3

Arabica VS. Robusta Coffee – Do You Know the Difference?

Introduction

arabica-coffee-tree

Coffee is made by picking and processing the red cherries of the coffee tree (these contain the beans). There are two main varieties of coffee trees called arabica and robusta.

Here’s what you need to know:

Arabica is considered the most desirable tasting coffee which is why it’s more expensive to buy than robusta. However, the taste  is also relative to additional factors such as climate, soil, harvest, processing, storing and brewing.

Coffee Flavor Briefing

Before we jump into it, let’s talk about the flavors.

flavor-briefing

Coffee is described in terms similar to those you might find in wine tasting. Here are the commonly used flavor traits attributed to coffee:

  • sweet
  • floral
  • spicy
  • bold
  • chocolaty
  • full-bodied
  • acidic or sharp

Finding the right flavor profile is one of the joys in drinking coffee!
Tastes vary between genetics, roasts, brewing methods and more. For now we’ll concentrate on the favor differences between arabica and robusta coffee.

Coffea Arabica vs. Coffea Canephora (aka Robusta)

If you’ve ever bought coffee from the store or online, then you’re likely familiar with the phrase 100% arabica coffee. But hey, why is that a good thing?

Right now, there are over 120 recorded varieties of the coffee plant. This vigorous coffee bean tree (or shrub) grows wild in tropical locations throughout the globe. Despite all of these genetic varieties of the coffee species, arabica is still considered the most tasty.

Arabica (Coffea Arabica) came from Ethiopia, while robusta (Coffea Canephora) emerged from Uganda. Both arabica and robusta are grown and consumed in many areas throughout the globe today, the main difference between the two species is the taste.

Arabica Coffee

arabica-coffee-grown-plant

Roughly three quarters of the world’s coffee comes from arabica coffee trees.

Arabica plants prefer the subtropical hillsides and rainforests such as in Hawaii where you can find wild arabica trees growing thoughout the islands. Although, they are not always heavy producers of coffee beans in these situations. Cultivating arabica coffee trees is rewarding for the farmer in such subtropical climates, but lowland farmers in more equatorial locations may have trouble growing them.

Additionally, arabica coffee trees are often more susceptible to disease than their robusta cousins. An example of this is when Hawaiian coffee farmers had a root-knot nematode epidemic that was solved by grafting a different species of coffee onto an arabica root stock (see https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/NPH-6.pdf)

Now that we’ve seen some of the difficulties producing arabica coffee let’s hear why it’s worth it.

Flavor quality

arabica-coffee-beans-closeup

Arabica is known for it’s high sugar content, low acidity and fats which leads to it’s awesome taste. Arabica has a range of great tastes usually in the sweet & fruity to bold & chocolaty flavors.  This highly aromatic coffee produces hints of fruits, blooms, seasonings, natural herbs and more from the sweet Kona coffee beans to the rich Sumatran bold brew.

Caffeine content

Arabica coffee beans are not precisely low in caffeine, with caffeine being 1.5% of the bean, however they still only possess 50-70% of the caffeine compared to robusta.

Arabica coffee gives a postive effect. Most drinkers report less stomach aches, and other negative effects associated with coffee such as “the shakes” when drinking 100% arabica. This may be due to arabica having only half of the caffeine and chlorogenic acid content material as robusta.

Where it grows

Brazil is the world’s #1 maker of arabica espresso, followed by Colombia closely.

Despite needing some quite strict environmental components to grow well, you can find it grown all over the world between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, in the “espresso belt”. For the flower to thrive, it needs to be cultivated at higher altitudes of 1,500 to 6,000 feet.

 

Pros and Cons

pros-cons-arabica

Pros

  • Incredible flavor diversity
  • Full, nice flavors
  • Desirable effects

Cons

  • Prone to disease and climate change
  • Only half the caffeine of robusta
  • More expensive than robusta
  • Requires a high elevation to grow

Tl;dr

Arabica is the best tasting, especially for those who like your coffee black or with minimal sugar/cream.

Canephora Coffee (ROBUSTA)

robusta-coffee-vietnam

Robusta coffee plants produce roughly a quarter of the world’s coffee beans annually.

The plants are climate and disease resistant, making them much easier and less risky to farm than arabica vegetation. However, robusta beans are cheaply priced on average, being about half the cost of arabica beans.

The more affordable price is by reason to the flavors of robusta, simply put it’s just not as tasty for most coffee drinkers.

Flavor quality

cup-of-coffee-robusta-beans

Robusta coffee beans are noticeably low in sugars, acids, and fat, which all make up a great tasting coffee.

The high tannic acid contained in the bean combined with raised amounts of caffeine and chlorogenic acid make the taste of robusta coffee more bitter than it’s relative arabica. This bitterness can be covered up with enough sweetener which is certainly why parts of the globe that consume the most sweetened instant coffee (like Thailand) principally drink robusta coffee beans. Also it’s grown there too 🙂

Caffeine content

Robusta beans may have as very much as 80% even more caffeine than arabica beans. A whole 2.7% of the bean is caffeine, compared to arabica’s 1.5%.

The high caffeine content is desired by some coffee drinkers. I’ve had my fair share of robusta beans and with enough sugar to amend the harshness it’s a decent powerful brew that can keep you very caffeinated.

Where it’s grown

Robusta is grown in tropical low-land agricultural areas, typically planted in fields.

robusta-coffee-field

Vietnam is the world’s foremost maker of robusta coffee beans, although the national country is producing a concentrated effort to grow even more arabica.

The Robusta species is native to West Africa and is grown along the Ivory Coast and East Africa still. You’ll discover it grown in Southeast Asia also, the Pacific, and a few Southerly American countries like Brazil.

The reason that these countries grow robusta is because it can grow easily in lower altitudes of 600 to 1,500 feet elevation where arabica vegetation struggles.

 

Pros And Cons

pros-cons-robusta

Pros

  • Disease and climate resistant
  • High-yield
  • Great in caffeine
  • A cheaper price

Cons

  • Low taste diversity
  • Bitter and more acidic
  • Harder to market for farmers

Tl;dr

Robusta is cheaper, stronger and more bitter however it has a higher caffeine content than arabica beans.

The Takeaway

Both of these two coffee varieties have their place in the cups of coffee drinkers around the world. If you still don’t know the differences maybe you should buy some of each and do a taste comparison yourself 🙂

When you purchase coffee beans, you will probably purchase them already roasted, you can also roast unroasted coffee beans at home. We’ll be publishing a guide soon about how to roast coffee conveniently only utilizing a frying pan in your kitchen.

What roasting does is exude all of the flavorful oils from the bean, and another great controversy is certainly light roasts vs. dark roast. Allow me understand your thoughts in the remarks below! 🙂

Share it. Do it!
Jared Cox
 

>