A simple guide: Arabica vs Robusta coffee beans- 2020

A simple guide: Arabica vs Robusta coffee beans- 2020

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Arabica vs robusta: Coffee grows all over the globe between 28° north latitude and 30° south latitude. The typicity of the soil (terrain, hygrometry, altitude, exposure, shade) gives the coffee its particular character of the vintage.

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Arabica vs robusta coffee beans:

Coffea arabicaCoffea Canephora (Robusta)
Production Days75 days25 days
Tree heightFive to 20 feet,
Headed off at 2 meters
10 to 12 meters,
Headed off at 2 meters
1st flowering3 years3 years
Profitable to5 years5 years
Cherry ripeness8 to 9 months6 to 12 months
Annual Harvest2.5 kg of cherries per plant,
on average
2.5 kg of cherries,
on average, per foot
Life of the plant>=<30 years>=<30 years
Altitude600 to 2,000 metres0 to 1,000 metres
ClimateTropical temperateHot and humid
OriginEthiopia, AfricaZaire, Africa
EnemiesDiseases: rust, root rot, anthracnose
Insects: weevils, bark beetles, flies, bedbugs, locusts, caterpillars, ants
Diseases: rust, root rot, anthracnose
Insects: weevils, bark beetles, flies, bedbugs, locusts, caterpillars
LandVolcanic, clayey-siliceous, alluvial, peaty, sandyVolcanic, clayey-siliceous, alluvial, peaty,
SeedsThin, elongated, with sinuous central furrowGlobular seeds with rectilinear central furrow
  • For manual or mechanical harvesting, the tree is pruned and its average height reduced to 2-3 meters.
  • The use of fertilizers and irrigation makes it possible to multiply the harvest by 4.
  • Maximum 25 years of production.

Arabica coffee beans

Named after the species Coffea arabica.

Arabica still grows wild in Ethiopia where it was discovered and used for its stimulating and medicinal properties. It was first cultivated in Yemen.

It is cultivated between 600 and 2,000 meters above sea level in the intertropical zone, mainly in South America, Central America, and some countries in Africa and Asia, it makes up about 3 of the world’s production.

Highly appreciated for its aromatic qualities and the delicacy of its taste, its main varieties have exotic names such as Moka, Bourbon, Maragogype with giant beans (twice the size of a normal bean)…

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Arabica coffee beans are rather long and have a smooth surface. They have a blue-green color.

Robusta coffee beans

Robusta is a name for the species Coffea canephora.

It takes its name from its characteristic: robustness.

It is found in the wild in the dense forests of West and Central Africa (Congo Basin) and is cultivated today in low altitude regions in Africa, but also in India, Indonesia, Madagascar (Kouillou), Brazil (Conillon), the Philippines and Vietnam.

Robusta is more vigorous than Arabica.

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Its taste is powerful, full-bodied. On average twice as much caffeine as Arabica, it gives a very tonic coffee.

Robusta coffee beans are light brown. They have a rounded shape.

Read more: Different types of Coffee beans

The relationship between taste / origin / terroirs

Coffee grows in a wide variety of soils.

  • Volcanic soil: Brazil, Cameroon, Central America.
  • The volcanic soil in the process of lateralization: Kenya.
  • Clayey-siliceous soil: Ivory Coast.
  • Alluvial soil: Madagascar.
  • Peaty and sandy soil: former Dutch Guiana (Surinam). 

As for the vine, the terroir will give a particular character to the same botanical species, hence the different “crus”… A Bourbon Arabica will be acidic in Kenya, full-bodied in Papua, sweet and suave in Colombia.

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Brazilian coffees

Full-bodied, variable quality, depending on the region. 

 Parana, in the south, a sweet Arabica that has practically disappeared after the frosts. 

 The Sul de Minas is a full-bodied Arabica, low in caffeine, with a pleasant fragrance but not very present, with a creamy taste that persists in the mouth and is not very acidic.

 The Santos, a mild Arabica, not very full-bodied.

 The Minas and Victoria, are shipped to Rio de Janeiro, they are hard, bitter arabica that gives off a characteristic iodized aroma and taste.

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 It should be noted that Brazil produces in these regions a variety of robusta called the colon, used mainly by the soluble industry and local roasting.

