Arabica vs. Robusta – How are these Coffee Beans Different?

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Take your coffee knowledge up a level! Let’s dive in and take a closer look at two of the most popular types of coffee beans on the market: Arabica beans and Robusta beans.

It’s a great time for coffee drinkers to be alive! Why? – Because there are more than 100 different varieties of coffee beans currently on the market. With advances in agriculture, other varieties will likely be available in the future, too. While there are so many different types of coffee beans, there are two that stand at the top of the popularity list: Arabica and Robusta.

Of all the coffee beverages that humans consume, the vast majority are made from Arabica beans; an estimated three-fourths! Considering how much coffee people drink worldwide, that’s quite an impressive amount of Arabica beans. Next in line behind Arabica is the Robusta coffee bean.

Where Are Arabica and Robusta Beans Grown?

While Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are both extremely popular, the two hail from different regions. Arabica coffee is made from the beans of the Coffea Arabica plant, first found in Ethiopia. It’s also referred to as Arabian coffee, mountain coffee, or the coffee shrub of Arabia.

It is believed that this variety of coffee was the first species to ever be cultivated, and it remains the most commonly cultivated coffee, making up the vast majority of global coffee production. First discovered in Yemen and documented in the 12th century by Araba scholars, who wrote about how the beverage made by roasting the coffee beans helped extend the long hours that they worked.

The Arabian discovery of brewing roasted coffee beans to make a beverage in Yemen became increasingly popular, and the Turks and Egyptians began using it, too. Eventually, the popularity spread, and it was consumed around the globe. Today, it remains the most popular type of coffee bean.

Robusta coffee (Coffea robusta or Coffea canephora) is a variety of coffee that originated in the western and central regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The beans are derived from a flowering plant that is scientifically classified as Coffea canephora, and there are two primary varieties: C. c. robusta and C. c. nganda.

It grows as a robust shrub or a tree that stands approximately 10 meters tall and flowers on an irregular basis. The plant produces cherries, which take about ten months to mature and ripen, after which they produce oval beans. The Robusta species of coffee produces a larger crop than Arabica, though the latter is more widely consumed.

Additionally, Robusta coffee beans are much less prone to disease and pests. They’re much heartier and require a lot less fertilizer. Additionally, Robusta beans contain more caffeine than Arabica.

Which One is More Flavorful?

You’re probably wondering which one tastes better: Arabica or Robusta. The truth is, there is no definitive answer, as it depends on your particular taste. To give you an idea of the difference and which one you might like better, many coffee drinkers think that Robusta has an earthy flavor similar to oatmeal. It can range from neutral to bitter and a bit harsh with an aftertaste that is kind of reminiscent to peanuts.

The flavor of Arabica is more versatile, as it has a very extensive range of tastes, which depends on the variety. The taste ranges from sweet and soft to tangy and sharp. They produce a smell that is similar to blueberries, believe it or not. In fact, the scent is said to resemble a perfume-like fragrance mixed with hints of sugar and fruit.

Robusta vs Arabica Coffee Beans

Does Arabica and Robusta Coffee Taste the Same?

As discussed above, Arabica and Robusta coffee beans do not taste the same. It is often said that coffee made from Robusta beans has a flavor similar to oatmeal, and it ranges in intensity from neutral to intense.

The flavor of Arabica coffee beans has a much more varied and extensive range of flavors, and that depends on the variety. Ranges of flavor vary from sweet and soft to tangy and almost sharp in nature.

Robusta coffee beans, on the other hand, have a taste that is similar to that of oatmeal, and it offers a neutral to harsh flavor profile.

Why Is It Called Arabica Coffee?

It is believed that coffee beans date back to around 1,000 BC in the highlands location of the Kingdom of Kefa. It is often referred to as Arabian coffee, the coffee shrub of Arabia, or mountain coffee. However, the most common name used to describe this type of coffee is Arabica. The first record of brewing these beans to make a beverage dates back to when Arabians made it. 

Are Robusta Beans Cheaper than Arabica?

Typically, Robusta coffee beans are less expensive than the Arabica variety. The lower cost is due to the fact that Robusta beans are easier to grow. On average, it takes about half the amount of time to yield the same amount of Robusta beans as Arabica coffee beans; moreover, each Robusta crop produces higher yields.

