- Updated Mar 26, 2020
- Writen by Robert Smith
Robusta vs. Arabica: Caffeine Content, Taste, Consumption
- Updated Jul 26, 2019
- Writen by Robert Smith
Making the best coffee first requires you to choose the right type of coffee and for those that like making everything from scratch, this means carefully choosing good quality coffee beans.
There is a wide variety of coffee beans out there from different parts of the world and given the diverse growing conditions, they will differ in everything from the overall quality to the taste.
But when it comes to choosing coffee beans, you will typically need to choose between Robusta and Arabica and despite the latter being more popular, both are still widely available.
To help you make a more informed choice between the two coffee beans, below we provide an overview of the factors that make them different.
More acidic and bitter
Fruitier and sweeter
Smaller round beans that are straw-colored and with straight cut middle
Bigger oval and with a dark green color and curved cut middle
Can be bitter and not great tasting and so not very popular
Higher quality and more widely preferred
Espresso, instant coffee
Drip, French press, pour-over, cold brew, and most other coffee brewing methods
25% of the total coffee produced mostly by Vietnam
75% of total coffee production and Brazil is the largest producer
Temperature: 20-30 °C, Altitude: 0-900m, Rainfall: 2,000-3,000mm
Temperature:15-25 °C, Altitude: 900-2,000m, Rainfall: 1,500-2,500mm
$1.63 per Kg
$2.86 per Kg
Robusta vs. Arabica
Arabica coffee is considered to be generally better quality than Robusta, but most coffee growing regions still produce significant quantities of both which means that there is still a market for either.
But, if you are still not sure which between the two will work for you, here are the key factors you should use to compare them.
1. Caffeine Content
Caffeine is one of the key reasons why many people take coffee, and so when choosing between Robusta and Arabica it should be one of your key considerations.
Robusta contains more caffeine than Arabica coffee beans, and this perhaps explains why despite its relatively inferior quality it is still in production because coffee lovers that want a higher dosage of caffeine still go for it.
Typical Robusta coffee beans will contain around 2.7% caffeine which is close to double of the 1.5% caffeine you get in Arabica beans.
But, Arabica coffee beans make up for what they lack in caffeine by having up to 60% more lipids and at least double the natural sugars found in Robusta coffee which gives them a better taste.
Besides giving you a caffeine fix, coffee also needs to taste great, and so the taste is also a factor when comparing Robusta and Arabica coffee beans.
For many coffee lovers, Arabica beans offer a much better flavor than Robusta which given the higher caffeine content and growing conditions can be quite bitter and unbearable for inexperienced coffee drinkers.
The low quantity of natural sugars in Robusta coffee beans also adds to the bitterness and makes them more acidic when compared to the more popular Arabica beans.
With Arabica coffee, you get a sweeter and fruitier taste which is what many coffee drinkers are always looking for in their cup, and the beans are also generally less acidic.
But, before you brush of Robusta beans when it comes to taste, it is still important to note that its bitter taste still has a place in specialty coffee beverages like espressos and for coffee drinkers that prefer strong brews, it is much better than Arabica.
3. Bean Appearance
The bean's appearance is an easy way to tell Arabica and Robusta coffee beans apart as each has quite a distinctive appearance.
Robusta coffee beans are smaller than the Arabica beans and they have a rounder shape. Also, these beans will be straw-colored and with the middle cut straight through.
With Arabica coffee beans, you get an oval-shaped bean that is much bigger than Robusta beans and will come in a dark green color and with a curved cut middle.
When it comes to preferences by coffee drinkers, Arabica is more widely preferred as most drinkers love the beans as they are more flavorful and will find the taste is much bearable.
With Robusta beans, you will get a stronger and bitter taste which some coffee drinkers find intolerable, and this is more so those that do not like adding sweeteners and lighteners to their coffee like sugar, cream or milk.
However, Robusta still works well for coffee drinkers that prefer a stronger and bolder brew, and it is also often preferred as a blend for making coffee grinds for specialty beverages like espresso or Turkish coffee.
But, generally more consumers across the world seem to prefer the more flavorful and higher quality Arabica coffee beans.
Arabica coffee beans are widely used for all kinds of coffee as they can take well to various roasts and will also work well for a variety of brewing methods.
Robusta coffee beans, on the other hand, will work well for making specialty brews like espresso but they will typically be blended with Arabica coffee beans. Also, for stronger coffee beverages like Turkish coffee, Robusta beans can work well.
About a quarter of the world’s coffee production is Robusta which is quite a lot given that the high-quality Arabica beans are more popular.
And most of this Robusta coffee is produced by Vietnam which accounts for up to 70% of the Robusta coffee sold across the world. Other countries like Indonesia, India, Uganda, and even Brazil also produce large Volumes of Robusta coffee.
Arabica, on the other hand, accounts for three-quarters or about 75% of the world's total coffee production. Brazil is the leading producer of Arabica coffee beans accounting for more than 50% of the total production followed by Colombia, Honduras, and Ethiopia.
7. Growing Conditions
Overall, Robusta coffee is much easier to cultivate than Arabica and besides growing up to 6 meters tall, the Robusta plants are also more resistant to insects, pests, and diseases which means farmers will have an easier time with them.
Robusta is a native of West Africa and to date, it is still widely grown in countries like Ivory Coast and its neighbors and also in East Africa, but larger volumes are cultivated in Asia more specifically Vietnam.
This coffee type does well in low altitudes of under 900 feet at which the Arabica coffee would struggle to grow. Also, it can withstand higher temperatures than Arabica as it grows well between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. However, Robusta seems to require a little more rainfall because on average the plants will need 2,000 to 3,000mm to thrive.
Arabica coffee will require more attention, time and resources to calculate which is why it is more expensive. The plants grow up to around 4.5 meters and are not as hardy as Robusta and are hence more prone to diseases.
This coffee originates from Ethiopia where it is still grown, but it is now widely cultivated across the world with South American countries like Brazil producing huge volumes of this high-quality coffee every year.
For Arabica to thrive, it should be grown at higher altitudes of between 900 and 2,000 meters and temperatures of between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. For the rainfall, anything between 1,500 and 2,500 mm should be good enough.
Arabica coffee beans will fetch a higher price than Robusta coffee beans which is mostly due to their higher demand since many coffee drinkers prefer them for their relatively higher quality and more flavorful taste.
The fact that Robusta also matures faster, is hardier and more resilient plant and is more productive than Arabica also makes it more affordable. And the fact that Robusta flavor is less sought after also further drives the cost down.
In general, green Robusta coffee beans will cost around half of what you would pay for a similar quantity of green Arabica beans. On average you can expect to pay about $1.62 for a kilogram of Robusta coffee and $2.86 for a kilogram of Arabica coffee.
Which One Should You Buy?
Both Robusta and Arabica will bring something unique to the table for coffee lovers and when it comes to choosing between them, it is all up to your personal preferences and the flavors you want.
For the coffee drinkers that prefer stronger coffee or are looking for something that delivers a higher caffeine dosage, Robusta coffee is a good choice.
But, if you are like many coffee lovers that are more after flavor and not necessarily to get a high caffeine dose, the high-quality Arabica coffee beans are the way to go.
However, the kind of coffee you like drinking or the brewing method you use should help you decide because Robusta and its blends can be quite good for espresso while Arabica seems to work well for most other coffee-making methods.