Is Robusta Coffee Bad for You? (benefits and usage)

What could be better than a caffeinated, dark, rich coffee in the morning? Honestly, not much. However, with a world obsessed with Arabica coffee, is there space for the hardy, Robusta coffee in our homes, hearts, and palates? 

Robusta coffee benefits: increases energy and improves mental health and well-being, contains antioxidants, which are beneficial for skin and hair. It has a diuretic effect and can help with nausea. It is a high-caffeine, creamy, somewhat bitter version of the coffee full of benefits.

Robusta has a bit of a bad reputation in the coffee world, but it is truly undeserved. To find out more about this infamous coffee and why you should add it to your morning cup, keep reading.

Benefits of Robusta Coffee

For those watching their weight, coffee has been known to help with weight loss, as long as it is not mixed with milk or sugar, and Robusta helps as it has even less natural sugar than Arabica (source). 

With the higher caffeine content, Robusta coffee is the perfect way to start the day with peak energy levels. Caffeine also comes with its own benefits, like improved perception and physical abilities.

For anyone trying to drink less coffee, Robusta is also a faster way of getting your caffeine intake without drinking multiple cups. 

Higher caffeine content, when drunk in moderation, allows Robusta drinkers to have more energy and improved mental health and well-being in general. Since caffeine blocks adenosine, it increases the number of happy chemicals in the brain like dopamine.

Since Robusta beans are more aromatic and bitter, it has a diuretic effect and can help with nausea. It also helps with those who suffer from migraines, with many drinkers insisting that a cup of strong coffee is a surefire way to reduce pain.

Robusta has higher levels of caffeine and, hence, antioxidants, which we know to have benefits for skin and hair. These are also excellent for sustained weight loss as the caffeine can boost metabolism and invigorate muscles for exercise. 

Antioxidants help with cellular regeneration, and, since Robusta has far more chlorogenic acid — 25%-80%, depending on the plant — than Arabica beans, it is a wonderful source.

Finally, for health benefits, drinking coffee regularly has wonderful long-term benefits. The compound found in coffee, cafestol, is known to lessen the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 

For environmentalists and ethical farmers, Robusta does not require a lot of pesticides for growth and is less expensive to grow compared to Arabica. Since it is also less likely to fail, the plant is often a better growth option.

Robusta plants are also good for the environment. One hectare of Robusta plants can produce up to 86 lbs of oxygen per day, which is about half of what is produced by the same area of the Amazon (source).

Characteristics of Robusta Coffee

Found in the Belgian Congo in the 1800s, Robusta coffee has always thrived in mixed weather and agricultural conditions. It started to spread through the coffee world in 1900 when there was mass destruction of Arabica plantations in Southeast Asia (source).

Robusta as a Coffee

The first thing many people notice about Robusta is the taste. Due to its bold flavor, it is generally more bitter, but it has a very sweet aroma, even compared to Arabica. Good Robusta coffee is far better than below-average Arabica coffee.

Robusta has high caffeine content, at about 2-2.7%, compared to 1-1.5% for Arabica beans. Robusta beans often create a more bitter and earthy-tasting coffee than Arabica, so it needs to be used carefully (source).

Generally, Robusta is found in instant coffee due to its affordability and the creaminess. Only recently have more coffee blends been created that use a mix of Arabica and Robusta, bringing us the best of both worlds. 

Many coffee connoisseurs feel that the best way to blend the perfect cup of coffee is by mixing both Arabica and Robusta beans. Arabica provides the softer, fruitier tones within a coffee while Robusta adds in some creaminess and a good kick of caffeine. 

A country that truly appreciates Robusta is Italy, where a 10-15% blend of Robusta coffee is used in Italian espresso. European consumers seem to prefer the bolder taste and appreciate the cream that Robusta creates.

Robusta is also ideal for lattes and other milky coffees. Since the mix is stronger flavor-wise, it allows the coffee to shine even through the milk. In comparison, Arabica beans can easily be overpowered by milk and other additives.