Colombian coffees

Known to the public because they have received a significant promotion. Of uneven quality, we notice the Colombia Supremo, a fruity and slightly acidic Arabica.

Guatemalan coffees

Enjoy a good reputation. They are medium caffeine content arabicas with a strong aroma and colorful cup. Full-bodied, flavored, and tangy, they are the preserve of connoisseurs. Their acidity is marked.

The coffees from Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico are the most popular.

They look a little alike. Arabicas with low to medium caffeine content, they are often aromatic and pleasantly acidic.

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Kenyan coffees

Rarely proposed alone, and it’s a pity, they are sweet and aromatic with a dominant acidity. They are often used in the composition of 100% arabica.

Ethiopian coffees

The Moka Sidamo, rather full-bodied and aromatic coming from the north of Ethiopia, keeps the richness of the first coffees born in the cradle of Yemen. Noble par excellence, they have a wild and natural taste very complete, fruity, often with a taste of apricot.

Yrgacheffe Mocha is mild and fragrant with low caffeine content.

The Harrar Moka, aromatic and full-bodied, often with a wild, animal taste.

The Moka Djimah, natural coffee (unwashed), important production with the characteristic full-bodied often uneven quality.

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This coffee is often blended with robusta coffees (a blend with an off-flavor).

 Moka Limu, a very typical coffee.

The coffees of India

These are washed Arabicas from plantations in the Karnataka region (western India). Mild and light, pleasant, fine, and not very acidic, they are relatively high in caffeine.

The special case of Blue Mountain

This arabica from Jamaica enjoys a very high reputation. Low in caffeine, it has a clear cup and a fruity aroma. Fine, expensive, because its production is small, it is considered by some to be the best coffee in the world. It is packaged in barrels instead of jute bags.

Coffee beans: Main characteristics | descriptors

arabica vs robusta coffee

Acid: it can be seen on the sides of the tongue and is similar to lemon juice. It has a flavour that is valued in high altitude arabicas and comes from the volcanic nature of the soil.

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Bitter: it can be perceived on the tongue, at the back of the throat and evokes the white skin of the grapefruit. Developed according to the degree of roasting, it comes both from chlorogenic acid and, to a very small extent, from caffeine.

Full-bodied: A characteristic espresso flavour due to the natural strength of coffee, full-bodied gives the impression of filling the mouth; it has a thick consistency.

Fruity: A flavour that is fruity in taste and smell.

Aroma: perceived through the olfactory and retro-nasal pathways, the aromas are very pronounced in washed arabicas and little in robustas.

Roundness: qualifies the basic organoleptic characteristics, present at an average level, none of which are truly dominant. A coffee is said to be rounded or balanced.

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Astringent: perceived at the back of the mouth as a drying bitterness.

Residual: the intensity of taste that persists in the mouth after swallowing a coffee.

Tasting Coffee: methodology

The aspect
For espresso coffee, visual inspection of the cream:

  • color
  • thickness: over- or under-extracted coffee, burnt
  • persistence
  • liquor test

The smell
Test before and after stirring: of the intensity and finesse of the different aromas

Flavours, aromas

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  • Flavours: acidity, bitterness and sweetness
  • Aromas: retro-nasal perception

The aftertaste: the persistence

  • Espresso coffee should not be short in the mouth.

Global Judgement

  • Flavour (smell + taste)
  • Body (smell + taste + strength + balance)
  • Notions of richness, roundness, finesse…

Organoleptic characteristics

arabica vs robusta coffee

The organoleptic characteristics of the various harvests vary from year to year.

The factors that influence the quality of production are :

  • The climate
  • Altitude
  • Plant diseases
  • The nature of the land
  • The origin

The tastings carried out by the experts tend to bring the various productions back to the basic standard characteristics with the following parameters :

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Wet method:

  • Washed Arabica: tangy, sweet, aromatic
  • Washed Robusta: strong, balanced, bitter

Dry method :

  • Natural Arabica: Round, full-bodied
  • Natural Robusta: strong, full-bodied, woody, smoky, fermented

Coffees from Asia or West Africa and more broadly robustas are rarely offered as such. They are used in blends and blends to enhance an espresso or to enhance a coffee that is too sweet. Twice as high in caffeine, they are better suited to morning coffee.

Read more about the difference between Arabica & robusta

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