10 differences Between Robusta & Arabica Coffee

September 19, 2014

You may have noticed that some coffee bag labels brag about the fact that their coffee beans are 100% Arabica. Although it does sound like something magicians say, it isn’t gibberish – it refers to the type of coffee species in which the beans are from.

There are over 100 coffee species, however the two main ones that are widely produced and sold are: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (also known as Coffea Robusta).

Brewing Happiness

Here’s a list featuring 10 differences between the two coffee species:

  1. The most commonly known: Taste. Often Robusta has its taste described as burnt tires or rubbery, which… sounds disgusting (can you imagine one of our taste swatches on the front page being a burnt tire?). Why the bad taste?
  2. One reason that the taste isn't as good for Robusta is that it has more caffeine compared to Arabica. Which may sound like a positive thing but caffeine carries a bitter taste which makes it an unpleasant drink. In fact the Robusta bean has 2.7% caffeine content, almost double the 1.5% of Arabica.
  3. Lipid & Sugar content: As mentioned here, Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than Robusta. This factor also probably has a big impact on why we prefer the taste of Arabica.
  4. From a price perspective, green beans of Robusta is about half the price of Arabica green beans on the commodity market. (Robusta vs. Arabica)
  5. Robusta is easier to tend to on the farm, has a higher yield and is less sensitive to insects - the extra caffeine is a chemical defense for the coffee seed as the quantity in the Robusta is toxic to bugs.

All of these factors help bring up the supply and lower the input costs for farmers to produce. With this more attractive price point, a lot of roasters back in the day would add Robusta to their blend in an attempt to reduce their costs and increase their profits. When coffee was initially sold in the 1900s the quality of coffee slowly and slowly deteriorated in an effort for companies to squeeze the most profit.  

  1. Where you’ll find it: Nowadays, it’s not often you’ll find Robusta in a coffee blend. If you’re drinking instant coffee? Well, that’s probably all Robusta… but you probably don’t care very much about taste. In your espresso blend? That’s a mixed bag. Literally. Oddly enough, Robusta is still widely used as part of espresso blends – specifically Italian style blends. It is said to help improve the Crema. However, generally at a detriment to the taste, which in our opinion the priorities may be out of wack.

One thing to note is despite the association with Arabica of being higher quality, and Robusta as being lower quality, it’s not always the case. Top notch specialty Robusta coffee will usually taste as good as or better than low end Arabica. However, high end Robusta isn’t widely used or available. Rather, Robusta is usually used as a filler or cost reducer.  

  1. The Shape: Robusta beans are much more circular, whereas Arabica are more oval.
  2. Plant Height: Arabica usually grows between 2.5 – 4.5 meters compared to the 4.5 – 6 meter height of Robusta.
  3. Chlorogenic acid (CGA) content: This picture unfortunately, isn’t true – however something that is actually a part of coffee is CGA. It’s a significant antioxidant and an insect deterrent. Robusta is 7-10% CGA and Arabica has 5.5-8% CGA.
  4. Cultivation: About 75% of the world’s coffee production is Arabica, about 25% being Robusta. Brazil is the most significant Arabica producer and Vietnam produces the most Robusta.

Well, this post ended up being a bit more robust than intended. 

#badpuns.

P.S - Want to read some brewing tips for your coffees? We highly recommend this awesome brew guide by Geoff Woodley, 2011/2012 Central Regional Barista Champion & current lead coffee roaster at Detour Coffee!

Suneal Pabari
Suneal Pabari

Author

25 Comments

Ronald Santen
Ronald Santen

October 10, 2018

An Excellent article on Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. I recently got a similar lecture from a friend who has managed a coffee estate in Indonesia for several years.
I totally agree that the taste of Arabica beans is better (for me) that Robusta. I notice that supermarkets here in Australia are selling very low cost beans..as low as $US8 a kilogram. I assume these are Robusta as they are not labelled, and the taste of them is very bitter.
I recently purchased some Arabica beans from Ethiopia from Oxfam. These are excellent and highly recommended.

Haider
Haider

October 10, 2018

Thanks, very helpful

DAN ZIMBA
DAN ZIMBA

October 10, 2018

Am from Malawi-Central Africa,working for Mzuzu Coffee. There is no Robusta whole of Malawi but we just need to try it.My CEO just arrived from Brazil on duty and he has talked highly of this coffee.
Thanks for the information.

girish k v
girish k v

October 10, 2018

Great article, explained everything I wanted to know,thank you!!!

