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The 4 Types Of Coffee Beans & How They Differ

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Different types of coffee beans include Arabica, Robusta, excelsa, and liberica. Keep reading, and you’ll find how these beans differ and whether you should use them in your drinks.

I want to find the best coffee bean. To help us with this task, I’ve compiled different bean, roast, and grind types.

And here are the points you’ll find:

Let’s go on a quest for the perfect coffee bean.

Key Takeaways 

  • Coffee beans are the seed of a coffee plant
  • The main 4 coffee beans are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, & Excelsa
  • Dark, medium, & light coffee roasts affect your drink’s caffeine content & taste
  • Various coffee grinds make it quicker to brew drinks

What is a Coffee Bean?

A coffee bean is the seed of the Coffea plant’s fruit, often called a cherry. Farmers harvest the cherries, then remove the fruit pulp to expose the beans.

Afterward, they dry and roast the beans to create coffee beans we get at a store.

The Coffea plant belongs to the Rubiaceae family. With Coffea Arabica and Coffea canephora being the most cultivated species. 

Arabica beans have a milder, more delicate flavor, while Robusta beans, from Coffea canephora, have a stronger, more bitter taste.

The roasting process transforms the beans’ chemical composition. Doing so produces their distinct aroma and taste. Light, medium, and dark roasts have unique flavor profiles, varying in bitterness, acidity, and sweetness.

The species, roast level, and processing method all contribute to the final taste of coffee.

To kick things off, let’s cover different species.

Types of Coffee Beans & Characteristics

Many of the different types of coffee beans include:

Coffee Bean TypeFlavorOriginBest Drink
LibericaBold & smoky with a woody aromaWest & Central Africa, & Southeast AsiaEspresso
ArabicaSweet & nutty with a fruity acidityEthiopia, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, & Costa RicaDrip coffee
RobustaBitter & earthy with a grain-like tasteAfrica, Indonesia, & VietnamEspresso & Turkish coffee
ExcelsaTart & fruity with a hint of cinnamonSoutheast AsiaPour-over coffee
Different types of coffee beans compared.

I’ll talk about each bean type throughout the following sections. Keep reading to learn more.

Robusta Coffee Beans

A Robusta coffee bean comes from the Coffea canephora plant, one of the most cultivated coffee species. It ranks second in global production (around 30–40%), following Arabica beans.

Robusta coffee plants thrive between sea level and 2,624 ft (800 m) in low-altitude environments. They grow in hotter, humid conditions, making them more resistant to diseases and pests.

The hardy nature of Robusta plants allows them to flourish in regions where Arabica plants struggle. Such as parts of Africa, Asia, and Brazil.

What Do Robusta Coffee Beans Taste Like?

The taste of Robusta beans is often stronger, more bitter, and less acidic than Arabica. They have a heavier body and an earthy, woody flavor profile. These beans contain more caffeine, nearly double the amount found in Arabica beans.

The higher caffeine content (2.4–2.8%) contributes to the beans’ bitterness [1]. And acts as a natural pesticide, protecting the plants from pests.

Arabica Coffee Beans

An Arabica coffee bean originates from the Coffea Arabica plant, the most cultivated coffee species. Arabica beans also comprise 60% to 70% of the world’s coffee production.

Arabica plants flourish at higher altitudes, 2,624 ft–6,561 ft (800–2,000 m) above sea level. They prefer cooler temperatures and ample rainfall. These growing conditions contribute to the beans’ complex flavor profile.

The major coffee-growing regions for Arabica beans include Central and South America, East Africa, and some parts of Asia. Like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Arabica beans have a lower caffeine content than Robusta beans ( 1.2–1.5%), contributing to their milder flavor. The reduced caffeine content also makes Arabica plants more susceptible to pests and diseases. Making their cultivation more challenging.

What Do Arabica Coffee Beans Taste Like?

