Did you know that Rubiaceae is the family of flowering plants that coffee is a part of? And within this family, you will find over 500 Genera (the biological group that a family is divided into) and about 6,000 thousand species. One of these is the bean we love, coffee. Although botanists regard all seed-bearing plants in the Rubiaceae family as coffee plants, the coffees we drink fall mainly within just two species - Arabica and Canephora, also known as Robusta. This brings us to the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans.
In effect, Robusta and Arabica are the two main types (based on popularity) coffee beans. The main difference, besides being different species of the same plant family, comes down to flavour and characteristics of the actual bean.
ROBUSTA (CANEPHORA) COFFEE BEANS
The most common varietal of Coffee Canephora is Robusta, Arabica’s street-smart younger brother. Robusta is widely used in espresso blends because it is known to produce a better crema (the creamy layer found on top of an espresso shot) than Arabica. It’s harder, more resistant to disease and produces better yields. And most importantly, packs more caffeine!
There are a number of subtypes of the Robusta bean, each exhibiting a set of characteristics. Robusta varieties exhibit greater immunity to disease and increased production capacity in comparison to Arabica. Growing well at lower altitudes, Robusta thrives in areas where Arabica would be devastated by fungus and other diseases and pests.
Robusta is a stouter plant, about twice the size of Arabica and it grows well at higher humidity. After flowering, the berries take almost a year to ripen. Robusta is self-sterile, therefore, cross-pollination by wind, bees and other insects are necessary for the plant to reproduce.
ARABICA COFFEE BEANS
Arabica beans contain way less caffeine than Robusta. Arabica beans just happen to have a smooth and sweet taste. Sometimes these beans also have hints of fruits or berries. Robusta, on the other hand, has a stronger and slightly bitter taste.
According to the International Coffee Organisation, at least 60 per cent of the world's coffee production comes from Arabica cultivators. This was the type of bean that started off the whole coffee story in Ethiopia, and it still grows best in higher elevations. Arabica flowers appear only after a couple of years and produce ellipsoidal fruits, inside which are two flat seeds known as the coffee beans.
Appearance wise, as you can see, the arabica bean has a wavy cut through the middle of the bean.
|Caffeine||Higher (1.7-4%)||Lower (0.8%-1.4%)|
|Disease resistance||Higher (ever wondered why it is called "robusta"?)||Lower|
|Pesticides||Lesser use due to "robust" nature||Higher incidence of pesticide and care|
|Cholorogenic acid - CGA (antioxidant and insect deterrant)||7-10%||5-8%|
|Sugars||Less (3-7%)||More (6-9%)|
|Lipid||Less||60% more than robusta|
Do you have a favourite bean? We’re confident that if you do have one that it would be the Robusta. We hope you have enjoyed learning more about coffee. Make sure to give our other blogs a look.
Note: All the data above are taken from reliable sources, including Wikipedia. Should you feel that any of the information above is incorrect, please feel free to let us know along with authentic source of disagreement.