Furthermore, the higher caffeine content (Robusta beans contain about 2.7 percent more caffeine than Arabica beans, which, on average, contain approximately 1.5 percent caffeine) makes the Robusta coffee beans less appealing to pests than Arabica beans which means that they are much less prone to being attacked. All of these factors combined are the reasons why the Robusta variety of coffee beans are cheaper than Arabica beans.

Do Arabica Beans Have More Caffeine than Robusta?

No, despite the fact that Arabica beans are the most commonly consumed coffee beans in the world, they actually contain less caffeine than Robusta beans. As mentioned above, on average, the caffeine content of Arabica beans is about 1.5 percent, compared to Robusta beans, which have an average caffeine content of about 2.7 percent. While you’ll get a bigger kick from a cup of Robusta coffee because of the lower caffeine content, a cup of Arabica coffee is sweeter and goes down a lot easier.

Is Robusta More Common than Arabica Coffee?

Arabica are, by far, the most popular type of coffee beans. About two-thirds of the coffee consumed on the planet is Arabica, with Robusta following as the second most popular.

While Robusta is easier to grow and less expensive, it has a stronger, more pungent taste, while Arabica beans offer a smoother, sweeter flavor; hence the reason why they’re more popular.

Do You Use Arabica or Robusta for Dark Roast?

In terms of dark roast coffees, Robusta tends to be used more than Arabica. While both can be used to make a dark roast, the stronger taste and oily-like consistency that Robusta beans offer make them more suitable for dark roasting.

Is Robusta Used for Espresso?

Yes, Robusta beans are the most commonly used beans for espresso blends of coffee. The beans have a heavier body, and because they are better suited for dark roasts, they make a much stronger taste, making them a great choice for espresso.

Are Arabica Beans in Instant Coffee?

While yes, Arabica beans can be used in instant coffee, Robusta is much more common. The lower price makes it a more economical option for blended coffee, including instant varieties.

Can You Roast Robusta or Arabica Beans at Home?  

Yes, you can roast both Robusta and Arabica beans at home. Just purchase green coffee beans and use one of the number of DIY methods (in an oven, an air popper, on a stovetop, or with a specially made coffee roasting machine) to roast your beans at home.

Is Starbucks Arabica or Robusta?

Starbucks, one of the most popular commercial coffee brands, uses both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans in the selection of options they offer, including cappuccinos, lattes, and just regular cups of Joe.

Is Columbian Coffee Arabica or Robusta?

Columbia is the world’s largest producer of Arabica coffee beans. Since the vast majority of coffee drinkers consider Arabica beans of higher quality and better tasting than Robusta, Columbian coffee is synonymous with high-quality coffee.

Comparing Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

Does Maxwell House Use Robusta or Arabica Beans?

Maxwell House is one of the most popular commercial brands of coffee used in the United States for home coffee brewing. The manufacturer uses both Arabica and Robusta beans, with a blend of the former commonly used in brewed coffee and the latter commonly used in their instant varieties.

Is Kona Coffee Arabica Beans?

Cultivated on Hawaii’s Hualalai and Mauna Loa mountains, Kona coffee is made from Arabica beans. The manufacturer uses the Typica variant of Arabica beans in their coffee.

The area where Kona beans are grown – the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in both the North and South Kona Districts of Hawaii, is affectionately called the “Kona Belt” by locals.

The Kona coffee farm spans across 30 miles of the coastline of Hawaii’s Big Island, and it’s the only climate on the planet where this variant of Arabica beans can be grown; hence the reason why Kona coffee is one of the rarest, most beloved, and highest quality types of coffee in the world.

Final Thoughts

While there may be more than 100 different varieties of coffee beans, there are two that stand at the top of the list in terms of popularity: Arabica and Robusta.

Which one is better depends on your own unique taste; for example, if you prefer a smoother, sweeter, and lighter cup of coffee, Arabica may be a better option for you. If you enjoy a cup of Joe that has a bitter bite and will be sure to jolt you awake, Robusta is may better suit your taste.

Either way, both options are widely available in grocery stores, coffee houses, and restaurants around the globe and make a great cup of coffee.