Arabica beans boast a diverse flavor profile with a wide range of notes. They often have a sweeter, more delicate flavor, higher acidity, and fruity or floral undertones. The beans’ taste makes them ideal for specialty coffee and espresso-based beverages.

Liberica Coffee Beans

A Liberica coffee bean comes from the Coffea liberica plant, a less common coffee species than Arabica and Robusta. Originating in West Africa, these beans account for less than 2% of global coffee production.

Liberica plants grow at lower altitudes, like Robusta, with a preference for hot, humid conditions. They can reach up to 66 ft (20 m) in height. Their beans are larger and more asymmetrical than Arabica and Robusta beans.

The primary coffee-growing regions for Liberica include West Africa, Malaysia, and the Philippines (especially Baguio).

The caffeine content in Liberica beans falls between Arabica and Robusta beans ( 1.6-1.8%). This caffeine level contributes to the unique taste of Liberica coffee, setting it apart from other coffee species.

What Do Liberica Coffee Beans Taste Like?

Liberica beans offer a bold, full-bodied taste with a distinct aroma. The beans have a smoky, woody flavor, low acidity, and a slightly fruity or floral undertone.

Excelsa Coffee Beans

An Excelsa coffee bean comes from the Coffea excelsa plant, which many once considered a separate coffee species. Researchers now classify it as a variant of Coffea liberica.

Excelsa beans make up less than 1% of the world’s coffee production, with a focus on specialty coffee markets.

Excelsa plants grow in similar environments as Liberica plants, mostly in Southeast Asia. They thrive at lower altitudes and enjoy warm, humid conditions.

The caffeine content of Excelsa beans is comparable to that of Liberica beans. It falls between the levels found in Arabica and Robusta beans ( 1.2–1.5% caffeine by weight ).

What Do Excelsa Coffee Beans Taste Like?

Excelsa beans have a unique flavor profile, characterized by a medium body and complex taste.

They have more acidity with fruity and tart notes, like light-roasted Arabica and dark-roasted Robusta beans.

Where the Types of Coffee Beans Grow

Let’s talk about where different types of coffee beans grow:

Country Types of bean
NepalBourbon, Typica, & Pacamara
Costa RicaStrictly Hard Beans
IndiaMonsooned Malabar
BoliviaBolivian Colonial Caranavi
BrazilSul de Minas
Where certain types of coffee beans grow.

Types of Coffee Roasts

Here are the different type of roasts:

Coffee RoastTemperature Range (°F)Temperature Range (°C)Average Time to RoastTaste Description
Light350 °F to 400 °F 175 °C to 205 °C7 to 10 minutesBright & fruity
Medium410 °F to 430 °F 210 °C to 220 °C10 to 14 minutesBalanced & smooth
Dark440 °F to 480 °F 225 °C to 250 °C14 to 18 minutesBold & smoky
Different coffee roasts compared.

I’ll cover each roast type more in-depth throughout the following sections.

Let’s get to it.

1. Dark Roasts

Common roast names: 

  • French Roast: named after the traditional roasting style in France
  • Italian Roast: inspired by the Italian preference for darker roasts
  • Espresso Roast: developed for espresso preparation
  • Continental Roast: refers to the traditional dark roasting style in Europe
  • Vienna Roast: named after the Austrian capital
  • Spanish Roast: derived from the Spanish tradition of roasting coffee beans very dark

A dark coffee roast, known as a “French roast” or “Italian roast,” involves roasting the beans longer. This process takes around 14 to 18 minutes. And roasters must watch the beans to achieve the desired roast level.

Temperatures range from 440 °F to 480 °F (225 °C to 250 °C). The beans reach this temperature during the second crack, when their structure breaks down further. At this point, roasters stop the process to preserve the beans’ dark roast properties.

You might wonder how dark roasting affects the beans’ acidity and caffeine content.

The longer roasting time reduces the beans’ acidity, resulting in a bolder, more robust flavor. As for the caffeine content, it decreases a bit compared to medium and light roasts [2]. Due to the extended roasting process.

