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The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

Updated on July 22, 2023
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Arabica beans are widely considered to be superior than Robusta beans, but the truth is that, while different, neither coffee is clearly superior.

In the United States, Arabica is the most commonly available coffee, and I have had some difficulty finding Robusta coffee in the past.

Both lend different qualities to the coffee drinker, and neither should be ignored. A blend of the two might create a treatise for the senses that the discriminating coffee drinker should not ignore.

Unripe Robusta Cherry Bean
Unripe Robusta Cherry Bean | Source

Robusta Beans

Robusta coffee beans grow in clusters. They have a more bitter flavor than Arabica beans, and have a higher concentration of caffeine. Sometimes they are seen as the lesser of the two, but the truth is that while they are different, they are not inferior.

Robusta beans are more earthy and flavorful if roasted correctly. They are especially known to be used to finish Italian espresso blends for their strong flavor.

Arabica Bean Cherry
Arabica Bean Cherry | Source

Arabica Beans

Most coffee you find at the grocery store is 100% arabica. Arabica is the smoother of the two, but can still hold a lot of flavor. Arabica tends to carry less caffeine, which is the reason they are less bitter and smooth.

Comparing Robusta to Arabica

While both varieties originated in Africa, Robusta is considered the stronger plant, and requires less optimal growing conditions. It requires less fertilizer and pesticides, making it less expensive to produce. Robusta can thrive at lower altitudes and harsher conditions than arabica.

There are actually quite a few different species of coffee, with Robusta and Arabica being the most common. Cultivars that have been bred to specific conditions have also been produces.

Another variety that is also grown is liberica. Originally, Excelsa coffee was a separate species, but was reclassified as the same species, but a variant/cultivar.

Liberica coffee is found to be similar to Robusta coffee than Arabica.

Source: Cafe Altura

So which is better?

The truth is that this comes down to preference. Those who like strong, bold coffee with a good kick might enjoy Robusta over Arabica.

Drinkers who enjoy a smooth, light, and easy to drink coffee might prefer Arabica.

There are variations and methods used on both beans that create a lot of variability. Don't discount a lightly roasted Robusta over a dark roast Arabica just because of bean quality.

The only true way to come to a decision is to try both, multiple times, and come to a conclusion.

I enjoy trying many different kinds of coffee, and the journey is just as important as the destination to me.

Here's to another cup of coffee! Cheers.

© 2013 Devin Gustus


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