You’ve heard of Arabica, and you’ve heard of Robusta, but you can’t quite put your finger on the difference between the two.
Are they the same thing but with different names to spice the coffee industry up? Are they a brand of some sort? Are they a type of coffee? Which one should I go for?
Arabica is the most popular type of coffee in the world, meanwhile, Robusta is the second most popular. The former is known to be sweet while the latter leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. In terms of sugar and lipid content, Arabica has more, but caffeine-wise, Robusta is much higher.
Before diving deep into the comparison between the two coffee types, let us first find out more about each of them.
What is Arabica?
According to the International Coffee Organization, more than 60% of the world’s coffee production comes from Arabica cultivators.
Two popular variants of arabica coffee are Typica and Caturra.
Arabica coffee is distinct for its flavor. It contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the amount of sugar than any other coffee.
Arabica coffee plants are grown in a humid climate, with temperatures between 15°C and 24°C (59°F and 75°F) and are grown in the shade.
The coffee plant is usually grown at elevations of around 1,900+ feet (600+ meters) above sea level. It is usually grown on hillsides and matures in about 7 years of time. If you’re interested to know more about how a coffee plant is grown, try reading this article I wrote that explains it in more detail.
Brazil is the largest producer of arabica coffee in the world.
Now that you know more about Arabica coffee, let’s check out what Robusta coffee is.
What is Robusta?
Robusta beans fill up the remaining 40% of the coffee cups in the world. It is the second most popular coffee in the world.
Robusta coffee is extracted from the beans (seeds) of the Coffea canephora plant. It was originated in central and western sub-Saharan Africa.
It is largely grown in the Eastern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Indonesia. Meanwhile, Vietnam is the largest producer of Robusta coffee in the world.
This kind of coffee comes under the label of strong coffee because of its bolder taste and higher caffeine content. It’s commonly used in making instant coffee and espresso blends.
Differences between Arabica and Robusta
Arabica is known and loved for its sweet and nutty taste while Robusta is said to have a burnt, woody flavor with a trace of increased bitterness.
People usually prefer sweet over bitter flavors, which is probably why Arabica is more popular than Robusta.
The taste of coffee is also influenced by the amount of chlorogenic acid (CGA) present in it.
Robusta has a more bitter taste due to its higher content of chlorogenic acid (CGA) which has a bitter flavor. It contains around 7-10% CGA, whereas Arabica has around 5.5-8% CGA.
Shape and Color of Beans
Robusta beans are more circular, thicker, and smaller than Arabica beans which are oval in shape.
Also, the color of the raw beans of Robusta is darker than that of Arabica.
Lipid and Sugar Content
Arabica has a higher lipid and sugar content than Robusta. It contains almost 60% more lipids and twice as much sugar content as Robusta.
This is also probably why Arabica ultimately tastes sweeter than Robusta.
Robusta coffee has a higher caffeine content than arabica. It has about 2.7% of caffeine content, while Arabica holds 1.5% of it.
The higher caffeine content also contributes to the bitter taste of Robusta.
Sensitivity of Plant
Robusta plants are less sensitive and easier to grow on farms. They can grow at lower altitudes and have a higher yield than arabica. They are also less vulnerable to pests and inclement weather conditions.
Arabica plants are normally grown on high slopes because they are more sensitive and far more vulnerable to pests and diseases. They don’t like harsh weather conditions and react badly to rough handling.
Therefore, a skilled hand is needed to look after and harvest beans from Arabica plants.
Cost of Production
With all the care and effort required in production and cultivation, Arabica coffee is of course more costly to produce than robusta.
I’ve concluded the main differences of both of the variants in a tabular form for your better understanding.
|Taste||Sweet and nutty||Harsh and bitter|
|Caffeine content of beans||0.8-1.4%||1.7-4%|
|Shape of beans||Oval||Circular|
|Cost of production||More||Less|
|Price||More expensive||Less expensive|
To learn more about Arabica and Robusta coffee, watch the video below.
Is Arabica More Expensive Than Robusta?
Yes, Arabica is generally more expensive than Robusta. This is due to the higher cost of production involved in planting and cultivating Arabica.
According to Statista, Arabica sold for 2.93 U.S. dollars per kilogram in 2018 and is projected to increase in price to 3.71 U.S. dollars in 2025.
On the other hand, Robusta, because it can grow at a wider range of altitudes and temperatures, sold for 1.87 U.S. dollars in 2018, projected to sell at 1.73 U.S. dollars per kilogram in 2025.
Does Arabica Taste Better Than Robusta?
People who have tasted both variants claim that Arabica tastes better than Robusta. This is due to the higher content of lipids and sugar present in Arabica beans.
Even though the caffeine level is higher in Robusta, the sweet, smooth, and nutty flavor of Arabica beans are a lot more palatable to a wide range of people than the former.
On the other hand, Robusta has a harsh and more bitter taste, with grainy overtones.
Which Is Healthier: Arabica or Robusta?
Both of the variants contain healthy antioxidants naturally present in coffee beans. However, there are a couple of points that you can consider before considering one healthier than the other.
- According to research, unroasted Robusta beans contain nearly double the antioxidants as unroasted Arabica beans. However, this difference diminished dramatically with light roasting.
- Though light-roasted Robusta beans had more antioxidants than lightly roasted Arabica beans, in medium- and dark-roasted form, Arabica coffee had more antioxidants than Robusta.
- Robusta beans have 25% – 80% more chlorogenic acid (CGA) than Arabica beans.
CGA is wonderful for reducing inflammation as most antioxidants are. This can help with joint pain, skin issues, weight loss, and even preventing diabetes.
Now it’s totally up to you to decide which one to go for. However, whichever variant you opt for, it is a fact that plain black coffee is healthier than one with added dairy and sugar.
To Sum It All Up
Arabica and Robusta are the two coffee variants that comprise the coffee industry. Arabica is more popular, has a higher consumption and preferability around the world.
Each type has its specialty; while Robusta has more caffeine content, Arabica is known for its sweet and rich flavor.
While you may find the taste of plain robusta to be bitter and unpleasant, it can be used to add flavor to your espresso blends as robusta is better at producing crema than arabica.
The conditions and methods of production of each variant impact their properties and availability.
Arabica beans require more care and expertise to be grown and cultivated and thus, are more expensive than robusta.
The cost of production causes Arabica to be more expensive than Robusta. To save on costs, you can even go for an Arabica-Robusta blend to have the best of both worlds.
There is no right answer as to which one is better than the other. It’s a matter of your taste and preference.
If you can’t handle bitterness in your cup of joe, go for Arabica; while those who are a bit more adventurous and want a higher dose of caffeine in their drink should go for Robusta.
If you want to decide which one to go for, I suggest you give both a try and see what your taste buds tell you.