A Look at 4 Common Types of Coffee Beans and How They Differ

by Erica

Coffee Holli Top Pick

Without a sliver of doubt:

Coffee is a household name. So, if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably been living on Mars.

Jokes aside, coffee beans are #2 on the list of the worlds-most-traded commodities. And that only goes to show how deeply embedded coffee is in our society.



I’m sure you’ve had more than one coffee drink in your life. And if you were keen enough, you may have noticed slight differences in flavor and taste.


Well, these differences can be a result of several factors; including bean age, processing methods, roast type, beverage type, as well as the kind of beans used.


Out of the factors above, the most constant determinant of flavor is the type of bean used. And that’s what this post is all about.

Below is a quick guide to common coffee bean varieties in the market today.


If you’re ready, let’s dive in.

1. Arabica Beans (or Arabian Coffee)

Get this:

Arabica, also known as Coffea Arabica, is the most common type of coffee bean in the world; with a whopping 60% share of the world’s coffee production.

It has a sweet taste, delicate flavor, and less acidity compared to other types of beans.

How and Where Do Arabica Coffee Beans Grow?


This coffee bean grows well in high-altitude areas. To be specific – altitudes of 1000-2100m. Moreover, Arabica plants thrive in areas with plenty of rain.

That’s why Brazil’s humid, tropical climate makes it the world’s leading Arabica Coffee beans producer.


When planted in favorable conditions, an Arabica coffee tree can grow to a height of 3 meters and produces its first fruits within 3 years. However, reasonable yields begin at 6 years after planting.

And once it starts producing fruit, it will do so for 25-35 years.


Only a fifth of all Arabica Coffee grown is deemed high-quality. The remaining 80% are labeled low-grade coffee due to defects.

How Does Arabica Coffee Taste Like?


Compared to the second-most-popular coffee beans – Robusta, Arabica beans contain less caffeine. And that makes their flavor a little sweeter and smoother than other types.

However, to get the best out of an Arabica-based coffee drink, it’s advisable to drink it while it’s hot.

2. Robusta Coffee


Coming in at #2, the Robusta coffee bean (aka Coffea Canephora) is the second-most-grown type in the world. Its production accounts for about 38% of the world’s coffee beans.

Plus, these beans have the highest caffeine content compared to all other types of coffee beans.

How and Where Do Robusta Coffee Beans Grow?


These beans are endemic to western and central Sub-Saharan Africa. But their production has spread to different parts of the world including Southeast Asia.

Climate-wise, Robusta Coffee plants thrive in hot regions with high fertility and irregular rainfall.

Moreover, it grows better at low altitudes – between 500m and 800m. And a mature plant can grow as high as 20 feet. What’s more, the first fruit harvesting comes around two years after planting.

Get this:

Unlike Arabica Coffee Plants, Robusta trees are more resilient and easy to grow; consequently, are cheaper to produce.

And aside from the latter’s beans having more caffeine, they also boast of having more antioxidants.

How Does Robusta Coffee Taste Like?


It’s punchier with a richer flavor than Arabica Coffee. That’s primarily because Robusta beans contain more than two times the amount of caffeine in other types.

It’s best described as having a nutty, woody flavor. And the taste is slightly bitter, stronger, and harsher than other types.

Fun Fact:

Most instant coffee drinks are usually Robusta-based.

3. Liberica (Liberian Coffee)


Due to its scarcity, Liberica Coffee is usually expensive. In essence, these beans are the rarest and hardest to come by with less than 2% of the global production share.

Dubbed “Elephant Beans,” Liberica Beans are some of the biggest types in the world (in size) and are known to be irregular in shape.

How and Where Does Robusta Coffee Grow?


Liberica coffee beans are native to Liberia, but also grow well in Uganda, Angola, and the Ivory Coast. That’s because they flourish in highly humid areas.

Moreover, a mature Liberia Coffee plant can grow as high as 20m (66ft).


These coffee trees are not only resilient but also not easily susceptible to common coffee plant parasites and diseases.

Impressive, right?

How Does Liberica Coffee Taste Like?


Liberica coffee bean quality pales in comparison to Arabica and Robusta coffees.

However, its pleasant and aromatic flavor makes it a viable option when it comes to creating unique coffee blends.


It’s also worth noting that Liberica Coffee Beans contain the least amount of caffeine; about 1.23% in each bean. 

4. Excelsa Coffee


Excelsa Coffee was first discovered in 1904 with Southeast Asia as the biggest producer.

However, this type of coffee is considered rarer than Liberica Coffee (accounting for less than 1% of the global coffee supply).

For over a century, Excelsa was considered an independent kind of coffee.

However, a naming review in 2006 saw its reclassification; to become a variant of Liberica Coffee (aka Coffea Liberica var. dewevrei).


Because, much like Liberica, Excelsa beans…

  • Are harvested from 30ft tall trees
  • Thrive in humid environments
  • Grow well in medium-altitude areas
  • Are used to add flavor, depth, and complexity to coffee blends/drinks
  • Are disease and drought-resistant
  • Have a lower caffeine content


The biggest distinguishing factor between Liberica and Excelsa coffees is their taste.

On one hand, Liberica offers a woody, grassy, smoky flavor. On the other, Excelsa has a fruity, tart taste profile.

Quick Summary Table

Name Of BeanMaximum Tree HeightPreferred AltitudeGlobal Production SharesPreferred WeatherCaffeine Content per Bean
1. Arabica10 Ft1000-2100m60%Rainy1.61%
2. Robusta20 Ft500-800m38%Hot and Slightly Humid2.26%
3. Liberica66 Ft400-1300m1.5%Humid1.23%
4. Excelsa30 Ft400-800mLess Than 1%Humid1.00%



That’s everything you need to know about the different types of coffee beans.

One of the reasons that make coffee among the most sought-after commodities in the world is its caffeine content.


Because caffeine can boost focus, performance, and alertness.

Thus, having knowledge about the different kinds of coffee available makes it easier to find exactly what you need.

That said:

Talk to me in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions on this topic.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the 3 Main Types of Coffee Beans?

Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica. 

What Are the Most Popular Types of Coffee Beans?

That would be Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. These two types account for 98% of the global production of coffee.

How Many Different Coffee Beans Are There?

There are 4 major types namely Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta coffee beans. However, in 2006, Excelsa was reclassified as a variant of Liberia Coffeeknown as Coffea Liberica var. dewevrei

Which Coffee Beans Are the Best?

Arabica beans are the best because of their high-quality, rich taste, and availability. However, when it comes to resilience, affordability, and caffeine content, Robusta coffee beans outperform all others.


I’ve been drinking coffee for several years. I love to speak about cultivation issues. The journey of coffee to your cup is exciting.


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