How do different coffee blends have different taste profiles & flavor? You may have noticed that some coffee blends taste sweeter & fruity, some bitter and some well-balanced aromatic, invigorating, and strong, with a stable foam and rich colour. There are more than 125 different types of coffee trees in the world, but there are two main commercial coffee species: Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica beans tend to have a sweeter, softer taste with tons of sugar, fruit, and berries. While Robusta coffee is notoriously bitter.
What is Arabica and Robusta Coffee?
Arabica Coffee: Arabica coffee comes from the beans of a Coffea arabica plant, which originated in Ethiopia. Arabica is the world's most popular coffee type, equating to over 70% of the world’s coffee production. Arabica coffee thrives well in higher altitudes and the beans are grown in Latin America, Ethiopia, India, Colombia and Brazil.
Robusta Coffee: Robusta coffee comes from the Coffea canephora and is the second most popular coffee in the world equating to 30% of the world’s coffee production. Robust coffee grows in lower altitudes and the beans are grown mostly in Eastern Hemisphere, Indonesia and Africa.
Arabica Vs Robusta: Which is better?
Let’s dive into the major differences between Arabica and Robusta.
Taste: Arabica coffee has a delicate aroma and tastes sweeter, softer, smoother, fruity and balanced. Robusta has its taste often described as rubber or wood, harsh and bitter. This is because of more caffeine content in Robusta.
Flavour: Arabica contains 60% more oils than Robusta. Arabica beans have a rich flavour with caramel and chocolate notes. Robusta contains only 8% oil. The flavour is grainy with tones of oak and bitterness.
Caffeine: Arabica beans have lower caffeine content between 0.8% - 1.5%. While Robusta beans have more caffeine between 1.7% - 3.5%.
Altitude and Growing environment: Arabica coffee thrives in higher altitudes ( 800 - 2200m ) and cooler temperatures ( 15 - 24 degree celsius ). Arabica coffee beans are fragile and must grow in cool, subtropical climates. Arabica beans also need a lot of moisture, rich soil, shade, and sun. Because of their fragility, Arabica beans are vulnerable to attack from various pests and can be damaged by cold temperatures or poor handling.
Robusta Coffee beans are grown in lower altitudes ( 0 - 900M ) and warm temperatures ( 18 - 36 degree celsius ). Because of the warm climate coffee beans are extremely resilient to pests, disease and damage. Hence Robusta coffee requires less maintenance compared to Arabica Coffee.
Sugar: Arabica beans have significantly higher sugar content with 60% more lipids. Robusta beans have less sugar content and lipids.
Used For ( Coffee Types ): Arabica beans are higher quality beans and are mostly used for speciality coffees or filter coffees. While Robusta beans are used in instant coffee and espresso. Robusta is widely used in the production of instant coffee because during the processing, it is possible to reduce the bitterness and viscosity of the drink.
Shape: Arabica beans are oval-shaped with elongated grains and a central line curved. Robusta small sized round shaped and the central line is straight.
Price: The Arabica green beans are twice as expensive as the Robusta, it is because it is much more specific cultivation requirements such as weather and altitude to grow. Since Robusta coffee is low maintenance, Robusta coffee green seeds are priced lesser than Arabica.
From these differences, you may conclude Arabica coffee is better than Robusta. But most coffee producers and roasters blend Arabica and Robusta to achieve a fine blend which is a balance between a sweetish and fruity taste with a hint of bitterness.