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The cups you brew or order from coffee shops are not limited to a single bean variety. There are four different types of coffee beans that are widely produced and sold in the market: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa.
The most common and popular are Arabica and Robusta, whereas the less common are Liberica and Excelsa.
In this article, we’ll further explore the different types and characteristics of coffee beans and at least to understand how each of these varieties affects the cup quality.
What are the 4 Types of Coffee Beans?
Scientifically speaking, there are many types of coffee plant species classified under the genus Coffea. However, there only four main species of beans that are produced for consumption and commercial use. And among these four choices, some of them are not available just any where.
Arabica beans are used in specialty markets (which sells at higher prices). The rest are produced for commodity or blend use.
Here are the popular coffee beans that are mostly processed, roasted, and brewed to produce a cup of coffee every day.
1. Arabica Coffee Beans
Arabica is well-known in the specialty coffee industry for its higher quality beans, having a more complex, acidic, and sweet flavor.
This type of coffee bean is the most popular and commercially produced variety nowadays due to having a more superior flavor profile. It accounts for over 70% of the world’s coffee production.
Arabica tends to thrive at high altitudes, which gives the coffee a unique flavour profile. This coffee is primarily grown in Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia, the most Arabica coffee-producing countries. Imagine if the top coffee-producing counties will engage in massive production of Arabica beans, which will definitely impact the industry.
Besides, these beans tend to sell at higher prices on the market as of being of higher quality. That’s why most coffee farmers heavily invested in the cultivation and production of the said coffee variety.
But What Makes an Arabica Bean a High Quality?
There are many reasons why most of us prefer the taste of it aside from being more aromatic and delicious than Robusta. And there are also several characteristics of Arabica beans that contribute to our desired taste preference. For example, the origin, altitude, roast profile, etc.
Having that in mind, this kind of physical and flavor profile of an Arabica comes with a great engagement. Arabica coffee is known to being sensitive in a harsher and hotter climate, and also prone to pests and diseases that affect the over-all cup quality. Therefore, it must be raised with enough care and keep it healthy to produce the perfect cup of coffee.
Aside from its nature to offer a more complex aroma and flavor, the discovery and selection of Arabica have the largest impact on maintaining the quality. Additionally, we can also safely say that the growing conditions, how it was taken care of also devote to its known aspect.
Coffea Arabica likes to grow in mountainous and volcanic regions. Preferably located in many tropical countries around the equator. So, if we consider this, altitude for example has a great contribution to the Arabica bean’s over-all physical and flavor development. In the previous article, “How does Altitude Affect the Taste of Coffee in a Cup,” we have discussed how elevations affect the coffee flavor. Feel free to read and discern why does altitude matter.
So, wrapping it up, it’s all about cultivation and preparation that creates accentuated factors related to quality.
2. Robusta Coffee Beans
The beans of a Robusta variety are also known in the coffee industry. However, it’s often associated with a low cup quality.
Sure, even it’s considered to have a low-grade bean, but there’s still a high market for this variation of coffee. In fact, its production comprises around 30-40% globally.
Most coffee aficionados look down on this type of bean as being cheap and usually linked to a strong and robust flavor. Well, I guess that’s how the way it is. These flavor profiles develop due to its high caffeine content.
Sometimes the taste is described as rubbery and bitter that may be related to it. Since Robusta coffee is generally grown in a severe and hotter environment, it consists of a high amount of caffeine to be more tolerant and resilient of its surroundings.
Why is Robusta Bean a Low-Quality?
Robusta variety is easier to grow in low elevations which is vulnerable to pests and bad weather conditions. Well, that’s not really the main reason, rather it’s because this type of variety is not usually given the same care and consideration in production and processing as Arabica. As we’ve mentioned, it’s sometimes about preparation to at least bring out the best in coffee.
The physical aspect of the bean is also a factor that defines quality. Since a Robusta variety generally grows at low altitudes, sometimes this will affect the bean’s growth and development. You will often see a less dense and softer bean due to its slow maturation process. In that case, quality control is often overlooked and thus proceed to trade with hundreds of defects. And we all know that defective beans are being disqualified in the specialty coffee status.
However, regardless of being a low-class coffee, some people might still appreciate it the other way. Maybe there’s a reason why Robusta is still one of the commercially produced coffee varieties. Sure, it’s widely disregarded by the specialty coffee industry and its cupping quality has not even been a priority, but does it always have to be a bad thing?
3. Liberica Coffee Beans
Liberica is not that popular and very rare in the coffee industry. But it tends to offer a better cup quality than Robusta.
You can taste a distinct floral and fruity flavor, with a bit of woodiness and earthiness in just one sip. Although you may think that it is similar to Robusta, which gives it a break is a very bold and strong flavor and aroma.
It may be a great tasting coffee, but its taste is more bitter than Arabica and Robusta. This taste quality contributes to its strong flavor profile associated with the popular “Barako” blend which is the coffee choice in the Philippines.
When it comes to its bean’s appearance, Liberica is the only one that has unique characteristics. Aside from having a larger area, it’s far different from other types of species that we’ve typically recognize. In other words, a Liberica bean has an irregular shape – almost like an almond’s shape – compared to a bean of an Arabica and Robusta.
4. Excelsa Coffee Beans
The beans produced from Exelsa coffee is not that significant to global coffee production. It’s even rarer and more unpopular than Liberica. It is not because of its taste profile but because it’s found mostly in few countries, which is explicitly some parts of Southeast Asia.
