What are the 4 main types of coffee beans? – Coffee Lover World

With the hundreds of types of coffee beans on the market, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure which one to choose for coffee enthusiasts.

As a coffee connoisseur, I have completed extensive market research on coffee knowledge and found that there are four main types of coffee beans globally: Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, and Excelsa.

Keep reading to explore everything there is to know about different types of coffee beans.

types of coffee beans

Origin of Coffee Beans

Coffee beans are the seeds of a cherry-like fruit or coffee plant. After the coffee beans are gathered, we put them through fermentation and roasting to remove moisture and bring out each bean’s unique flavor. Once the roasted beans are cooled, you can use them in many coffee-based recipes!

The taste of coffee beans can be affected by where they’re grown. Factors like climate, moisture, altitude, and soil type can all impact the flavor of the coffee. So different types of coffee beans are cultivated in specific regions.

cherry-like coffee plants

The 4 Main Types of Coffee Beans 

As you become more experienced with making or drinking coffee, you’ll be able to taste the coffee varieties and notice their unique flavors. Even though they may look alike, different coffees have distinct characteristics which contribute to elements such as original flavor and texture.

Arabica Beans (coffea arabica)

The arabica coffee bean is the most popular coffee bean consumed worldwide, making up around 70% of the world’s coffee production. It is also called Coffea arabica.

Arabica beans come from the arabica plant in the Ethiopian highlands. They were brought to Yemen in the 7th century. However, arabica trees are required to cultivate in tropical countries at high altitudes.

Arabica beans are typically oval-shaped with a visible crease down the middle. Generally, high-quality arabica beans contain a bright and medium body and tend to be larger than robusta beans.

Arabica beans are notoriously difficult to grow. They require much care, as they’re susceptible to pests and fungi. 

The best places to grow arabica beans are subtropical or tropical areas with high elevations. They need lots of shade and rain, so they thrive at higher altitudes, 600 meters above sea level. Most of the world’s arabica beans are produced in Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Peru.

Arabica beans are famous for their sweeter taste, often containing hints of fruit, florals, chocolate, and nuts. Their unique flavors and aromas with low caffeine content are delightful, making them the perfect choice for coffee drinkers who want a great-tasting cup of coffee. That said, these beans also have a higher acidity level.

Consequently, the arabica bean is more expensive than other coffee beans; however, many coffee lovers who enjoy coffee think that the price is worth it because of the higher costs to grow the bean and its sweeter taste.

Given the immense popularity of arabica beans, one could find them at your local favorite coffee shop or supermarket.

Arabica coffee beans

Robusta Beans (coffea robusta)

Robusta beans are mainly grown in Africa, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. It has become the second most popular coffee bean production globally and is widely consumed in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is also called coffea robusta.

Robusta plants need a hot climate to thrive but can withstand harsher conditions than arabica plants, and robusta coffee beans are ideal for altitudes of 700 meters or less. They usually grow larger and taller, producing greater yields in a shorter time than arabica beans.

Robusta beans are often more round or circular than arabica beans and have a less visible crease. They are often smaller than arabica beans in size.

Furthermore, robusta beans have more robust coffee flavors with undertones of wood and nut – this is often described as bitter by coffee drinkers.

The average robusta bean has almost double the amount of caffeine that an arabica bean does. This higher level of caffeine gives these plants their name; it also works as a natural insect repellent, which wards off one of the biggest dangers to these trees. In other words, robustas are more resilient than arabicas because they’re less vulnerable to pests and changing weather conditions—and this lower vulnerability is (typically) reflected in a lower price tag for consumers.

Because robusta beans have less acidity than arabica beans, it generally tastes less sweet. It also produces tones of wood or burnt rubber. Despite their low acidity and deep flavor profile, robusta beans are not a very popular coffee commodity due to their lack of sweetness. However, making robusta coffee with added milk and toppings is a good choice. You can also find robusta is used in many commercially-sold instant coffees.

Some consumers prefer robusta coffee beans because it’s less expensive; however, arabica coffee beans are more popular overall because their flavors are better.

Robusta Coffee Beans

Liberica Beans

The liberica coffee plant originated in central and western Africa. Still, it became popular with Southeast Asian growers after a devastating crop fungus, known as “coffee rust,” nearly destroyed the world’s arabica coffee stock in 1890s. With the problem of coffee rust looming, farmers and the government looked for a solution; they turned to the liberica plant.

The Philippines was the first country to grow and produce liberica coffee beans on a large scale. However, arabica coffee beans returned later due to their perceived better taste and quality. Consequently, liberica bean production has primarily ceased, making up only 2% of the world’s coffee crop.

The liberica coffee beans are more resilient, can endure humid, hot environments, and prosper at lower altitudes. They don’t need prominent amounts of sunlight like arabica plants and don’t necessitate rich soil. Liberica coffee plants grow much larger than arabica or robusta, and most cherries are irregular. They generally look closer to a robusta cherry in size and appearance.

The liberica bean is predominantly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines nowadays, though it’s harder to come by in North American or European markets. To purchase the liberica bean, it is good to look for Philippine food markets or specialty retailers.

Liberica beans are usually larger than other coffee beans, and they have a more distinct aroma consisting of floral and fruity notes. Additionally, the coffee made from liberica beans is full-bodied with deep smoky undertones. Some describe it as having a woody taste with hints of fruit and flowers. Due to this strong flavor, liberica beans are often served with sugar to reduce the bitter taste, which might be why they aren’t as popular as the arabica and robusta coffee beans.

Liberica Coffee Beans

Excelsa Beans

Excelsa coffee beans only make up 7% of the current coffee market. It was first discovered in Africa, but most beans are now in Southeast Asia. The beans have a slightly elongated oval shape and grow well in medium altitudes.

