What is the difference between Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee?
(Fort Mill, SC)
Robusta Coffee Cherries
Hi. I’m learning about how to make decent coffee at home. At first I thought this would be easy, but it seems there is a ton to learn! One of the things I want to get my head around right now is the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffees.
Am I right in thinking these are two species of coffee? And what’s the difference between them? And why do some companies boast about offering 100% Arabica beans? Does this mean they are better?
Dania…thanks for the question. Or should I say questions?!
Yes, these are two species of coffee.
You see companies claiming 100% Arabica for the reason you mentioned. Arabica coffee tastes better. That’s the bottom line. They offer a far wider range of flavors. The entire specialty coffee industry is based on the superior taste profile of Arabica beans. Without them there would be no Peets, no Starbucks and no local specialty roaster.
So why do people bother to grow and sell Robusta coffee beans?
Plenty of reasons.
Robusta beans are easier to grow, are more resistant to pests and disease, and can be grown at much lower altitudes. They also deliver more pounds of coffee beans per acre. In other words, they’re easier to grow and cheaper to produce.
100% Robusta coffee doesn’t make for a very enjoyable cup of coffee. But it can be used as part of a blend, to add extra body to an Arabica coffee. In fact, plenty of blends created to make espresso include Robusta beans for that very reason…for the extra body.
That said, while Robusta coffee is sometimes included in a blend to improve the overall quality of the coffee, it is more often used to create a cheap coffee.
If you look at the cheapest coffees in your local superstore, you’ll often see the claim “100% Coffee”, rather than “100% Arabica Coffee”. This is because increasing the percentage of Robusta beans allows the company to sell cheaper coffee and still make a profit.
The trouble is, the greater the proportion of Robusta beans in a blend, the worse the coffee tastes.
One final fact…Robusta coffee beans contain a lot more caffeine than Arabica beans. So if you’re pulling an all-nighter, you might want to go for the inferior taste but bigger buzz you get with Robusta.