When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
It is no secret that there are millions of people around the world who suffer from a common coffee dilemma: Arabica or Robusta. Their primary desire is to savor a lovely cup of coffee, but they are unsure as to which type of coffee to choose.
It is common to see television commercials touting the virtues of 100% Arabica coffee and instant products. In contrast, baristas in coffee shops praise Robusta, emphasizing its role in creating meticulously balanced blends. This dichotomy complicates decision-making. The objective of this article is to provide clarity to those looking for the perfect brew by understanding the differences between Arabica and Robusta coffees.
Arabica vs Robusta Differences
- What is Arabica and Robusta
- Differences Between Arabica and Robusta
- Producer Countries
- Historical Facts
- Grains Prices
- Coffee Bean Characteristics
- Size and Appearance
- Popular Varieties
- Is Arabica Better?
- Is Robusta Better?
What is Arabica and Robusta?
Arabica and Robusta are evergreen coffee trees belonging to the Madder family’s coffee genus. The trees grow in equatorial climates, mainly in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Arabica was born due to the natural crossing of two types of coffee: Eugenioides and Robusta.
Yes, Robusta is the parent of Arabica. The details of their relationship, who appeared, how, and where, can be found in our blog about Arabica and Robusta, and we will move on to the article’s essence.
Differences between Arabica and Robusta
Arabica is very different from Robusta, starting with the coffee tree’s growing conditions and ending with the final product’s taste. Below we have compiled a comparison of the main characteristics of Arabica and Robusta.
The Arabica variety is produced in India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Brazil, and Mexico. Robusta is also grown in Brazil, Indonesia, and India, but it can also be found in Central Africa. If we consider the market share, Arabica is clearly in the lead here: its share in the world market is 75%, and Robusta – is only 25%.
Basic Historical Facts
- Place of discovery: The first mention of Arabica was in Ethiopia, about Robusta in Uganda.
- Places of growth: Arabica is cultivated in America, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Oceania. Robusta is commercially grown mainly in Asia and Africa.
- Leader in production: The leader in the production of Arabica is Brazil, and Robusta is Vietnam.
- Share in world production: 70% of the world volume belongs to Arabica, 30% to Robusta.
- Characteristics of the coffee tree
- Tree height: Arabica can grow up to 10 meters, and Robusta up to 15 meters.
- Altitude: Arabica grows from 900 to 2500 meters above sea level, and Robusta grows lower, from 200 to 900 meters.
- Resistance to parasites and diseases: Arabica is less resistant to diseases. On the contrary, Robusta has a high resistance to parasites and diseases.
For the price of both varieties, it is difficult to give an unambiguous answer. Most often, Arabica is twice as expensive as Robusta. The cost depends on the effort spent growing a particular variety and the taste of the resulting coffee. Arabica requires more attentive care, but at the same time, it has a higher taste. Robusta usually costs less: it is unpretentious to grow, but its taste is much more challenging. However, you should not define a coffee variety based on its value: sometimes sellers can set the price for Robusta more than for Arabica because the quality of the crop turned out to be much higher. Raw materials and their quality can significantly affect the final cost of coffee.
Coffee Bean Characteristics
- Bean shape: Arabica is more oblong, and Robusta is more rounded.
- Caffeine content: Arabica coffee has half as much caffeine 1-1.5% as Robusta 2-3%.
- The content of essential oils: In Robusta, there are two times fewer essential oils, 8%, than in Arabica, 18%.
- Sugar content: Robusta has half as much sugar 5% as Arabica, 8%
Taste and Aroma
These two varieties have completely different taste characteristics. Arabica is considered a softer drink, which is almost not bitter. Robusta is much rougher than its counterpart, but in some varieties, you can feel other notes of taste.
Sweet notes, in principle, are not characteristic of any type of coffee. Only some varieties can contain such notes: Indian Robusta (you can feel the nuts-chocolate flavor), Yemeni Arabica (chocolate flavor), etc.
Sourness is characteristic of the Arabica variety since Robusta practically does not carry such a shade, with the exception of the Indian version. Wine sourness can be felt in the Mayor variety, and the berry aftertaste is typical for Guatemalan Arabica.
Arabica is practically not bitter – this property is more typical for Robusta. This type of coffee is generally tougher in taste. There are also small exceptions in this case: you can feel a slight bitterness in the Zambavian Arabica.
Size and Appearance
The appearance of Robusta and Arabica is also very different from each other. However, if you know their main distinguishing features, then it will not be difficult to determine what exactly is in front of you.
- Arabica has oval-shaped beans, the size of which is about 7-8 mm. After the grains are roasted, they get a uniform brown color.
- Robusta grains are more rounded and smaller in shape – their size is no more than 6 mm. After roasting, a large number of brown shades appear on the grains, so even after processing, it will not be difficult to distinguish between these two varieties.
Speaking correctly, Arabica is not a type of coffee but a type of coffee plant. Therefore, it is divided into a large number of varieties: Typica, Bali, Bourbon, Katura, Alamosa, Shinzan, etc. Each version of this coffee has its own specific features and aroma. Arabica is a classic type of coffee, which is why there are so many varieties based on it. Robusta cannot boast of such wide varieties: including Kuilou, Ambri, and Conillon du Brasil.
You may like Arabica if:
- you enjoy natural sweetness,
- you appreciate rich flavors,
- you have like sour coffee flavors,
- you don’t want a lot of caffeine,
- you make coffee in a cezve, french press, or using the “funnel” method,
- the presence of an expressive foam is not important for you,
- you are willing to pay more.
You may like Robusta if:
- you put sugar or syrup in your coffee,
- you can distinguish subtle shades in taste,
- you don’t like sour coffee flavors,
- you want more caffeine,
- you make coffee in a coffee machine,
- you like thick beautiful cream,
- you have no desire to overpay.
You will only find the answer to this question in your mirror. After all, taste is very subjective; everyone has their own. For one, the coffee might be bitter, but for another, it may taste sweet. Through trial and error, you can discover your truth. You only need to choose a good supplier, not a store-bought one, but a company that roasts itself knows what’s in its pack, discusses coffee, and helps you make a decision.