Arabica vs Robusta has always been a part of the debate for years.
The coffee section of e-commerce or grocery stores has a lot of collections based on roast, place, and type (mainly Arabica and Robusta).
Currently, there are hundreds of species of coffee beans, but these are the major ones. The majority likes Arabic, but it doesn’t mean Robusta is terrible.
So, several questions may strike your mind: Which is the best? Is the majority right or wrong?
I’ll try to answer all these questions in the later part of this article, but before finalizing a type of bean, you need to know all about Arabica and Robusta
Overview of Arabica
Arabica is a type of coffee that comes from the Coffee Arabica plant.
Coffea Arabica originates in the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia, and the Arabica plant is a descendant of trees native to Ethiopian coffee.
The bean has several kinds, but Typica and Bourbon are the most cultivated and widely consumed.
Some famous coffee related to Typica is Kona, Sumatra, and Blue Mountain. And coffee related to Bourbon are French mission, Yellow bourbon, and Red bourbon.
As I mentioned, the majority likes Arabic, but at what percentage? Frankly speaking, it is not fixed, but approximately 60%.
Overview of Robusta
Coffea Canephora, the botanical genus and species name for Robusta. It is the second most prominent type of coffee after Arabica.
Robusta originates in the central and western Sub-Saharan African region and makes up around 40% of the global coffee supply.
Like Arabica, Robusta has mainly two kinds, C. C. Robusta and C. C. Nganda.
Arabica vs Robusta: The Difference
We can notice the difference between these two beans in several points. We’ll take a closer look at every aspect and discuss its features.
Shape and Size
Arabica beans are bigger than Robusta ones and are ovular in shape. The bean has a waiver split and looks s-shaped.
Unlike Arabica, Robusta beans are smaller, thicker, and rounder in size. It has a kind of straight split.
Arabica beans are lighter in color, and Robusta is a slightly darker tone.
See, taste is something that depends on several factors. In this case, mainly variety, environment, and processing methods.
Typica and bourbon don’t have the same taste. Methods used to grow plants also have an impact on taste. Processing methods equally have the share for flavor like washing, drying, etc.
But generally speaking, Arabica beans are on the sweeter side, having a mellow, fruity, caramel taste and floral notes.
Unlike Arabica, Robusta justifies its name as it has a more robust, bitter, earthier flavor and rubbery overtones.
So, why are Arabica beans richer in flavor? Without going deep, Arabica plants grow fewer berries than any other type of coffee, so each berry gets more nutrients & minerals.
Also, altitude is a significant factor behind the sweetness of Arabica beans, as berries take more time to ripen, leading to an increase in sucrose levels.
Arabica beans typically grow at a higher altitude, between 600-2000 meters. The plant’s height is around 2.5 to 4.5 meters (8 to 15 feet).
The cultivation of Arabica is complex and requires more manual workers.
Also, nurturing this plant is a challenging job.
Despite having low yield, Arabica plants are pretty delicate & sensitive and always at risk of pest attack, requiring more attention.
The perfect Arabica flavors come from the correct cultivation method and weather. Cultivation is in the hands of humans but not the weather.
Major weather requirements are rainfall and temperature. Rainfall of 1200-2200mm and temperature of 15°-24°C (59°-75°F) is ideal for Arabica cultivation.
That’s why it is not grown everywhere in the world; It grows in the selective part of the world. Like, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Brazil tops the list in producing Arabica beans.
The case of Robusta is slightly opposite as it grows at a lower altitude from 0-900 meters. The plant height is also larger than Arabica, which is up to 10 meters (33 feet).
Robusta is more compatible in self-defense from hot and humid weather and pests. It produces more caffeine (natural pesticide) to protect itself.
Robusta cultivation is more mechanized than Arabica, making growing it easy and faster. Arabica takes around four years to mature, while Robusta only takes two years.
Growing Robusta requires 2200-3000mm of rainfall and 18°-36°C (64-97°F).
Robusta is grown mainly in Vietnam, Indonesia, South India, and the Philippines. Vietnam is the leading producer globally.
Chlorogenic Acid & Caffeine
Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is a naturally occurring antioxidant, and it has several health benefits like it reduces inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and improving your skin health.
The majority likes Arabica, but when it comes to CGA, Arabica has a lesser quantity than Robusta.
