Despite the endless options, there is one aspect that all types of coffee beans have. Most coffee originates from the two most commonly cultivated coffee species: Arabica and Robusta beans.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Arabica and Robusta Beans
The commonality between these two types of beans does end there. Read on to find out more about these two popular bean types and how they impact the taste in your coffee cup.
The Basics Arabica Vs Robusta
Arabica beans are more oily than Robusta beans and have a fruity, sweet flavor. Arabica is by far the most popular coffee bean on the market today and is also more expensive.
Robusta beans have less oil and are known for a powerful and bitter taste. Because of their earthy taste they are not as popular as the Arabica bean, and are less expensive.
Most Popular Bean: Arabica
The most popular coffee bean produced today is the Arabica bean. Arabica beans account for 60% of the world’s coffee production, largely due to their signature sweet flavor. Arabica plants grow in high-elevation areas that receive a lot of rain.
Coffee plantations exist in Latin America, Africa, and even in India. Brazil is the largest producer of Arabica beans, and some other well known countries also produce Arabica beans including Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
Due to its massive cultivation worldwide, there are over twenty different types of Arabica coffee plants. Each variation of Arabica grows in a specific location in the world, which is why not all Arabica coffee will taste the same.
One interesting fact about Arabica coffee beans is that farmers grow most of the plants in areas where coffee is not native. Despite the Arabica being the most popular type of coffee bean, it is a higher maintenance plant to cultivate. The Arabica is not easy to grow and requires a lot of care in order to flourish.
The Arabica plant is also exceptionally delicate and sensitive to disease. Diseases can be devastating to coffee plantations that harvest large quantities of coffee as the illness can spread quickly throughout the crop, killing all the coffee plants in its wake.
Because of their delicacy, the cost of Arabica beans is higher than other options. Nevertheless, the Arabica coffee bean flavor is a favorite among most coffee drinkers.
Popular types of Arabica coffee include:
Robusta: The Strong Bean
While Arabica beans often fill the store shelves in the United States, Robusta is much more popular in Africa, Europe as well as in the Middle East.
Robusta beans originate from the Coffea Canephora plant that originated in Africa. The Robusta bean is also known for its signature strong, bitter taste. Robusta beans are typically used in instant coffee, espresso, and as a filler in certain blends of ground coffee.
This coffee bean earned its name from its robust character and taste. Unlike Arabica coffee, Robusta coffee plants are extremely resilient and are not generally susceptible to disease. They also contain a high level of caffeine, which has the natural effect of repelling insects and other pests.
For the resilient Robusta, altitude is not an issue. As long as the environment is warm and does not receive large amounts of rain, the plants will grow. Some of the most common locations for growing Robusta beans include Africa and Indonesia, but some countries, like Brazil, can produce both.
Because the plants can grow in various climates, many companies harvest the Robusta beans in dismal areas which results in a rubbery flavor. Other producers combine Robusta and Arabica to give coffee an extra boost of caffeine.
Even though most prefer Arabica beans for their taste, Robusta also has a distinctive taste. If you do have the opportunity to buy high-quality Robusta beans, you will notice hints of chocolate and even rum.
One added benefit is that the Robusta flavor does not diminish when adding sugar or milk to your drink. The taste and caffeine remain robust, just like its namesake.
Arabica vs Robusta Differences
Arabica and Robusta beans differ when it comes to flavor, cultivation, cost and quality.
Arabica beans are most coffee drinker’s preferred bean simply because they taste better than the Robusta bean.
Due to their increased caffeine content, Robusta has a very strong, bitter and earthy taste. Although they are not good on their own, Robusta is great for drinks requiring stronger coffee such as espresso.
In comparison, the Arabica bean is much sweeter than the Robusta. They are known for their soft and fruity taste.
When it comes to growing the Robusta and Arabica could not be more different. The Robusta is a very resilient coffee plant that can easily be grown in lower altitudes whereas the Arabica is fragile and must be grown in higher elevations.
Robusta grow easily and are not susceptible to damage from pests whereas the Arabica require a lot of elements such as rich soil, shade and moisture to be ideal in order to thrive.
The ability for Robusta to thrive in most environments does come with some downfalls. Robusta has been used in mono-cropping, a practice that is detrimental to the environment.
Mono-cropping involves growing the same plant repeatedly in one location. This type of farming requires clear-cutting endangered rainforest in order to make room to grow the crop.
With the Robusta’s ability to thrive in any environment there have been growers who have opted to purchase large amounts of land, clear-cutting the forest and planting the Robusta beans. This is detrimental because mono-cropping erodes the land and reduces the nutrients in the soil.
Due to its less desired bitter and earthy flavor, the Robusta is typically much less expensive than Arabica. This is largely due to the fact that the Arabica is more difficult to grow.
Cozy’s Bottom Line
When it comes to the Arabica bean vs the Robusta bean, the Arabica is much more popular. This is due to Arabica’s sweet, soft taste.
Despite the Robusta being less popular, it should not be completely discounted. The Robusta can often be found in instant coffees and mixed with Arabica for stronger drinks such as espresso.