Coffee beans broadly look the same after roasting but they are distinguished between two primary varieties – Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica and Robusta are the most common coffee bean types produced and sold in the world today. But despite common knowledge of this, several folks do not know the difference between them. Let’s dive into what makes these coffee beans different and how the presence of each one of them in different proportions impacts your gourmet coffee brew.
What is Arabica Coffee?
Arabica refers to the seeds from the fruit of the Coffea Arabica plant and is originally native to Ethiopia, Yemen, and South Sudan, where they’ve been cultivated since the 12th century. With a lighter, acidic, and more floral aroma, it is the most widely consumed coffee in the world. Arabica coffee plants require just the right balance of sun and shade to grow and that’s why this plant is generally found on hillsides where the air is cooler and pests are less widespread. Arabica beans are available in various aromas and flavors ranging from sweet, floral and fruity to sharp, and citrussy tang.
What is Robusta Coffee?
Robusta Coffee is made from the beans of the Coffea Canephora plant that originates from Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam. Robusta boasts a strong but harsh taste with a peanutty aftertaste. It is notoriously bitter and is mainly used in blends for espresso and also for instant coffee.
Arabica Vs. Robusta
- Visual difference
It’s quite difficult to differentiate between Arabica and Robusta beans at first glance as they both are brownish green in color. But after taking a closer look, you’ll see that arabica beans are bigger and more ovular. Robusta beans, on the other hand, are smaller and rounder.
- Flavour Profile
Since Arabica shrubs have fewer cherries competing for nutrients, the coffee cherries can access more nutrients, leading to more complex flavour profiles. Arabica tends to be softer and sweeter, usually with notes of fruits and chocolate whereas the Robusta beans have a more bitter and smoky flavour profile. Due to these characteristics, arabica beans are much more sought-after beans and are typically more expensive than Robusta beans.
- Bitterness and Caffeine
Robusta beans have more bitter compounds than Arabica beans, and one of those bitter molecules is caffeine. Robusta beans typically contain around twice the caffeine as compared to Arabica. Due to high levels of bitterness, they are usually roasted darker to mask the inherent bitterness and transform it in a subtle sweetness. However, Arabica can be roasted to different degrees without too much concern about bitterness. Different roasting levels of Arabica give different flavour notes even when the same lot of coffee is used.
- Acidic profile
Acidity – which is generally perceived as a positive trait of coffee is higher in Arabica compared to Robusta. When roasted to perfection, acidity in Arabica can be brought to forth to shine and reveal various subtle floral, fruity and nutty notes that are responsible for the complexity in the cup. With lower acidity, Robusta is often used in blends with Arabicas with higher acidity to balance the acidity and bring more body to the cup.
- Cultivation process and Pest Resistance
Arabica plants need more manual work during cultivation as they grow on high slopes. The cultivation process for Robusta is comparatively more mechanized because they grow on flat plains. Arabica plants are more delicate than Robusta plants, and generally more prone to damage from pests, harsh weather conditions, and diseases.
- Price difference
Since Arabica plants require more manual labor, take longer to mature, yield less, are more susceptible to bad weather conditions and pests and are always in much higher demand compared to Robusta, they are much more expensive.
- Visual difference
It may seem like Arabica is superior to Robusta when it comes to quality and flavour profile. However, this does not rule out the important role that Robusta plays in the coffee world. Both these coffee bean types have a special place in the coffee market. Robusta beans are perfect for use in blends used for espressos, iced coffees, and milk-based coffees. Arabica beans are great for pour-over or drip coffees which boost the impact of their complex flavour profiles.
Naivo’s View on Arabica and Robusta
At Naivo Café, both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are mindfully sourced and artisanally roasted to give the most delightful flavour profile. While most of our craft coffees are 100% Arabica, some of our most popular blends supplied to HORECA enterprises incorporate Robusta to develop balanced flavour profiles.
If you’re a gourmet coffee lover looking to expand your palate, you must explore more Arabica and Robusta coffees and not limit yourself to stereotypes. If you would like to learn more about how Naivo can curate unique blends for your business, feel free to fill the form in the Contact Us section and we will reach out to you in a couple of business days.