By now we hear more and more phrases such as “the best coffee is 100 percent Arabica,” “give me an Arabica espresso please,” or even “I only drink coffee at the bar if it has at least 70 percent Arabica,” and finally “we only make quality blends with at least 80 percent Arabica.”
These statements are not entirely false, but said in isolation and out of context, they do not mean much.
Let’s find out together why…
But before you delve into explaining the difference between arabica and robusta, discover the perfect blend for you: answer 3 simple questions and you’ll get the result right away !
The real thing is that in general, arabica quality coffee is considered more valuable than robusta quality coffee.
That said, I emphasize the term “in general,” because there are also bad arabica coffees and incredible and aromatic robusta coffees.
The difference between arabica and robusta
The major differences between arabica and robusta are 3:
the arabica bean is usually more elongated and coarse, with a more sinuous central cut; in contrast, the robusta bean is smaller and rounder, with a straight central groove;
ALTITUDE OF GROWTH
: robusta grows from 0 m above sea level up to about 800 m; while arabica grows higher, that is, from 600 m up to 2400 m. This makes arabica more difficult to grow. In addition, higher altitudes tend to make the coffee more acidic;
: arabica has about half as much caffeine as robusta, but has twice as many chromosomes, making it a more aromatically complex coffee. In contrast, robusta has about twice as much caffeine and half as many chromosomes, thus a less aromatic and more bitter coffee.
What do these differences imply in the cup?
In general, Arabica gives your cup of coffee aroma, delicacy, sweetness, pleasant acidity and a velvety, firm crema.
The robust one, on the other hand, attributes more body.
Keeping in mind that in Italy we consume coffee in most cases in espresso, we seek short, full-bodied and creamy coffee. Therefore, the optimal solution turns out to be to create a blend of robusta and arabica. In this way the merits can be obtained from both plants.
In fact, the arabica part will give us delicious and inviting aromas and flavor notes, while the robusta part allows us to extract a coffee with enveloping body and velvety crema.
Is a roaster who writes on the label of his 100% Arabica coffee selling quality coffee?
The roaster has perhaps one of the most difficult tasks compared to all the roles it takes to get the coffee you enjoy at your local coffee shop.
In fact, it can get a really excellent coffee as completely ruin the raw material with even a few extra seconds of cooking the beans.
The roaster’s talents are multiple and lie in selecting high quality and defect-free raw material, processing and roasting it to perfection, and finally creating the perfect recipe to create an intense and balanced cup of coffee.
That said, let’s give some examples: if a roaster packages a 100% Arabica coffee blend or even a 100% Arabica single-origin, but at the base has purchased raw beans with defects, such as unpleasant odors, the coffee will not be classified as quality coffee.
Or even, if a roaster has, yes, selected an excellent raw material, but then gone and hyper-roasted it, he has completely ruined the raw beans. In fact, in this way it hid any natural aroma present in the bean, covering it with a strong bitterness and an almost burnt taste. The coffee in the cup will therefore be unpleasant to the palate, even if it is a 100% Arabica.
And so on…
Can personal tastes affect quality?
The quality of a coffee is established objectively with internationally valid tests, which result in certificates, a kind of coffee quality card.
The most widely used and popular test is “cupping,” performed with ground coffee left to steep.
However, “the highest quality coffee” does not necessarily mean that it is the one that suits you as a taste.
In fact, arabica usually has more sour notes, compared to robusta. If acidity in coffee bothers YOU, a 100% Arabica will not be for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a creamy coffee with a more bitter note, you should opt for a blend with a higher percentage of robusta.
And finally, if you want a velvety, sweet, mild and aromatic coffee instead, you should opt for a blend with a higher percentage of Arabica.
Always being careful about roasting, however. In fact, to be sure that the coffees have the characteristics described above you will need to read “medium roast” on the label.
So how can I tell if a blend is quality or not if I don’t just look at the percentage of arabica?
The best action would be to ask the professionals you need for information.
In fact, at Ernani’s, we have a trained and professional team at our roastery who will be able to advise and guide you to the blend that is most akin to your personal tastes and what you want to enjoy in your cup of coffee.
And not only that, we also offer the same service online, just contact us at email@example.com and we will help you find the perfect blend or single origin for you.
Finally, the best advice I can give you is to try….
Experiment, try new coffees and ever-changing flavors, and slowly you will discover what is right for you.
Also, if you try to taste your espresso without sugar you will be able to pick up every aromatic nuance better, and it will be even easier to immediately distinguish a quality coffee from one that is not good and palatable.