As we begin our final chapter into the types of coffee plants, we look lastly at the Robusta coffee species.
Robusta is primarily in Africa and Indonesia. The largest producer is Vietnam where over 3 billion pounds are sold per year. While exact numbers vary by year, worldwide coffee production is about 40 percent Robusta.
Robusta beans are generally cheaper simply because they’re easier to grow. It takes half the time to yield a crop and each crop produces a higher yield. Plus, the high caffeine content of Robusta beans means they’re naturally less appealing to insects. And the antimicrobial properties of the plant keep diseases at bay.
In addition, due to the lower expense to produce, Robusta’s primary use is for instant coffee, cheaper ground coffee, and as a blend filler. For these purposes most of its production is low grade.
One major difference between Arabica and Robusta is the varieties. Arabica has many noted and studied varieties, even hybrids. But Robusta does not have many natural variations.
Most are due to regional impact and the splicing with Arabica experimentation that had become more noticeable. Many believe there is a way to splice both plants to create one that has all the best qualities of each plant.
Robusta is a large percentage of coffee grown and sold. So, why don’t we see more of it? The simple answer is consumer choice and availability of higher quality grades.
Arabica beans brew up with a smoother, sweeter flavor, while Robusta beans are often more bitter and pack a serious caffeine punch. This is simply the anatomy of the beans. Arabica has more sugar and less caffeine. Robusta has less sugar and more caffeine.
Found to be woody and rubbery in flavor, it is suggested that Robusta be brewed in espresso fashion to bring out its most positive qualities. Robusta is also used in many espresso blends due to the nice, thick crema it provides.
The strong flavor and lack of sugar is also why one of the most know Robusta coffee recipes is Vietnamese Coffee. Robusta coffee is brewed slowly in a phin over a glass with a good spoonful of condensed milk on the bottom. It has also become extremely popular to add ice for those who want a cooler beverage.
So, after all of this knowledge on various plants. All their pros and cons. What is the biggest takeaway? Coffee will always be subjective even in the face of science.
You may love the lighter flavor profiles of Arabica. You may love the earthier flavor profiles of Robusta. But either way, we all love coffee!