What about the flavor?

Dark roasts have a full body and bold taste, with low acidity and roast flavors. They often have smoky, bitter, or chocolatey notes. Dark roasts’ rich and robust taste makes them a preferred choice for coffee lovers and espresso-based beverages.

2. Medium Roasts

Common roast names:

  • City Roast: popular in urban centers, where it caters to a variety of tastes
  • American Roast: coined in the United States, where this roast has been the standard for many years
  • Breakfast Roast: reflects the balance between acidity & body, making it suitable for mornings drinks
  • Regular Roast: a standard roast level that falls between light & dark roasts
  • Brown Roast: refers to the medium brown color of the beans after roasting

A medium coffee roast, often called a “city roast” or “regular roast,” balances light and dark roasts. This roast takes 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the roasting equipment and desired outcome.

The temperatures for medium roasting range from 410 °F to 430 °F (210 °C to 220 °C). Beans reach this temperature shortly after the first crack and before the second crack. Roasters halt the process to maintain the beans’ medium roast attributes at this stage.

Medium roasting reduces the beans’ acidity and caffeine content compared to light roasting. The process creates a more balanced flavor profile, with some of the beans’ original characteristics present.

In terms of flavor:

Medium roasts have a balance between acidity, body, and roast characteristics. They often taste smoother, with hints of caramel and toasted nuts. The well-rounded flavor profile of medium roasts makes them popular for a wide range of coffee drinkers.

3. Light Roasts

Common roast names: 

  • Cinnamon Roast: named after the light brown color of cinnamon, which the beans resemble
  • Half City Roast: derived from the “City Roast” term
  • New England Roast: originated in the northeastern United States, where this lighter roast has been popular
  • Light Scandinavian Roast: named after the Scandinavian preference for lighter roasts
  • Blonde Roast: named for its lighter color
  • Light City Roast: like Half City Roast, but roasted to a lighter degree than a standard City Roast

A light coffee roast, known as a “first crack” roast, involves roasting the beans for a shorter period.

The process typically takes 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the roasting equipment and desired flavor profile. Roasters closely monitor the beans during this stage to achieve the desired outcome.

The temperatures for light roasting range from 350 °F to 400 °F (175 °C to 205 °C). Beans reach this temperature after the first crack. A popping sound that signals the beans’ expansion due to moisture evaporation. 

Roasters then stop the process to preserve the beans’ light roast characteristics.

Light roasting retains more of the beans’ original flavors and acidity. The process also keeps the caffeine content relatively high, as it doesn’t break down as much as in darker roasts.

Light roasts showcase the beans’ natural taste. They have a more acidic, fruity or floral notes, and a more lightweight body. The beans’ complex flavor profiles make them popular among coffee enthusiasts.

Types of Coffee Bean Grind Types

Let’s compare different coffee bean grinds:

Grind TypeConsistency ComparisonBrew Extraction Time
FineTable saltFast
Different types of coffee grinds.

I’ll cover more details about each grind type throughout the following sections.

You’ll also find consistency comparisons, how long it’ll take to extract your coffee’s flavor, and an example of a brewing method the bean’s ideal for.

1. Coarse Grinds

A coarse grind refers to coffee beans ground into large, chunky particles. This type of grind allows for slower extraction.

An example of a brewing method that uses coarse grinds includes using a French press. As the larger particles prevent over-extraction and ensure a smooth, balanced flavor.

2. Medium Grinds

A medium grind has a consistency like sand. This grind size offers a balanced extraction rate.

A drip coffee maker pairs well with medium grinds. The even extraction yields a flavorful cup of coffee.

3. Fine Grinds

A fine grind resembles table salt in consistency. This size provides a quick extraction rate.

Espresso machines work great with fine grinds. The high pressure extracts bold flavors in seconds, creating that rich espresso shot.

