Coffee Vs Cacao: Difference & Similarities Between Them

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 28th, 2022

Both coffee and cacao are types of plant products with certain similarities. The most important similarity they share is that both are high in caffeine. Cacao is considered a stimulant, while coffee has an energizing and stimulating effect on the nervous system. Beyond caffeine, there are other differences between these two popular drinks.

So, what is the distinction between cocoa beans and coffee beans?

coffee vs cacao

Cocoa beans make chocolate and different beverages, whereas coffee beans (or, more precisely, coffee seeds) are used to make coffee.

The coffee seed is now extracted from the coffee fruit, which resembles a cherry.

While cocoa trees are used to collect cocoa beans (makes sense, doesn’t it?).

However, in the next paragraphs, we will describe a few other variations between cocoa and coffee beans.

How Coffee Began

Coffee, which is aromatic and energizing, is the most popular drink on the earth, with people from all nations and cultures enjoying more than 400 billion cups of it each year. The first mentions of coffee date back to roughly 800AD.

According to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi was observing his flock one day when he spotted them dancing from bush to shrub. He saw they had been munching on specific bright red berries, so he decided to taste some.

Kaldi felt a surge of delight and energy after eating the berries, and he began to dance with his goats. When other passing monks noticed the excitement, they decided to try the berries themselves.

When they discovered that these basic berries helped them stay alert and motivated, they began to use them daily, distributing the beans from monastery to monastery, kicking off the global spread of coffee.

It is also thought that during this period, certain African tribes used a mixture produced from the flesh of these coffee berries and animal fat to form strong “energy balls” that they could ingest for a rapid boost.

By around 1000AD, coffee berries had made their way to Arabia, where they found favor with Muslims, who were the first to roast and brew them.

After that, coffee steadily expanded worldwide, eventually reaching its current immense popularity. The majority of beans are presently farmed near the equator in the Bean Belt, between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, and are exported across the world.

The Coffea plant

Coffea trees are little trees that produce small fruit seeds known as coffee beans. There are around 120 types of coffee trees. Coffea arabica (growing Arabica coffee beans) and Coffea canephora are the two most common species (growing what is known to be Robusta coffee beans).

The Coffea trees are clothed with green, waxy leaves that grow in pairs opposite one other, with coffee seeds developing along the branches. Most trees have a major harvest every year, which is determined by the cycle of rainfall that causes the trees to blossom.

There are multiple layers to the coffee cherry:

  • The protective outer layer is parchment.
  • Silverskin is the thin coat that wraps around the seed.
  • The layer underneath the cherry peel is known as the pulp.
  • Finally, the seed is what we perceive as the ultimate coffee bean after all layers have been removed.

Processing coffee entails removing all of the layers of the coffee cherry, such as the skin, pulp, and parchment, resulting in the basic component that the farmer sells to coffee roasters.

The coffee is roasted after it has been washed and prepared. The bean’s chemical structure changes fast during this phase when it is roasted at extremely high temperatures, depending on the desired roast level. Roasted beans smell like the coffee you know and love.

Instant coffee

Coffee powder or coffee granules are commonly referred to as instant coffee. It is a beverage produced by combining water and dissolvable coffee. Instant coffee is made by brewing coffee grounds into a thick liquid coffee mix, which is then dried by freeze drying or spray drying to remove the water.

The following are some of the benefits of instant coffee:

It is faster to prepare since it dissolves quickly in water, has a smaller shipping weight and volume than whole beans or ground coffee, and has a longer shelf life than other coffee forms.

Instant coffee is consumed, cooked, and baked. When you use instant coffee, you also save on cleaning because there are no coffee grounds left over after making your cup of joe. Contrary to popular belief, instant coffee is manufactured entirely of processed and roasted coffee beans.

The Origins of Cocoa

Many people now love the rich, creamy pleasure of a superb hot chocolate, carrying on a tradition that predates coffee. Archaeologists have discovered evidence that humans in what is now Mexico have been drinking drinks derived from cocoa beans since at least 1900BC. However, such beverages were not like the ones we drink today; they were usually spiced and unsweetened.

