Arabica and Robusta differences, featured image

These are the Main Differences Between Arabica and Robusta


These are the main differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee:

  • Arabica has a sweet taste with a high lipid and sugar content while Robusta has a burnt taste with twice as much caffeine.
  • Robusta is easier to grow and produces a higher yield, but it makes up 25% of the world’s coffee production while Arabica makes up 75%.
  • Arabica is twice as expensive as Robusta.

Both types of coffee beans are quite popular, but most coffee aficionados prefer Arabica, which is the more quality option.

It simply has a superior taste, which is one of the reasons it costs more.

To expand on the differences between Arabica and Robusta, in this article I’ll also cover the following topics:

  • 14 differences between Arabica and Robusta.
  • Whether Arabica or Robusta is healthier.
  • Why Robusta is cheaper than Arabica.
  • The different Arabica and Robusta varieties.
  • Arabica and Robusta coffee terminology.
  • The pros and cons of Arabica and Robusta.
  • Fun facts about Arabica and Robusta coffee.
  • The ethics of Arabica vs Robusta.

14 Differences Between Arabica and Robusta

Below you’ll find 14 very important differences between Arabica and Robusta that you need to know about:

1. Arabica was Discovered Around 3,000 Years Earlier

The people of Ethiopia (former Kingdom of Kefa), the Omoro tribe to be more precise, discovered and enjoyed the delicious taste of Arabica coffee at around 1,000 BC.

These ancient Ethiopians crushed the beans, mixed them with fat, and consumed the balls as a potent stimulant.

While the Robusta coffee was discovered back in 1890 in Lomani, Zaire and from there it traveled to Brusells and Java, where people started cultivating it in plantations.

2. Arabica is Sweeter, While Robusta is More Bitter

Arabica (coffee arabica) has a more aromatic, chocolatey, caramel, and fruity taste.

While Robusta (coffee canephora) has a strong, burnt taste (with a hint of rubber/wood taste), and peanut-like aftertaste.

3. Robusta Has 83% More Caffeine than Arabica

Robusta is much stronger as it has a 2.7% caffeine content, compared to Arabica’s 1.5% caffeine content.

This translated to Robusta having 83% more caffeine than Arabica, which is why Robusta tastes more bitter.

4. Shape, Color and Size

Arabica beans are larger, flat, elongated, almost oval, and dark green in color while Robusta beans are smaller, more round, and light green.

5. Robusta Plants are Typically Several Feet Taller

Arabica coffee grows on small trees or evergreen shrubs that range from 10 to 15 feet in height.

While Robusta grows on plants that are usually taller – 13 to 20 feet tall.

6. Arabica Contains 2x More Sugar

Arabica contains twice as much sugar compared to Robusta coffee.

Arabica also contains 60% more lipids, which makes it tastier and more potable.

7. Robusta Produces a Higher Yield

Robusta is more resistant to insects due to caffeine levels that repel them, which is one of the reasons why it has a higher yield than Arabica coffee.

Also, Arabica matures more slowly as it takes around 2 years to produce fruits while Robusta takes only about 11 months to properly mature.

8. Arabica is Primarily Produced in Latin America

Cool, sub-tropical climates and plantations on mountain tops are generally the ideal growing conditions for Arabica coffee beans, which are mainly found in countries such as:

  • Brazil
  • El Salvador
  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Peru
  • Honduras

While Robusta coffee is primarily produced in the Eastern Hemisphere, in countries such as:

  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia

Also, Arabica makes up ¾ of the world’s overall coffee production, while Robusta makes up only about ¼.

9. Arabica is 2x More Expensive Than Robusta

Robusta is the more budget-friendly option of the two as Arabica costs roughly twice as much.

Relevant data from Statista shows that 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of Arabica cost around $3.32, while 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of Robusta costs $1.52.

Another reason for the higher price of Arabica is the greater demand for these coffee beans worldwide.

