Coffee Beans 101: Explore the Unique Characteristics of Arabica and Robusta - The Rugby Observer

Coffee Beans 101: Explore the Unique Characteristics of Arabica and Robusta

Rugby Editorial 21st Jun, 2023   0

A great cup of coffee starts with quality coffee beans. While we’re sure you already know what you like regardless of that fine print on the side of the bag, what do all the coffee aficionado terms you see mean? Today, we’re diving deeper into two of the most popular bean species- Arabica and Robusta, and what each brings to the flavour table.

Photo: pexels.com

From Bush to Bean

Did you know the coffee beans you love begin life as the humble berries of a coffee bush, known as a coffee cherry? The fruits are harvested, dried, and stripped of their flesh to produce the coffee beans you use in your favourite cup, – but you likely still wouldn’t recognise them! The beans are a pale green-grey before they are roasted. So-called ‘green’ coffees simply use unroasted beans and brew them as-is! Most people prefer a roasted bean to produce the very best possible flavour profile and taste and classic coffee taste, however.

As with wine grapes, the soil, climate, elevation, and geographic location where your coffee is grown impact the flavour profile of your cup. So even beans from the same bush can taste different between harvests! However, each coffee bean varietal has a basic flavour profile you can rely on. Here’s what you can expect to taste in your cup from Arabica and Robusta beans.

Adaptable Arabica: The World’s Favourite Coffee Beans

If you’re new to the world of coffee beans, then the Arabica variety is the right place to start. Scientifically known as the Coffea arabica species, this is the most widely cultivated coffee bean in the world. What do they bring to the table? Think great quality, low acidity, complex flavour, and a beautifully aromatic head.




The most notable growing zones for Arabica beans are Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia, but they are found globally. Surprisingly, they are one of the trickier coffee varieties to grow, being reasonably vulnerable to pests and disease. Arabica beans favour subtropical climates with mild weather, moderate rainfall, and great soil drainage.

The best Arabica coffee offers anything from floral and fruity to almost wine-like notes beloved by coffee connoisseurs but don’t worry if you’re not one to sweat those sorts of details. The Arabica coffee bean is also known for being versatile and adaptable, with a quintessential (and enticing) coffee aroma that almost everyone will love.


Arabica beans also have a moderate caffeine content (around 1%-1.5%), making them a great choice for casual coffee drinkers. However, Arabica is also a coveted coffee bean on the specialty coffee market, offering a complex but easily drinkable flavour profile often used in premium blends as well as stand-alone brews.

Photo: pexels.com

Romantic Robusta: A Step Deeper into Coffee Culture

Coffea canephora, or the Robusta varietal of coffee beans, is the other most commonly found coffee species. They offer a stronger, more bitter taste than the Arabica variety, rich in woody, nutty, and earthy overtones. While the overall flavour profile is less complex than Arabica, the deep, strong and powerful cup it brews stands alone pretty well. Robusta coffee beans give a full body and heavy mouthfeel that can be very satisfying. They’re also great for crema production- that foamy layer that develops on great espresso shots.

Robusta coffee beans also offer almost double the caffeine content of Arabica beans, averaging 2%-2.7% per cup. It’s a hardy variety that can grow in hotter, lower-altitude climates, and the best-known beans come from Africa, Vietnam, and Brazil, with Vietnam dominating the market.

Robusta is fantastic in blends to offer strong base notes as well as being a staple of commercial coffees because of its uncomplex flavour profile. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad choice, however- Robusta beans are also used in many speciality coffees to develop a specific flavour profile, and many people adore the dark, heavy taste they bring to the table.

The Art of the Roast

Of course, that delicious taste you know so well is heavily influenced by the beans you use, but also by how they’re roasted. This is the process that develops the green coffee bean’s flavour and depth. For both of these key bean species, you can try these roast styles:

  • Light Roasted: Giving a very delicate and acidic flavour, with more influence from the coffee bean species itself.
  • Medium Roasted: Giving full flavour with great balance, almost everyone loves a medium roast!
  • Dark Roasted: Roasted until the sugars in the beans caramelise and the natural oils rise to the surface, dark coffee roasts carry less of the flavour profile of the beans, but deliver a heady bitter taste many love.

While there are several more rare coffee varieties you may encounter, especially if you enjoy single-variety or specialty roasts, Arabica and Robusta dominate the coffee bean market, and it’s well worth exploring both varieties to see which you prefer.

Article written by Rimgaile Vosylyte

Announcements

Weddings, Birthdays, Bereavements, Thank you notices, Marriages and more.

Business Directory

From plumbers, to restaurants, we can provide you with all the info you need.

Printing

We can provide all of your printing needs at competitive rates.

Online Editions

Catch up on your local news by reading our e-editions on the Rugby Observer.