If you are a good coffee lover, you have surely heard of the two great varieties that exist; Arabica and Robusta.
So far so good, but…
Do you really know how they differ?
In this post, I am not only going to tell you the main differences between both varieties, but I will also try to answer the million-dollar question: which is better Arabica or Robusta coffee?
Come with me, let’s clear it up!
What is Arabica coffee?
First of all… Arabica, Arabica or Arabica coffee? 🤔 There are different ways (all correct) to refer to this variety of grain, but the most used term is “Arabica Coffee”.
The Arabica bean is undoubtedly the king of coffees! This variety is, among all types of coffee, the most consumed in the world since it currently accounts for between 70 and 80% of world production.
Given its high production and the fact that it has been cultivated for centuries, it has spread throughout the world, giving rise to other varieties that have their own characteristics and small differences between them depending on where they are grown.
There are around 200 varieties of Arabica coffee ( Coffea arabica ) and it is cultivated in India, Central America, Papua New Guinea, and the east coast of Africa. However, it is native to the mountains of southern Ethiopia and was the first type of coffee to be cultivated.
The grain is recognized for being oval and elongated, with a narrow and wavy groove. In addition, the maturation time of the beans varies between 60 and 120 days, which gives the Arabica coffee a more pronounced aroma and acidity.
What is robusta coffee?
The Robusta seed, the fruit of the subspecies of the coffee tree Coffea Canephora, is native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Its beans were not used until the 20th century and it is grown mainly in places where Arabica does not grow well, such as West Africa and Southeast Asia, although it is also produced on a large scale in Brazil.
Robusta is characterized by being more resistant than Arabica, which can be very delicate, and a higher yield is obtained because it is cheaper to produce and its cultivation requires less maintenance.
This makes it the preferred grain for coffee growers, but not for consumers… 😲
Its flavor is bitter and with earthy notes, wood and nuts. An intense coffee is obtained, with a consistent and more acrid body. Oh, and with almost twice the caffeine of an Arabica.
For this reason, its seeds are used more often in the production of lower-quality coffees, such as instant, capsules, or blends.
The Robusta seed presents important differences with respect to the Arabica. Its grain is rounded and with a straight groove.
Differences between Arabica and robusta coffee
In summary, these would be the main differences between both varieties:
The shape of the Arabica beans is oval and elongated, while those of Robusta are round and small.
Arabica coffee has fruity, floral, and sweet nuances and is softer. On the contrary, a cup of robusta has more intense profiles, bitter, with earthy notes, wood, dark chocolate, etc., generally stronger flavors.
Did you know…? The best coffees in the world are usually of the Arabica variety, although in recent years you can also find high-quality Robusta coffees.
The robusta variety contains a real shot of caffeine, almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica 😵💫
In the latter, it is approximately 0.9 – 1.7%, while in Robusta it ranges between 2 and 4.5%. Hence, the robusta is much more bitter, because the caffeine gives that type of flavor.
While robusta is usually associated with poorer quality beans, especially for instant coffee, capsules, and blends, Arabica coffee is reserved for the best coffee beans on the market.
Robusta coffee cultivation is much less demanding, as it adapts better to climate change and is, therefore, cheaper to produce. As a consequence, its price is also lower.
Arabica and Robusta blend coffee
And what happens when you mix Arabica and Robusta coffee?
If you are a coffee lover, you may have heard the term blend coffee a lot, right? If not, here we explain it to you.
Take note: Blends are basically a mixture of beans from different varieties of coffee to achieve new combinations of flavors and aromas. One of the most common examples that we can find are blends of Arabica and Robusta coffee.
Due to the great differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee, the idea of making mixtures between the two arose. The main objective was to obtain coffees with combined properties. This opened the doors to a wide universe, with a multitude of opportunities, which ended up generating an important parallel industry.
The mixture of the grains is done before submitting the coffee to roasting, in this way a more uniform result is achieved. Contrary to popular belief, making a balanced recipe requires a lot of research and testing time.
Having said that…
A good blended Arabica and Robusta coffee will form a consistent crema layer without losing the great flavor of the Arabica, so welcome the blend.
But beware! This is not always the case… Sometimes it is simply done for economic reasons in order to lower costs and sell at a lower price.
Tip : Whenever you opt for a blend, you should make sure that the Arabica and robusta proportions are 80-20 or 90-10, because the higher the proportion of robusta in a blended coffee, the worse it will taste.
Arabica vs Robusta, which type of bean is better?
There is no single answer because everything will depend on the flavor, texture, and aroma that you are looking for in the coffee.
That said, and assuming that the grains you buy are a product with quality guarantees, both in their origin and in their processing, the choice is personal:
- If you are looking for an aromatic, sweet, and fruity coffee, choose the Arabica variety.
- On the other hand, if you like stronger and more intense flavors with earthy notes, wood, and bitter chocolate… opt for a robusta coffee.
However, it is indisputable that the quality of Arabica coffee is superior to that of robusta due to the demanding conditions it requires.