These beverages subsequently became popular among the Mayas and Aztecs. Cocoa initially departed the Americas when it was taken to Spain by the Spanish adventurer Cortez in the early 16th century when it was used to sweeten beverages and dishes.

Cocoa then expanded to other regions of Europe, where it remained a valued delicacy only for the affluent until the 18th century, when the price of this imported luxury finally fell low enough for less wealthy people to enjoy it.

Today, the business is massive, with three million tons of cocoa produced each year globally.

The cocoa plant

The scientific name for the popular cocoa tree is Theobroma Cacao (pronounced “Kuh-KOW”). The name is Greek and means “meal of the gods.” In contrast to the smaller Coffea trees, Cacao trees may reach heights of up to 12 meters (40 feet). It takes around four years for the trees to produce fruit in the shape of elongated pods, yielding up to 70 such pods each year.

Each egg-shaped cacao pod contains around 20-40 cocoa beans used in chocolate-making. A delicious white pulp surrounds each bean and fills the rest of the pod’s interior. This portion is wasted during the production of chocolate.

After cleaning, the cacao beans can be processed by cold pressing or roasting. Cold pressed cacao beans to provide raw cacao powder, cacao nibs, and cacao butter (the beans’ oils).

Powdered Cacao

Raw cacao powder is created by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans and then drying what remains into a powder. This technique preserves the live enzymes while removing the bean’s fat (cacao butter). Cacao powder is an excellent addition to baked goods, smoothies, handmade chocolates, and hot chocolate.

Cacao powder may be used in tea, smoothies, and baked items. Cacao powder may also be brewed and consumed like coffee. To make a cup of cacao powder, combine 2 tbsp powdered cacao beans with 1 cup boiling water in a French Press, mix, and soak for 5 to 7 minutes before pressing. You may drink it black, with milk, or with a milk substitute. The cacao powder is naturally sweetened, but you may add a sweetener if required.

Don’t get hot chocolate mixes from the grocery store mixed up with cacao powder. Cacao powder is healthier as it has no artificial chemicals or sugars. You may, however, prepare your hot chocolate with cacao powder.

What Is the Distinction Between Cocoa and Coffee Beans?

To make things easier to understand (see what I did there? ), we’ve selected the three most important distinctions between them:

  1. Smell

Cocoa has a more bitter and powerful flavor, whereas coffee is more earthy, but deeper roasts may also be rather bitter.

Speaking of which, the roasting level of coffee dictates whether it is bland or powerful.

Coffee often has deep and earthy tones. However, dark coffee is more bitter.

As a general rule, the darker the coffee, the more bitter the flavor.

Don’t be shocked if you detect some chocolate undertones and burn or acidic flavor.

On the other hand, Cocoa lacks sweetness and has a strong and bitter flavor.

Chocolate would never taste the same if it were made of cocoa.
It takes a lot of sugar and milk to make milk chocolate so delectable.

  1. Calorie Consumption

Coffee beans (particularly fatty coffee beans) have nearly no calories, but cocoa beans are higher in calories.

So don’t blame your coffee for causing you to gain weight or for consuming too many calories.

All those coffee-based drinks are high in calories since they contain different syrups, milk, sugar, etc.

We utilize cocoa beans to produce chocolate because they are naturally richer in calories.

  1. Antioxidant Levels

Cocoa beans have more antioxidants than coffee beans, but coffee has a more pronounced antioxidant action if both are eaten as drinks.

It is crucial to note that this study only looks at drinks. Therefore both coffee and chocolate are in liquid form.

This study found that coffee contains more antioxidant activity per cup than chocolate and tea.

Most of you are undoubtedly aware that coffee is a potent stimulant with antioxidant effects and that chocolate has less caffeine.

On the other hand, Cocoa is a potent antioxidant high in procyanidins and flavonoids.

