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4 Types of Coffee Beans & Their Characteristics

Learn about the different kinds of coffee beans and how they’re different from one another.

Coffee beans are some of the most common and iconic kitchen ingredients. There are plenty of variations of coffee beans, roasts you can buy, and flavor profiles, but all of these options stem from four types of coffee beans. 

Various types of coffee beans on the stainless scoop

Some beans are better for espresso drinks, and others are great for dark roasts or cold brews. Each bean has its own flavor combination, acidity level, and caffeine level.

I’ll give you everything you need to know about the four types of coffee beans here. I cover the basics of what each bean is, where it is from, and what its best use is.

Types of Coffee Beans 

Grow your knowledge of types of coffee beans to become a more knowledgeable consumer and improve your at-home barista skills! 


Arabica Coffee Beans

Arabica coffee beans are the main type of coffee bean in production. Around 60% of the world’s coffee production comes from this type of bean.

It was the first cultivated coffee bean species in history. Arabica beans originated in Yemen and are now commonly grown in Brazil.

According to the USDA, Brazil produces between 30,000 and 45,000 60-kilogram bags of Arabica coffee per year for the United States.

Arabica has flavoring notes of chocolate and sugar. It also offers a smooth and sweet taste.

Beans that belong to the average C. Arabica plants contain 12 milligrams of caffeine per gram of dry mass. 

There’s also a strain of Arabica coffee beans that’s considered a part of a mutant strain, and it only contains 0.76 milligrams of caffeine per gram, but it tastes like regular coffee.


Excelsa Coffee Beans

Excelsa coffee is a variety of Liberica coffee. It accounts for about 6% of the world’s commercial coffee production.

Many Excelsa beans have a distinctive teardrop shape that is smaller than Liberica, but similar in shape. Excelsa is most commonly grown and brewed in Southeast Asia. 

I enjoy the layered and complex flavor profile in this coffee. This type of coffee bean includes the following flavor notes:

  • Fruity
  • Dark 
  • Tart

The aroma is not particularly sweet or pleasing, which makes it one of the least-brewed varieties in a coffee house.

Excelsa coffee has the least caffeine in it among the different types of coffee beans on this list. There is about 1 gram of caffeine per 100 grams of beans.


Liberica Coffee Beans

Liberica coffee beans are related to Excelsa, but they’re far less popular.

It accounts for only about 2% of commercially grown coffee beans. It was first cultivated in the Philippines but was brought to Indonesia after the 19th century. Now, it’s usually grown in the Malaysian coffee belt. 

Liberica coffee beans are usually larger and have a teardrop, or almond, shape. The flavor of the bean is full-bodied and slightly wild tasting.

There’s a slightly fruity and floral aroma to the bean. This smell makes it appealing to those who can find this rare coffee variety! I love this coffee in blends, as it has a high caffeine content and delicious flavor.


Robusta Coffee Beans

Robusta coffee beans are the second most produced coffee bean behind Arabica.

Its origins are from Central and Western Africa. This bean accounts for about 44% percent of coffee production around the world.

The USDA’s study states that Vietnam is the top producer of Robusta beans in the United States. They produce about 30,000 60-kilogram bags per year. 

I love this coffee’s heavy body and lower acid profile without bitterness. You might even find a hint of chocolate in the flavor!

The best part about this bean is that it’s known for producing a delightful crema.

This coffee variety has almost double the caffeine content of Arabica and a smooth but deep taste. Due to these features, many Italian espressos contain high-quality Robusta!


Types of Coffee Beans 

  1. Arabica Coffee Beans
  2. Excelsa Coffee Beans
  3. Liberica Coffee Beans
  4. Robusta Coffee Beans

Final Thoughts

Coffee is one of the most purchased beverages in the world. Though there are plenty of undiscovered coffee beans that haven’t made their way onto our grocery store shelves, the four main varieties offer plenty of variation. 

My favorite is Robusta coffee, as I enjoy the dark and flavorful taste. But the best way to find a coffee you love is to experiment!

Feel free to mix and match the different types of coffee beans or brews to find the right match for you.

If you’re not a coffee person, get your caffeine boost from energy drinks like Celsius energy!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.