There are two main varieties of coffee: Robusta and Arabica. Arabica coffee is the sweeter tasting and more common of the two, while Robusta is more bitter but easier to grow. If we pit these two quality coffee warriors against each other, who wins?
First, let us establish the parameters of the fight. The contestants will be judged on four factors: percentage of caffeine, taste, ease of production, and cost.
Robusta versus Arabica
Beginning with percentage of caffeine, Robusta has almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica. This probably explains why Robusta is more likely to be found in Italian espresso. People want their espresso to pack a caffeinated punch, and Robusta delivers. It is preferred by Italians for the superior crema, or froth on the top. Robusta definitely beats out Arabica if you're talking about purely caffeine content.
Looking at taste, the winner is clearly Arabica, which naturally contains more lipids and sugar than Robusta giving it a more pleasing taste. Robusta is low in acidity but high in bitterness. This doesn't mean that Robusta doesn't make a quality coffee; there are high-end Robustas out there, but Arabica is still more likely to be in your K cup machine while Robusta is filling up your instant coffee.
Production and Growth
Moving on to ease of production, we see that Robusta coffee is cheaper to produce and easier to care for. Approximately 25-30% of coffee grown worldwide is of the Robusta variety. Arabica coffee plants take longer to mature, but Robusta grows taller. Since Robusta is easier to grow, it wins this round, but your delicious exotic coffee is still probably going to be Arabica coffee.
In the final round we look at the cost of each variety. Robusta is cheaper to produce and Arabica more expensive, but if you're looking at global coffee production, Arabica brings in more revenue overall. Robusta requires less care to grow as its higher caffeine level make it more resistant to insects. This round handily goes to Robusta .
Totaling up the scores, it looks like Robusta would win in a fight, but Arabica is still the “flavourite”. Aside from espresso and instant coffee, Robusta makes appearances as a filler in blended ground coffee, but most people enjoying a steaming morning K cup are savouring Arabica. Since that was the criteria for winning, even though Robusta takes most of the categories, Arabica is the most preferred and most consumed variety of coffee, so we have to hand the win to the favourite. Sorry, Robusta. You may pack the biggest caffeinated punch, be easier and cheaper to produce, but it turns out that most people prefer those single serve coffee pods to be filled with the more delicious Arabica coffee.