  1. Caffeine Levels

One serving of snacking cacao contains around half the caffeine of one cup of brewed coffee.

Furthermore, cacao has approximately 10 times more Theobromine than caffeine. Theobromine improves our mood and alertness while having fewer adverse effects than coffee.

  1. Health Advantages

Cacao beans provide a plethora of health advantages! For example, cacao users have been demonstrated in studies to have a decreased risk of:

Heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes are all possibilities. However, cacao consumption has also increased cognitive function (attention, processing speed, and working memory), happiness, gastrointestinal health, and even wrinkle reduction!

Recently, research has discovered that coffee has health benefits as well. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “coffee consumers may have a lower risk of:

Cardiovascular illness (including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, uterine and liver cancer, cirrhosis, and gout.”

To optimize the health advantages of either coffee or cacao, avoid using dairy components, added fat, sugar, and chemical additions. To find out more, visit our blog. Topics include identifying the good from the bad, clean vs. hidden components, and how cacao compares to other healthy treats.

  1. Convenience and Method


Nowadays, there are several methods for making coffee. It all depends on your abilities, time constraints, and preferences for taste and strength. You may brew automatically or manually, utilize a pour-over, a french press, or even produce a quality instant coffee. However, most Americans utilize the automated brewing technique with a coffee maker, which takes around 5 minutes on average.


A french press is the recommended, and maybe the only, method for brewing cocoa powder. However, this approach might take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. If you don’t have a french press, it may take longer and be more difficult to filter and brew the cacao properly.

  1. Harvesting and Roasting

The harvesting and roasting of cocoa and coffee are comparable.

Anyway, here’s what you should know about each.

Coffee beans

  • Collect the coffee plant’s fruit.
  • They should be cleaned.
  • Coffee fruit pits should be roasted.

Now, the pits only turn brown when roasted; otherwise, they’re green.

The color of the beans changes to varying shades of brown depending on the roast (light, medium, or dark), as do the strength and flavor.

After the beans have been roasted, the brewing process begins, and some of the most popular brew methods are hot drip, espresso, French press, and cold brew.

To customize your cup of Joe, you may add cinnamon, vanilla, milk, sugar, caramel, or other tastes.

The cocoa bean

  • Collect the cocoa seeds from the plant
  • Properly clean them.
  • Roast the freshly cleaned seeds

Large pods sprouting directly from the plant containing the seeds may be seen.

To get to the fleshy and delicious section of the pod, you must first cut it.

The seeds are found on the interior, just below the meaty section.
After extracting and cleaning the seeds, the roasting process begins.

The ultimate result is cocoa, mostly used in chocolate and cocoa butter production.

Is there a difference between cocoa powder and coffee powder?

No, even though they have a similar texture.

When crushed into little pieces, coffee has a similar, almost powder-like feel, but don’t confuse it with cocoa powder.

Coffee powder is a dark brown (occasionally even reddish) powder, whereas cocoa powder is a lighter brown.

However, if you want an illustration, finely powdered espresso coffee resembles cocoa powder.

This finer ground coffee has a rich taste and produces firm crema, but it cannot be used to create chocolate.

Although there are some similarities in the undertones of coffee and cocoa powder, there are also significant distinctions, particularly in flavor.

Is there a connection between coffee and cocoa plants?

No, the coffee and cocoa plants are not the same.

They not only originate from various plants but also come from different continents and require distinct growth circumstances.

Cocoa plants demand rich soil, high humidity, and hot temperatures.
For cocoa, it all began in South America, where the Theobroma cacao plant was first planted and subsequently spread to Africa.

However, some are cultivated in coastal locations or under harsher growing circumstances.

Fertile terrain, easy drainage, and evenly distributed rainfalls are required for the proper growth of a cocoa plant.

Coffee plants only thrive in subtropical or tropical climates (see where coffee beans grow)

Originally, coffee was indigenous to Yemen, Ethiopia, and Africa.

However, in current times, coffee plants grow in what is known as The Bean Belt — a vast equatorial zone that spans the globe’s center.

