Coffee Types – Arabica V Robusta
Updated: Oct 4
Coffee is a staple of the global economy and is grown worldwide. But you may be surprised to learn that there are two types of coffee, and they come from two different plants.
If you're a big coffee drinker, you've probably heard of Arabica and Robusta coffee. You may even have tried both types of beans, but what is the difference?
What is Arabica coffee?
Arabica coffee, also known as Arabian coffee, comes from the Arabica plant and is believed to be the first cultivated coffee species. It makes up roughly 60% of global coffee production. It originates from Ethiopia and is grown worldwide in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, tropical conditions and high elevations are perfect for Arabica coffee plants.
How is Arabica coffee grown?
The Arabica coffee plant can grow up to 12 meters in the wild; in a commercial setting, it can reach on average 5 meters tall, but coffee farmers will usually keep it at 2 meters to help with harvesting.
The coffee berries (which turn into the coffee beans we know) are harvested when the cherry is fully ripe, a dark red/ purple colour.
Where is Arabica coffee grown?
One of the largest Arabica producers in the world is Brazil. Other countries include:
What is Robusta coffee?
Robusta Coffee comes from the Coffea Canephora plant and behind Arabica is the second most popular coffee in the world, making up 40% of global coffee production.
Where is Robusta coffee grown?
It originates from sub-Saharan Africa and is grown mainly in the east, specifically in Africa, Indonesia, and most importantly, Vietnam - which is also a significant producer of Robusta coffee!
How is Robusta coffee grown?
Robusta is easier to tend to on the farm, has a higher yield and is less sensitive to insects - the extra caffeine is a chemical defence for the coffee seed as the quantity in the Robusta is toxic to bugs.
All these factors help increase the supply and lower the input costs for farmers to produce. With this more attractive price point, many roasters back in the day would add Robusta to their blend to reduce costs and increase profits.
Arabica vs Robusta: Top 5 Differences
One of the main differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee is location. Arabica coffee is grown upwards of 600+m on mountain tops and tropical environments. Robusta coffee is grown anywhere from sea level to around 600m.
Arabica contains less caffeine than Robusta. Caffeine has a bitter flavour profile which can make Robusta coffee have a burnt rubber taste. Arabica has higher acidity, which brings out fruity, chocolate and nutty flavourings.
Arabica contains almost 2x more sugar than Robusta, giving Arabica coffee a sweeter taste profile. Arabica contains 60% more lipids (waxes, fats, oils, and specific vitamins) than Robusta coffee.
Robusta and Arabica have different shape profiles. The Arabica bean is larger than the Robusta bean, it has a more oval shape, and is lighter in colour.
The price! Arabica is more expensive than Robusta, this is due to Arabica beans being more difficult to farm because of its sensitive nature, and it also produces a smaller yield per year than Robusta.
Arabica vs Robusta: What's Better?
Many coffee experts say Arabica is a better tasting coffee than the Robusta bean. However, it comes down to personal taste.
It could be argued that Arabica coffee is of higher quality and therefore produces a better drink due to its sweet flavour profile.
Robusta is often considered a "cheap" bean because it has higher yields per plant, so farmers can make more money off their crops and be harvested earlier than other varieties.
Nowadays, though, you won't find a blend that doesn’t contain Robusta. That's not always a bad thing: Robusta is still widely used as part of espresso blends - specifically Italian style blends - because it's said to help improve crema and produce a richer cup of coffee.
Are you interested in learning more about coffee profiles? Contact Coburg today to learn more about which coffee bean and profile suits you.
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