Once roasted, almost all coffee beans look the same. But did you know that there are actually dozens of different types of coffee beans? When it comes to your daily cup, however, only two matter: arabica and robusta. These are the two main types of coffee grown for drinking.
What’s the difference between the two? It is important and helpful to understand when choosing coffee.
The two varieties differ in taste, growing conditions and price. Arabica beans have a sweeter, softer taste with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Its acidity is higher, with the vinous taste that distinguishes coffee with excellent acidity.
Arabica is of course more expensive. Most supermarket coffee is all Robusta, and instant and cheap ground coffees are certainly Robusta. You can still find arabica in the supermarket, but just because it is labeled Arabica doesn’t mean it is high quality.
Robusta, however, has a stronger, harsher taste with a grainy overtone and a peanut-like aftertaste. They contain twice as much caffeine as arabica beans and are generally considered to be inferior to arabica. However, some robustas are of high quality and are particularly valued in espressos for their deep taste and good crema.
Robustas, however, are easier to breed. They can grow at lower altitudes than arabica and are less susceptible to pests and weather conditions. They produce fruit much faster than the Arabs, which take several years to mature, and they produce more crops per tree.
Robusta is grown exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Indonesia. Arabica is also grown in Africa and Papua New Guinea, but mostly in Latin America. Colombia only produces arabica beans. Some countries like Brazil and India produce both.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some all arabica mixes are too tall and floral for us; Some of Robusta’s rich, dark hardness can be a good thing in a mix. Keep in mind that when choosing a coffee blend, Robusta also contains twice as much caffeine as arabica. If you want to skip most of the caffeine, check out our tips on choosing coffee without coffee for our suggestions on coffee blends and origins.