What Are the Differences Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans
Weigh up the perks and drawbacks of each
1. The feel – The Robusta bean is harder (more robust) than its counterpart. Robusta beans are therefore more resistant to insect damage and so can often be grown organically, without the use of pesticides.
2. The shape – Arabica coffee beans are elongated and oval-like in shape. Robusta beans are squat and round.
3. Bean quality – on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being the lowest quality and 4 the highest, Robusta beans have a rating of 1. The average Arabica bean, however, is rated at between 2 and 4. (NB. The grading system also accounts for a single decimal place, so Arabica beans can be graded as a 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and so on.)
4. Caffeine content – On a scale of 1 to 4, 1 having the lowest caffeine content and 4 the highest, Arabica coffee beans have a caffeine content of between 0.9 and 1.4. Robusta, on the other hand, are between 1.8 and 4 with an average rating of 2.2, giving them a much bigger kick!
5. The taste – Arabica beans are generally sweeter and more acidic than Robusta, which have a rubbery texture and a cereal-like taste. Robusta also tends to be relatively bitter and has more body, so if you like your coffee this way, steer clear of coffee with a high Arabica content.
6. Growing climate – Arabica coffee beans must be grown at 15 to 24°C. Robusta can withstand temperatures of around 18 to 26°C. 7. Rainfall – Arabica beans need around 12,000 to 22,000mm of rainfall each year in order to grow.
The annual rainfall requirement of Robusta is between 22,000 and 33,000mm. 8. Growing altitude – Robusta beans can only be grown in oxygen-rich areas, so thrive at altitudes between sea level and 800 meters.
Arabica beans, on the other hand, can be grown at altitudes of 600 to 22,000 meters, which contributes to their unique taste. 9. Supply and demand – Arabica coffee beans must meet more specific criteria than Robusta. As a result of their restricted growing conditions and their delicacy, they require more care and attention.
They, therefore, tend to come with a premium price tag. Most people prefer the taste of Arabica but as demand for it grows, Robusta beans are having to fill the gap. Their share has therefore grown to account for roughly 40% of the world’s coffee beans in 2012 compared with only 20% in the early 90s.