Arabica vs Robusta; what’s the difference?

Arabica and Robusta both come from the coffee plant, but they are different plant species. Within the plant species arabica and robusta there are different varieties. These are plants that all have the same main species (arabica or robusta) but differ slightly from each other. In this article we would like to tell you the similarities and differences between the arabica and robusta coffee.


What are the differences between arabica vs robusta? Let’s start by explaining what arabica and robusta are before showing the differences between the 2. Arabica and Robusta are both coffee plants and members of the Rubiaceae genus. From the Rubiaceae there are 3 plant species that are used for coffee cultivation; coffea arabica, coffea canephora (robusta) and coffea liberica. New species have emerged within this plant species, such as Typica, Bourbon and Catimor, which we call varieties. In this article we will focus on the differences between arabica vs robusta.

All coffee plants flower once a year. If the flower is fertilized, a beautiful berry will appear on the plant after flowering. There are 2 seeds in the berry, these are the coffee beans. When a berry is ripe it is picked. So far there are no differences between the arabica and robusta. The differences lie in the seed and the place where the coffee plant grows.

Around the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, is where the coffee comes from. The coffee grows in the so-called coffee belt. Coffee grows on mountains. The robusta coffee grows better low on the mountain, from sea level to 1000 m altitude. The arabica coffee grows a bit higher on the mountain, from 800 m to 2000 m altitude. Because the robusta coffee plant grows lower, this plant suffers more from insects, but the coffee plant has devised a nice defense system against those insects; caffeine! The higher you are, the fewer insects there are. This means that the arabica coffee is less affected by insects and is therefore lower in caffeine than the robusta coffee. The growth height also determines the quality of the coffee. When you get higher, the temperatures are lower and the coffee cherries develop less quickly. This increases the quality of the coffee bean. Speaking of berries, the robusta plant has more berries per harvest than the arabica coffee plant.

arabica vs robusta; what's the difference?

Arabica vs Robusta

Oval coffee bean | Round coffee bean
Curve line in coffee bean | Straight line in coffee bean
Grows from 800 to 2000 m | Grows from 0 m to 1000 m
Fewer berries per harvest | More berries per harvest
Expensive | Cheaper
Low in Caffeine | High in caffeine
Soft taste | Strong taste
70% offer | 30% offer

In the past, people looked less at the quality of the coffee and more at how many berries could be harvested. Because the robusta plant has more coffee beans in a harvest, the supply of robusta coffee was larger than arabica. For this reason, people have mainly grown up with the taste of robusta coffee. As the years have gone by, consumers have become increasingly critical of quality and arabica coffee beans have gained popularity.

If you compare the seeds (the coffee beans) of the arabica and robusta coffee, there are a number of differences. For example, the coffee bean of the arabica plant is oval and narrow, while the coffee bean of the robusta plant is round. There is a line in the middle of the coffee beans, with the arabica bean that line runs in an S, with the robusta bean it is a straight line.

The coffee plant also suffers from many diseases. For example, leaf rust is a common disease. The robusta coffee plants are more resistant to diseases than the arabica coffee. Coffee plants have been crossed in various laboratories to develop a stronger coffee plant that also tastes good. A new challenge for the coffee plant is the climate. It’s getting hotter and the weather is getting more and more extreme. In 2021 there was frost in the largest coffee producing country in the world, Brazil. Due to the frost, the harvest of the season has decreased by 25% compared to 2020.

We have already discussed a lot of differences between arabica vs robusta, but the main point has not yet been covered; the taste. As mentioned, you can make coffee from both the robusta and the arabica coffee plant. The taste of a robusta is intense, woody, bitter, rubber. Coffee made from arabica coffee plant is sweet, sour, bitter, floral. The difference in taste is huge! Because the coffee of an arabica variety has so much more flavor, we only sell coffee beans that descend from the arabica coffee plant.