Coffee Beans vs Cocoa Beans: What’s The Difference?


There are many similarities and differences in coffee beans vs cocoa beans. In this post we’ll compare and contrast the two so that you can learn how and where they’re grown, physical appearance, caffeine content, flavor, uses, and health benefits.

coffee beans vs cocoa beans

Similarities and Differences of Coffee Beans and Cocoa Beans

Similarities of the coffee bean and cocoa bean include physical appearance, where they’re grown, health benefits, and uses.

However, differences include some physical aspects, flavor, caffeine content, and other uses. We’ll go over each of these differences in detail, as well as outline the details of the similarities.

How and Where They’re Grown

Coffee is grown on different continents that have tropical climates mainly between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Significant coffee producing regions are Latin south America, eastern Africa and west Africa, and west Asia.

Coffee plants are evergreen bushes that can grow up to 15-20 feet tall. In the US, coffee is grown in southern California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico which is a US territory.  The US imports the majority of its coffee.

Cacoa beans and cocoa beans seem similar. And one might think cacao beans are grown on the cacao plant and cocoa beans are grown on a cocoa tree, but the fact of the matter is that the difference has to do with whether they’re roasted.

While cacao refers to cacao beans that haven’t been roasted, cocoa beans refer to beans that have been roasted. So, a product that’s labeled as cacao refers to the raw bean that has been minimally processed and has few additives.

Ripe cocoa pod and nibs, cocoa beans setup background.

Roasting Process

How does the roasting process between the two types of beans similar and different? 

One of the key differences in the roasting process is the amount of time and the temperature at which they’re roasted.

To roast coffee beans the hot and fast approach is used, high temperatures are used. To roast cacao less heat and more time is required.

Physical Appearance

There is a significant difference in the appearance of how cacao pods or cocoa pods grow compared to how coffee grows.

In tropical climates where cacao grows, the individual cacao beans are encased inside a larger fleshy pod that has somewhat of a rigid exterior.

Several beans grow inside a single pod and several cacao pods grow on cacao trees.

On the other hand, green coffee beans grow individually on coffee plants.

They grow in clumps kind of like blueberries, however those clumps aren’t encased in a fleshy exterior like cocoa beans. Instead, they’re individually attached to the plant.

dry cocoa beans

Caffeine Content

Some research has shown that caffeine content such as what’s found in coffee can help with cognitive function. It helps to provide focus and clarity as well as boosts energy levels, among other benefits.

But how many milligrams of caffeine are in coffee beans and how does that compare to what can be found in cocoa beans?

Cocoa beans contain 0.1 to 0.7% caffeine, while coffee beans contain as much as 1.8 to 2.4% caffeine, depending on the variety.

If you’d rather look at it in terms of milligrams of caffeine per coffee bean, there are about 6 mg of caffeine in a single bean.

How does that compare to cocoa beans? There are about 30 – 40 cocoa beans in each cocoa pod.

And in 1 tablespoon of cocoa beans, there are approximately 12 mg of caffeine.


While both cocoa beans and coffee beans are known for their bitter taste when raw, cocoa has a sweeter flavor and of course a deliciously chocolate flavor after it’s been roasted.

Coffee beans maintain somewhat of a bitter flavor even after they’ve been roasted.


There are so many uses for coffee beans as well as cocoa beans. Coffee beans are used to make the worldwide, well-known beverage of coffee. And it’s also used as a flavoring for baked goods, ice cream, and other foods.

Cocoa beans are used to make cocoa butter, cocoa powder, milk chocolate, hot chocolate, as well as a dark chocolate bar. Once roasted, they can also be ground and mixed into various foods for flavoring.                                                       

Health Benefits

As is true with many natural foods, health benefits can be found in both cocoa beans as well as in coffee beans. First let’s look at cocoa beans and the potential health benefits.

Cocoa is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. The fiber that can be found in cocoa beans helps with digestion.

Cacao powder has nutrients that have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular disease, and aids in preventing blood clots.

Ripe cocoa pod and beans setup on rustic wooden background.

Coffee beans are packed with antioxidants which are useful in helping to keep free radicals that cause things such as Liver cancer, Heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease at bay.

The most abundant antioxidant found in coffee beans is chlorogenic acid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to coffee beans vs cocoa beans. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it to us in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to respond.

Are coffee beans and cocoa beans the same thing?

No, coffee beans and cocoa beans are two very different things. Though they appear to have a similar size, shape, and color, one is used to make chocolate and the other is used to make coffee.

When you’re making your morning cup of coffee, we don’t recommend using cocoa beans in their place.

What is the difference between cocoa and coffee seeds?

Cocoa beans are processed and used to make items such as hot cocoa, cocoa powder, chocolate, and other chocolate-based mixes.

Coffee beans are used to make coffee but also serve the purpose of being used in flavorings such as baked goods, ice cream, and other foods.

The main differences are that they come from different plants and are used for different purposes with different flavor profiles.

What do coffee beans and cocoa beans have in common?

The things that coffee beans vs cocoa beans have in common are that they’re both used in drinks, both are a form of beans, and both have caffeine.

Cocoa pods with water droplets on leaves and seeds on a white background with empty space

Can you use cocoa beans like coffee?

Cocoa powder and coffee grounds are two completely different materials and serve two completely different purposes. In our opinion you wouldn’t want to use them interchangeably and assume similar results.

What are coffee cherries?

A coffee cherry is defined as a small round stone fruit that’s produced by the coffee plant.

What are cacao nibs?

Cacao nibs are also known as cocoa nibs, and they’re crumbled bits of dried beans that grow on the cacao tree.

Related Ideas:

What is coarsely ground coffee?
Cone filter vs flat filter
Why does my coffee taste watery?
How much coffee for 8 cups?

Save to Pinterest:

For more posts like this one, follow us on PinterestFacebookInstagram and YouTube.

Photo of author
Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

Leave a Comment