Both Liberica and Excelsa have almost alike beans’ structure. Although we can’t still ignore the fact that they’re likely different from each other. But after all, it is included nowadays as one of the varieties of Liberica species. In that case, most new coffee lovers wouldn’t probably recognize it.
When it comes to the taste profile, its beans have a fruity, lingering taste which is known for its unique and complex aroma. You can still categorize its taste profile separately. But since this variety is not that remarkable nowadays, it is generally used in some of the production and intended use. Some beverage companies blend it with other coffee verities to give a great combination.
What are the Most Consumed Types of Coffee Beans?
The Arabica and Robusta are the two main categories of coffee varieties available. Among the many different types of coffee beans, they are most commercially produced and traded around the world.
As of being able to dominate the coffee industry, this what makes people almost love coffee every day.
With all the types of coffee mentioned, it’s no surprise if most of the bags you purchased are labeled “Arabica beans.” Or most instant coffees or brewed cups you order from cafes and shops are made from either of Robusta beans.
Arabica is the more commercially produced variety than Robusta as it is more prevalent in the specialty coffee industry. It accounts for about 70-75% of global coffee production. On the other hand, at least 25-30% of the production is Robusta, making as the second most consumed coffee variety.
Sure, the Liberica and Excelsa species are also cultivated and commercially produced. They’re indeed included in the four main types of coffee.
However, that doesn’t mean they can sustain the need of many consumers. Both of them produce the lowest yields of all the coffees mentioned. Yes, of course, they’re still available in the world market but with limited or smaller quantities as sometimes they’re difficult to produce, especially in different growing conditions.
So, the Arabica and Robusta coffees are by far the best as both of them can sustain the global need for coffee. From your favorite cafes to coffee shops, it’s rare to see enough availability of liberica or Excelsa coffee beans.
For additional reasons, studies show that in most countries, many farmers invested heavily in the production of both Arabica and Robusta. While Excelsa and Liberica have almost zero growth. Very few coffee growers have made an effort to cultivate it, resulting in limited availability of enough beans.
How are 4 Types of Coffee Beans Roasted?
Is there a particular roast technique, degree or level reccomended to each type of coffee bean?
Technically, there is!
Each variety of bean should be treated differently to achieve the best quality. Although it’s not that necessary, some coffee experts recommend exploring the right roast profile for each type of bean to bring out the bean’s natural flavor.
Besides, the technique on how you roast Arabica beans may not be suitable for Robusta or Liberica beans.
But Can I Choose Any Roast I Like?
Sure, roasting is a process that affects the coffee taste. It can produce varying degrees of flavor and caffeine content in your cup. And choosing a roast degree will depend on your taste preference.
Whether what type of bean it is, choose a roast that will satisfy your taste.
However, remember that the structural differences between those beans significantly impact the roast profile. It’s highlighted before that a Robusta bean is much smaller that Arabica, while Liberica is the largest amongst them.
Therefore, all of the beans should be roasted differently under accepted conditions. Additionally, in my opinion, I would prefer to treat each according to variety and origin country.
Just let the bean itself determine its ideal best roast profile!
Besides, the concentration of sugar between them plays an essential role in forming numerous aromatic compounds during roasting.
Then How Should I Roast Each Coffee Bean?
1. Arabica Beans
Let’s start with Arabica. Since Arabica contains more lipids and sugar, it’s better to roast the beans medium-dark. That is because the more you roast the coffee beans, the more sugar comes out as well.
Be careful, though, and be sure not to over roast the beans.
2. Robusta Beans
Robusta is known to have a high amount of caffeine. It also contains less lipids and sugar than Arabica. Therefore, in this case, it may not be as good as typical dark roasts.
Since Robusta beans contain high caffeine levels, avoid roasting them beyond light to medium roast. That is because the more you roast the beans, the more caffeine elements develop.
So, I would try to roast Robusta beans lightly. Whereas Arabica beans are best suited to be as dark roasts, Robusta is the opposite.
3. Liberica and Excelsa
Both Liberica and Excelsa coffee beans have no significant difference when it comes roasting process. Technically, they have the same characteristics. Both have unique and strong character and flavors.
They are best when roasted lighter to medium-dark. That is to bring out the nice balanced acidity and fruitiness of the bean in the final cup. Both Liberica and Excelsa are known for their uniqueness and rarity. Therefore, it’s best to preserve the authenticity of their beans or from the way of roasting.
But after all, what matters is the experience to choose a roast that brings out the natural sweetness and flavors that each coffee variety has. Whether you roast each beans in the traditional way or modern approach, there’s no right or wrong on how to do it. In fact, it’s all down to your roasting skill to roast a particular coffee bean.
Wrapping it up!
There you have it! in order to make the perfect cup of coffee at home, choose your preferred beans. And much better to you know where your coffee beans come from. Just don’t be afraid to explore different coffee beans and delve into their different flavors. And as you’ve settled on it, try to experiment on different roasts and decide on what you think is best suited to the taste that you like.
At last, one thing for sure, having this exciting learning behind the beans you pick, roast, grind, and brew will definitely influence how you prepare and appreciate your coffee.
Like this Article? You Might Want to Read: What Does “100% Arabica” Mean? All Things Behind that Label