What is Robusta coffee?

What is Robusta coffee?

Robusta coffee, scientifically known as Coffea canephora, is one of the two most popular coffee species globally, the other being Arabica. Known for its robust flavor and high caffeine content, Robusta coffee beans are primarily grown in regions with hot climates and at lower altitudes compared to Arabica. These regions include parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.

Robusta beans are often characterized by their round shape and a straighter crease compared to Arabica beans. They have a stronger, harsher taste than Arabica beans and are often described as having a woody or nutty quality. The high caffeine content not only makes Robusta coffee a stronger, more bitter cup but also provides natural resistance against diseases and pests, making it easier and more economical for farming.

Robusta is typically used in espresso blends, contributing to the crema and providing a full-bodied taste. It is also favored in instant coffee products due to its pronounced flavor and lower production costs. While it may not be as widely celebrated as Arabica in specialty coffee circles, Robusta plays a crucial role in the global coffee industry due to its distinctive characteristics and economic viability.

Key Takeaways:

  • Robusta coffee is characterized by its strong flavor and high caffeine content.
  • It makes up about 30% of the world’s total coffee production.
  • Robusta is known for its affordability and is often used in instant coffee.
  • Compared to Arabica coffee, Robusta has a harsh and bitter taste.
  • The caffeine content in Robusta coffee is approximately 2.7%.

How does Robusta Coffee differ from Arabica Coffee?

Robusta coffee and Arabica coffee are two of the most popular species of coffee beans, each offering distinct characteristics in flavor, cultivation conditions, and caffeine content. Robusta coffee beans are known for their strong, robust flavor with a somewhat harsh and nutty aftertaste. They typically contain higher caffeine levels, which makes them more bitter but also more resistant to pests and diseases. This characteristic allows Robusta coffee to be cultivated in a wider range of environments and generally at lower altitudes compared to Arabica.

On the other hand, Arabica coffee beans are favored for their smoother, more complex flavor profiles that can include hints of fruit and sugar, with a higher acidity compared to Robusta. Arabica beans are grown predominantly in areas with higher altitudes and cooler climates, which contributes to their flavor complexity. Due to their growing conditions and lower caffeine content, Arabica beans are generally considered to be of higher quality in the specialty coffee market.

Overall, the choice between Robusta and Arabica depends on personal taste preferences and the desired application of the coffee, with Robusta often found in espresso blends for added body and crema, while Arabica is preferred for most single-origin coffees due to its nuanced flavors.


Robusta coffee has a stronger and harsher taste compared to the nuanced and aromatic taste of Arabica.

Caffeine Content:

The caffeine content in Robusta is approximately 2.7%, almost double the amount found in Arabica which has about 1.5% caffeine.


Robusta accounts for about 30% of the world’s coffee production, while Arabica makes up the remaining 70%. Robusta is easier to grow and has higher yields, making it more cost-effective.

Growing Conditions:

Robusta can be grown in a variety of environments and is resistant to pests. It thrives in tropical and equatorial climates. In contrast, Arabica requires specific growing conditions including cool subtropical climates, shade, and rich soil. It is more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Robusta CoffeeArabica Coffee
TasteStrong and harshNuanced and aromatic
Caffeine ContentApproximately 2.7%Approximately 1.5%
ProductionApproximately 30%Approximately 70%
Growing ConditionsCan be grown in a variety of environments, resistant to pestsRequires specific growing conditions, more susceptible to pests and diseases

What are the growing conditions for Robusta Coffee?

Robusta coffee, scientifically known as Coffea canephora, thrives in specific growing conditions that differ somewhat from those of its cousin, Arabica coffee. Ideal conditions for Robusta include a hot climate with consistent temperatures ranging between 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F). Robusta is particularly suited to lower altitudes, typically below 800 meters (about 2,600 feet).

High humidity, with at least 60% humidity, is crucial for Robusta as it helps in the development of the coffee cherries. The soil should be rich and well-draining, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Robusta coffee plants benefit from about 2200 to 3000 mm of rainfall annually, spread evenly throughout the year.

Robusta plants are more robust against pests and diseases, which allows them to be cultivated in wider geographical areas. They also produce higher yields and have a quicker production cycle compared to Arabica. The beans are typically more bitter and contain higher levels of caffeine, which serves as a natural deterrent to insects.

For optimal growth, Robusta coffee should not be exposed to prolonged dry periods; consistent, well-distributed rainfall is ideal. In regions where rainfall is not adequate, supplementary irrigation becomes necessary to maintain the health of the coffee plants. Regular pruning and appropriate fertilization are also key practices to ensure the vitality of Robusta coffee crops.

What are the primary producing countries of Robusta Coffee?