Seim
Seim

October 10, 2018

Thanks for the facts!

naveed
naveed

October 10, 2018

very nicely explained, thank you, I bought coffe from Vietnam and it was robusta

Micheael
Micheael

April 02, 2018

Thank you, very much, for the education and article. I consider myself a coffee “snob”, though I will drink anything available (reactions and faces not withstanding). I’ve started to read the packaging and have noticed the “Robusto” (blends or not) do have a burnt taste, like coffee sitting on a warmer too long. Thanks again!

Mohd. Afsar
Mohd. Afsar

March 21, 2018

Thank you very much. Very useful information.Great article

peter
peter

March 17, 2018

Thanks for the article, being from Switzerland I have always been told Arabica is good, Robusta bad, but after a trip to Cuba and experiencing pure Robusta coffee I fell in love. It has a much more robust ;) flavour, who said burnt tires taste bad? Personally I would say its more like BBQ smoke than tires and I love the floral herby flavour. Good coffee isn’t about the bean species as much as your personal taste and the quality/roasting of them.

Pablo
Pablo

March 05, 2018

Well, I disagree with the “don’t care about the taste” part when talking about instant coffee. In Brazil we drink a lot of instant coffee as well, it’s all made of arabica coffee and taste delicious. We are very serious about our coffee, you’ll often note that when we Brazilians taste coffee sold in North America we find it disgustingly unflavored.

Seid Eshetu
Seid Eshetu

November 17, 2017

Thanks your basic information about coffee arbica vs roubsta cofee.

Muyambi Naboth
Muyambi Naboth

October 10, 2017

Thanks very much for this good information. Am from Uganda. Now I can tell my community about coffee.

Dennis
Dennis

September 19, 2017

Thank for a very insightful lecture about the difference between the two beans. Now I know the rest of the story.

Eugenijus
Eugenijus

August 04, 2017

Thanks for sharing your knowledge! I tried today Robusta coffee and was wondering what is wrong with that coffee, now I know. Never will buy it again!!!!

Ying
Ying

June 28, 2017

No wonder the coffee in Vietnam did such a good job of keeping me awake! The beans have higher caffeine content!

Tumpe Willy
Tumpe Willy

June 23, 2017

Much thanks for this wonderful knowledge of this coffee for real am so proud of Arabica coffee .

Sangeeta Rani
Sangeeta Rani

May 30, 2017

Thanks for giving a very special and useful knowldege for us about coffee because I love coffee…………..

Alex
Alex

May 24, 2017

Haha, thanks very much for this contrast. The game I’m playing, Mystic Messenger, had a question on it, so I’m glad I found this page. Interesting!

Shahidah
Shahidah

March 18, 2017

Thank you very much. Very useful information. Now I know my coffees.

Jesse Val Tayaban
Jesse Val Tayaban

January 31, 2017

Arabica coffee thrive in our place Julongan, Kiangan ,Ifugao,Philippines. Harvest after 3-5 years.

ryan
ryan

January 21, 2017

Thank you for the brief yet beneficial post. thumps up!

Shaun L
Shaun L

January 07, 2017

Great article, explained everything I wanted to know,thank you!!!

Tim
Tim

January 05, 2017

Thanks for this article. It really enhance my perspective of coffee.

Wes
Wes

September 30, 2016

I am in Cambodia right now. Since the mountain elevations in Cambodia are not high enough to grow arabica, some of the local roasters do a good job with robusta.
JonasOfToronto
JonasOfToronto

September 24, 2016

I’d swear to Elvis that Starbucks began adding a LOT more Robusta to their Espresso in the past 3 years.

SB was (for a big chain) sweet and mellow espresso I enjoyed for probably 20 years and sometime in 2013 or 2014 it was like a big switch was flicked, and suddenly they were making espresso with what tasted like cheap French Roast – acrid, bitter, burnt, harsh with no nutty roasty delectable flavor.
HOW much sugar and whipped cream are people putting in in to tolerate this pricey yet now questionable brew?
Robusta is in this case NOT good-tasting Espresso, and sadly I can’t tolerate SB anymore, I simply never go there after the shocking change. I won’t do it.
I’ll say it again, Starbucks stopped making a product and started marketing pure image.

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