Aribca vs. Robusta Coffee Beans - What's the Difference

There are many coffee bean varieties, however only 2 are used to produce coffee. These are Arabica beans and Robusta beans. The two varieties differ in taste, growing conditions and of course price.

 Arabica beans tend to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries, and their acidity is higher.

Robusta beans generally have a strong, harsh taste, with a grain-like overtone and peanut aftertaste. They contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, and they are generally considered to be of inferior quality.

They can grow at lower altitudes than Arabica’s, and they are less vulnerable to pests and weather conditions. They produce fruit much more quickly than the Arabica’s, which need several years to come to maturity, and they yield more crop per tree.

Robusta is grown exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, primarily in Africa and Indonesia. Arabica is also grown in Africa and Papua New Guinea, but is grown dominantly in Latin America. Colombia only produces Arabica beans but some countries, like Brazil and India, produce both.

Arabica, then, ends up being pricier, of course. Most supermarket coffee is exclusively Robusta, and instant and cheap ground coffees are most often Robusta.

Ultimately it's a question of personal taste. Some all-Arabica blends are too high and floral for some people; some of the rich, dark harshness of Robusta can be a good thing in a blend. When I say some, personally, I wouldn't do more than 10%.

A Quick guide to the basic fundamental differences between Arabia and Robusta beans

The Arabica coffee tree generally grows between 2.5-4.5 meters in height, requires a temperature between 15o-24oC and an annual rainfall of about 1200-2200 mm/yr.

Whereas Robusta grows slightly taller 4.5 -6.5m, requires a warmer temperatures of 18o-36oC and slightly more rainfall (2200-3000 mm/yr) than Arabica.

  • Arabica yields less coffee per hectare than Robusta - meaning higher costs in production.
  • Arabica coffee beans have a slightly larger/elliptical shape whereas the Robusta are smaller and rounder.
  • Arabica typically has less caffeine and chlorogenic acid than Robusta.
  • Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than Robusta.
  • Arabica is a self-pollinating plant, meaning the plant will have fewer mutations and fewer variations throughout its life cycle as compared to Robusta.
  • Arabica has double the number of chromosomes at 44 than Robusta at 22.