Arabica vs Robusta: Understanding the Two Main Types of Coffee Beans - The Solihull Observer

Arabica vs Robusta: Understanding the Two Main Types of Coffee Beans

Solihull Editorial 23rd Jun, 2023   0

The vast majority of coffee on the market can be split into two categories: Arabic and Robusta.

We’ve all seen the signs in coffee shops that say 100% arabica beans, but do we really know exactly what that means? A lot of people see it as a sign of quality but is this fair?

There is actually a trend among a lot of people of seeking out the robusta coffee beans at the moment. We delve into all of this below and unpack the differences in these types of coffee beans.

The Scientific Differences

Both species belong to the Coffea genus, they are their own unique plants with characteristics that set them apart.




Arabica coffee beans are considered the higher-quality variety with more nuance and high quality to the flavours. They are harder to grow, and need very specific conditions, usually only growing at high altitudes and needing a lot of moisture, and mild temperatures.

The flavour profiles vary massively and arabica coffee is what virtually all ‘single origin’ coffee varieties are. They’re more expensive for a few reasons, partially due to the fact that they are just wanted by the coffee aficionados, and partially because of the fact that they are more demanding for growers to create. This means they carry a premium price.


Robusta beans are thus named because they are a little more “robust”. The scientific name is actually Coffea Canephora, and this variety can grow in more demanding conditions. Their plants are hardier so they don’t get as many diseases as arabica coffee and they also have less of a demand for water in the form of rainfall. This variety will grow at a lower altitude.

The Taste

Robusta beans have a very strong flavour to them, and that flavour is a little more earthy. It is also less complex than a lot of the arabica varieties.

Arabica coffee is known for having loads of different flavours and that is why people seek out different forms of coffee from all over the world. Some have a fruity vibe while others have a much more sour flavour, some even taste more woody and burnt.

Everybody likes something slightly different and arabica definitely accommodates more different types of tastes.

Robusta is a little more generic, and this harsh flavour tends not to leave as much room for different complex tastes to develop. On top of this, it is often mixed and roasted in a way that doesn’t bring out these flavours.

The Growing Conditions

As already covered briefly, the growing conditions needed for these beans are slightly different. As the world warms up, it is also putting a strain on some coffee crops and there is speculation that more of the world’s supply will move to robusta.

In some countries where there are not as many high altitude places to grow, robusta coffee is preferred for producers simply because they know they can get a reliable crop. Many farmers are not in a position to risk a slightly dryer year ruining their crops.

The Caffeine Content

Did you know that robusta coffee has nearly twice the caffeine content as arabica? This is actually quite trendy at the moment. Plenty of people are looking for specific high-caffeine varieties of coffee to consume before they take part in an activity or just to give them that boost they feel like they need.

When you look down the coffee aisle at a store you might even see some of these specific high-caffeine branded coffees. Usually, they are a mixture of both of the types of coffee, relying on the caffeine of robusta but blending some of the flavour of arabica.

The Appearance

You can tell the difference just by looking at them. Arabica beans are generally elongated and have a curved shape with a characteristic S-curve, while robusta beans are more rounded and have a straighter shape.

On top of this, robusta beans tend to have a much darker look to them, though this can obviously be altered based on the roast profile.

Where it is From

Did you know that Brazil is the largest producer of arabica coffee and Vietnam is the largest producer of robusta?

The growing locations and the traditions in these countries play a big part. There are very specific parts of the world where coffee will actually grow at all!

Conclusion

As you can see, there are so many differences in these two main varieties of coffee. One is definitely more desirable to most people, but robusta has its place too.

The differences include the taste, the price, and the caffeine content. Robusta coffee is rarely used in the UK and US markets unless there is a specific need for cheap coffee or someone is producing a specific high-caffeine product.

There we have it, the differences between the two in a nutshell.

Article written by Rimgaile Vosylyte

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