Arabica Vs Robusta | What’s the Difference and facts?

by AllannBrosCoffee Team | Last Updated: November 19, 2020

When it comes to arabica vs robusta there is actually quite a bit to consider. While arabica and robusta coffee beans are the two most prominent categories currently in circulation, their differences are pronounced enough to leave discerning buyers with the desire to thoroughly understand the difference and choosing the best coffee beans.

In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about arabica coffee vs. robusta. 

robusta vs arabica

12 Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

Believe it or not, you can actually tell the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans just by making a visual inspection.

In this section of our coffee arabica vs robusta guide, we take a look at twelve ways that you can tell the difference between arabica and robusta coffee. Read on!

Arabica Vs Robusta

1. Visual differences – (Beans Shape, Size & Color):

Of course, coffee beans come in roasted and unroasted forms. There are actually visual differences that crop up in both varieties, which we will explore now.

Unroasted form: 

Arabica, in its unroasted form, features a distinctly green color and an oval shape. There is also a well-defined ridge dividing the bean down the center. Robusta, on the other hand, looks a little bit different. The bean is more circular in shape, and while green remains the color, it is offset somewhat by brown notes. The divide, though also down the middle, is not quite as well defined.

Roasted form:

In the roasted form, the visual differences are ostensibly the same. Naturally, the shape and other physical characteristics do not change much simply due to roasting. However, you will find that the coloration is a little different. 

Roasted Arabica beans take on a nice black appearance while obusta features a toasted brown characteristic. 

2. Cost of the Beans:

It’s pretty well known that arabica beans tend to be more expensive than the robusta alternative. There may be a number of reasons for this. For one thing, robusta beans are, as their name suggests, quite robust. In other words, large portions of the crop tend to survive until harvest, making them more cost-effective. 

Arabica beans are also viewed as more desirable by most people, likely further contributing to their expense. 

3. Taste and Flavor Profile:

Arabica coffee is famous for having dessert-like notes. For example, you may detect honey, caramel, chocolate, sugar, etc., in the flavor profile of your arabica coffee. Naturally, these are flavors that consumers tend to quite like. 

Robusta, on the other hand, is not described nearly so romantically. Rather, it tends to be associated with a much more bitter content. It tends to taste almost burnt and can be somewhat affronting to the consumer that is mostly used to Arabica. 

4. Caffeine Content:

Robusta coffee tends to be much higher in its caffeine content. Naturally, both are sufficiently loaded with the stuff to get you wired, but if you are looking for something that is particularly potent, robusta will unquestionably be the way to go. 

5. Lipid & Sugar Content:

The lipid and sugar content of these two coffee categories are actually pretty similar, though there are differences to take notice of. Robusta coffee tends to average about 10% fat content, while Arabica comes in at around 15%. 

Of course, these are only averages. You will find that the actual content of your beans can vary rather substantially. 

6. Antioxidants Content:

On average, robusta coffee actually wins out in the department of antioxidants. Here, you get yourself about ten percent chlorogenic acid. 

Arabica, on the other hand, clocks in at around 8%. The difference is not enormous, of course, but worth noting all the same for those that wish to maximize the health factor of their coffee. 

7. Chromosomes (n=11) Content:

Arabica comes out substantially ahead in the chromosome department, clocking in at 44—twice the 22 chromosomes that you can expect to find with your average robusta. While this may not be something that the average coffee drinker thinks much about as they enjoy their java, it is an interesting tidbit all the same. 

8. Country of Origin:

Robusta coffee tends to be grown primarily in Africa and can survive in almost any conditions, making it a good fit for the harsher climate found there. 

Arabica, on the other hand, tends to feature more prominently in Latin America. 

9. The Coffee Plants:

Despite the many differences in flavor and even appearance, both beans ultimately come from different types of coffee plants. While there are variations in visual and taste characteristics, the actual species of the plant remains the same. 

10. Cultivation:

When it comes to cultivation, there are not actually significant differences in the process. In either case, the coffee beans are grown on coffee plantations, picked when ripe (coffee is actually more like a fruit than a bean and comes from the seed of the plant), and then roasted at a moderate temperature to achieve the product that you purchase at the store. 

Cultivation methods are ultimately more contingent on the practices of the company than they are the specifications of the plant. 