10. Arabica Beans are Considered of Higher Quality

Most Arabica beans are generally considered to be of higher quality than their Robusta counterparts.

Although there are still plenty of high-quality Robusta blends out there.

11. Robusta is Primarily Used in Instant Coffee

Robusta coffee is typically the only ingredient of instant coffee (or a blend of different Robusta beans).

Many Italian-style espresso blends come with higher-quality Robusta beans because they create thicker crema and add some strength to the drink.

However, Americans use Arabica way more than Robusta because it makes the best brewed coffee.

12. Robusta Comes with a Higher CGA Content

Arabica has 5.5 to 8% while Robusta is 7-10% chlorogenic acid (CGA), which is an insect deterrent and antioxidant.

Although Robusta contains a higher level of acids and antioxidants, that can sometimes spoil the quality of your cup and it might even cause gastric distress.

13. Arabica Plants are Self-Pollinating

The Coffea Arabica flowering plants are self-pollinating and they have 2 sets of chromosomes (44 in total).

However, Robusta only has 22 chromosomes, meaning it needs to be cross-pollinated by bees, other insects, and wind.

14. The Arabica Plant is Much More Fragile

Arabica is less resistant to climate change, disease, and pests.

While Robusta is more resilient to nematode invasion, white stem borer, and leaf rust.

It does well under direct sunlight and temperatures over 86°F

Arabica or Robusta are Equally Healthy

Unroasted Robusta beans are healthier than Arabica because they contain almost 2x more antioxidants in comparison to unroasted Arabica beans.

However, medium and dark-roasted Arabica beans are healthier as they have more antioxidants than dark-roasted Robusta beans.

Arabica can also lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce stress, protect teeth and gums, and regulate insulin levels.

While Robusta can improve memory and concentration, relieve fatigue and tension, boost cardiovascular health, and promote weight loss.

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There’s a Reason Why Robusta is Cheaper

Robusta is cheaper than Arabica because it has larger trees that are easier to grow and are more resistant to disease, produce a higher yield, and have a bitterer taste.

Arabica is a gourmet coffee that has a better flavor, aroma and body than Robusta, which is why it’s more expensive.

Also, Arabica plants are harder to grow, require a lot of manual labor, yield less, and are not as resistant to bad weather, pests, and disease.

Arabica and Robusta Varieties

Typica and Bourbon are the two most common varieties of Arabica coffee beans.

Typica is a low-yield, yet high-quality Arabica variety while Bourbon is a more complex and balanced type.

The Bourbon variety has several subspecies, including:

  • Mundo Novo
  • Blue Mountain
  • Yellow Bourbon

While San Ramon, Caturra, and Pacas are a few natural Arabica mutations.

Robusta has fewer varieties than Arabica but two main types are Nganda and Erecta while cross-bred stains are trickier to identify.

This is How Arabica and Robusta Got Their Names

Arab scholars gave the name to Arabica coffee in the 7th century.

Shortly after this, the beans reached lower Arabia (Yemen and Ethiopia), hence the name – Arabica.

These Arab scholars were the first ones to start brewing these yummy coffee beans as this practice expanded to Turkey, Egypt and subsequently the rest of the world.

As for Robusta, it got its name due to its strong and bitter taste, as well as the actual meaning of ‘robustus’, which means robust in Latin.

However, Robusta comes from ‘robust’ due to the plant’s ability to make it even in diverse climates and harsh weather conditions and its overall resilient nature.

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Arabica Pros and Cons

These are the primary pros and cons associated with Arabica coffee.

Pros:

  • More diverse, wild flavors.
  • Has more nutrients.
  • High-quality.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Difficult to grow.

Robusta Pros and Cons

And here are the main pros fo cons of Robusta:

Pros:

  • Easy to grow.
  • Caffeine-packed.
  • Low in fats.

Cons:

  • Bitter, rubbery flavor.
  • Low-quality.

