Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans

The primary difference between coffee and cocoa beans is in how they are used to produce different products. 

Coffee beans are used to make coffee, whereas cocoa beans are used for making chocolate. 

But there are several other differences between coffee and cocoa beans. Let’s learn how the two types of beans are different. 

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – The Appearance 

Coffee beans and cocoa beans have unique appearances. The two types of beans are different in how they look. 

Coffee Beans 

Coffee beans are small, round cherry-like berries that grow inside the fruit of the coffee plant. A single bean is found inside the coffee plant fruit. 

The color of coffee beans can vary from tan to dark brown. Coffee beans resemble half of a peanut as they have a crease in the middle. 

Cocoa Beans 

Cocoa beans come from an orangish-red, long pod on the cocoa tree. The pod is cut, and multiple beans are found inside the fruit. The beans are then extracted through the flesh. 

When harvested, cocoa beans are purple in color, which changes to dark brown when dried. 

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – The Origins 

Historians and archeologists share details about the origins of coffee and cocoa beans. While there’s little information about coffee beans, there’s more evidence about the origin of cocoa beans. 

Coffee Beans

Little is known about the exact origin of coffee beans. However, there is a popular legend about the discovery of the coffee plant. 

According to the story, the coffee plant was first discovered by Kaldi, a goat herder in Ethiopia. But there are more authentic accounts of the discovery of the plant. 

Evidence suggests that the coffee plant was found in the mountainous region of Yemen. Following the discovery, coffee beans were exported to the rest of the world. 

Cocoa Beans 

On the other hand, there’s more information about the origin of cocoa beans. The research found traces of cocoa trees from almost 4,000 years ago. 

The earliest consumption of cocoa was recovered from Mokaya cultures in Guatemala and Mexico. It is believed that the Maya tribe first developed chocolate beverages using cocoa beans.  

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – Harvesting and Processing 

Both coffee and cocoa beans come from the plant’s fruit. However, there are differences in how they are harvested and processed. 

Coffee Beans 

Coffee beans grow on coffee plants inside the fruit of the cherry. When the cherry ripens, it’s harvested and sent for processing. 

The coffee bean is extracted from the fruit using various methods. Following the extraction, the beans are sent for drying. 

The beans are dried naturally or using mechanical dryers depending on weather conditions. Coffee beans are now ready for the other critical step, roasting.  

Cocoa Beans 

Since cocoa beans also come from the tree’s fruit, the processing starts with harvesting the pods. 

When ripe, the cocoa pods are harvested. The pods are then cut and beans are extracted. Following the extraction, the cocoa beans are fermented on the same day. 

Once fermented, cocoa beans are dried and prepared for aging. At this point, the moisture content of the cocoa beans is reduced from up to 70% to 6-7%. 

The last stage of cocoa bean processing, aging, can take up to 30 days. Cocoa beans may regain moisture at this step. Following aging, cocoa beans are sent for roasting.  

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – Roasting

Fresh coffee and cocoa beans aren’t used right after drying and aging. Instead, they have to undergo another process known as roasting. 

Roasting serves an integral purpose in processing both coffee and cocoa beans. However, the process isn’t the same for both types of beans. 

Coffee Beans 

When fresh coffee beans are sent for roasting, the first step is to determine the moisture content of the beans. Moreover, beans are evaluated for their density. 

Based on the moisture content and density, the heating treatment for the beans is decided. The most appropriate brewing method is also determined at this step. 

For example, roasting a filter coffee requires keeping a check for acidity and targeting an early first crack of the bean. However, that’s not the case for espresso. 

If beans are roasted for espresso, they are heated slowly for a longer time to delay the first crack. 

In most cases, coffee beans are hand roasted until the first crack appears on the bean. Following the appearance of the first crack, the beans are closely monitored till the end of the roast. 

Samples are constantly drawn throughout the process to ensure consistent roasting. It also allows for any adjustments in the roasting process. 

Cocoa Beans 

Cocoa beans are fermented and aged before they are sent for roasting. The earlier process ensures that only healthy beans are roasted. 

