What Type of Bean is Used in Most Coffee? As a seasoned coffee barista, this query often brews among enthusiasts and consumers alike. Tracing back to the diverse coffee origin, my two decades of cultivating beans have allowed me to explore the rich, floral notes of the Liberica bean and the fruity tang of Excelsa coffee.
While the main types of beans, namely Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa, define the world’s coffee production, Arabica unmistakably leads in popularity and widespread cultivation. Weaving through various coffee types, this article will immerse you into why Arabica is heralded among other popular types, and offer a bean’s-eye view into regions where coffee is grown, unraveling its journey from a mere seed to your beloved cup.
Join me in percolating through these aromatic tales and discover the roots of your favorite brew.
What Type of Bean is Used in Most Coffee?
As a third-generation coffee farmer with over 20 years of experience, I’m often asked what makes a great cup of coffee. While factors like roast profile and brewing method certainly play a role, the true star of any good coffee is the beans themselves. And when it comes to coffee beans, one variety reigns supreme for its complex flavor and aroma: the type of coffee bean Arabica.
Coffee bean type Arabica accounts for 60-80% of the world’s most popular coffee production and can be found in the vast majority of coffee blends and single-origin roasts, displaying unique Arabica coffee beans and characteristics.
There are 4 main different types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica coffee bean, and Excelsa bean, so how many types are there? But what exactly are the 4 types of coffee beans in the world, and why is Arabica so widely used compared to other varieties of coffee like Robusta? Read on as I explain the history, flavor, cultivation, and usage of the humble bean.
A Brief History of Coffee Bean Arabica
The origins of Coffee Bean Arabica come from the ancient world of coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau, where legend has it that coffee beans were discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the energizing effects of the fruit of the coffee plant species. The type of coffee bean Arabica likely originated in the southwestern highlands of the country before spreading throughout the Middle East.
Coffee was heavily regulated by Arab societies, and strict laws were established to govern its cultivation and consumption. This earned the bean the name “Arabica”, meaning “of Arabia”, which it carries to this day.
In the early 1600s, coffee became a popular beverage in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In Java, Indonesia, the Dutch were the first to cultivate Arabica trees on a commercial scale. Brazil is one of the coffee capitals of the world and the foremost producer of Arabica.
What Makes Arabica’s Coffee Beans Special?
Arabica’s beans are considered to have more complex coffee flavors and aromas compared to other major varieties like Robusta, especially when it comes to Zus coffee flavor. Robusta beans are also known to have a more neutral aroma. This is attributed to several key differences:
- Sugar content – beans of Arabica have almost double the concentration of sucrose compared to Robusta. This gives the beans a sweeter, more well-rounded taste.
- Acidity – The high acidity of Arabica’s beans adds brightness and fruit notes to the flavor profile. Their acidity ranges from sparkling to winey to tart.
- Aroma – Arabica features floral, fruity, and herbaceous notes like jasmine, berry, and grass. Compared to Arabica beans, Robusta beans from the robusta coffee plant have a more neutral aroma.
- Body – While not as full-bodied as Robusta, Arabica still has a round, smooth mouthfeel that lacks the harshness of other varieties.
- Caffeine content – beans of Arabica are generally known to have less caffeine than Robusta, making for a gentler, less stimulating cup of coffee.
These nuanced qualities make Arabica the preferred bean for specialty coffee. Their complex flavor spectrum allows for a greater range of tastes depending on the region, processing method, and roast level.
Growing Conditions for Quality Beans of Arabica
Arabica beans are grown mostly in high-altitude tropical climates with steady rainfall, rich soil, and moderate temperatures between 15 to 24 °C. Important Arabica-growing regions include:
- Central America – Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador
- South America – Colombia, Brazil, Peru
- East Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda
- Indonesia – Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi
The best coffee beans are grown in nutrient-dense volcanic soil at altitudes above 2,000 feet, perfect for eating coffee. Higher elevations produce denser beans with more concentrated flavor due to slower maturation. Shade-grown Arabica also develops more complexity in taste.
Careful processing is essential after harvest to roast coffee beans. The coffee cherry pulp must be removed, and the beans dried slowly and with control. After roasting is complete, meticulous processing is imperative to ensure quality, grinding coffee beans optimally to preserve their integrity and prevent detrimental issues like mold growth and over-fermentation.
Arabica Coffee Usage and Blending
The flavors and qualities of Arabica’s coffee make it a versatile ingredient for coffee drinks that takes well to blend into many coffee drinks. Here are some of the most common uses:
- Single-origin coffees – Coffees from celebrated growing regions like Kona, Jamaica Blue Mountain, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe contain 100% high-grade beans of Arabica. Their flavor profiles directly reflect their terroir.
- Blends – Most commercial coffee blends contain 60-80% Arabica robusta beans for a well-balanced flavor. The remaining portion contains Robusta coffee beans for added crema and depth.
- Espresso – Both coffee and espresso rely on the complexity and richness of espresso beans like Arabica. Beans with bright acidity and medium body are favored.
- Cold brew – The low acidity and mild flavor of Arabica beans make for a smoother iced coffee cold brew with chocolate and caramel notes.
- Decaf coffee – Most decaffeinated used in instant coffee starts with the highest quality coffee beans like Arabica. This ensures good flavor after the caffeine is removed.
No matter the way to brew coffee, Arabica can elevate any cup with its sweetness, aromatics, and nuanced complexity as a favorite coffee, especially if you’re a coffee lover. It’s no wonder discerning many coffee drinkers worldwide seek out this top coffee variety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Arabica coffee better than Robusta?
Arabica like Lifeboost coffee is generally considered of higher quality than Robusta due to its complex flavor, aromas, and mild acidity. Robusta has a higher caffeine content and deeper body but lacks the nuanced taste of Arabica. However, Robusta is still used as a blending component to add crema and depth.
Why is Arabica coffee more expensive?
Arabica tends to cost more than Robusta for several reasons. Arabica trees produce lower yields, thrive in remote high-altitude regions with expensive labor, and require very careful processing. Their susceptibility to pests, diseases, and coffee leaf rust also leads to high costs.
What’s the difference between specialty and commercial coffee?
Specialty coffee refers to single-origin Arabica with distinct terroir and cupping scores over 80 points. Commercial coffee includes mass-market blends that rely more heavily on cheaper Robusta beans.
Where are the best Arabica beans grown?
Some of the world’s best Arabica beans come from volcanic regions in Central and South America, East Africa, and Indonesia. Famous origins include Kona (Hawaii), Antigua (Guatemala), Tarrazú (Costa Rica), and Sidamo (Ethiopia).
How should Arabica coffee beans be stored?
To maintain freshness, whole-bean Arabica is best kept properly stored since coffee beans begin to lose flavor soon after roasting. Ground coffee should be used within 1-2 weeks. Freezing extends shelf life.
Is Arabica good for espresso?
Yes, Arabica’s flavor clarity and complexity make it an excellent choice for quality espresso. Beans with bright acidity and medium body are often preferred. Medium-roast coffee beans also help cut acidity compared to Darker roasts. Espresso blends contain some Robusta as well.
What’s the difference between Arabic coffee and Turkish coffee?
Arabic coffee refers to the way coffee originated and spread through the Arab world. Turkish coffee refers to a strong, thick brewed coffee style in Turkey that uses very finely ground coffee beans. Both use beans from Arabica but are two distinct coffee traditions.
I hope this article has helped explain why Arabica remains king of the coffee world. Its inimitable taste and aroma make Arabica a prized bean for coffee enthusiasts across the global coffee.