Arabica is the Better Option Between the Two

Although it’s more expensive, Arabica is a better option than Robusta due to these 2 main reasons:

  • It has a superior taste, more lipids, and sugars.
  • It is more potable because it is less bitter.

This is why Arabica coffee is the go-to choice of numerous coffee connoisseurs around the world.

5 Fun Facts About Arabica and Robusta

Below I’ve selected 5 fun facts about Arabic and Robusta coffee that you should find rather interesting:

  1. People of Ethiopia noticed their goats became more peppy than usual after chewing the fruits and leaves of this 2-3 feet high plant. After some time, Arabian scholars discovered eating these fruits has a positive effect on wakefulness and alertness. It turned out that plant was Coffea Arabica.
  2. Arabica beans are the only ingredient of the most expensive Italian espresso blends while a mix of Arabica and Robusta is the more budget-friendly option.
  3. Arabica is typically available in dedicated coffee shops and stores.
  4. Robusta coffee blends really well with chickory or Arabica to offset its bitterness and weaken its strength.
  5. Numerous commercial coffee companies found a way to cut costs by using Robusta as a filler.

The Ethics of Arabica and Robusta

The cultivation method of Arabica makes it a better choice from an ethical standpoint.

Since it takes experience to cultivate and pick Arabica beans, local people living in traditional settings can easily find employment on these plantations.

The mechanized cultivation of Robusta can be damaging to the environment and local infrastructure while, on the other hand, it minimizes the need for local workers.

Mono-cropping is the practice of growing Robusta plants and it involves clear-cutting the land and destroying rainforests, which makes the soil lose precious nutrients and it becomes almost unusable.

However, climate changes (rainfalls and changes in temperature) pose a major threat to many areas where Arabica crops are growing.

Several workshops about cupping methods, grading, and other
coffee-related topics were held back in 2009 with a clear goal – to give a chance to Robusta coffee because there are high-quality Robusta beans as well.

Conclusion

Although they look pretty much the same when roasted, there are quite a few differences between Arabica and Robusta such as:

  • Taste (Arabica is smoother and sweeter).
  • Caffeine (Robusta has 2x more caffeine).
  • Bean quality (Arabica are considered to be of higher quality).
  • Cultivation (Robusta is easier to grow).
  • Price (Arabica is more expensive than Robusta).

Personally, I prefer Arabica coffee simply because it tastes better. Robusta is just too bitter for me.

And I’m sure just about any coffee aficionado out there will agree.

But the taste is usually subjective, so it all comes down to personal preferences.

Although for me nothing beats a Robusta-heavy blend with heaps of caffeine when I feel tired and need a quick caffeine kick to get things going.

References:

  1. https://www.intracen.org/coffee-guide/coffee-quality/robusta—the-species/
  2. https://perkcoffee.co/sg/arabica-beans-vs-robusta-beans-whats-difference/
  3. https://enjoyjava.com/robusta-coffee/#Robusta_vs_Arabica_12_Differences
  4. https://www.coffeeandhealth.org/all-about-coffee/where-coffee-grows/
  5. https://www.royalcupcoffee.com/blog/articles/what-difference-between-arabica-and-robusta-
    coffee-beans
  6. https://delishably.com/beverages/what-is-the-difference-between-arabica-and-robusta-coffee-
    beans
  7. https://delishably.com/beverages/what-is-the-difference-between-arabica-and-robusta-coffee-
    beans
  8. https://theroasterie.com/blogs/news/arabica-vs-robusta-the-ultimate-guide-to-types-of-coffee
  9. https://coletticoffee.com/the-differences-between-arabica-and-robusta/
  10. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-content/robusta-coffee
  11. https://www.statista.com/statistics/675807/average-prices-arabica-and-robusta-coffee-worldwide/
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00217-016-2643-y
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/cross-pollination
  14. https://coletti.wpengine.com/four-benefits-of-the-robusta-bean-the-worlds-strongest-coffee/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6980799/

Last update on 2022-09-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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