Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans: What is the Difference?

February 23, 2024 2 min read

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The two most used coffee varieties are Arabica and Robusta. Whether you are just getting started on your coffee-loving journey or are deep into it, it is important to know the differences between the two most popular coffee varieties. This post will let you explore your options when you buy coffee beans and recognize quality coffee beans that will be perfect for you.

Comparing the Beans at a Glance

Arabica coffee beans have an elongated and elliptical shape compared to the squat, round body of Robusta beans. Though this may not be apparent to everyone when they buy coffee beans, a keen eye can spot the difference in the bean’s green or roasted state. Quality roasters rarely blend two varieties. However, espresso coffee may have both types since Robusta-grown beans are believed to produce buttercream.

Specific Growing Conditions

Arabica coffee depends on the deep root system and prefers to be grown 1000-2000 metres or more above sea level while the Robusta has shallow roots in lower altitudes. A legend says that one of the earliest countries to produce Arabica coffee was India. According to it, this variety of coffee was first grown in the 17th century by Baba Budan when he brought the purloined Arabian beans from Yemen to Chikmagalur. But the Robusta-born varieties also account for a large percentage of the coffee grown in India.

Science Inside the Beans

Robusta is more desirable due to having twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica. But Arabica doubles down on the sugar concentration and boasts 60% more lipids than Robusta, which directly impacts the flavour profile once the beans are roasted. Hence, many boutique Indian coffee roasters favour Arabica-rowing estates over those that produce Robusta.

Quality Behind the Cost

Robustas are heartier and easier to grow throughout the season and also incur fewer costs. The science is that they have lower sugar content, and they have a longer shelf life, which is great news for coffee lovers. However, many upscale coffee retailers focus on small-batch Arabicas to maintain peak freshness.

Tasting the Difference

Among the two, Robusta beans pack a nutty punch that often tastes bitter and unpleasant for some. Arabica beans are supreme in flavour and offer a fruity and full-bodied coffee cup if the beans are grown and roasted properly. The best roasters perfect the blend of art and science, and the best coffee estates carefully maintain the conditions required to produce the superior flavour of high-quality Arabica beans.

More Differences Between Arabica and Robusta Beans

  • Robusta has lesser caffeine content than Arabica beans
  • Robusta is more bitter and harsher on the taste buds, while Arabica has a sweeter and smoother taste.
  • Arabica is more expensive due to the specific growing conditions it requires.
  • Arabica plants are not so sturdier in the face of pests and diseases, unlike Robusta.
  • Also, Arabica coffee plants require more skilled annual work during cultivation and processing. Meanwhile, the cultivation and processing of Robusta are generally easier.

The Bottom Line

However, the final decision depends on your taste and preferences. Both varieties of coffee have their unique taste and properties. Hence, the buying decisions all come down to what taste of coffee you enjoy.

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