How Many Types Of Coffee Beans Are There & What’s The Difference?
When we think about the many different types of coffee, it seems like there’s an endless choice. However, there are really only two types of coffee beans – Robusta and Arabica. There are also a couple of others, Liberica and Excelsa, but these are not as common as Robusta and Arabica which together make up over 90% of worldwide coffee production.
The Different Types of Coffee Beans
If you love your coffee, you may want to know more about its origin and the types of beans that it is made from, so let’s explore the different coffee beans that your favorite cup of joe comes from.
Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta coffee beans are the second most-produced bean in the world accounting for about 40% of worldwide production. The name Robusta comes from the fact the bean is immune to a variety of different diseases and is very hardy. It thrives in areas where other types of beans might struggle with fungus, pests or other diseases.
This type of bean can grow at different elevations and fairs well in harsher, hot climates with irregular rainfall. It contains double the amount of caffeine as the more popular Arabica bean. This gives them a harsher flavor but is one of the main reasons why they are preferred by those looking for a real caffeine boost.
Their shape is a smaller, more round bean and is grown in Indonesia and Africa primarily. It is a less expensive variety, as it can be grown much more easily without a lot of care. Because of this, many roasters will often choose Robusta coffee beans.
Arabica Coffee Beans
Arabica beans are often considered a higher quality bean than the Robusta – although some would argue that a good quality Robusta is better than a poor quality Arabica. They are the most produced coffee bean in the world and account for about 60% of worldwide production.
These types of coffee beans prefer a less harsh growing environment, ideally with plenty of shade and rain. Because of this, they can be harder to grow and often, therefore, more costly. They are more susceptible to disease and really only grow well at altitudes of 2000 feet or more.
The plants of the Arabica coffee beans may be easy to care for, due to being smaller and easy to prune, but this means that they typically yield less than Robusta plants. Arabica beans are full of aroma and flavor. These beans are called Arabica because of the popularity they had in Arabia in the 7th century.
Because Arabica beans are considered higher quality you will often find gourmet coffees manufacturers advertising the fact that their coffee is made from Arabica beans. The beans and your coffee will have a different flavor depending on where they are actually grown. For example, beans grown in Ethiopia will have a more floral taste, while those in Indonesia will have an Earthy taste.
With fairly stark differences between the Arabica and Robusta beans, it’s not hard to see why producers would look to create hybrid coffee beans that combine the best attributes of both.
With the seemingly ever-increasing demand for coffee, farmers are keen to get the best from their crop – so beans that have the harder characteristics of the Robusta and the higher quality attributes of the Arabica would obviously be ideal.
Hybrid coffees have become quite popular, and you may already be drinking coffee that comes from hybrid beans. Some typical examples of these include:
- F1 Hybrids
- Timor Hybrid
The aim of hybrids like these is to soften the harsh taste of the Robusta bean, but keep some of the plant’s ability to ward off disease to increase crop yields.
Liberica Coffee Beans
Liberica beans are some of the most bitter coffee beans with a very robust flavor and are found mostly in the Philippines. They are said to not be for the faint of heart and the brew is usually served with sugar to alleviate some of the harshness, which may be why they are relatively unpopular compared to the two main coffee bean types.
Excelsa Coffee Beans
Excelsa coffee beans are also relatively rare and usually only found in Southeast Asia. They offer a curious combination of light and dark roast flavors and are often used in blends to add a boost of flavor to the coffee.
The Best Coffee Beans
Now that you know more about the different varieties of coffee beans, you are probably wondering which is the best. That would depend on who you ask. Many in the Philippines like coffee made with Liberica beans, however, it is much too strong for most coffee drinkers outside of that region.
Most people prefer the Arabica brew – which is why it’s so popular. But, this tasty, smoother brew can mean an extra cost as this bean is more expensive than any of the rest. If you prefer your coffee with a bit more of a caffeine kick and don’t mind the slightly harsher flavor, then you might want to go for a Robusta or an Arabica and Robusta blend. This can reduce the cost of your brew and give you a more intense taste.
Many people prefer to buy their coffee already pre-ground. However, for the very best taste, you’d be better off buying the roasted beans and then grinding them just before brewing. This means all the flavour in your beans is kept locked in until just before you are ready to brew. If you take this approach, you could also experiment with your own blends made from grinding the different types of beans.
The Last Drop
Coffee can use a variety of beans from different regions of the world to give you a wide range of rich and varied flavors. The key is to find a flavor or blend that is right for you. While we really only have the two main types of coffee beans, there is still huge potential for variety.
There are hybrids of the two main beans and there are blends using different quantities of each. Plus there are different techniques for roasting them to alter and enhance their natural flavors. With so many possibilities, the number of different tastes and flavors is practically endless.
So, it may take some time and experimentation, but there’s bound to be a taste that suits everyone. Think of all the excellent coffee you’ll get to drink while you try to find it.