What Is Coffee Cherry and Its Game-Changing Effect on Taste?

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Ever sipped your morning coffee and pondered, “What’s a coffee cherry?” Essentially, it’s the vibrant fruit from which our cherished coffee beans originate. 

But, like most tales worth telling, there’s a lot more beneath the surface, and this one will pique your curiosity.

Being a coffee lover and home brewing enthusiast, I’ve done lots of research, so you don’t have to. Here, you’ll get the real story straight from the experts. It’s like a mini adventure for anyone who loves coffee.

What You’ll Learn:

Ready? Let’s dive into the world of coffee cherries!

What’s coffee cherry?

Hey there, fellow coffee lovers! When you think of coffee, you probably picture the aromatic beans that give us our daily caffeine fix. But the coffee cherry tells a deeper tale from the start.

Now, let’s get straight to it: The coffee cherry is the fruit from which our beloved coffee beans come. Think of it as the protective mother hen, wrapping around the beans, nourishing them until they’re ready to venture into the world.

But, just as with many stories, there are layers. Peel back the outer skin of this fruit, and you’ll first find a layer of sweet pulp. Dive a bit further, and there’s a slimy layer called mucilage. A little deeper still, you’ll hit the parchment, which cradles our hero, the coffee bean.

Coffee Cherry the Flavor Profile

The coffee cherry, especially its outer skin and pulp, offers a delightful dance of taste on your palate. It’s a symphony of lightly sweet notes, hints of tartness, and even subtle floral undertones. 

Think of it as the less intense, fruity cousin of the deep, roasted coffee bean. It’s gentle, playful, and wonderfully aromatic. Depending on the variety and region, you might catch hints of berries, apple, or even rose!

How does coffee cherry impact your cup?

Have you ever wondered how that beautiful, intricate flavor in your morning brew came to be? It’s not just about the bean itself but the whole package: the coffee cherry.

When we talk about the coffee cherry, we talk about that protective shell, the pulp, and the bean snug inside. The bean is what we roast and brew, but the cherry surrounding it plays a massive part in determining the taste. During maturation, the cherry’s sugars, minerals, and overall profile seep into the bean. But the story doesn’t end there.

Different flavors emerge depending on how the cherry is processed post-harvest, whether washed immediately, left to ferment, or dried with the cherry intact.

As highlighted by the Barista Institute, the influence of the cherry’s pulp on flavor can be explained this way: The more layers of coffee cherry left on the beans for drying, the fruitier and sweeter the flavors become.

Let’s break down the stages that shape your coffee’s taste:

Natural/Dry Process: Whole cherries sunbathe post-harvest, either on raised beds or patios. They relax until their outer layers gracefully shed.

During this sun-kissed phase, the bean absorbs the pulp’s fruity essence, leading to a coffee that sings sweet, wine-like notes and carries a full-bodied presence.

Washed Process: Imagine a spa day but for coffee cherries. They’re treated to a de-pulping session, followed by a mucilage (that slimy layer) removal ritual, often with fermentation’s help. 

The result? Coffee that struts around with crisp acidity and a profile so defined, it’s like savoring a piece of crystal-clear music.

Honey/Pulped Natural Process: This is the best of both worlds. While the outer skin says goodbye, the mucilage stays put, at least partially, during drying. 

The sugars here caramelize, creating a bean that’s a sweet symphony, both fruity and immaculately clean.

Fermented Process: Some trailblazing producers use fermentation tanks or bags, letting cherries ferment to perfection. The duration and technique can vary, but the core remains the same: using fermentation to bid farewell mucilage. 

Depending on the process, your cup might burst with tangy, bright notes or settle into a deep, wine-like richness.

It’s an intricate dance between the bean and its fruity companion, with each step crafting your coffee’s final profile.

What are coffee cherry outer skin and pulp uses?

You might think, “After we get the bean, what becomes of the rest of the cherry?” That is a fantastic question! Most often, the pulp and outer skin get discarded. But the coffee world thrives on innovation!

To start, have you ever sipped on a drink named Cascara? If not, you’re in for a treat! Cascara, which translates to “husk” or “shell,” is a refreshing beverage made primarily from the coffee cherry’s dried outer skin and pulp. It’s not your traditional coffee but leans more towards tea with its lightly sweet, fruit-infused notes. If coffee and tea had a love child, cascara would be it!

This research highlights its impressive nutritional content, revealing a rich reservoir of antioxidants and caffeine, offering flavor and health benefits. 

Venture into the realm of culinary delights, and you’ll discover that these parts of the coffee cherry also transform into syrups and reductions. Envision a dessert adorned with a sauce that showcases the nuanced flavors of the coffee cherry! It’s a culinary pairing that creates a heavenly experience for food enthusiasts.

For the health-conscious, the coffee cherry’s skin and pulp don’t disappoint. Bursting with antioxidants, they’re dried and ground to produce coffee cherry flour. This addition to your baking can introduce a mildly sweet, tangy profile, making muffins, cookies, and even breads a conversation starter!

Let’s not forget sustainability. By finding uses for the outer layers of the coffee cherry, we’re championing a zero-waste approach in coffee cultivation. It’s an ode to embracing every part of nature’s produce and pushing the envelope regarding flavor and function.

In a nutshell, the outer skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are more than just nature’s packaging. They’re ingredients, beverages, and symbols of sustainable practices.


Can you eat the coffee cherry?

Absolutely! It’s a delightful, fruity morsel. While we coffee lovers tend to fawn over the bean inside, the outer cherry is like the unsung hero of the coffee world. It’s edible and quite tasty – think sweet and tangy with a hint of floral.

What is the benefit of coffee cherry?

Aside from being nature’s little candy, coffee cherries are jam-packed with antioxidants. So, not only are you satisfying your sweet tooth, but you’re also boosting your body! Think of them as nature’s dual-purpose treat: flavor and health wrapped up in one tiny package.

Are coffee cherries the same as regular cherries?

Not quite! They’re like distant cousins in the fruit family reunion. While they share the name ‘cherry,’ they look and taste different. Regular cherries are the plump, juicy fruits we love to snack on during the summer, while coffee cherries are the protective shells for our beloved coffee beans. So, same family name, different personalities!

Do coffee cherries have caffeine?

Surprise! They do. Not as much as the bean itself, but they’ve got a hint. So if you’re munching on them, you’re not just getting a fruity bite but also a little pep in your step. Consider nature’s subtle energy boosters.

Do coffee cherries taste like coffee?

This one’s a fun twist – no, they don’t! While they house the coffee bean, coffee cherries have their unique flavor profile: a blend of sweet and tart, closer to a berry than your morning brew. So, if you were hoping for a bite-sized coffee experience, you might be in for a delicious surprise!


We’ve just unraveled the fascinating story behind coffee cherries. It’s clear now that there’s so much more to our coffee than just the beans. From its origins as a protective cherry to its importance in shaping flavors, this tale is rich in detail and taste.

Remember: every time you sip your coffee, there’s a deeper story in your cup.

Photo of author


Viky Tiagué is a coffee enthusiast and freelance writer with a passion for sharing his love of coffee.

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