The primary producing countries of Robusta coffee are Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia, and Uganda. Vietnam is the largest producer, significantly contributing to the global supply of Robusta coffee. Brazil, while known more for its Arabica production, also grows a substantial amount of Robusta, particularly in the regions of Espírito Santo and Rondônia. Indonesia, another major producer, cultivates Robusta coffee across its many islands, including Sumatra and Sulawesi.

Uganda, although smaller in production volume compared to the others, is a significant African producer of Robusta coffee, which is mainly grown in the central and eastern parts of the country. These countries dominate the Robusta coffee market due to their suitable climatic and soil conditions, which favor the growth of this coffee variety known for its strong flavor and higher caffeine content compared to Arabica.

CountryProduction (Metric Tons, 2020)

How is Robusta Coffee processed?

Robusta coffee, known for its strong flavor and high caffeine content, undergoes a meticulous processing method to ensure quality. The process begins with harvesting, where coffee cherries are typically picked by hand when they are ripe and red. There are two main methods used to process these cherries: the dry method and the wet method.

  1. Dry Method: This is the oldest and simplest method, commonly used for Robusta beans. After harvesting, the whole cherries are spread out in the sun to dry on large surfaces. This drying period can last for several weeks, and the cherries must be regularly turned and raked to prevent mold and fermentation. Once the cherries are dried to the appropriate moisture level, they are mechanically hulled to remove the outer layers, leaving behind the green coffee beans.
  2. Wet Method: Although less common for Robusta, this method involves removing the pulp from the coffee cherry soon after harvesting, leaving the bean covered in mucilage. The beans are then placed in fermentation tanks for a period to remove the sticky mucilage. Following fermentation, the beans are washed with large amounts of water, which also helps to remove any remaining residues. The clean beans are then sun-dried or mechanically dried to reach the required moisture content.

After either drying process, the beans undergo sorting and grading, which can be based on size, weight, and color. Defective beans are removed to ensure the quality of the coffee. The final step in the processing of Robusta coffee beans is roasting, which significantly influences the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

This structured approach to processing Robusta coffee is essential to developing its characteristic strong, full-bodied flavor and ensuring the beans are suitable for consumption and sale.

Wet Processing

  1. Treat impurities: Separate ripe and unripe coffee cherries by floating them in water. Use a vibrator to sift the beans.
  2. Remove outer layer: Use a peeler to remove the flesh and mucilage from the coffee beans. This is the step where wet and dry processing diverge.
  3. Fermentation: After mechanical separation, the remaining mucilage is cleaned off using natural enzymes and extra enzyme preparations in large tanks. The time varies based on mucilage thickness, temperature, and enzyme concentration.
  4. Drying: Washed Robusta beans have 57-60% moisture and are dried to 11-13% moisture content. This can be done on concrete yards over 8-10 days.

Dry Processing

  1. Treat impurities: Similar to wet processing, unripe and defective cherries are removed by floating in water.
  2. Drying: The coffee cherries are dried in the sun on patios or raised beds for 2-4 weeks until the moisture content reaches 11-12%.
  3. Hulling: The dried coffee cherries are hulled to remove the outer skin and dried pulp, revealing the green coffee beans.

Anaerobic Processing

Anaerobic fermentation, such as carbonic maceration, has shown promising results in improving Robusta’s sweetness and flavor. Whole coffee cherries are sealed in containers flushed with carbon dioxide to create an anaerobic environment.Extended anaerobic fermentation helps break down Robusta’s tough mucilage, reduces bitterness, increases sweetness by decreasing caffeine, and degrades chlorogenic acids into aroma precursors.Experimental processing methods like anaerobic fermentation can significantly improve Robusta’s cup quality and make it a more viable specialty coffee option.

What are the health benefits of Robusta Coffee?

Robusta coffee offers several health benefits that make it a valuable addition to a balanced diet. First and foremost, Robusta beans contain higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans. This increased caffeine level can enhance mental alertness and reduce the feeling of fatigue. A study conducted European Food Research and Technology say that Robusta coffee extracts contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica, with content varying from 3.41 % per dry mass in Arabica type from Laos or Rwanda to 8.16 % in Robusta coffee from Indonesia.

Furthermore, Robusta coffee is rich in antioxidants, including chlorogenic acids, which are known for their ability to neutralize harmful free radicals and may contribute to overall health by reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Additionally, the antioxidants in Robusta coffee can help support liver health. Studies have suggested that regular coffee consumption may lower the risk of liver diseases, including liver cancer and fibrosis. Robusta’s high caffeine content also has a thermogenic effect that can help boost metabolism, potentially aiding in weight management.

Moreover, Robusta coffee has been noted for its potential to improve athletic performance. The caffeine it contains can enhance physical endurance and strength by increasing adrenaline levels in the body, which is particularly beneficial before physical exertion.

In summary, Robusta coffee offers numerous health benefits, including enhanced mental alertness, antioxidant protection against chronic diseases, liver health support, metabolic boost, and improved physical performance. These attributes make it a healthful choice for coffee enthusiasts.