Popular Types of Coffee Brewing Methods

Let’s compare the different types of brewing methods:

Coffee Brewing MethodBrewing Process
Drip CoffeeHot water drips through ground coffee held in a filter, extracting flavors into a carafe
French PressCoffee grounds steep in hot water, then a plunger separates the liquid from the grounds
EspressoHot water forces through finely ground coffee under high pressure, creating a concentrated shot
Pour OverHot water pours over coffee grounds in a cone-shaped filter, allowing gravity to extract the coffee
AeroPressCoffee grounds & hot water mix, then push through a filter using air pressure from a plunger
Moka PotWater heats in a bottom chamber, creating pressure that pushes the water through coffee grounds into an upper chamber
Cold BrewCoffee grounds steep in cold water for an extended period, then filtered
SiphonA combination of vacuum & vapor pressure brews coffee by pulling water through coffee grounds into a separate chamber
Turkish CoffeeFinely ground coffee boils with water and sugar, creating a thick, strong brew that includes the grounds
PercolatorWater repeatedly cycles through coffee grounds using gravity or pressure
Various coffee brewing methods.

Best Coffee Beans in Different Countries

Let’s compare some of the most popular coffee beans throughout various countries:

CountryPopular Coffee Beans
United StatesColombian (Arabica)
United KingdomEthiopian (Arabica)
CanadaGuatemalan (Arabica)
AustraliaEthiopian (Arabica)
New ZealandColombian (Arabica)
South AfricaTanzanian (Arabica)
IrelandCosta Rican (Arabica)
Most popular coffee beans in different countries.

You might see a trend…

As around 60% of the world’s coffee production revolves around Arabica [3].

Why are Arabica coffee beans so popular?

Arabica beans offer a sweeter, less acidic, and smoother taste. It also has more of a variety of aromas and notes. I’m sure not as many folks want to endure the bitterness Robusta beans offer to get a higher caffeine dosage.


Keep reading and you’ll find frequently asked questions about coffee beans.

What Types of Coffee Beans Does Starbucks Use?

Starbucks primarily uses Arabica coffee beans for their blends. They offer various roast levels and flavors, including their signature Pike Place Roast and Blonde Roast.

How Many Types of Coffee Beans Are There?

There are four main types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Countless varieties exist within these categories. Resulting in a diverse range of flavors and characteristics.

Where Are Arabica Beans Typically Grown?

Arabica beans grow in high-altitude regions with rich soil and mild temperatures. Major Arabica producers include Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Along with Central American countries like Costa Rica and Guatemala.

What Is the Difference Between Light, Medium, & Dark Roast Beans?

Light, medium, and dark roast beans differ in roast time and temperature, resulting in varying levels of acidity, body, and flavor development.

What Is the Difference Between Single-Origin & Blended Coffee Beans?

Single-origin coffee beans come from a specific region or farm. Blended coffee beans combine beans from various origins to create unique flavor profiles.

What Is the Difference Between Washed & Unwashed Coffee Beans?

Washed coffee beans undergo a process that removes the fruit and mucilage before drying. This results in a cleaner, brighter taste. Coffee farmers dry unwashed coffee beans with the fruit still attached. This produces a fruitier, more complex flavor.

What Are Some Rare & Exotic Coffee Bean Varieties?

Some rare coffee bean varieties include Kopi Luwak, St. Helena, and Black Ivory coffee.

What Are Some Tips for Choosing the Right Type of Coffee Bean?

Consider your taste preferences and brewing method when choosing coffee beans. Experiment with roasts, origins, and processing methods to find the ideal flavor profile.


Each coffee bean type offers different flavors and works best for different drink types. That’s not the only factor that’ll impact your drink. There’s also grind consistency and roast type.

Combine these to make the highest-quality and best-tasting best coffee drinks. But don’t rush into it. It’ll take you a while to find an ideal combination.

Another factor you must consider is the best coffee makers for different drinks. Make that your next stop in this rabbit hole.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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