Arabica vs Robusta

What's the difference?


Arabica and robusta are different species of coffee. Each species produces beans with a distinct taste, aroma, and look:


Arabica

Coffea Arabica

an arabica coffee bean, slighlty larger than a robusta bean, and has a curvy groove.

larger · ovular
curvy groove

Robusta

Coffea Canephora

a robusta coffee bean, slightly smaller than an arabica bean, it has a straight groove

smaller · rounder
straight groove


There are over 100 species of coffee, but these two dominate the market. Both species originated in Ethiopia.




do they taste different?


Yes, generally speaking, Arabica is known for its better, more complex taste.


Arabica is sweeter and more acidic than Robusta. It has more chocolatey, nutty and fruity notes.


Robusta is more robust, hence it's name. It tends to have a more bitter, woody, rubbery taste. Robusta has half as much sugar as arabica.


Note — these diffrences don't hold true for all coffee beans. There are plenty of bitter arabica beans and a delicious robusta.




Which costs more?


Arabica usually costs around twice as much as robusta. Though these prices fluctuate.


The high price of Arabica reflects the difficulty in growing it. It's less resistant to disease, pests, and weather than robusta, and must be grown at high altitude.


Illustration of a mountain showing the altitudes where arabica and robusta grow. Robusta between 0m and 600m. Arabica between 600m and 2000m


how much caffeine do they contain?


robusta has over twice the amount of caffeine as arabica1—one of the reasons for it's bitter taste. It also has half as much sugar.


Caffeine Content by %


The lower caffeine content of arabica is one of the reasons it's more susceptible to pests. Coffee plants produce caffeine as a natural pesticide.




where are they grown?


Both arabica and robusta are grown in the coffee belt — between the tropics of cancer and capricorn — as coffee requires rich soil and a tropical climate.


Though both coffees are grown within the coffee belt, arabica is grown primarily in South America, and robusta in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Arabica Mixed Robusta



Botanical Differences


Botanically, robusta is much more impressive than arabica.


a botanical drawing of arabica and robusta brances side by side

Robusta grows between 4.5 – 6 meters tall while arabica only grows between 2.5 – 4.5 meters. Robusta also has bigger leaves and produces more berries.




There are other differences—of course—but you now know more than you'll probably ever need.




Modified — Sunday, 28 April 2019

Published —