Do Bourbon Coffee Beans Contain Alcohol?

Coffee is thought to have originated in either Ethiopia or Yemen, observes Perfect Daily Grind. Ethiopia was likely the site of the first wild coffee plants, while Yemen is almost certainly the first country where coffee was actively cultivated; Sufi monks, for example, were drinking and trading coffee in Yemen more than 500 years ago. By the dawn of the 18th century, the country maintained a virtual monopoly on the coffee trade, notes Qima Coffee.

What types of coffee beans were the first to be grown? According to World Coffee Research, two varieties of arabica coffee bean seeds — bourbon and typica — were the first ever to be cultivated, and genetic descendants of these two original seeds account for almost all modern varieties of coffee. Bourbon cultivars, in particular, can be traced from Yemen to Reunion Island, an island east of Madagascar, where they were transplanted early in the 18th century. From there, the beans traveled to Africa and the Americas, arriving in Brazil around 1860.

Today, Brazil is the world's leading coffee growing nation, per Statista, with more than double the production of any other country. High-yield mutations of bourbon beans like caturra and catuai abound in Brazil, and indeed are cultivated throughout Latin America, reports World Coffee Research. The original bourbon beans continue to be planted as well, albeit mostly in Central America and Peru.

Differentiating between bourbon coffee and bourbon whiskey

Since we've mentioned neither Kentucky nor whiskey to this point in our narrative, you can correctly conclude that bourbon coffee beans and bourbon whiskey are unrelated. So no, there is no alcohol in bourbon coffee beans. Instead, as Coffee Affection points out, the name dates to the 18th century arrival of bourbon coffee beans on Reunion Island, which was then known as Ile Bourbon after the House of Bourbon French dynasty.

If you believe Barrell Craft Spirits, bourbon whiskey, like bourbon coffee, was also named for the French House of Bourbon. However, this is but one of many stories surrounding the name of the iconic American spirit. Kentucky's Bourbon County is also frequently reputed to be the namesake for the liquor. As food and drink writer Robert F. Moss notes, the Bourbon County that existed when Kentucky became a state in 1792 was so large that it was ultimately carved up to create 33 more modest counties. Early 19th century advertisements for Bourbon County whiskey suggest the county (as it was originally constituted) probably was the namesake for the overwhelmingly Kentucky-produced whiskey, and not French royalty, nor Bourbon Street in New Orleans, as others have claimed. If that's the case, then bourbon whiskey and bourbon coffee actually have nothing in common besides their very similar names.