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Can coffee be different colors?

Coffee is a beloved drink around the world, with billions of cups consumed every day. The natural color of coffee is brown, but coffee can actually come in a rainbow of different colors due to different processing methods, additives, and drinks made with coffee.

The Natural Brown Color of Coffee

The most common color of coffee is brown. This is the natural color of brewed coffee made from roasted coffee beans. Coffee beans start off green when they are harvested. They turn brown during the roasting process, which transforms the chemical and physical properties of the green beans through the application of heat. This browning is called the Maillard reaction. It occurs when the natural sugars and amino acids within the coffee beans react to the heat of roasting.

The longer the roasting process, the darker the roasted beans become. Light roasted beans are light brown, while dark roasted beans are very dark brown or almost black. The roasted beans are then ground and brewed into the familiar brown coffee drink.

Additives Can Change the Color

While plain black coffee is brown, many coffee drinks have additives that can change the color dramatically. Additives like milk, cream, sweeteners, and flavorings are very common in coffee drinks like lattes, mochas, and flavored coffees.

Adding dairy products like milk and cream lightens the color of coffee to tan or light brown. Sugars and flavorings like vanilla, caramel, and chocolate can also make coffee lighter brown or take on beige, golden, or lighter hue.

Here are some popular coffee drinks and the colors they typically take on:

Coffee Drink Color
Cappuccino Tan or light brown
Latte Tan or light brown
Mocha Tan, light brown, or milk chocolate color
Americano Brown
Espresso Dark brown
Café au lait Tan
Irish coffee Brown
Coffee milk Light brown

Different Processing Methods

The way coffee beans are processed after harvesting can also affect their final color when roasted and brewed. There are three main processing methods:

Washed processing: The beans are washed soon after picking to remove fruit residue. This produces a clean coffee bean and results in a brighter, lighter brown cup of coffee.

Natural processing: The fruit flesh is left attached to dry around the bean. This leads to a fruitier, sweeter coffee that is typically medium to dark brown.

Honey processing: Some, but not all, of the fruit coating is removed and the beans are dried. This creates coffee that is well-balanced with notes of fruit and is light to medium brown.

The processing method not only changes the flavor of coffees, but also how dark the roasted beans become and the finished color in the cup.

Specialty Coffee Drinks

In addition to adding milk, sweeteners, and flavors to coffee, some specialty coffee shops have come up with unique drinks that incorporate other ingredients that change the familiar brown color. A few examples include:

Blue lattes: Made with butterfly pea flower tea which adds a natural blue hue.

Pink lattes: Contains beetroot powder for a pink color.

Turmeric lattes: Turmeric spice lends its golden color.

Purple coffee: Made from beans harvested from the purple bourbon coffee plant.

Olive oil coffee: Has a golden hue from the addition of olive oil.

While these specialty drinks offer unique colors, most people still prefer the natural brown coffee hue. But the rainbow of options illustrates just how diverse coffee colors can be thanks to different beans, processing, and creative additions.

Naturally Occurring Variations in Coffee Beans

There are also some coffee bean varieties that naturally produce lighter or darker roasted coffee colors. These include:

Kona coffee beans – Grown in Hawaii, Kona beans produce a light brown coffee when roasted.

Monsooned Malabar beans – Exposed to monsoon rains, these Indian beans create a light roast coffee.

Kopi Luwak beans – From the Asian palm civet animal, these beans make a very dark roasted coffee.

Java beans – Originating in Indonesia, Java coffee is traditionally a very dark roast.

Coffee Bean Variety Typical Roast Color
Kona Light brown
Monsooned Malabar Light brown
Kopi Luwak Very dark brown
Java Very dark brown

The natural characteristics of the different bean types and how they are grown impact their final color when roasted and brewed.


While coffee is typically associated with a natural brown color, there are many factors that can lead to coffee coming in a wide spectrum of shades. Different additives like milk and flavorings can lighten the color dramatically or even create blue, pink, or purple hued coffee. The way the beans are processed and particular bean varieties also influence the tones of the final cup of coffee. Additionally, creative specialty coffee drinks open up even more possibilities for colorful coffee creations. So while brown is the original coffee color, there is a whole rainbow of options out there for adventurous coffee lovers.