What Are the Two Most Commonly Used Coffee Beans?

common types of coffee beans

Robusta and Arabica are the two most commonly used coffee beans in the world. They dominate the coffee market, with Arabica making up about 75% of global coffee production and Robusta covering the remaining 25%.

Each type of bean offers unique flavours and characteristics that cater to different preferences.

By understanding these two popular coffee beans, you’ll gain insights into what makes your favourite cup of coffee so special.

Whether you’re a casual drinker or a coffee expert, knowing the basics about Robusta and Arabica will improve your appreciation of this beloved beverage.

Overview of Coffee Bean Types

Arabica and Robusta constitute the two most commonly used coffee beans. These beans dominate the coffee market due to their distinct qualities.

Arabica Beans:

  • Taste: Arabica beans offer a smooth, complex flavour with hints of sweetness, fruit, and acidity.
  • Growing Conditions: Arabica requires high altitudes, cooler climates, and careful cultivation.
  • Market Dominance: Arabica represents about 75% of global coffee production.
  • Usage: Frequently used in specialty coffee, single-origin offerings, and premium blends.

Robusta Beans:

  • Taste: Robusta beans provide a stronger, harsher flavour with a pronounced bitterness and sometimes nutty notes.
  • Growing Conditions: Robusta thrives in lower altitudes, higher temperatures, and is more resilient to pests.
  • Market Share: Robusta covers approximately 25% of global coffee production.
  • Usage: Commonly utilised in instant coffee, espresso blends, and high-caffeine products.

Understanding these two primary types enhances your appreciation of coffee’s diverse offerings.

Arabica Coffee Beans

Characteristics of Arabica

  • Popularity: Arabica dominates the coffee market, making up about 60% of the world’s coffee production.
  • Origin: Arabica beans originated in Ethiopia and have a long history dating back to the 12th century.
  • Flavour Profile: Arabica offers a sweet, complex flavour, known for its smoothness with almost no bitterness.
  • Varietals: There are dozens of Arabica varietals. Most are descendants of the Typica and Bourbon varietals.
  • Yield: Arabica has a lower yield and is more susceptible to diseases like coffee leaf rust, contributing to its premium price.
  • Climate: Arabica plants thrive in cooler temperatures around 18°C. They are highly sensitive to frost.
  • Altitude: Arabica coffee grows best in high-altitude regions, typically above 2000 feet, where cooler temperatures and greater temperature fluctuations improve bean quality.
  • Geographic Origins:
  • Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya
  • Central and South America: Colombia, Brazil
  • Southeast Asia: Indonesia
  • Environment: High altitudes and specific climatic conditions help create the desirable flavours and characteristics of high-quality Arabica coffee.

Arabica coffee beans provide a diverse and rich flavour profile, making them a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts. These specific growing conditions and characteristics set Arabica beans apart from other coffee varieties.

Robusta Coffee Beans

Characteristics of Robusta

  • Flavour Profile: Robusta coffee beans offer an intense flavour and aroma. They have earthy notes with a full body, making them ideal for espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.
  • Caffeine Content: Robusta beans contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, averaging 2.7% caffeine compared to Arabica’s 1.5%. This higher caffeine content gives Robusta a stronger, more bitter taste.
  • Resilience: Robusta beans are more resilient than Arabica. They are heat-tolerant and disease-resistant, thriving in conditions where Arabica might struggle.
  • Roast Suitability: The beans are often used in dark roast coffees and products with high caffeine concentrations, such as Death Wish coffee.
  • Instant Coffee: Because of their strong flavour and caffeine content, Robusta beans are commonly used in instant coffee products.
  • Primary Regions: Robusta coffee beans are grown in Africa, Indonesia, and India. These regions provide the necessary conditions for Robusta cultivation.
  • Altitude: Robusta can be grown at lower altitudes, typically below 2000 feet. This contrasts with Arabica, which requires higher elevations.
  • Temperature Tolerance: Robusta beans can tolerate higher temperatures, up to 30°C, making them suitable for regions with warmer climates.
  • Production Share: Robusta beans account for over 40% of the world’s coffee production. Their easier cultivation and resilience contribute to their widespread growth.

Robusta beans are a versatile choice for various coffee-based products, from espresso blends to instant coffee. Their robust nature and distinct flavour make them a significant player in the global coffee market.

Comparing Arabica and Robusta

Taste Profile Differences

  • Arabica beans: Provide a nuanced and complex flavour profile, often featuring fruity, floral, or wine-like notes. Examples include berries, citrus, and chocolate.
  • Robusta beans: Offer a stronger and more robust flavour profile. Common flavours include earthy, woody, and nutty notes. Often used in espresso blends due to their bold taste.
  • Arabica beans: Contain approximately 1.5% caffeine. Typically used in high-end specialty coffees due to their complex flavours.
  • Robusta beans: Contain approximately 2.7% caffeine. Used in blends and espresso-based drinks due to their higher caffeine content and resilience to pests and diseases.

Other Types Of Beans to Consider

Liberica Beans

  • Origin: West Africa, primarily grown in Malaysia and the Philippines.
  • Characteristics: Larger and more irregularly shaped than typical coffee beans.
  • Flavour Profile: Distinct fruity and floral aroma, with flavours that range from fruity to woody.
  • Unique Feature: Resistance to certain pests and diseases, making it a sustainable option in some regions.
  • Reputation: Love-it-or-hate-it due to its polarising flavour.

Excelsa Coffee Beans

  • Classification: Reclassified as a variety of Liberica beans.
  • Cultivation: Grows in medium altitudes, primarily in Southeast Asia.
  • Flavour Profile: Tart and fruity, combined traits of both light and dark roasts.
  • Usage: Added to Arabica and Robusta blends for complexity, but also enjoyed as a standalone brew.
  • Production: Makes up about 7% of global coffee production.
  • Origin: Typically grown in Latin America.
  • Characteristics: Known for their large size and distinct appearance.
  • Flavour Profile: Mild and smooth, with notes of chocolate, nuts, and mild acidity.
  • Feature: The flavour can vary depending on the region of cultivation, offering a unique experience for each batch.


Understanding the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans can really improve your coffee experience. Whether you’re a fan of Arabica’s subtle flavours or Robusta’s bold kick there’s a bean out there for you.

Don’t forget to explore other varieties like Liberica and Excelsa for something a bit different.

And if you’re feeling adventurous give Maragogipe beans a try. Your coffee journey doesn’t have to stop at the supermarket shelf – there’s a whole world of beans waiting for you!

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