How is Robusta Coffee used in blends?

Robusta beans are added to a blend to contribute a fuller body and a richer crema, which is particularly valued in espresso mixes. The robust nature of Robusta allows it to provide a powerful flavor base that complements the smoother and more acidic notes of Arabica beans, the other primary variety of coffee used in blends.

Furthermore, the inclusion of Robusta in coffee blends is also economically advantageous due to its lower production cost and greater crop yield compared to Arabica. This makes it a popular choice for creating cost-effective coffee blends without significantly compromising on taste. Additionally, Robusta’s strong flavor profile helps in maintaining the consistency of the coffee blend’s taste even when brewed using methods that dilute coffee strength, such as in large batch brews or with added milk or cream. Thus, Robusta coffee plays a crucial role in balancing flavor, enhancing texture, and ensuring the economic viability of coffee blends.

What does Robusta Coffee taste like?

Robusta coffee, known for its robust profile, has a distinctive taste that sets it apart from other coffee varieties like Arabica. It typically features a stronger, harsher flavor, often described as bitter with a grainy or nutty undertone. Robusta beans are also noted for their slightly woody and earthy aroma. The coffee’s high caffeine content, which is almost double that of Arabica, contributes to its bitter and bold taste. This makes Robusta a popular choice for espresso blends, as it provides a deep, full-bodied experience and a better crema. Due to its intense flavor profile, Robusta is less likely to be used for light roasts or single-origin brews, where more subtle flavors are preferred.

Taste ProfileDescription
BitternessRobusta coffee has a noticeable bitterness that adds depth and complexity to the flavor.
EarthinessIts earthy notes give Robusta coffee a grounded and rustic taste that appeals to many coffee connoisseurs.
ChocolateRobusta coffee often exhibits flavors reminiscent of dark chocolate, providing a rich and indulgent taste experience.
NutsNotes of nuts, such as almonds, can be found in Robusta coffee, adding a pleasant nuttiness to the overall flavor profile.

How should Robusta Coffee be brewed?

Robusta coffee can be brewed using various methods to bring out its unique flavors and characteristics. Here are three popular brewing methods for Robusta coffee:

Drip Brewing

Drip brewing is a common method used for brewing Robusta coffee. It involves pouring hot water over coffee grounds placed in a filter. The water slowly drips through the grounds, extracting the flavors and oils. This method allows for a well-extracted and balanced cup of coffee, highlighting the robust flavor of Robusta coffee.


Percolation is another popular method for brewing Robusta coffee. In this method, hot water is continuously passed through the coffee grounds, extracting the flavors and creating a strong and rich cup of coffee. Percolation brewing emphasizes the bold taste of Robusta coffee, making it an ideal choice for those who enjoy a robust and intense coffee experience.


Robusta coffee is well-suited for espresso due to its strong flavor and ability to extract well under pressure. When brewing espresso with Robusta coffee, hot water is forced through finely ground coffee beans at high pressure, resulting in a concentrated and flavorful shot. This brewing method brings out the best qualities of Robusta coffee, producing a rich and creamy crema and a strong and robust flavor.

To explore the full potential of Robusta coffee, try experimenting with different brewing methods to find your preferred taste profile. Whether you enjoy a balanced cup of drip coffee, a strong and rich percolated brew, or a bold and intense espresso shot, Robusta coffee can deliver a satisfying coffee experience.

What is the caffeine content of Robusta Coffee?

Robusta coffee is known for its high caffeine content. On average, Robusta beans contain approximately 2.2% caffeine. This is higher compared to the caffeine content of Arabica beans, which is around 1.5%. The higher caffeine content in Robusta contributes to its strong flavor and energizing effects. It is often preferred by those who desire a more potent caffeine kick or need an extra boost of energy throughout the day.

How does the price of Robusta compare to Arabica?

Price, Affordability

When it comes to the price of coffee, Robusta beans have a distinct advantage over Arabica. This is primarily due to the difference in cultivation and production costs between the two varieties. Robusta coffee is known for its easier cultivation and higher yields, making it more cost-effective to produce than Arabica. As a result, Robusta coffee is generally 40-50% cheaper than Arabica coffee, making it a more affordable option for coffee lovers.

The affordability of Robusta coffee has made it a popular choice for various applications. It is commonly used in instant coffee, where cost is a significant factor. The lower price of Robusta makes it an accessible choice for those looking for an economical caffeine fix. Robusta beans are also often used in coffee blends, as they can help to balance out the flavor and provide a robust and strong character to the blend at a lower cost.

However, it’s important to note that the price of Robusta coffee can vary depending on the quality and origin of the beans. Just like with Arabica coffee, there are premium Robusta beans available in the market that can command a higher price. The affordability of Robusta should not be confused with lower quality, as there are excellent Robusta coffees that can deliver a satisfying and flavorful experience.

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