Arabica beans and Robusta beans are the most frequent plant species.


Can I mix the chocolate powder into my ground coffee?

Although there are a few exceptions, we do not advocate doing so in general.

Blend the cocoa powder with the ground coffee, but not in an espresso machine.

Filtered coffee or Turkish-style coffee would also be unsuitable with cocoa powder.

The French press is a little complicated, but you won’t go wrong if you sprinkle some chocolate powder on top of your coffee.

How should coffee and chocolate be combined?

Caffe Mocha is the finest method to blend coffee with chocolate.
Mocha is a latte-based beverage made with espresso, chocolate, and heated milk.

This is the way to go if you want to combine the greatest qualities of cocoa with coffee. It has a chocolaty, toasty, earthy, and rich flavor profile.

Caffe Mocha is more mellow than espresso since it is more diluted and sweeter.

Can Cacao be brewed in the same way as coffee is?

Almost all. Whereas coffee makers are optimally intended to brew coffee, cacao, like tea, needs a bit longer time to steep.

To brew cacao, roughly crush it and steep it in hot water for up to five minutes using a tea bag or strainer. A french press would also be ideal for this.

We like to grind coffee and cacao beans together for a pleasant, nutritious drink. The completed brew smells like a fragrant mocha and tastes like a smooth coffee with light dark chocolate undertones.

How are Cacao and Coffee Grown?

Smallholder farmers largely farm cacao and coffee (often those with less than 5 hectares / 12 acres). Because each plant blossoms and fruits simultaneously, both crops are hand-harvested to preserve the next harvest. Although coffee and chocolate may thrive in the same climate and terrain, they prefer distinct environments.

For great taste development, coffee requires higher elevations with colder nights, hilly terrain with well-drained soil, and enough shade.

Cacao favors the rich and fertile soil at lower elevations, where the sun shines both day and night brightly, providing a blanket of warmth.

How do Cacao Fruit [Pods] vary from Coffee Fruit [Cherries]?

The cocoa pod is a big fruit that matures around 4-6 months. Depending on the cultivar, each pod weighs roughly one pound and contains between 20 and 40 seeds. Therefore, each tree may produce up to 20-30 pods per year, resulting in a total of 20-30 pounds of pods to generate just 1-2 pounds of dried cocoa!

Coffee is a little fruit known as cherry, roughly the size and color of a mature cranberry. Each cherry bears two seeds and matures roughly nine months after flowering. One pound of roasted coffee requires around 2,000 coffee cherries weighing approximately five pounds! Coffee plants, like cocoa, produce roughly 1-1.5 pounds of roasted coffee each year.

What are the global market sizes for cacao and coffee?

Coffee is a far larger worldwide industry. At an average price of $1.02 per pound, 10.2 million metric tons of green coffee beans were produced in 2019 for a total value of $22.84 billion globally.

Despite its tiny size, Cacao ranks among the top ten worldwide agricultural commodities. The industry was expected to generate 4.85 million metric tons of cocoa in 2019, with a total value of $11.85 billion at an average price of $1.05 per pound. Our partners were paid three times as much for their shelled cocoa beans.

As we go through the process of producing, harvesting, and processing coffee and cacao, it’s clear that the job should be valued considerably more than a dollar per pound. So we are working with our expanding partners to create an equal future.


Unsurprisingly and sensibly, cocoa beans are mostly used to make everyone’s favorite chocolate, whereas coffee beans are primarily used for… you guessed it – manufacturing coffee!

And there’s no denying that cocoa and coffee complement each other pretty well, even though they’re still extremely distinct, particularly in how they’re commonly consumed.
That is why we wanted to assist you in understanding the issue better now that you know the answer to the question – What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans?


Editorial Staff

Our writers, editors, content managers, and SEO specialist. We all take part in crafting amazing articles. We spend hours ensuring that each article is based on facts, researched, and thorough. You'll never want to click the back button to look for more answers other than here!