When it comes to your daily cup, though, there are really only two that matter: Arabica and robusta. These are the two primary types of coffee cultivated for drinking.
Arabica beans tend to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Their acidity is higher, with that winey taste that characterizes coffee with excellent acidity.
Robusta, however, has a stronger, harsher taste, with a grain-like overtone and peanutty aftertaste. They contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, and they are generally considered to be of inferior quality compared to Arabica. Some robustas, however, are of high quality and valued especially in espressos for their deep flavor and good crema.
Arabica is also grown in Africa and Papua New Guinea, but it’s grown dominantly in Latin America. Colombia only produces Arabica beans.
Robusta is grown exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, primarily in Africa and Indonesia.
Some countries, like Brazil and India, produce both.
Some all-arabica blends are too high and floral for us; some of the rich, dark harshness of robusta can be a good thing in a blend. Just remember that robusta has twice as much caffeine as arabica, too, when choosing a coffee blend.
Robusta coffee is much easier to cultivate when compared to Arabica coffee.
The Robusta plants can grow to be about six meters tall and are much more resistant to insects compared to Arabica which grows to about 4.5 meters tall and the beans themselves are much more round as opposed to the oval shape you find in Arabica coffee.
If you start reading the fine print of most of the beans you will find in your local coffee shop, you will find that most of them are Arabica coffee. In fact, many coffee roasters boast that their beans are 100% Arabica as if it is a badge of honor.
The truth is Arabica is actually the most popular type of bean used in coffee, but that doesn’t mean Robusta beans don’t have their place in the coffee world. In many espresso beans, especially the Italian roasts, you will find a mixture of both Arabica and Robusta beans. You will even find Robusta beans used in coffee that is designed for those that love strong coffee. Robusta beans are also almost exculsively used in the production of instant coffee.
Arabica continues to be the most popular coffee, with about 75% of the coffee produced belonging to the Arabica variety with the remaining 25% going to Robusta.
Robusta beans contain much more caffeine than the Arabica beans. Robusta beans contain 2.7% caffeine content. Contrast that with the 1.5% caffeine content found in Arabica beans and you see that Robusta, with almost double the caffeine content, are tailor made for those of us that love that boost that caffeine gives us in the morning.
We all know that coffee contains many antioxidants that our body needs, but did you know that the amount of these antioxidants vary between coffee species? For example, Robusta beans contain 7 to 10% Chlorogenic acid but Arabica beans only have about 5.5 to 8% Chlorogenic.
Arabicas have a wider taste range, between varieties. They range in taste from sweet-soft to sharp-tangy. Their unroasted smell is sometimes likened to blueberries. Their roasted smell is perfumey with fruity notes and sugary tones.
Robustas taste range is neutral to harsh and they are often described as tasting grain-like, oatmeally. Burnt tires is the description that I personally find most accurate. Their unroasted smell is often described as raw-peanutty. There are high quality robustas on the market but they are rare and reserved exclusively for the best robusta containing espressos.
6.Lipid and Sugar Content
Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugars than robusta. As a result these sugars play an important role during the roasting process in creating several key aromatic compounds, as well as contributing to the body due to its greater level of dissolved solubles.
On the market, Arabica coffee beans fetch a much higher price than Robusta coffee beans. This is most likely due to the higher demand of the coffee as it tends to be the preferred coffee for use in brewers around the globe.
Ultimately it’s a question of personal taste.