But Robusta is not only good with milk, but it also adds the crema to an espresso cup. The crema is the brown froth that you find at the top of espresso, and it adds a lovely coffee aroma, flavor, and aftertaste that is really appreciated by coffee drinkers.

While Robusta may previously have been overlooked as the inferior sister of Arabica, times are changing; many coffee-drinkers have come to realize that with more careful farming and breeding, Robusta can be both aromatic and delicious (source).

Usage in Other Products

Robusta is not only a coffee. It has multiple uses across many industries that take full advantage of the affordable bean and its many benefits.

Robusta in Skincare Products

Robusta beans play a huge part in skincare products. When ground, the beans are an excellent exfoliant for the skin and are able to increase blood flow and remove bacteria. Scrubs that use coffee grounds help to hide signs of aging and stretch marks.

Scientists have discovered that caffeine extracted from Robusta beans, when used as a topical treatment, can reverse or reduce the effects of photoaging. Photoaging is the natural sagging, wrinkles, and pigmentation that occurs through continued exposure to the sun.

The beans also have a higher acidity content than Arabica beans. This natural acidity is used in skincare products to balance pH levels for oily skins, reducing the chances of breakouts and helping to control acne.

For more natural home remedies, mixing coffee grounds with a little olive oil and water makes an excellent treatment for dark undereye circles. The higher levels of caffeine dilate blood vessels to lessen their appearance.

In the unfortunate event of a sunburn, a cup of Robusta coffee can ease the pain and reduce swelling. By brewing a cup of coffee and then watering it down, a coffee compress will do wonders to lessen the redness. 

Robusta in other Products

Enemas are made using coffee beans, and, with the Robusta’s smaller bean size, it makes it an ideal part of the product.

Robusta even plays a role in biofuels. Scientists have found that the oil extracted from immature Robusta seeds can be used as a biodiesel. Biofuels are a type of renewable energy that is not harmful to the planet, especially in comparison to fossil fuels (source).

Robusta’s uses are many, and the plant has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. A few countries have used it in a variety of ways. Robusta coffee leaves have been used in Liberia to help with clotting. 

Nicaraguans also use the coffee leaves for their pain reduction properties, and boiled Robusta leaves are used to treat stomach aches and migraines. People in Mexico have also used it to control fevers.

Needless to say, the uses of Robusta are many, and western medicine has started to notice the plant and use it to its full advantage.

Cultivation of Robusta

Robusta coffee gets its name from the word “robust.” The thing that really separates Robusta from Arabica is the plant’s hardiness. The plant can survive environmental changes much better than Arabica plants. 

It does better against bug infestations like white stem borer and the nematode worm. This also means that fewer pesticides are needed to maintain the plant. 

Robusta shrubs generally take a longer time to grow — about 11 months — and they grow bigger than Arabica plants and often have more pods. While there are many strains of the plant, the two main types of Robusta grow in either an upright form or as a spreading plant. 

Robusta also grows more consistently, making it a less risky plant compared to Arabica, especially considering the time that both plants take to grow. It can also be grown in a range of environments, including lower altitudes (source). 

While Robusta might sound like the ideal plant, it does have some disadvantages. Many perceive Robusta to be of lesser quality compared to Arabica, and it is not able to withstand drought conditions. It also takes longer to grow and stabilize.

Final Thoughts

While Arabica beans rule the coffee world, it is quite easy to find subpar Arabica coffee. Because of their delicate nature, good Arabica is sometimes hard to find, and that is where Robusta comes in.

Robusta beans are not fully appreciated for everything they offer to the coffee world. Their richness, their depth of flavor, and their affordability make them a delicious partner to Arabica. So grab a bag of Robusta beans and give your tastebuds a revelation.

Charlie McFarlane

Specialty Coffee Enthusiast. Hungry for knowledge in the art and science behind specialty coffee and decided to document my journey, while sharing it with the public. More than 10 baristas were interviewed; over 21 farms were visited across 5 countries. Almost 100 Coffee Shops. Bean of choice: Pacamara. Preferred coffee country: Panama. Preferred Brewing Method: Aeropress. Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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