On the other hand, caffeine makes coffee bitter, which acts like a shield from vermin and diseases.
Want to know more about caffeine? Check out our article on How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Caffeine.
Like CGA, Robusta has a higher caffeine percentage than Arabica, almost double.
Lipid and Sugar Content
Arabica coffee is sweeter than Robusta, but do you know why it is sweeter?
Despite having less caffeine, Arabica beans grow at a higher altitude and take more time to mature, increasing the sucrose level.
Arabica also has a higher percentage of lipids, almost 60% more than Robusta.
Every species carries chromosomes from its parents like we humans carry 46 chromosomes from our parents (23 from each).
Same with coffee, they hold 22 chromosomes (11 from each parent) except Arabica.
C. Arabica is a tetraploid with 44 (11*4) chromosomes, 22 from each parent.
Arabica is self-pollinating, which means Arabica remains stable as a species because there is a low chance of cross-pollination.
C. Canephora is diploid, has 22 (11*2) chromosomes, and is self-sterile.
Now here we come to the most important factor for considering a bean.
Arabica is priced on the higher side. It is priced almost 2-3 fold more than Robusta, not because the cartel wants it but due to several factors.
Cultivation of Arabica beans is more expensive than Robusta, and as we know, the Arabica plants are smaller, low-fruit clusters that lead to low yield.
Robusta plants are taller, have high fruit clusters, and have less use of pesticides, making them relatively cheaper than their main competitor.
Also, Arabica requires more shade trees to maintain temperature and humidity, so it’s an additional cost.
Arabica requires more manual workers than Robusta. Robusta is a more mechanized form.
Brazil remains the highest producer of coffee, accounting for around 35% of the global production, but it started to face environmental events. Also, the demand and supply game continues.
So, concluding all these factors, you can understand why Arabica is priced higher than Robusta.
Which is better: Arabica or Robusta?
Now you know about Arabica and Robusta, both are different in plant structure and taste profile. So, let’s take a closer look & finalize which one is better: Arabica or Robusta.
Choosing a bean is very much subjective and depends on your preference.
If you like sweeter coffee, then you may not like Robusta beans. Robusta is on the bitter and harsh side.
Robusta is used in espresso blends and creates thicker crema (having crema shows a good cup of espresso). Also, instant coffee uses Robusta beans.
Health is also an essential factor for considering beans.
Like if you have diabetes, then you should consider a coffee that is low in sugar levels. And, if you are suffering from anxiety, you should not consider coffee having higher levels of caffeine or prefer decaf coffee.
So, you can see that no one can state which is better, but it’s a matter of choice. Maybe some days you like Arabic and some days Robusta.
And if you are a new coffee drinker, I suggest you try both of them and then finalize yourself.
Arabica and Robusta Blends
Despite choosing Arabica and Robusta, you may consider Arabica Robusta blends.
Now, what are Arabica Robusta blends? Simply it’s a mixture of both coffee beans; it can be in a 1:1 or 9:1 ratio or depending on your liking.
If you don’t like the flavor of Arabica (sweeter notes) and Robusta (rubbery overtones), try a blend of both of these, which may give you a more balanced flavor.
Sometimes the same coffee from different lands is blended to maintain taste and flavors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better for the stomach Arabica or Robusta?
Generally, Robusta coffee is good for the stomach as it has lower levels of acidity. Also, dark roast coffee has less acidity than light roast.
Acid determines a sip’s aftertaste; higher acidity levels mean more flavorful coffee.
Arabica is higher in acidity than Robusta but may cause problems like heartburn or acid reflux.
Is Starbucks coffee Robusta or Arabica?
According to Starbucks, they only buy Arabica beans.
“So, what’s the problem? Well, the flavor. It comes down to flavor. And that less refined flavor is absolutely the reason we don’t even touch it,” – Starbucks Manager.
The Bottom Line
In the discussions of Robusta vs Arabica, we can conclude that neither of the beans is good nor bad.
Yes, the majority likes Arabica because of its sweet and intense aroma, but that nowhere means that people don’t like Robusta; if it’s the case, it’ll not be cultivated.
I’ve discussed several aspects with you, and the subsequent decision is totally on your preferences. But try to taste and respect every type of coffee.