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Robusta vs. Arabica: What's What?

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

It's true, many of us wake up, power up our coffee makers and then eagerly wait for that first sip of java - an essential morning ritual, designed to give us energy to tackle the day ahead. Fewer of us, however, likely give much thought to the coffee beans that are integral to our morning cup of joe. You may be interested to read, then, that there are actually over 100 species of coffee beans! By far the most commonly used, however, for drinking purposes at least, are Robusta and Arabica beans. 

So what's the difference between the two? Is there even a difference? The answer is that there are many disparities between Robusta and Arabica beans, including everything from the shape to the taste to the caffeine level. Eager to expand your knowledge about these important beans? Read on to learn more about how the two differ:

1. The taste

Robusta beans tend to produce a much stronger taste, with notes of nuts. The consistency also tends to be grainier. Arabica beans, on the other hand, boast a much sweeter taste, with hints of berries and even fruit. Arabica beans are also softer in strength, although the acidity levels are higher.

2. The caffeine level

If you drink coffee primarily for that caffeine buzz, then you should make Robusta beans your go-to when you make your morning cup of joe, courtesy of your Mr. Coffee® Optimal Brew™ 10-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker. Arabica beans contain caffeine levels that are up to two times less than those found in Robusta beans. For the decaf crowd and those who prefer a brew with less of a kick, Arabica beans are the best bet.

3. The growing conditions

The most sensitive coffee beans, in terms of ideal growing conditions, are Arabica beans. These beans can become easily damaged, particularly from low temperatures and pests, and they also need the right balance of sun, shade and moisture. Arabica beans grow best in climates that are not too hot, but that are still classified as subtropical. Elevation also matters, with ideal growing conditions found at heights no higher than 2000 meters, but no lower than 600 meters.

Robusta beans, on the other hand, take after their namesake: They are stronger and able to thrive in less than ideal conditions, as well as at lower altitudes. For this reason, Robusta beans tend to be cheaper to produce.

4. The shape

Many of us would be unable to differentiate between Robusta and Arabica beans if they were placed in front of us. But there is a simple way to discern the difference. The beans that are more oval in shape are Arabica beans, while the beans that are more circular in nature are the Robusta variety. 

5. Sugar and lipid levels Arabica beans contain, by far, the highest sugar and lipid levels. Indeed, the difference in sugar levels alone is remarkable - when compared with Robusta beans, Arabica beans have a sugar concentration that is almost double in size. Furthermore, the lipid levels in Arabica beans are up to 60 percent higher. 

6. The price Robusta beans tend to be more affordable than Arabica beans, and they are generally used in a number of coffee products sold in supermarkets. The price difference between the two, on the commodity market, often amounts to around 50 percent. Arabica beans are still widely available in stores, however.

7. Production levels Although it is cheaper to buy, Robusta beans are actually produced, globally, in lower amounts - around 25 percent of the coffee produced globally is made from Robusta beans. The remaining 75 percent is derived from Arabica beans.

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