You might be an espresso lover or a cappuccino sort of person, but do you know what you’re actually drinking? The main difference between the various types of coffee out there is not how you prepare them, but the beans they’re made from. The coffee aisle at your local store is full of colorful labels with exotic names on them, but when you get down to it there are basically only two basic types of coffees in the world Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica beans are generally considered of superior quality compared to Robusta. Arabica coffee has a sweeter smoother taste, with fruity overtones and a high acidity level.
On the other hand, Robusta coffee is generally bitter, has a harsher taste, with a distinctive nutty flavor. This variety is preferred for espresso, as it makes for a good cream.
One of the reasons most people prefer Arabica is that the beans contain almost 60% more lipids and almost twice as much sugar as Robusta.
It is only fair to point out that there are some top-notch Robusta specialty coffees, just as there are some Arabica beans of very low quality that are barely able to call themselves coffee.
If you’re interested in which is stronger, that’s definitely Robusta, which has almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica. Robusta beans have a 2,7% caffeine content, while Arabica beans have only 1,5%.
Ultimately, choosing a coffee is a matter of taste. There are those who consider Arabica too floral for their taste, while others don’t mind the bitterness of Robusta and its burnt aftertaste.
Robusta coffee beans are about half the price of Arabica beans, because they are easier to grow.
They are less vulnerable to weather conditions and can be cultivated at lower altitudes than Arabica beans, which are typically grown at over 600m of altitude. Robusta varieties are less sensitive to insects, as the high caffeine content acts as a natural bug repellent. Ultimately, Robusta plants produce fruit much more quickly than Arabica ones, which need several years to come to maturity, and they yield better crops.
Despite everything, Arabica represents 75% of the world’s coffee production. Brazil is the largest producer of Arabica, while Vietnam is the main supplier of Robusta coffee.
Now that we’ve made it clear what are the main differences between the two basic types of coffee, it is time for you to check the label of your favorite brand. Cheap ground coffee at the supermarket is probably all Robusta. So is instant coffee – now you know why it is so bitter. Most espresso blends are also predominantly Robusta, especially Italian ones.
You can find 100% Arabica coffee, but most blends contain at least some Robusta beans, used as a cheap filler.
One the other hand, most major coffee stores around the world, Starbucks included, claim they only buy Arabica coffee, which, they point out, explains the rich taste of their coffee.
Now that you know more about coffee maybe it is time to pay more attention to the labels. Check out the types of beans in any blend and experiment a bit. Who knows what amazing coffee you might discover?
Coffee Basics: The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta
10 Differences between Robusta and Arabica coffee