Arabica and Robusta are the two main species of coffee beans that are used to produce the vast majority of coffee in the world. Arabica beans are generally considered to be of higher quality and have a more complex flavour profile. This is because Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes, which allows them to develop more slowly and absorb more nutrients from the soil. In addition, Arabica beans contain less caffeine than Robusta, which gives them a smoother, sweeter taste.
It's easy to differentiate the beans by sight alone! Arabica beans are oval in shape, while Robusta beans are rounder and more uniform in size. This difference is due to the fact that arabica plants have two sets of chromosomes, while Robusta plants only have one. The extra set of chromosomes in arabica beans allows them to produce a wider range of flavours and aromas.
You can also tell them apart by taste and caffeine content. As mentioned earlier, arabica beans contain less caffeine than Robusta beans, with an average of 1.5% caffeine compared to 2.7% for Robusta beans. This higher caffeine content in Robusta beans gives them a stronger, more bitter taste, which some people find unpleasant. However, it also makes them more resistant to pests and disease, which is why they are often grown in areas with less-than-ideal conditions.
In terms of flavour, arabica beans are generally considered to be superior to Robusta beans. They have a more complex flavour profile, with notes of fruit, chocolate, and nuts, while Robusta beans tend to have a simpler, more straightforward taste. Additionally, Arabica beans are often used in high-end, specialty coffees, while Robusta beans are more commonly used in lower-quality, mass-produced blends.
Ultimately, the choice between Arabica and Robusta beans comes down to personal preference and the desired flavour profile of the coffee.