Different types of coffee beans and their characteristics
There are many different types of coffee beans, and each one has its own unique set of characteristics. Knowing the difference between them is essential for anyone who wants to get the most out of their coffee beans and make a great cup of coffee.
Keep reading for our ultimate guide to the most popular types of coffee beans and their defining attributes.
What are the different types of coffee beans?
The four most popular types of coffee beans are Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. All four have radically different taste profiles.
Arabica: the worldwide favourite
Arabica is the most popular type of coffee on the market, accounting for over 60% of coffee production worldwide. It’s the go to coffee bean for industrial coffee machines. Arabica coffee is made from the Coffea arabica plant, which originated in Ethiopia.
Arabica coffee beans are often considered to be of higher quality than other types of coffee beans thanks to their mellow and complex flavours.
These beans have a more subtle, sweeter and softer flavour than other types of coffee and, thanks to the sheer number of Arabica growers and the different variables in their growth and production processes, Arabica coffee beans from each farm and crop can have an entirely different flavour profile. Arabica coffee also has a lower caffeine content than Robusta coffee.
When made with high-quality Arabica beans, arabica coffee will have a slightly sweet flavour with hints of chocolate, nuts, and caramel. You may also detect hints of fruit and berries.
Arabica beans, like all coffee beans, are difficult to grow in most parts of the world.
The best conditions for coffee plant growth are found in what is known as the “Bean Belt” or the “Coffee Belt.” This region is between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Countries in this region have the right kind of soil and climate conditions that are perfect for coffee plants.
Arabica coffee requires even more specific conditions. These beans are typically grown at high altitudes, between 3,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level, and generally prefer moderate temperatures and areas with plenty of shade and steady, high rainfall.
Despite their particular growing conditions, Arabica beans remain the world’s favourite coffee bean type for their mild flavour, lower caffeine content and diverse flavour profiles. Rich Arabica bean blends, such as the Kokebi Intenso 100% blend, are the often most popular for iced coffee and cold brews, although some opt for blends with Robusta or other coffee bean types for a deeper taste.
Robusta: a darker, deeper alternative
Robusta beans are the second most popular bean on the market.
Robusta beans are more popular in Europe and Africa than in America and require very different growing conditions when compared with Arabica beans. They require irregular rainfall, and a very hot climate, and can be grown at various altitudes. Robusta beans are mostly grown throughout Africa, as well as some parts of Asia. Their high caffeine levels give them a strong immunity to diseases.
Robusta coffee beans produce a more full-bodied cup of coffee than Arabica, with earthy undertones and a bitter taste. Many describe the aroma of Robusta coffee beans as dark, powerful and intense. The high caffeine content in the Robusta coffee cherry can make the coffee taste somewhat bitter and acidic, so it is important to find the right balance when blending and brewing beans.
For this reason, Robusta beans are often used in a blend with Arabica beans, such as in the Kokebi Leonardo blend. Mixing Arabica and Robusta can create a delicious cup of coffee with a variety of unique flavours. The two types of beans complement each other, with the Robusta beans adding body and sweetness to Arabica. This is a great way to enjoy coffee with a complex flavour profile that you may not get from a single-origin coffee.
Robusta is often used in espresso blends, such as the Kokebi Super Crema blend, since it can produce a better ‘crema’, which is the creamy layer found on top of an espresso shot.
Liberica: a sweeter, smokier option
The third type of coffee bean is the Liberica bean.
This bean comes from the Liberica coffee plant, which originates from Liberia in West Africa and produces much larger, more irregularly-shaped beans than Arabica plants.
The Liberica bean is relatively rare since the plant is difficult to cultivate, meaning that it has not been able to meet worldwide demands. In fact, Liberica coffee accounts for less than 2% of all commercially-produced coffee worldwide.
The coffee bean is known for its unique flavour profile, which is smokey and chocolatey with delicate spicy and floral undertones. Many feel that Liberica coffee is sweeter than other coffee varieties. Like the Robusta bean, Liberica beans are often added to coffee blends to give them more dimension, since its flavour profile is very different to that of the Arabica bean.
Despite its strong flavour, Liberica coffee has a lower caffeine content than Robusta and Arabica coffee.
Liberica coffee beans were once extremely popular thanks to their resistance to a disease known as ‘coffee rust’. In the late 19th century, coffee rust led to the loss of a significant proportion of Arabica plants around the world, giving way to the popularity of the Liberica plant, which is resistant to most pests and diseases.
Despite Liberica coffee’s historical significance, the Arabica variety has since regained popularity thanks to its mild taste. However, Liberica is said to be a must-try experience for any coffee lover; its complex flavours make it a firm favourite for many.
Excelsa: a rare and unique choice
Although it was classified as a unique species in 2006, Excelsa is now considered a variety of Liberica coffee. This confusion, along with its many different characteristics from other Liberica coffees, often leads to it being considered to be the fourth type of coffee bean in common use.
Only a small amount of Excelsa coffee beans are produced, due to both the amount of labour required in their production process and a general lack of interest in purchasing them.
Though it originated in Africa, Excelsa coffee is now largely produced in South East Asia. Depending on the country, Excelsa may be considered the same coffee as Liberica during production or may be produced as a separate crop. The main producers of Excelsa coffee beans are Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Although they are considered the same species, Excelsa coffee and Liberica coffee differ considerably from each other. Excelsa beans are generally smaller and rounder. Excelsa beans make for a sweet, tart coffee with fruity notes, but are distinctly strong and dark. For this reason, Excelsa beans are often used to add depth of flavour and a fuller body to coffee blends.
Both Liberica and Excelsa coffee crops suffer from a lack of awareness and market infrastructure, making up less than 10% of all coffee production.
Coffee that leaves an impact
Whichever type of coffee bean you choose, rest assured that a high-quality bean will make a brew that brightens someone’s day.
At Logic Vending, we stock the highest-quality coffee beans on the market and some of the best bean grinders out there to help you keep serving top-quality coffee.
Not only are we the UK’s most trusted coffee machine suppliers, but we’re also coffee experts. We have the range and expertise to help you get the most out of your coffee machine. We’ll help you choose the perfect machine for your needs and budget, and we’re always on hand to offer advice and support.
We also have many different types of office coffee machines available for purchase, rent, or lease, including commercial bean-to-cup machines and traditional espresso machines. We offer complete installation and training so that you can start serving great coffee in no time.
Explore our range of different types of coffee beans, commercial coffee machines for rent and more to get the most out of your coffee experience!