Prior to roasting, cocoa beans are assessed for size and moisture content. The beans are separated based on size, as similar sizes and structures are essential for efficient roasting. 

The density and moisture content of the cocoa beans is also evaluated. Typically the moisture content of the beans at this point should be between 6 and 7%. 

Compared to coffee beans, cocoa beans are less dense as they have higher fat content. Variations in density require varying roasting time and techniques to ensure homogenous roasting. 

For stronger cocoa flavor, higher roasting temperatures are used. On the other hand, lower roasting temperatures are used for more delicate cocoa flavors. 

Unlike roasting coffee beans, the process doesn’t change the appearance of the cocoa beans. However, it plays an integral role in determining the final flavor. 

The beans are roasted till the crack appears. The appearance of the crack indicates that the beans are fully roasted and ready for use. 

Unlike coffee, the cocoa bean roasting industry still doesn’t have set practices. The companies are still experimenting to decide on the best method for roasting cocoa beans.  

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – The Taste

Coffee and chocolate have unique tastes. But why are these tastes so distinct? The answer depends on the type of beans these two products are derived from. 

Coffee Beans 

Coffee beans have a distinct earthy taste. Typically, the natural taste of coffee beans is bitter. However, it can be influenced by various factors. 

The variety of coffee beans can determine the bean’s bitterness. Moreover, the roasting process can also modify coffee beans’ bitterness. 

In some cases, the coffee bean’s taste is also influenced by the growing conditions. 

Cocoa Beans 

On the other hand, cocoa beans have a jolting bitter flavor. The taste of cocoa beans is nowhere close to the chocolate you consume. 

In fact, cocoa beans’ taste is more intense and bitter compared to coffee. Moreover, only a negligible amount of natural sugar is found in cocoa beans. 

Chocolate manufacturers add sugar and milk to cocoa beans to give chocolate its sweet flavor. 

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – Antioxidant Content

One of the interesting differences between coffee and cocoa beans is their antioxidant content. While both are rich in antioxidants, there’s a distinction between the two. 

Coffee Beans 

Coffee beans are a rich source of several particularly powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols and melanoidins. 

These powerful antioxidants have unique anti-inflammatory properties. They help protect against harmful free radicals. 

Moreover, the antioxidants in coffee beans can have therapeutic and preventive effects for several health conditions. 

Some of the other antioxidants found in coffee beans may also help lower your risk of getting certain types of cancers. They can also help boost immunity. 

Cocoa Beans 

Compared to coffee beans, cocoa beans tend to have fewer antioxidants. Yet antioxidants are present, and they can provide various beneficial effects.

Cocoa beans are rich in procyanidins, flavonoids, and catechins. These antioxidants help improve blood flow and lower the risk of heart disease. 

Moreover, they also protect the body against damage from free radicals.  

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – Calories

As we discuss the differences between coffee and cocoa beans, it’s critical to know about their calorie count. There’s a significant difference in the number of calories in coffee and cocoa beans. 

Coffee Beans 

A Coffee bean typically has around 200 calories. However, when processed and roasted, a lot of oil and fat is lost. Hence, the final product has much fewer calories. 

When brewed as coffee, the beans contain almost zero calories. Most of the calories in brewed coffee come from cream, milk, and sugar. 

Cocoa Beans 

When compared to coffee beans, cocoa beans are rich in calories. The pod seed is loaded with fat which makes cocoa beans more calorie-rich.

Moreover, coffee beans are roasted less extensively than coffee beans. Hence, they retain most of their fat and oil, which is helpful in producing chocolate. 

Difference Between Coffee and Cocoa Beans – Usage 

It goes without saying that the two types of beans have varying usage. 

Coffee Beans 

Coffee beans are used to manufacture coffee, one of the most popular beverages used worldwide. It is estimated that around 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed annually.

Cocoa Beans 

Cocoa beans are primarily used in the manufacturing of chocolates. They account for the production of over 7 million tons of chocolate that’s used globally every year. 


There are various differences between coffee and cocoa beans. From appearance to taste and usage, the two types of beans are unique in multiple ways. 

While coffee and cocoa beans can go together well, they’re still quite different. 

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