There are 125 species of coffee grown all over the world, yet two species tend to get the most buzz: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta and Arabica have very different reputations in the coffee market, despite the fact they look pretty much the same after roasting.
Arabica beans are typically used in the specialty coffee industry, Commonwealth Joe included. Robusta is easier to grow, has a higher yield, is more pest resistant and has more caffeine than Arabica. You would think that would be great, right? However, Robusta beans are considered lower in quality and most frequently used in the commodity coffee market.
An important difference, the higher caffeine content of Robusta lends a more bitter taste to the coffee. A combination of environmental conditions, coffee growing methods and the bean itself, even when well cared for; Robusta beans consistently result in a grain-like and harsh taste. Not exactly a great taste for your coffee, but when blended for espresso, the crema will be beautiful.
Despite the fact that 75 percent of the world produces Arabica beans, they are more expensive because of the potential difficulty to produce. Unlike Robusta beans though, Arabica’s flavors can vary widely. They are much sweeter and fruitier. They also tend to have more lipids and sugars than Robusta beans, which also contribute to the taste.
That said, don’t be fooled. Just because you have an Arabica bean doesn’t mean it will be any good. You might see 100 percent Arabic in the commodity market, however it might not be the highest quality bean that it would be in the specialty coffee industry. Like Robusta, the quality of your Arabica is impacted by growing methods, the environment, etcetera, which is why assessments like a cupping are so important when coffee roasters go out to buy their favorite beans.