The distinct flavor of excelsa coffee beans and cultivating conditions make the excelsa beans difficult to find outside of Southeast Asia.

The excelsa bean is now classified as a member of the liberica family. This is because they grow in Southeast Asia and yield similar 20-foot-high trees at medium altitudes.

However, what makes excelsa stand out is its light-to-dark roasts combination with unique fruitier undertones and tart acidity. These unique flavor profiles make it a common choice to be used in coffee blends to enhance flavor, especially blended with arabica or robusta beans.

Excelsa Coffee Beans

Other types of Coffee beans 

Caturra Beans

The mutant variety of Bourbon coffee beans, the Caturra beans, were created in Brazil during the 1930s. However, it later improved after planting at higher elevations in Colombia and Central America. These beans produce coffee with a citrus-like taste with a light body.

Bourbon Beans

French monks in the 18th century derived their Bourbon varietals from arabica coffee beans in a region called “Borbon Island” (later ” La Réunion “). These beans offer fruitiness with smoky caramel flavors undertones. Bourbon is a popular alcoholic coffee bean in the United States and across Africa and has a history.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Beans

Of the coffees of Jamaica, it may become the tastiest. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, introduced to the island in 1728, was one of the early cultivars imported into the United States. The coffee tastes light, acidic, light, and balanced.

Mocha Beans

The coffee bean is originally from Yemen and was named in honor of the port of Rea (Mokha), where its origin came from. The Arabian Yemen coffee tastes rich with chocolate notes, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Catuai Beans

Catuai coffee beans are widely diversified and have many advantages over the traditional Brazilian coffee beans developed in the 1950s. The coffee is mildly acidic and has a sweet undertone.

Icatu Beans

Buying ictu bean for your next cup of coffee can be pretty exciting as it offers numerous flavors you can taste. Catimors hybrids were developed in Brazil in 1993.

Maragogype Beans

Brazil beans grow very big; hence, they are called Elephant Bean beans. Maragogype possesses an intense buttery flavor accompanied by citrus and floral undertones.

Geisha Beans

The name Geisha is a misspelled place where the beans originated. This coffee provides exceptionally high-quality coffee with floral and sweet flavors.

Mundo Novo Beans

The hybrid Bourbon-Typic coffee beans produce high yields and can resist many diseases. Seeds of the source plant have been used in Mundo Novo, Brazil. 1943.

Pacamara Beans

Hybride beans were produced in El Salvador in 1958. Coffee perfectly balances floral and citrus aromas, acidity, and sweetness.

Kona Beans

Kona coffee beans date to Guatemalan seed that arrived in Big Island Hawaii in 1892. This bean is very clean and mild in flavor.

Catimor Beans

Catimor varieties are mostly native to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and India. The trees grow quickly and with very good output.

Jackson Beans

In Burundi and Rwanda, coffee is grown, and its taste is similar to Bourbon beans and has a sweet acid taste.

Kent Beans

The beans are developed in India during the 1920s. Their mild flavor has floral and spicy undertones.

How to choose the right coffee beans?

Ultimately, it is your decision to determine what coffee beans work best for you by trying different types. Keep in mind that your personal preferences will largely guide this process; with that said, here are a few tips to help as you narrow down your choices.

The two most prevalent coffee bean options you’ll encounter regularly are arabica and robusta beans. High-quality arabica beans should be your best choice if you’re looking for the best possible flavor.

If you want a stronger flavor with extra caffeine and can accept a slight bitterness, robusta beans are the option. Robusta beans also tend to be cheaper than arabica beans. 

If you want a unique taste of coffee drinks with a “woody” taste, liberica and excelsa beans are the options for you. However, they are both uncommon coffees that aren’t in high demand globally, which makes them difficult to find – especially in North America. You need to purchase from a specialty coffee supplier or directly from coffee suppliers in the Philippines or Malaysia.

The Best Way to brew Coffee Beans

We prefer buying whole-bean coffee. Then we grind coffee beans before brewing,  resulting in a significantly better flavor and freshness for coffee drinks. Depending on your brewing method, you’ll need a different grind size to brew the best cup of coffee.

Espresso Brewing: It is best to use a finer grind of coffee beans. As the brewing process happens quickly and under pressure in an espresso machine. By grinding the coffee beans finely, we ensure that the water passes quickly through them. This also maximizes the surface area of the grounds that come in contact with water, leading to a more thorough extraction.

Pour over or auto-drip brewing: the medium grind is the preferable option here, which is suitable for someone who wants a little less intense but still flavorful coffee drinks. However, the flavor profile is still determined mainly by the water temperature and flow rate during the brewing process.

French press brewing:  the coarse grind will take longer to receive the full coffee flavor because there’s less surface area for water interaction. The french press brewing method exposes ground beans to hot water for an extended time, which creates a richer and more full-flavored cup of coffee.

Pour over brewing coffee beans

What to do next?

Now that you know more about different types of coffee beans and how to brew them, you can then select your best coffee beans.

However, Did you know that the coffee bean selection process is the first step in making a great cup of coffee? It’s also essential for most coffee lovers to find out their favorite espresso drinks. Whether you like your espresso served with milk or served cold as an iced coffee, there’s an endless variety of combinations to try in coffee shops.

Check out our articles on the most popular coffee drinks, such as Mochas and Lattes! Discovering your go-to drink is part of the fun!

David Huang

David Huang

David has years of experience as a barista and coffee trainer since 2017, and he is very enthusiastic about coffee. David's goal is to unite coffee lovers globally so we can connect and fully enjoy our shared coffee ritual.