When it comes to coffee, most people think of caffeine and nothing else. But there are two main types of coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta.
Each species has its flavor profile and unique benefits.
So which one is right for you? Let's take a closer look at Arabica vs. robusta coffee to find out! Read on to learn more about the differences between arabica and robusta coffee.
What is Arabica Coffee?
Arabica coffee beans are the most popular type of coffee. They are grown in places like Ethiopia, Yemen, and Brazil.
Arabica beans contain more caffeine than Robusta beans. Arabica beans are also more expensive because they are more labor-intensive to grow.
Arabica coffee is the more delicate and flavorful of the two main types of coffee. It is grown in Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica, where the climate and soil are perfect for developing this type of coffee.
Arabica coffee is grown at high altitudes and requires a lot of maintenance and care to get it right. The harvesting process must be done correctly, adequately dried, and stored to avoid mold growth and quality degradation.
Arabica coffee is known for its rich, full-bodied taste and strong but pleasant aroma. It is a slower caffeine releaser than robusta coffee, so it's perfect for people who want to enjoy a rich, soothing cup of coffee without feeling jittery or crashing afterward.
What is Robusta Coffee?
Robusta coffee is the other main variety of coffee. It is much less expensive to produce and is grown in places like Vietnam and Brazil, where the climate is more tropical and humid. It is a much heartier plant harvested earlier than Arabica, making it less susceptible to pests and disease.
Although robusta coffee is less expensive than Arabica (and is often used as a filler in pre-ground coffee to make it go further), it has a much stronger, less pleasant taste. It is also a much faster caffeine releaser than Arabica, so it's great for people who want a cup of coffee that wakes them up and keeps them going all day long.
Arabica coffee beans are the more expensive variety and are typically used in lower-quality coffee. Robusta coffee beans blend Arabica and Robusta beans and are more commonly found in lower-quality coffee because they give a less desirable flavor.
Arabica beans are smaller and more delicate than robusta beans. Arabica beans are used in most premium coffees, while robusta beans are more common in lower-cost coffees. Arabica beans have a fruity, floral taste, while robusta beans have a more earthy, nutty flavor.
Arabica beans are more difficult to roast than robusta beans, which is why they're typically used in higher-quality coffees.
Caffeine differences between Arabica and Robusta
Arabica coffee beans have about 1.2-1.5% caffeine, while robusta beans usually have about 2.2-2.7% caffeine. A cup of steeped Robusta contains almost double the caffeine in one cup as an arabica.
Robusta has a bit more body than Arabica and also much higher caffeine. Arabica is a bit lighter in intensity, with about half the caffeine of Robusta.
On average, Robusta has 2.7% caffeine, while our beloved Arabica typically has 1.5%. Regarding the differences between the two caffeine levels, robusta beans have double the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans. Arabica beans are not entirely caffeine-free, as the caffeine content is 1.5% of beans, but they still have only 50%-70% as compared to Robusta.
Robusta beans contain more caffeine and less sugar than arabica beans, so the flavor is more intense and more bitter than Arabica.
Another difference between the coffee beans is that Arabica is especially susceptible to plant pests and diseases, such as coffee leaf rust. Robusta coffee plants are disease-resistant and weather-resistant, making them far easier and less risky to grow than arabica plants. Robusta plants easily reach heights of 32 feet/10 meters without pruning, and since they grow more quickly than arabica plants, they give coffee farmers much more lavish production.
The smoother flavors of Arabica are far more evident in single-origin, whereas the taste of Robusta is considerably bitterer and less pleasant.
Arabica is softer and sweeter, whereas Robusta is notoriously bold and plain traditional coffee.
Arabica has lower acidity than Robusta; due to Arabica's higher altitude growing conditions, beans are slower in development, producing smoother, more aromatic flavors. Arabica tastes sweeter and mellower, while Robusta tends to have more bitterness and harshness.
Of the two types, Arabica is held in higher regard than Robusta because it tends to be mellower and less bitter (Arabica has sweeter, more mellow flavors and slightly fruity notes, while Robusta is harsher and grainier). It is also higher in chlorogenic acid (CGA), which has a bitter taste, containing about 7-9% CGA, while Arabica has about 5.5-8%.
These factors, as well as that bitter taste, also mean that Robusta is cheaper to purchase, which is why some brands will use Robusta as filler, mixing it between arabica beans. Sometimes, arabica beans are added as a filler in bags of Arabica, either to save money or to get that note of flavor that it brings.
The benefits of arabica coffee
- Aroma: The pungent smell of arabica coffee is one of its most defining features. The scent is so strong that it can be detected in the air around the coffee up to half an hour after it has been brewed!
- Taste: Arabica coffee's rich, deep flavor is another reason it is so popular. It is perfect for iced and hot coffee beverages and can be flavored or sweetened in many different ways.
- Variety: The arabica plant can be grown and harvested in many different ways, leading to broad types of arabica coffee. Whether you like a mild or a rich, strong coffee, there is an arabica variety.
The benefits of robusta coffee
- Strong flavor: The robust and rich flavor of robusta coffee makes it perfect for people who like strong coffee. This flavor can be reduced by mixing it with other varieties of coffee.
- Pest resistance: Robusta coffee plants are resistant to many pests, including coffee leaf rust, which is a significant problem for arabica plants.
- Lower cost: Robusta coffee is less expensive to produce than arabica coffee, so it's a great choice if you are on a budget.
- High caffeine content: Robusta coffee is a much faster caffeine releaser than arabica coffee, which may be what you're looking for.
Suppose a coffee grower focuses on pure volume over quality. In that case, Robusta plants have the edge over arabica plants since, due to their higher caffeine and chlorogenic acid content], Robusta is much more pest-resistant and disease-resistant than Arabica. Robusta is generally a more complex, disease-resistant plant compared to Arabica.
Unlike Arabica coffee, Robusta beans can tolerate various weather conditions and easily resist diseases. Robusta coffees are called "robust" because they are far more disease-resistant and pest-resistant.
They can be grown in less-specific conditions and lower elevations than Arabica and produce more beans yearly. Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) is generally grown in lower altitudes, is more resistant to disease and pests (partly due to the higher caffeine content), and usually produces larger crops than Arabica.
Robusta coffee trees are far easier to care for, and are far more resistant to harsh weather and diseases, a significant reason that Robusta is, on average, a third cheaper than Arabica (2016). Robusta is more accessible for farmers to cultivate and has a place in espresso blends.
Still, Arabica will always be the preferred option for single-origin coffees, as it is more refined and pleasant to drink alone. Robusta has lower acidity levels than Arabica, meaning that Robusta tends to have much less sweetness. Differences in flavor Robusta, as its name suggests, is more robust in taste than Arabica.
Arabica coffee beans are also produced at lower rates than their counterparts, Robusta, whose higher quality results in higher purchase prices. Because Robusta Coffee is a stricter plant to farm than delicate Arabica, it is grown in more places, leading large companies to buy up vast amounts of rainforest, cut down the land, and plant Robusta beans.
Robusta is easier to cultivate in a factory, has higher yields, and is less susceptible to insects -- extra caffeine is the chemical protection of coffee seeds since Robustas are toxic to insects. Robusta vs. Arabica is a false dichotomy since you would never need to decide between 100% or 100% Arabica coffee.
Arabica coffee is often considered "pure" with a robust and rich taste and aroma. Robusta coffee is a stronger coffee with a more robust flavor, often mixed with other, more expensive varieties of coffee. These two varieties of coffee each have their unique benefits and use.
When choosing which coffee to use at home or in your business, consider which benefits appeal to you most and select the coffee that suits your needs best.