The Difference Between Arabica & Robusta Coffee

The Difference Between Arabica & Robusta Coffee

The two major coffee bean varieties, Arabica and Robusta are often blended to create espresso coffee varieties.

This common blending practice — like happens with our signature espresso blend Wanderer — means that most coffee drinkers don’t know the differences between the two blends. Read on to find out more about the differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee.

What is Arabica coffee?

Believed to be the first coffee plant to have been cultivated, arabica coffee is named for its Arabic origin. Arabica coffee accounts for about 60% of global coffee production and stems from coffee’s initial discovery in Yemen in the 12th century.

As opposed to Robusta coffee, Arabica coffee contains less caffeine and is more acidic to the taste but is less bitter. Arabica coffee also boasts a fruitier flavour than robusta coffee.

Coffea arabica, its scientific name as a plant rather than a variety of bean, matures in about seven years and it has a variety of conditions for best results. This includes between 1 and 1.5 metres of rainfall spread evenly throughout the year at an elevation between 1,300 and 1,500 metres above sea level.

Despite its African origin, arabica coffee is grown all over the world and most speciality coffee is, in fact, high-quality varieties of mild arabica. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, for example, is considered some of the finest coffee in the world and it is arabica.

Arabica coffee, like all of us, is under threat by climate change courtesy of its sensitivity to temperature as a plant before it seeds. More heat-resistant varieties are being cultivated but with 60% of the coffee market potentially needing to be replaced there remains more to be done.

Most of the world’s arabica coffee comes from Brazil, where one-third of all coffee is grown and 69% of that is arabica coffee.

What is Robusta coffee?

The major alternative coffee variety, robusta coffee’s scientific name is coffea canephora and it stems from western and central Africa rather than in the east in and around Yemen. Robusta is one of the two canephora varieties, with the other called nganda.

The difference between robusta and arabica coffee is that robusta has a greater crop yield than arabica, it contains more coffee (a bit under double) and less sugar. As an agricultural crop, it’s easier to care for, has a better yield, and is more resistant to disease.

One of the major advantages of robusta coffee for producers is that it’s cheaper to produce courtesy of the higher yield and the disease resistance. Arabica beans are considered ‘better’ because they’ve got a richer flavour rather than a stronger flavour.

Why are they blended so often?

Because robusta coffee is harsher than arabica coffee, they’re often blended to keep production costs down. However, traditional Italian espresso blends use about 10-15% robusta beans to provide that familiar full-bodied taste and a better crema.

That is: if you love espresso coffee, it’s likely that what you love about it comes from a robusta coffee.

If you prefer smoother, speciality, single origin coffees you probably prefer arabica beans. Arabica beans tend to grow in the regions from which you’ll commonly find single origins — that is, all across the two Tropics.

Robusta beans are grown heavily in Vietnam and Brazil.

Arabica or robusta?

As with all things coffee, it’s up to you. Try a range of different blends, like our signature dark roast espresso blend Wanderer, to see what you prefer. Most of the single origins you’ll find will be arabica beans but it’s always worth giving a robusta single origin a shot to see if it’s something you’d enjoy.

Shop great coffee.

Shop our coffee range. Take 20% off your first order by signing up to our newsletter below. Free shipping over $60 applies Australia-wide.

Back to blog
1 of 3