Robusta coffee is a major commercial crop, and has a close relationship to the species that forms the vast majority of high quality coffee: Coffea Arabica. In fact, Coffea Canephora, commonly called Robusta, is a parent species of Arabica! The “Robusta” moniker comes from the fact this species is hearty, disease resistant, grows at a lower range of altitudes, and produces a lot of coffee per tree. It is indeed robust!
Robusta has different flavor aspects than Arabica, and because of it’s association with commercial-quality (versus specialty coffee), this flavor is reminiscent of “diner coffee” to many. That’s because robusta is historically cheaper on the global market, and therefore ends up in cost-conscious coffee venues. That’s the pro and the con of the “bottomless cup” coffee cafe/diner service.
What does RobustaRobusta usually refers to Coffea Robusta, responsible for roughly 25% of the world’s commercial coffee. Taxonomy of Robusta is debated: some sources use “Robusta” to refer to any… …more coffee taste like? RobustaAteng is a common name for Catimor coffees widely planted in Sumatra and other Indonesia isles.: Ateng, with several subtypes, is a common name for Catimor coffees widely… …more has increased levels of bitterness generally, partly due to higher levels of caffeineAn alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a bittering taste. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the seed… …more and chlorogenic acidsMany acids contribute to coffee flavor: acetic, malic, citric, quinic, tartaric, phosphoric, etc.: Many acids contribute to coffee flavor; malic, citric, quinic, tartaric, phosphoric, etc. See Acidity or… …more. It has less perceived sweetnessSweetness is an important positive quality in fine coffees, and is one of five basic tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Savory (Umami). In coffee, sweetness is a highly… …more, but since many augment robusta type coffee with sugar and cream, the lack of delicate flavor characteristics matters less.
We are careful to say that Robusta is not a better or worse, but just different. There are many terribly processed Arabica coffees, and many well-handled Robustas. Arabica does not mean “good” and Robusta does not mean “bad”. That said, my experience is that the best Robusta will likely not share the aromatic complexity and prized flavor attributes of the best Arabica origins. But I have deeply enjoyed Robusta for what it is: intense, attractively bitter, and complex in it’s own right. To wake up at dawn in a rural Indonesian town, and enjoy fresh roasted Robusta picked at a farm a few mountains away – fantastic! Coffee can be “good” in different ways, and I hope to see a more open reception for the ways a Robusta can be good!
CoffeaThe botanical genus colloquially referred to as the “coffea genus,” which is comprised of over 120 individual species. These are generally opposite-leaved, evergreen shrubs or small understory trees… …more canephora, is popularly known as Robusta due to the resistant nature of its plant. Discovered by Dutch botanists in the former Belgian CongoKivu is the general name for East Congo (Kinshasa), covering a very broad geographical area, and the lake of the same name that divides them. It borders on… …more, it was introduced in Southeast Asia in 1900 after coffee rust disease wiped out all coffee cultivation in Ceylon in 1869 and destroyed most low altitude plantations in JavaThere are several types of Abyssinia, but they are not from Ethiopia but rather Indonesia. Abyssinia 3 = AB3. PJS Cramer, a Dutch plant researcher, introduced this variety in 1928,… …more in 1876. Growing as a shrub or small tree up to 10 meters in height, Robusta is self-sterile and exists in many different forms and varieties in the wild.
Cultivated in West and Central Africa, throughout Southeast Asia and to some extent in BrazilBrazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”.: Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra… …more, its cross-bred varieties are often hard to identify, but two main types are generally recognized: Robusta, or up-right forms, and Nganda, or spreading forms.
Robusta fruit is rounded and takes up to 10 months to mature. Its oval shaped seeds have two sets of chromosomes and are usually unwashed, or dry-processed. Smaller than those of Coffea arabicaArabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the taxonomic species name of the genus responsible for around 75% of the worlds commercial coffee crop.: Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the… …more, Robusta beans contain nearly twice as much caffeine (2-4.5% against 1.1-1.7%). Quality Markedly bitterBitterness is one of 5 basic tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter and Umami (savory flavors). There are many types of bitterness, hence not one avenue to tracking down… …more and less aromatic than Arabica, the robust and full-bodied Robusta is widely used in blends.
