What is the Difference Between Cocoa Beans and Coffee Beans?

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What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans
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It’s pretty hard not to love both coffee and chocolate. But it’s even harder to figure out the difference between the two is. They taste extremely alike that you might start thinking that coffee and chocolate are cousins (although they are not). So what is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans then?

As it turns out, cocoa beans are used for making chocolate and various drinks, while coffee beans (coffee seeds to be more precise) are used for making coffee.

Now – the coffee seed is collected from the coffee fruit that resembles a cherry.

While cocoa beans are harvested from cocoa trees (makes sense, eh?).

Yet, there are a couple more extra differences between cocoa and coffee beans that we are going to discuss in the coming paragraphs.

What is the Difference Between Cocoa Beans and Coffee Beans?

To make things easier to digest (see what I did there?), we’ve hand-picked the 3 most crucial differences between them:

1. Taste

Cocoa tends to have a more bitter and intense taste, while coffee is more earthy although darker roasts can be quite bitter too.

Speaking of which – the roasting level determines the taste of coffee, whether it’s bland or strong.

Typically, coffee features rich and earthy tones although dark coffee is indeed more bitter.

As a general rule of thumb – the darker the coffee, the more bitter the taste.

And don’t get surprised if you perceive some chocolaty undertones, as well as burnt or acidic taste.

On the other hand, cocoa features no sweetness – instead, it has an intense and bitter taste.

Chocolate would never taste the way it does it if it was made of cocoa only.

It takes a lot of sugar and milk to make chocolate so delicious i.e. milk chocolate.

WWhat is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans, belly

2. Amount of Calories

Coffee beans (including oily coffee beans) contain almost zero calories, while cocoa beans tend to be more calorie-rich.

So don’t blame your coffee for making you gain weight or having an excessive amount of calories.

The reason why all those coffee-based drinks boast numerous calories is that they rely on various syrups, milk, sugar, etc.

And since cocoa beans are naturally higher in calories, we use them to make chocolate.

3. Antioxidant Content

Cocoa beans tend to have greater amounts of antioxidants than coffee beans, although coffee has a more pronounced antioxidant activity if both are consumed as beverages (1).

Note that this study focuses only on beverages i.e. both coffee and cocoa are in their liquid form, which is an important distinction.

Regardless, this research shows that coffee has a stronger antioxidant activity than cocoa and tea on a cup-serving basis

And most of you have probably heard that coffee is a powerful stimulant that boasts antioxidant properties and we also know that cocoa contains less caffeine.

Yet, cocoa is another powerful antioxidant that’s packed with procyanidins and flavonoids.

What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans, cocoa powder

Is Cocoa Powder and Coffee Powder the Same?

Nope – although they share a rather similar texture.

Sure, coffee has a similar, almost powder-ish texture after you ground it into small pieces, but don’t confuse it with cocoa powder.

Coffee powder is deep brown (sometimes even reddish), while cocoa powder looks much lighter i.e. light brown.

But if you want an example, a finely ground coffee used for espresso resembles cocoa powder the most.

This finer ground coffee might deliver a rich flavor and make solid crema, but you can’t make chocolate with it.

Although you can spot some similar undertones between coffee and cocoa powder, there are still a few major differences between – especially when it comes to flavor.

Are You a Fan of Velvet Cakes? Dutch-Processed Cocoa

Nowadays, we use food coloring to make it red, although the reddish tint originates from the Dutch-processed cocoa.

The Dutch process is one of the 2 ways of processing cocoa pods as it treats the dried beans with alkaline solutions.

This gives the powder that instantly recognizable deep red appearance.

Also, this kind of powder features a milder and less acidic taste, which is why it ticks the boxes for so many people.

On the other hand, the Broma process handles the beans in a different manner.

It makes the powder look plainer (brown), while the taste is a lot stronger.

What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans, cocoa plant
This is what the cocoa plant looks like

Are Coffee and Cocoa Plants Related?

No – coffee and cocoa plants are in fact quite different.

Not only are they harvested from different plants, but they come from different continents and they require different growing conditions.

  • Cocoa plants prefer fertile soil, high humidity, and high temperatures

For cocoa, it all started in South America where the Theobroma cacao plant was initially grown and then it found its way to Africa.

Yet, you can find some of them being grown in the coastal areas or under tougher growing conditions.

The essentials for the adequate growth of a cocoa plant are fertile land, smooth drainage, and distributed rainfalls.

Originally, coffee was native to Yemen, Ethiopia and Africa in general.

But in modern times, coffee plants grow in what’s known as The Bean Belt – a huge equatorial zone spreading across the middle of the globe.

And the most common species of the plant are Arabica beans and Robusta beans.

How to Harvest and Roast Coffee and Cocoa?

Harvesting and roasting cocoa and coffee is somewhat similar.

Anyway – here’s what you need to know about each”

Coffee beans

  • Gather the fruit of the coffee plant
  • Clean them
  • Roast the coffee fruit pits

Now, the pits actually change their color to brown only when they’re roasted since they’re usually green.

Depending on the roast (light, medium, dark), the color of the beans turns into different shades of brown, while the strength and flavor is also affected.

After you roast the beans, it’s time for the brewing process and some of the most popular brew methods include the hot drip, espresso, French press and cold brew.

You can even add some cinnamon, vanilla, milk, sugar, caramel or other flavors to your cup of Joe to personalize the drink.

Cocoa beans

  • Gather the cocoa seeds from the plant
  • Clean them thoroughly
  • Roast the now clean seeds

You can spot large pods growing directly from the plant, which is where you can find the seeds.

In order to reach the fleshy and edible part of the pod, you have to first cut the pod.

On the inside, you will spot the seeds located right below the fleshy part.

And once you extract and clean the seeds, the roasting process is what follows.

The final product that you end up with is cocoa that’s mostly used for making chocolate and cocoa butter.

What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans, a chef throws some cocoa powder

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I add some cocoa powder to ground coffee?

Generally, we won’t recommend doing this, even though there are a few exceptions.

Don’t blend the cocoa powder with ground coffee, especially not in an espresso machine.

Filtered coffee or Turkish-style coffee wouldn’t go down well with cocoa powder either.

As for the French press, it’s a bit tricky but you won’t make a mistake if you would add some cocoa powder on top of your coffee drink.

2. What’s the best way to blend coffee and chocolate?

The best way to combine coffee with chocolate is to make Caffe Mocha.

Mocha is a latte-based drink that consists of espresso, chocolate and steamed milk.

It’s the way to go if you want to blend the best features of cocoa and coffee with its chocolatey, warm, earthy and rich flavor profile.

Caffe Mocha is also more mellow than your typical espresso since it’s more diluted, while also being much sweeter.


Unsurprisingly and logically, cocoa beans are generally used for making everyone’s favorite chocolate, while coffee beans are mainly used for… yep – making coffee!

And there’s no doubt that cocoa and coffee can go well together quite nicely although they’re still very different, especially in how they’re often used.

That’s why we wanted to help you get a better grasp on the subject as you now know the answer to the question – What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans?

Now – are you into sweeter or dark and rich taste profiles?

And are you a fan of Caffe Mocha?

Leave your answers in the comment section below!

Simon Slavchev

Simon Slavchev

Did somebody say coffee? Two shots of espresso for me, thanks. Oh, nevermind - I'm Simon, nice to e-meet you, dear CoffeeLifior! I like to write, drink coffee and I believe in Jesus. Highly-caffeinated drinks are my thing, but you can occasionally see me sip on decaf (my wife never finishes her coffee). Speaking of which, I'm off to grab another cup of caffeinated goodness now, laters!

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