The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans
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For those of you new to the coffee world, you may have noticed that some beans boast about being 100% Arabica or even Robusta. But what exactly does that mean?
Did you know that there are over 100 different species of coffee? Arabica and Robusta beans are just two different species of coffee, but they are the two most commonly cultivated beans for coffee consumption. But what is the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans and does it really matter what kind you use in your coffee?
Let’s take a closer look at these two means and explore what makes them different and unique in the world of coffee.
Plants and Cultivation
First, let’s take a look at the production of this coffee and the plants themselves. Overall, Robusta coffee is much easier to cultivate when compared to Arabica coffee. The Robusta plants can grow to be about six meters tall and are much more resistant to insects compared to Arabica which grows to about 4.5 meters tall and the beans themselves are much more round as opposed to the oval shape you find in Arabica coffee.
Still, Arabica continues to be the most popular coffee, with about 75% of the coffee produced belonging to the Arabica variety with the remaining 25% going to Robusta. Brazil is currently one of the largest producers of Arabica coffee with Vietnam leading the way in Robusta coffee.
On top of the differences between the plants and the cultivation of these plants, each bean contains different levels of minerals and other chemical compounds.
For example, Robusta beans contain much more caffeine than the Arabica beans. Robusta beans contain 2.7% caffeine content. Contrast that with the 1.5% caffeine content found in Arabica beans and you see that Robusta, with almost double the caffeine content, are tailor made for those of us that love that boost that caffeine gives us in the morning. But caffeine content isn’t the only difference.
Arabica beans contain 60% more lipids and almost double the amount of natural sugars when compared to Robusta. This can definitely impact the taste of the coffee, but we will talk about that later.
We all know that coffee contains many antioxidants that our body needs, but did you know that the amount of these antioxidants vary between coffee species? For example, Robusta beans contain 7 to 10% Chlorogenic acid but Arabica beans only have about 5.5 to 8% CGA.
As you can see, even the chemical make up of these coffees and what it gives us are quite different from one another.
Cost of the Beans
On the market, Arabica coffee beans fetch a much higher price than Robusta coffee beans. This is most likely due to the higher demand for the coffee as it tends to be the preferred coffee for use in brewers around the globe.
Where the Beans Are Used
If you start reading the fine print of most of the beans you will find in your local coffee shop, you will find that most of them are Arabica coffee. In fact, many coffee roasters boast that their beans are 100% Arabica as if it is a badge of honor.
The truth is Arabica is actually the most popular type of bean used in coffee, but that doesn’t mean Robusta beans don’t have their place in the coffee world. In many espresso beans, especially the Italian roasts, you will find a mixture of both Arabica and Robusta beans. You will even find Robusta beans used in coffee that is designed for those that love strong coffee. Robusta beans are also almost exclusively used in the production of instant coffee. Not that we are fans of that particular kind of coffee.
I have mentioned already that Arabica is the most popular coffee variety today, with many roasters boasting their coffee is 100% Arabica. But why is that, exactly? The reality is it all comes down to taste.
You see, Robusta beans don’t taste as good as Arabica. At least that is what a majority of the world’s population thinks. Robusta beans, because of the increased caffeine and the lack of sugars, tend to taste much more acidic and bitter when compared to Arabica beans, and this taste really isn’t for everyone.
Arabica beans tend to have a much fruitier and sweeter taste when compared to Robusta, making it much more popular than Robusta beans with the general population. But don’t discount Robusta, as it still finds itself right at home in some of our specialty coffee drinks, such as espresso and is perfect for coffee drinkers who prefer a much stronger cup of coffee.
It should also be noted that truly high-quality Robusta beans can taste every bit as good as Arabica and in some cases, many will enjoy it even more than a high-quality Arabica bean.
While Robusta beans often earn a reputation for being lower quality than Arabica beans, that really isn’t the case. They are just a different type of coffee and these beans bring their own unique flavors to the table. While they are more suited to coffee drinkers who prefer a little extra caffeine and a much stronger taste, to just say they are lower quality isn’t really accurate.
The fact is both beans bring something unique to the coffee world and should be recognized for that. If you are a coffee lover looking to expand their palate, then I recommend giving both of these beans a chance. Even if Robusta beans aren’t for you, the experience will be one you will never forget.