or caracol.

Silver Skin

The silver skin (perisperm or spermoderm) is what wraps the seed. After maturity, once the seed is obtained and prepared for roasting, it will come off as chaff.

In the event that you see plenty of silver skin on the seed, this will mean that the cherry was harvested before it was fully ripe.


The endosperm is also known as the bean, and it has only one tissue. However, there is a variance in the oil content, as well as cell wall thickness in the cells, located in the exterior and interior sections of this part.

It’s when you smell the sweet aroma and taste the flavor of the coffee, after preparing it, that you can thank this section for. It is a crucial part of the seed.

Center Cut/Embryo

The center cut holds the embryo section, and it is comprised of two cotyledons and a hypocotyl. This section is responsible for germination of the plant.

The hypocotyl will penetrate and move upwards, to raise up the cotyledons. It is located at the innermost center of the cherry.


The above are the main parts of a coffee cherry, and their role. With a basic understanding of which part plays which role, you will know which part is essential for growth, to build taste and flavor, as well as which parts remain after harvest for roasting.