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Arabica Versus Robusta Beans

by Ryan Edwards 02 Aug 2023 0 Comments

What are the differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans? 

Did you know that coffee is from the family of a flowering plant called Rubiaceae? This is a very large flowering family where you will find over five hundred Genera (the biological group that a family is divided into) and about six thousand species. One of those species is the bean we enjoy, coffee. Although botanists regard all seed-bearing plants in the Rubiaceae family as coffee plants, the coffees served commercially fall within two species: Arabica and Canephora, better known as Robusta. 


Last time in our blog, we discussed What Makes Specialty Coffee so Special. Specialty coffee refers to coffee that has been carefully grown, processed, roasted and brewed to bring out the unique flavors that specialty coffee has to offer. To be considered for the title of Specialty coffee, a bean must meet certain standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). These standards include bean quality, flavor, aroma and overall cup quality. Beans must score at least 80 points or higher on a 100 point scale to be considered Specialty Coffee. These beans that are able to meet these high standards and provide the array of flavor notes we come to associate with high quality coffee are typically Arabica beans.

Here are some of the differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans: 

Variety: There are two most common varieties of Arabica. Typica, which was the first variety to be discovered, is a low-yielding variety that is valued for its excellent cup quality. Bourbon varieties of Arabica, on the other hand, are often prized for their complex, balanced aromas and have spawned many high-quality mutations and subtypes. A few natural mutations of Arabica are known as Caturra, San Ramon, and Pacas. There are also a number of Bourbon cultivars that have been propagated to suit the regional climate, environment, and elevation. Examples include Mundo Novo and Yellow Bourbon.

The main varieties of Coffea canephora, which we call Robusta, are Erecta and Nganda, which describe a tall-standing coffee shrub and a wide-spreading shrub, respectively.

Robusta and Arabica coffee plants have spontaneously cross-bred, allowing for the plants to be more disease-resistant.

Flavor: Arabica beans are known for their complex flavors, which can range from fruity and floral to nutty and chocolaty, depending on its varietal. On the other hand, Robusta beans have a stronger, more bitter, oatmeal taste with a grainy texture. Unroasted Robusta beans smell a little like raw peanuts. Robusta is widely used in espresso blends since it is known to produce a better crema (the creamy layer found on top of an espresso shot) than Arabica.

Caffeine Content: Robusta coffee contains roughly twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans.

Growing Conditions: Arabica coffee beans require a higher altitude and cooler temperature to grow, while Robusta beans thrive in a lower altitude and warmer temperatures. Robusta varieties exhibit greater immunity to disease and increased production capacity in comparison to Arabica, thriving in areas where Arabica would be devastated by fungus and other diseases and pests.

Here at J. Roaster’s, our current offerings use 100% Arabica coffee beans chosen for the aromatic features that each coffee that we offer provides. Those features differ from region to region of the world, so you will find beans from Ethiopia, Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, and Guatemala in our line up. We recommend trying them all to determine which coffee suits you. 

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