Brazil: known as Conilon, a relatively mild Robusta.
IndonesiaUSDA is (obviously) the United States Department of Agriculture. USDA also had coffee plant breeding programs in the past and one variety they distributed to Indonesia and was… …more: SumatraIndonesians are available as a unique wet-hulled or dry-hulled (washed) coffees. Giling Basah is the name for the wet-hulling process in Bahasa language, and will have more body… …more (Medan, Padang, Palembang), BaliCoffee from the Indonesian island of Bali was formerly sold mainly to the Japanese market. Perhaps it is the changing face of world economics that finds the first… …more (Buleleng), Ujung Pandang from SulawesiSulawesi coffees are low-acid with great body and that deep, brooding cup profile akin to Sumatra. The coffee is sometimes known as Celebes, which was the Dutch colonial… …more (formerly Celebres), TimorHibrido de Timor abbreviated HdT is the interspecies hybrid of C. Arabica and C. Canephora (Robusta) that was found in Timor Leste in the 1940s. It has been… …more and Java (Djakarta, Demarang, Surabaya) -bitter taste, sometimes fermentedAs a defect flavor, a fruit quality in a coffee that is excessively ripe, toward rotten. Fermented flavor can be the result of poor wet-processing, over-ripe cherry, or… …more with consequent flavor, generally low quality.
Vietnam: Volumes of robusta production increased starting in the 1990-2000s and now it is the top global producer.
It might seem unlikely that Sweet Maria’s even offers Robusta… We never intended to be “Robusta Central,” (nor will we) but we do believe that each cultivar of coffee needs to be judged on its own merit.
The Robusta coffees we offer have attained the highest level possible in cup score given the limitations of the species. A good robusta has different cup characteristics from a good arabica because of the difference in the plant material. Aside from picking and processingThe removal of the cherry and parchment from the coffee seed.: Coffee is either wet-processed (also called washed or wet-milled) or dry-processed (also called wild, natural or natural… …more defects, robustas have higher caffeine, higher levels of chlorogenic acids, and often a lack of balanceSuggests a harmony and proportion of qualities, and implies mildness since no one quality dominates.: Balance is both an obvious and slippery taste term. It implies a harmony… …more between types of acids and a lack of sweetness. This leaves the cup harsh, bittering, and often saltySalty is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, saltiness… …more in nature. A good robusta will offset these determinants in the cup with a taste of positive acidityAcidity is a positive flavor attribute in coffee, also referred to as brightness or liveliness. It adds a brilliance to the cup, whereas low acid coffees can seem… …more and perceived sweetness.
We offer a premium Robusta coffee selection for use in espressoA small coffee beverage, about 20 ml, prepared on an espresso machine where pressurized hot water extracted through compressed coffee.: In its most stripped-down, basic form, this is… …more blends. Robusta coffee is the common name for Coffea Canephora, a different species of coffee from the genus Coffea and cousin to the higher-grown Coffea Arabica L. that is the basis for specialty coffeeSpecialty coffee was a term devised to mean higher levels of green coffee quality than average “industrial coffee” or “commercial coffee”. At this point, the term is of… …more. You may be interested to know that the bulk of cheap coffee in the world is actually arabica, not robusta. Arabica accounts for 75% of the worlds coffee production with the top 5% qualifying as specialty grade coffee.
