Different coffee packets advertise different amounts of 'Robusta' and 'Arabica'? What do these terms refer to, and how does it affect the taste of the coffee?
- One reason that the taste isn't as good for Robusta is that it has more caffeine compared to Arabica. Which may sound like a positive thing but caffeine carries a bitter taste which makes it an unpleasant drink. In fact the Robusta bean has 2.7% caffeine content, almost double the 1.5% of Arabica.
- Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than Robusta. This factor also probably has a big impact on why we prefer the taste of Arabica.
- From a price perspective, green beans of Robusta is about half the price of Arabica green beans on the commodity market.
- 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 defense for the coffee seed as the quantity in the Robusta is toxic to bugs.
All of these factors help bring up the supply and lower the input costs for farmers to produce. With this more attractive price point, a lot of roasters back in the day would add Robusta to their blend in an attempt to reduce their costs and increase their profits. When coffee was initially sold in the 1900s the quality of coffee slowly and slowly deteriorated in an effort for companies to squeeze the most profit.
Where you’ll find it: Nowadays, it’s not often you’ll find Robusta in a coffee blends or in coffee shop. If you’re drinking instant coffee? Well, that’s probably all Robusta… but you probably don’t care very much about taste. In your espresso blend? That’s a mixed bag. Literally. Oddly enough, Robusta is still widely used as part of espresso blends – specifically Italian style blends. It is said to help improve the crema. One thing to note is despite the association with Arabica of being higher quality, and Robusta as being lower quality, it’s not always the case. Top notch specialty Robusta coffee will usually taste as good as or better than low end Arabica. However, high end Robusta isn’t widely used or available. Rather, Robusta is usually used as a filler or cost reducer.
- Robusta beans are much more circular, whereas Arabica are more oval.
- Chlorogenic acid is a significant antioxidant and an insect deterrent. Robusta is 7-10% CGA and Arabica has 5.5-8% CGA.
Sourced from The Roasters Pack.
Robusta and Arabica refer to different beans that are used for the coffee.
In general it can be said, that Arabica beans contain less caffeine, and less acid than Robusta beans.
The robusta plant has a greater crop yield than that of arabica, and contains more caffeine – 2.7% compared to arabica's 1.5% - Wikipedia
This means Arabica beans usually give a smoother coffee than Robusta beans. Robusta seems to be used as a filler in low-quality coffee blends, but is apparently the preferred bean for Italian coffee culture, because of it's stronger taste
In the global market for coffee beans, Arabica coffee beans make up about 60% of the market, Robusta about 35% and 5% is made up of other coffee beans like Liberica. Both coffee beans belong to the botanic Genus of Coffea and the Sub-Genus of Eucoffea, with Arabica being the commercial/trade name for Coffea Arabica and Robusta being the commercial/trade name for Coffea canephora. World coffee trade: arabica and robusta.
Arabica coffee beans differ from Robusta coffee beans on so many levels. Here are the ones that I know about:
Growing conditions: Arabica coffee is shade grown in the cooler mountains above 1,000 meters and up to 2,500 meters, while Robusta is typically cultivated at lower altitudes in warmer climates. Robusta is also more disease and pest-resistant than Arabica.
Country of origin: Arabica coffee bean is produced primarily by Brazil, Columbia and Ethiopia, while Robusta is produced by Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia. Un-roasted bean colour (above): In its un-roasted form, Arabica will be a darker shade of green, where Robusta tends to be more straw coloured.
Caffeine content: Caffeine content in Arabica ranges from 0.85 to 1.4%, while the caffeine content in Robusta ranges from 1.7% to 4.0%. So on average, Robusta has more than twice the caffeine content of Robusta.
Chemistry: Arabica has about 60% more lipids (fatty acids) than Robusta which plays a part in promoting Arabica’s overall superior cup.
Visually: Arabica is elongated in shape while Robusta is round. Arabica is large in size while Robusta is small (half the size). Arabica is a flatter dome while Robusta is more like a bubble dome. Arabica has a variant underside crease while Robusta has a generally straight crease.
Price: Arabica is typically traded at twice the price of Robusta due to Arabica’s lower plant yield, high labour intensity in farming and increased costs associated with crops grown at higher and on more difficult terrains.
Commerce: Arabica is the coffee bean that is purchased by cafes, while Robusta is the coffee bean that is typically used to make instant coffee, although the better grades of Robusta may be blended with Arabica in some cafe offers. The case for the humble Robusta coffee bean.
Taste: Arabica produces a sweet-soft, mild and aromatic taste, with a smooth rich full-bodied pallet, while Robusta beans yield a harsher, bitter tasting cup often described as grain-like, oatmeal and woody. Where Arabica can produce a variety of taste notes including fruity, chocolaty and nutty, Robusta is just Robusta.
There are some ways to visually differentiate between the Arabica and Robusta coffee bean
As a rule, in the roasted form:
- Arabica is oval in shape while Robusta is round
- Arabica is large in size while Robusta is small (half the size)
- Arabica is a flatter dome while Robusta is more like a bubble dome.
- Arabica has a variant underside crease while Robusta has a generally straight crease.
I know that Arabica is a prime quality of coffee whereas Robusta is less and cheaper. At my company, my co-workers and I like a blend of both though. That is why we always buy the best type of both and brew them at the office ourselves