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How Many Types Of Coffee Beans Are There?

Learn about the different kinds of coffee bean species

Roasted coffee beans are the seeds of berries from different Coffea species. Once the berries are ripe, they are picked, processed and dried. These dried seeds, or “beans”, are roasted at varying degrees depending upon the desired taste. There are two main species of coffee: Arabica & Robusta. Arabica is leant towards speciality coffee, whereas Robusta is more often used for instant coffee.

Definitions

What are the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans?

Arabica

There are many different varieties of Arabica coffee and this number is increasing due to hybrid strains, cultivated for resistance to disease and environment but also to experiment with flavour.

  • These hybrid strains of Arabica include:
  • The parent varieties of Typica & Bourbon
  • Caturra
  • The early hybrids Mundo Novo & Catuai/li>
  • The African developed SL-28, SL-34 and Ruiri 11
  • The increasingly desirable Geisha
  • Central American varietals Pacamara, Paca and Villa Sarchi
  • Catimor, Icatu and Maragogype
  • New hybrids such as Ethiosar and Rubi

Quite recently, there has been a project to begin varietal differentiation across the wild “heirloom varietals” of Ethiopia, and these are now being categorised and named in detail.

Robusta

Robusta coffee is made from the beans of the Coffea Canephora plant. It carries more caffeine than Arabica, giving it a more bitter taste. As it has a higher caffeine percentage, it is easier to farm, as it is resistant to bugs and disease. It can also be grown in low altitudes and grows very quickly compared to Arabica. Robusta coffee beans are typically grown in the eastern hemisphere, as they are very resilient and can withstand high temperatures.

Robusta is often used in Italian espresso because of the thick crema it can create. However, if you are a coffee roaster, you would use Arabica for its delicate and refined flavours.

Origin & Process

There are 3 different processing techniques

Variation in coffee doesn’t stop here though. Different processing techniques can be applied to any and all varietals to produce a vast number of possibilities.

The three main processing techniques are:

  • Washed
  • Natural
  • Pulped Natural

Washed coffees focus on the flavour of the bean itself, rather than the outside. Therefore, the process focuses on the science behind their growth and the way in which they are farmed. Their environment and the country they are grown in are vital to the final flavour of the coffee beans.

The natural process is a simple approach – the coffee beans are sundried whilst still in contact with their fruit, resulting in an overall fruitier coffee. This process is often used in Brazil and Ethiopia because of the lack of water.

Pulped natural coffees or honey processed coffees are also sundried, however, a specific amount of pulp is left on the bean which contributes to its flavour. Differing amounts of pulp can be extracted, with the process becoming scientific in its nature. This process has become most popular in Costa Rica, as they love to experiment with different flavours.

The origin of where the varietal is grown will affect its character, not to mention the treatment it receives by the roaster when finally prepared for consumption. The possibilities are endless – happy roasting!