The most dedicated robusta-producing regions I have been to are in India and the plant, its blossoms and fruit are ironically more beautiful than arabica’s. The uniformly ripe and well-spaced clusters of fruit and flowers are very attractive. The plants can easily top the age of heirloom arabica trees, 30 to 80 years old as I have witnessed, with massive trunks, pruned to create an orchard-like grove that can be harvested from the shade beneath the tree. It’s too bad the plant imposes limits on the ultimate quality of the cup. This limitation, bias against robustas by quality-minded roasters who pay better for coffee, and the fact that Robustas trade on a different commodity index that allows for a horrendously high number of defects in a sample, leads to a cycle of failure for the robusta grower. What incentive is there to invest in plant health, improve cherryEither a flavor in the coffee, or referring to the fruit of the coffee tree, which somewhat resembles a red cherry.: Either a flavor in the coffee, or… …more selection in picking, process with greater care, prepare the coffee to higher standards, and transport it with care if the market doesn’t reward this work with better prices?
Yet the vast majority of Robusta produced in the world is directed toward the bulk commercial trade, used to pump up caffeine content and as a cheap filler in institutional coffee. Robusta simply isn’t picked and prepared to the same standards as specialty arabica coffee. And when it is, it still has that Robusta flavor, a distinct taste that can remind one of the last time they ordered a cup at a truck stop. In that way, the best Robusta will never attain the refined cup flavors of a well-prepared, high-grown arabica. I just think you reach a quality threshold when a Robusta is picked ripe, well-processed, hand-sorted, and transported promptly; the coffee will be “good enough” to add positive properties to a certain style of Espresso blend. That’s about the limit of what a Robusta can do though, to not detract from the cup.
Robusta is normally not for use in filter-drip coffee blends, except those of the lowest order. Common commercial quality robusta has hard, rubberyA taste fault giving the coffee beans a highly pronounced burnt-rubber character. Result of continued enzyme activity in the coffee bean when it remains in the fruit and… …more off flavors due to both the plant itself, and the way it is processed without care.
That said, you might be surprised with the cup quality of some of our premium Robusta coffees. Roasted to Full City+City+ roast is an ideal roast level that occurs roughly between 425 and 435 degrees Fahrenheit in many coffee roasters with a responsive bean probe where First Crack… …more or light Vienna you can indeed brew a French PressA simple coffee brewer also called a Press Pot: grounds and hot water are added to a carafe, allowed to sit for several minutes, and then a filter… …more and get a very interesting, aggressive, pungentRefers to an aggressive, intense aroma or flavor, often related to spices (pepper) or roast tastes. Pungent foods are often called “spicy”, meaning a sharp or biting character,… …more cup. If you like dry-process Sumatras, you might find this quite palatable. (And people who use a dab of cream and sugar might like it too).
There is a core use for Robusta coffees that are picked, sorted, processed and prepared with as much care as top grade Arabicas; this valid use is in the 5 to 20% range in espresso blends. Robustas add bodyAssociated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all… …more, cremaCrema is a dense foam that floats on top of a shot of espresso. It ranges in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. Blond crema may be… …more, and a distinct flavor to espresso. If you are familiar with traditional Italian espresso you will recognize this taste. It also aids the espresso in distinguishing itself in milk drinks. We don’t rate Robustas on the cuppingCupping is a method of tasting coffee by steeping grounds in separate cups for discrete amounts of ground coffee, to reveal good flavors and defects to their fullest…. …more scale since traditional cupping doesn’t apply on a coffee solely intended as a blend component in espresso.
See our Blending Article for specific comments about Robusta in Espresso Blends. Also, Robustas such as these are now being used in filter coffee “high caffeine” blend since the caffeine levels are doubled in Robusta over Arabica.
Robusta has also gained favor in Europe after the noble tradition of the large roasters to buy only arabica coffees. This shift occurred as stable old firms started to look toward short-term profits, and ways to cut costs to achieve good quarterly figures for investors. The breakthrough came when it was found that the disagreeable aspects of the robusta cup could be lessened by steaming/soaking the coffee before roasting. It would be like starting a decaf process, without actually following through on decaffeination of the coffee. But this sad practice has led to an erosion of cup quality in Europe, akin to the long, slow slide in American coffee quality that peaked in the 1970s and gave way for the rediscovery of coffee quality in the form of the Specialty Coffee movement.