Different Coffee Beans: Arabica or Robusta?
There are two primary types of coffee beans consumed on planet earth, Arabica and Robusta. In most cases, choosing specialty coffee means choosing Arabica coffee beans. Arabica beans traditionally have superior taste and this is why we use Arabica beans as the source of our single origin specialty coffee.
Let’s look at the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans.
Arabica or Robusta
The Benefits of Arabica Beans
Some of the benefits you can expect when choosing a specialty coffee that uses Arabica beans are:
- More complex sugar development, more pleasant taste
- Higher quality bean
- Half the caffeine content
- More layers of compelling aroma and flavor
- 60% more lipids, which help to prolong flavor and aroma
Difficult to Grow
Arabica beans are more challenging to grow than Robusta beans. The plants are delicate and affected by environmental factors. This means that they need more attention and maintenance. While Arabica trees provide around 60% of the world's coffee, they take 7 years to mature.
Arabica beans also have other challenges such as:
- They are grown at higher altitudes
- They are vulnerable to disease and insect damage
- Their yield (the amount of coffee beans produced) is lower than Robusta plants
Characteristics of Robusta Beans
Most commercial grade, mass produced coffee comes from Robusta beans. Produced in large quantities, these beans usually have diminished flavor. It is common to use cream, sugar, and/or milk to mask the more bitter taste. Some characteristics of Robusta beans are:
- Easy to mass produce
- Have double the caffeine content (diminishes flavor)
- Lack complex aroma and flavor
- Often they taste earthy, woody, rubbery or bitter
- Frequently used in espresso
Easy to Grow
Robusta beans have very few of the growing challenges Arabica beans have. Because of this, they can be mass produced to fill the grocery shelves or high volume orders.
Robusta plants start to produce coffee cherries much sooner than Arabica plants. They also produce, or yield, more coffee per plant. Farming advantages of Robusta include:
- They are typically grown at lower altitudes
- Much more disease resistant
- Their yield (the amount of coffee beans produced) is high
Specialty Bean of Choice
After looking at the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans, it is understandable why Specialty Coffee commonly chooses Arabica.