11. Growing Conditions:

Robusta is so named for the fact that the plant is of a robust constitution. It’s a very durable plant, able to thrive even in the very extreme conditions of the African climate where it is typically harvested from. 

Arabica coffee plants are a little more particular about their environment. They prefer a situation that is a little milder, with temperatures in the 64-70 degree range—meaning, of course, that the plant will only do well in certain conditions. 

12. Commerce (Uses):

As mentioned previously, even though both of these types of coffee beans are widely available, robusta is ultimately significantly more abundant than Arabica. Go into any chain, coffee house or restaurant, and you are sure to find that they are serving up arabica coffee.

Robusta is still common enough, but it doesn’t have nearly as big of a role in the world of exported goods. Most robusta coffee is going to be found in Africa, Indonesia, etc. You can certainly find it stateside, but doing so may require a little bit of effort on your end. 

# Arabica vs Robusta #
Some Facts Really Make You Crazy To Know

What is the difference between arabica and robusta coffee beans when it comes to health benefits?

When it comes to health, they are ultimately going to be fairly similar. Coffees everywhere are ultimately products from the same plant, so this question is a little like asking what is a better gala or crisp honey apples?

 While there is an objectively accurate answer to the question, it’s not to say that either bean is necessarily bad for you (unless, of course, there is a reason that you should be staying away from caffeine).

Nevertheless, in this case, robusta is actually a healthier option. This is mostly because it has a higher antioxidant count, which means your body gets a little more out of it. It also features fewer lipids and sugars. 

Does this mean that you should shy away from Arabica? Not at all. It simply means that there may be more to robusta than meets the eye. 

Is the coffee on supermarket shelves in the US usually robusta coffee beans or arabica beans?

Coffee on the shelves of supermarkets is pretty much always going to be Arabica. The reason for this is simply that arabica coffee has been deemed more desirable to the American pallet. In the US, coffees tend to be a little sweeter than they are in other parts of the world. 

Whereas in Africa and the middle-east you may encounter coffees that are of a more bitter, smokey nature, stateside, coffee tends to be a little more on the mellow side. 

Why do robusta coffee beans have such a bad reputation? Are there any cases where it is better than Arabica?

As mentioned above, there is no reason at all to look at Arabica as being the better coffee. In fact, from a health perspective, it actually comes in second in a two bean race. While the taste profile may not be what the average American consumer will expect from their coffee, this isn’t at all to say that there is something inherently wrong with the bean.

Depending on your pallet, you may prefer robusta outright. In either case, however, high-quality beans will always treat the drinker to an experience they are sure to enjoy. In other words, robusta beans can absolutely be better than Arabica. 

The Bottom line:

Hopefully, this guide, robusta vs arabica, has revealed that both beans are, in fact, quite good at what they do. Arabica beans certainly have popularity on their side, but this is not at all to say that that makes them superior. 

If you are an American reader, it’s likely that you will prefer the sweeter notes of chocolate and caramel that are present in your average Arabica coffee. However, if you are interested in expanding your pallet a little bit, you will surely find plenty to appreciate in the brilliant smokiness of a good robusta coffee.

In other words, this is one battle for which there can be no winner. 

Frequently Ask Questions
— Robusta Vs Arabica —

Q1. Is the original espresso a blend of arabica and robusta beans?

As a matter of fact, it is! The actual composition can vary significantly, and no default bean accounts for true espresso. Because espresso technically refers to a brewing method more than it does an actual product, you can make it with any coffee bean that suits you. 

However, the classic Italian espresso that you might find in a Sicilian café will probably be made of the best espresso beans with a feature of 80% arabica and 20% Robusta. The Robusta helps provide that rich, smokey flavor that good espresso tends to have.

Q2. Does Nestlé use Arabica or Robusta beans for their Nespresso coffee?

Nestle, and indeed most chains that serve coffee, use Arabica coffee beans primarily. However, in this case, they’re actually usually is a little bit of robusta that finds its way into the blend. It’s not a lot—maybe five percent, but that added robusta gives the flavor profile a unique tweak that you might not experience from other manufacturers. 

To that end, Nestle coffee may be a good opportunity for people who are interested in dipping their toes in the waters of Robusta.