Key Differences Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee

By Megan Dority — / Coffee Talk

What’s the Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee? 

When morning rolls around and your alarm clock is blaring, you’re probably not thinking about where your coffee comes from, what it looks like or who makes it—you just want strong coffee ASAP. As soon as that sun rises, you’re likely throwin' back cup after cup. But when it comes down to it, there are dozens of different coffee bean variations and maybe, just maybe, if you knew a little more about the beans you’re buying, you could make your morning experience a little more personal. A morning ritual, if you will, that holds the golden hours of your day—THIS is the kind of experience we all deserve. 

When it comes to the cup in your hands, there are two types of beans that really matter if you want a good quality, strong, smooth-tasting cup: arabica and robusta. And if you don’t already know, let me be the first to tell you that the difference between the two is significant, but the importance of the two combined is even more significant. 

What Does Death Wish Coffee Use?

Both our Dark and Medium Roast coffees are a blend of robusta and arabica. You can thank robusta for the caffeinated kick and arabica for the smooth, never-bitter taste. We source our arabica and robusta beans primarily from India and Peru.  

What is Robusta Coffee?

Robusta coffee comes from the Coffea canephora and is the second most popular coffee in the world, behind arabica. Robusta originates in the Eastern Hemisphere and in lower elevations like Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam. The robusta used in our coffee blends originates in India. 

They’re extremely resilient, heat tolerant and disease-resistant—making them the obvious choice for roasters, as climate change continues to impact farms worldwide. According to trend forecasters, robusta was selected as one of the top food and beverage trends to take off in 2022. Little did they know, Death Wish Coffee was already ahead of the trend. Since 2012, we continue to source only the highest-quality robusta (and arabica) beans, AND they are always USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified. 

A graphic showing the Robusta coffee bean and its key qualities.

What is Arabica Coffee?

Arabica coffee comes from the arabica plant and is also known as Arabian coffee. Arabica beans are a little more high maintenance and needy—just like your ex. They thrive in higher elevations and sub-tropical conditions and need a lot of rich soil, moisture, shade and sun. 

Originating from Ethiopia, Brazil and Indonesia, these beans need to be handled with care. Our arabica beans come from Peru, Guatemala, Indonesia and Honduras. Due to their fragility, they’re more vulnerable to pests and can be easily damaged by poor handling and cold temperatures. As climate change takes its toll, the land suitable for growing arabica is on the decline. Studies suggest that arabica farms will be cut in half by 2050. 

A graphic highlighting the Arabica coffee bean and its different qualities.

What Are the Differences Between Arabica and Robusta?

1. Taste

  • Robusta: Robusta has less acidity, making it taste a bit harsher and more earthy than arabica. Upon first taste it has a bitter, oatmeal flavor with a peanut aftertaste. It is most commonly used to make instant coffee, espresso and dark roasts. 
  • Arabica: Arabica has a whole range of flavors depending on its varietal—from sweet and soft to sharp and tangy. The flavor complexity, sweetness, balance and higher acidity is typically why arabica has often been deemed superior to robusta. 
2. Caffeine Content
  • Robusta: Robusta has higher caffeine content per bean—almost double the amount than arabica.
  • Arabica: Arabica has lower caffeine content per bean than robusta.
3. Sugar and Lipids
  • Robusta: Robusta has a very small amount of sugar and lipids.
  • Arabica: Arabica contains more lipids and almost double the amount of natural sugars than robusta.
4. Price
  • From a price standpoint, green robusta beans are about half the price of green arabica beans on the commodity market.
5. Cultivation
  • Robusta: Grown at lower altitudes in the Eastern Hemisphere, robusta plants are extremely resilient to pests and disease. While we love the high caffeine concentration in each bean, pests despise the bitter flavor and steer clear of robusta.
  • Arabica: Grown at higher elevations, arabica coffee plants are more susceptible to pests, diseases and cold temperatures. They require sub-tropic climates, plenty of nutrients and delicate handling.
6. Location
  • Robusta: Robusta beans are grown exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, primarily in Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • Arabica: Arabica beans are prominently grown in Latin America, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Colombia only produces arabica beans. Some countries, however, like Brazil and India, produce both arabica and robusta. Death Wish Coffee is a blend of both arabica and robusta beans that we source mainly from India and Peru.
7. The Shape
  • Robusta: Robusta beans are more circular.
  • Arabica: Arabica beans are more oval.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you enjoy sipping on. Personally, we like the best of both worlds—high caffeine, with a smooth, rich flavor. Why not have your cake and eat it, too, when you can?! 

RELATED: The Rise of the Robusta Coffee Bean

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