Robusta coffee. Arabica coffee. Caffeine content. In today's blog post I wanted to break down the Robusta coffee bean. What is it? Why is it special? How is it different? Is it different?
With over 100 species of coffee, the two most widely produced and sold are: Coffea Canephora (Coffea Robusta) and Coffea Arabica
Truth is... the Robusta coffee bean is much different than the Arabica bean. With nearly 1/4 of the population using/consuming these big guys, they are, by far, not the most preferred coffee bean.
Because they taste like crap. Really though... Robusta coffee beans are known to be of less quality than its close relative, the Arabica coffee bean. But it's not all bad for this Rubusta style bean.
Check out this map about where the different plants are grown. R=Robusta M=Mixed A=Arabica
Lets go over some basics:
Bigger isn't always better: Robusta coffee beans are significantly more circular, whereas Arabica are more oval.
Plant size: Arabica coffee plants usually grows between 2.5 – 4.5 meters tall compared to the 4.5 – 6 meter height of the Robusta coffee plant.
Conditions: Robusta requires slightly warmer temperatures 18°-36°C (64-97°F) and a bit more rainfall (2200-3000 mm/yr) than the Arabica coffee plant. See this chart.
Tasty huh? Often Robusta has a taste similar to burnt tires; a rubbery, harsher taste, with a grain-like overtones. Sounds nasty huh? (Imagine eating a big chunk of old tire..ew!). So why the bad taste...
Internal Content: Like stated here, Arabica has about 60% more lipids and almost twice as much sugar than Robusta. This is most likely why we prefer the taste of Arabica over Robusta.
More caffeine: The Robusta bean has more caffeine, and caffeine carries a bitter taste which makes it an more unpleasant Experience. In fact, the Robusta bean has 2.7% caffeine content, almost double the 1.5% of Arabica
Fun fact: Robusta beans use caffeine as a chemical defense for the coffee seed. The quantity of caffeine in the Robusta is toxic to bugs.
Sustainability: Robusta has a higher yield and is less sensitive to insects, because of that fun caffeine fact we mentioned above. It is a lot easier to tend to on the farms. Its less... picky per say.
As you can imagine... the quality of coffee has slowly and slowly deteriorated in an effort for large companies to squeeze the most profit. It's VERY hard to scale quality.
Enter plug: That is why our Uganda and Colombian roasts are SO DANG GOOD! We have the ability to roast small batches, to every order, and get your coffee to you extremely fresh. Did you know... In a perfect world, for best drinking practices, you should be consuming your "fresh" coffee within 2-3 weeks of it being roasted? Do you think you are? I wonder how long that bag that you just bought has been sitting. End plug.
Summing it up:
With all of these subtle and not so subtle differences between Robusta and Arabica beans, you had better watch what you are buying. Robusta coffee is widely used by big companies, and it is sprinkled (more like dumped) into most of the pods, capsules, and instant coffee blends that are available for purchase. The Italians love the Robusta bean though, because of the deep and rich crema it can produce in espressos. It would be common to receive a Robusta derived espresso over there.
Most of the companies who claim to have "The Strongest Coffee In The World" are not joking. There can be some serious caffeine in those blends. BUT at the sacrifice of quality. Big time. So next time you go and real a coffee label, take a look at what kind of coffee you are buying! Those 100% Arabica bean claims on coffee labels are actually a thing. You will more than likely end up enjoying Arabica over Robusta, but if you really need that caffeine, you now know what to look for.
Side note: Do you think light roast or dark roast has more caffeine? Check back next week to find the truth to this aged myth!