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Arabica vs Robusta Coffee

Have you ever stopped to look at your coffee beans in the morning? You may think all beans look the same, but if you were to do a side-by-side comparison, you’d begin to see subtle differences. In fact, there are a number of different varieties of coffee beans. But only two of them dominate the coffee market today: Arabica and Robusta. So, what makes these two coffee beans so popular and how are they different? Let’s take a look.

What is Arabica?

Arabica or Arabian coffee is thought to be the first coffee species ever produced for consumption. Originating in Ethiopia, Arabica comes from the plant of the same name and thrives at high elevations and in sub-tropical climates such as those found in Colombia, Brazil, and Indonesia. Today, around 60% of the world’s coffee is Arabica. The two most common varieties of Arabica coffee are Typica and Bourbon.

What is Robusta?

Robusta is the most popular variety of coffee derived from the Coffea Canephora plant. The second most popular coffee bean, Robusta makes up approximately 40% of the world’s coffee, with Vietnam being the leading producer. First cultivated in Africa, Robusta also continues to be grown in the Sub-Saharan region, as well as in Indonesia, and other eastern countries. The two most popular varieties of Robusta coffee are Erecta and Ngnada.

Arabica Vs. Robusta: What’s the Difference?

Arabica and Robusta differ in many ways including flavor, appearance, taste, origin and cultivation, amount of caffeine, and, of course, the price.

 

Origin & Cultivation

As we’ve said, Arabica coffee plants thrive at higher altitudes in cool, wet climates containing nutrient-rich soil. The Arabica plant can grow to be up to 15 feet tall and Is able to self-pollinate. It takes a couple of years before the plant’s sweet-smelling Arabica flowers begin to bloom. The flower’s seeds are Arabic coffee beans. Because the conditions for cultivating these plants must be just right, and the Arabica plants are more susceptible to things like weather conditions and pests, they are harder to grow than Robusta.

In comparison, the Robusta coffee plant is hardy and adaptable. Grown in lower altitudes and less vulnerable to the elements, these plants can quickly produce more fruit, and yield larger quantities than Arabica. However, one of the reasons pests tend to leave these plants alone is thought to be due to their bitter taste.

Caffeine

Part of Robusta’s bitter taste comes from its high percentage of caffeine, around 2.7%. If you’re looking for a coffee that packs a punch, a brewed cup of Robusta coffee will be twice as strong as a cup of Arabica in terms of caffeine. It’s the Robusta plant’s naturally high caffeine count that allows it to survive in harsher conditions, too. This, along with the fact that it produces naturally occurring antioxidants called chlorogenic acids, is considered part of the plant’s self-defense mechanism. While it may have less caffeine, Arabica is considered superior due to its variety of flavors and the fact that it tends to taste much better than Robusta.

Taste

Aside from being bitter, Robusta coffee is often described as having more earthy, woody flavor notes with a peanut aftertaste. The fact that it is less acidic than Arabica also contributes to its stronger, harsher taste. In contrast, Arabica is known for its floral, fruity notes, and can produce a wide range of flavors. Arabica coffee tends to be sweeter, and its high acidity gives it a smooth, clean taste. These factors tend to make Arabica more popular for consumers looking for a great-tasting cup of coffee.

Price

As you may have guessed, because Robusta coffee is much easier and less expensive to grow, it’s also cheaper than Arabica. For this reason, you’ll often find Robusta beans in your traditional diner-style coffee and instant coffees. Despite the harsher flavor caused by its high caffeine content, Robust is also often used in espresso blends because it’s more likely to yield that creamy layer we’re used to seeing with a typical espresso shot.

Arabica, on the other hand, is mostly used in higher-end, specialty-grade coffees. Most of the coffee you’ll see at your local grocery store will be made with Robusta coffee beans, whereas specialty coffee shops and independent roasters, like Nomi Brew, deal exclusively with Arabica.

Which is Better?

Whether you choose Arabica or Robusta coffee depends on your personal preference. If you’re looking for an instant, earthy brew, you’ll probably be fine with Robusta. If you’re like us, you prefer single-origin, Arabica coffee that offers a variety of flavors and a pleasant tasting experience. As mentioned above, at Nomi Brew all of our coffee is made with 100% Arabica beans. If that sounds good to you, check out our latest menu for a selection of Arabica-based specialty-grade coffees from different regions around the globe.

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