Arabica vs. Robusta: what are the differences?
coffee beans

Arabica vs. Robusta: what are the differences?

Approximately 130 different types of coffee have now been identified. Of these 130 species, however, only two are important for the world market: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (commonly called Arabica and Robusta). These two species make up around 99 percent of global production and are accordingly grown over the entire equator, the so-called coffee belt.

Coffea Canephora (Robusta) makes up approx. 30% of the global coffee cultures today, the proportion of Coffea Arabica (Arabica) is approx. 70%. What are the differences between Arabica and Robusta? let’s see:

What is the difference between Arabica and Robusta?

There are differences between Arabica and Robusta, which we have listed below:

Look:

Arabica beans are oval. The cut in the middle is curved. Robusta beans are smaller than Arabica beans, have a rounded shape, and a straight cut in the middle.

Cultivation:

Even the name “Robusta” suggests that Coffea Canephora is resistant and less susceptible to pests and diseases. Robusta can also cope with higher temperatures and overall does not have such high demands on soil and climate. Arabica, on the other hand, is sensitive to pests, fungi, and temperatures that are too high. With this in mind, growing Robusta is easier and also cheaper than growing Arabica.

Mounting height:

Arabica trees thrive best at heights of 900-2,000 meters. From an attachment height of 1,000 meters, one speaks of highland coffee. As a rule, the higher up coffee is grown, the better its quality, because the coffee fruit takes longer to ripen. With longer ripening, more ingredients and thus aromas can develop inside the bean. In contrast to Arabica, Robusta grows at a height of 0 – 900 meters and is therefore also known as lowland coffee.

Cultivation temperature:

Arabica grows best at temperatures of 15-25 ° Celsius, while Robusta trees prefer temperatures of 20-30 ° Celsius.

Caffeine content:

The caffeine content of Robusta can be two to three times higher than Arabica. Arabica has a caffeine content of 0.8 – 1.4%, while the caffeine content of Robusta is between 1.7 and 4%. As you may know, caffeine is a natural pesticide. Due to the higher caffeine content, Robusta is not as susceptible to pests.

Oil content :

Arabica contains approx. 50% more coffee oils than Robusta. The oil content of Arabica is 15-17%, while Robusta has an oil content of 10-12%. The oil content also determines the aroma intensity and thus the quality of the coffee.

Sugar content:

The sugar content of Robusta beans is 3 – 7%, while the sugar content of Arabica is 6 – 9%. Therefore, Robusta tastes less sweet and can be perceived as earthy and bitter.

Arabica vs. Robusta: differences in taste

If you compare an Arabica bean with a Robusta bean from a purely visual point of view, you will find that the differences are not that serious. A layperson is unlikely to notice the difference.

Only in terms of taste does the difference between Arabica beans and Robusta beans become clear. If you have ever taken part in a coffee tasting (“cupping”), where you directly compared coffee made with 100% Arabica beans and coffee made with 100% Robusta beans, you will have a clear one. We have tasted the difference.

Fruity & berry vs. earthy & woody

Arabica beans taste fruity, berry, less bitter, mild, softer, sweeter, more diverse, and overall much more harmonious and aromatic than Robusta. In comparison, coffee that has been brewed with Robusta beans tastes earthy, woody tends to be more bitter and sometimes also slightly musty (sometimes also like burnt rubber). At first glance, it seems that the race is won by Arabica. Arabica tends to taste better than Robusta for most people.

Nevertheless, there are Robusta varieties from India, the country with the highest quality Canephora, that have excellent taste profiles, such as the varieties SLN 274 and Old Paradenia. See for yourself and try out the 100% Robusta Badra Estates from India, which you can order online.

Reasons for the different tastes

But what are the reasons that Arabica tends to taste better than Robusta for most people?

With 44 chromosomes, Arabica has twice as many as Robusta. This results in a greater variety of flavors and the fine fruity taste of Arabica beans. Besides, Arabica has a higher sugar and oil content than Robusta. This ensures the overall soft and harmonious, slightly sweet taste.

Arabica ripens in higher growing positions and at lower temperatures compared to Robusta. As a result, Arabica cherries grow more slowly than Robusta cherries. The slow growth of arabica cherries has a positive effect on the complexity of the beans. More ingredients and therefore more aromas are developed inside the bean.

100% arabica

For the reasons mentioned above, Robusta does worse than Arabica in Europe. Arabica is considered to be of higher quality than Robusta worldwide. It is therefore not surprising that the large European coffee brands have been advertising with the label “100% Arabica” on their packaging for years. It’s a shame because there are also very good Robusta qualities whose flavors can be spicy, nutty, chocolatey and caramelized, e.g. the 100% Robusta Badra Estates from India.

Oh yes: Just because large coffee multinationals advertise “100% Arabica” on their coffee packaging does not guarantee good quality. So don’t let that fool you!

Robusta ensures a rich crema in espresso

However, Robusta plays an important role in coffee blends for espresso. Why? Due to the low oil content, Robusta is responsible for a thick and stable crema on the espresso. And a stable crema is usually a sign that the espresso is of high quality – at least from a purely visual point of view. Robusta is, therefore, a popular ingredient in espresso blends, because it not only leads to a firm crema but also ensures a strong, spicy, and woody taste of espresso, which is particularly valued in the southern countries (southern Italy). With a certain proportion of Robusta in espresso blends – usually between 10 – 40% – the stronger acids of the Arabica beans are balanced out by the Robusta beans, which have fewer acids due to the longer roasting.

Arabica-Robusta mixture for espresso

An espresso prepared from a mixture of Arabica and Robusta beans tastes more harmonious compared to a preparation using only Arabica beans. Robusta has the gift of giving espresso a pleasant depth and body. We, therefore, recommend that you start with your first espressos with your espresso machine to be brewed with an espresso blend of 70/30 or 80/20 Arabica / Robusta, before you dare to use 100% Arabica for the preparation of espresso. The higher proportion of acid in Arabica beans may have a deterrent effect at first and could take away the desire to get to know espresso. If you have gained some experience, it is worth trying out medium-brown roasted pure Arabica beans, which will offer you a multi-faceted, fruity, and rather acidic taste experience.

In this video, you can learn the difference between Arabica and Robusta in detail.