Arabica vs. Robusta Espresso Blends


New member
Jan 23, 2009
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I'm new to the world of espresso and looking for some good espresso blends. From what I understand, a lot of espresso blends contain Robusta beans to help with Crema production. However, some roasters tout the fact that they only use Arabica beans.

Is there any justification to which way is better?



Nov 12, 2008
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Sweet Marias has a little disertation on this. They suggest that if you are paying for a quality high end bean, you want the nuances of that bean. That said, there are some beans that are better suited for expresso. They also two blend two or three single origins to make an expresso.

A friend of mine (who should know) suggested European preparation all have a minimum of 10% robusta and generally 15% - 20%. The robusta adds crema but also bitterness and more caffeine.
I have somewhat changed my stance on this issue after trips to Europe. Basically I was in the school of thought that all espresso blends should be arabica blends. However during my November trip I cupped literally hundreds of espresso blends. Suprisingly (to me) three of the very best I tried were robusta blends. The highest being a 50:50 split. In Indonesia most robusta is very poorly prepped. The Italians are now using a lot of very high quality washed robusta from Italy. The result to me was suprising and somewhat embarassing. I now have introduced a blend that uses a good deal of robusta. It cups well. Sometimes we have to open our eyes and experiment a little I guess.

The key though to using Robusta is simple. It must be washed. It must be a hand picked and premium robusta. Anything else you are going to get that all too familiar rubbery taste coming through in the cup. Also it is important to understand what you are blending with.


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Apr 5, 2007
Akron, Ohio
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This is pretty simple and anything you here different is bologna. There are two types of beans 100% Arabica and the left over crud that nobody wants AKA Robusta. Also, there are two types of Arabica beans there are Type I, or Grade A, or Standard Arabica beans. The better the bean the better the coffee, if you have been to Europe then you have already learned they only use Type I or Grade A beans and never robust. We carry European Style coffee beans and only ever use Type I or Grade A 100% Arabica coffee beans. A coffee connoisseur can taste the difference between all three types of beans. Good Luck.
Some good points, but I would beg to differ on a few of them. Actually to start with there are 4 commercial forms of coffee- Arabiuca and Robusta as well as Liberica and Excelso. All 4 are used around the world, Liberica and Exceslo mainly in Asia- including the Philippines and india. All in all there are 5 recognised grades of arabica for specialty purposes, 7 grades if you count the system used in producing countries for exporting greens, indeed specilaty grade (Grade 1) is what should be being used by most roasters.

In terms of Robusta, most European countries import huge amounts of robusta. Most is what they consider to be specialty grade robusta (yes, there is a grading system for robusta as well!). Italy's biggest importers of coffee- traders such as Sandalj, S.I Caf, Cogeco and Italcoffee import much more robusta than arabica. Indeed only a very small volume of roasted product in Italy, mainly from internationally famous but locally not so Illy. The really big roasters- ie Lavazza and Hausbrant produce mainly blends for the European market. The best robusta comes (washed) from India, Madagascar and Laos. A well prepped and good quality Robusta actually can add to a blend. Having only been in the coffee business roughly 17 years, I was quite suprised with the cupping characters of the Indian washed robusta I tried in Italy. I would have probably kept this to myself only Andrew Hertzel back from a recent trip to India also shared his pleasant suprise at the quality of these coffees.
No problem! I for one am glad I took the plunge and begun cupping out of my established comfort zone. For sure I am not advocating the blanket use of robusta, I currently use a washed robusta in 1 blend, the rest are 100% arabica. However the Italian experience has taught me "to take the blinkers off" and I am very glad I did so.


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May 14, 2009
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Add another commercial coffee company that uses BOTH Arabica and Robusta with a unique roasting style to create an espresso blend that is superior.

Everyone of our 8 different blends uses beans from all over the world to create a bean that can be used as a DRIP or as an ESPRESSO perfectly. Lots of crema and flavor with no burnt after taste. You have to try it to believe it.