Best Roast Level For Robusta Coffee Beans

BY BORIS POVOLOTSKY - 28 Jul 2023

Robusta Beans

Robusta beans are the second most popular type of coffee bean in the world, after Arabica beans. They are known for their high caffeine (2x than Arabica) and strong flavor. Traditionally, Robusta beans were famously used in Espresso drinks in Italy.

Robusta beans differ from Arabica beans in their superior tolerance to pests and diseases, they’re also considerably cheaper, they’re more abundant, easier to grow and considered to have lower flavor profile. That isn’t to say it’s better or worse, it’s just different. Usually Robusta beans feature more classic flavors like earthy, chocolatey, and nutty. Arabica coffee are sweeter and contain more fats than Robusta.

Roast

Robusta tend to be more tolerant for high temperature compared to Arabica beans. It can easily achieve darker roasts. Take note, that Robusta isn’t used as a single origin, for example, it’s common to blend it. It isn’t uncommon to have blends that have 80% Arabica and 20% Robusta. Some blends use the Arabicas to soften and sweeten the taste. You should also be wary of which Arabicas you use to blend with Robusta, as you can easily ruin your batch. Be mindful of your Robusta beans supplier, try to purchase premium high quality beans, not the most common industrial commodity.

Best Roast Level

As much as I wished to roast my own coffee at home, I don’t. Not jus yet. Therefore, I’m not entitled to write a comprehensive article on how to roast the best Robusta coffee. However, to address the question: “What roast level is best for Robusta coffee?”, let’s start with the annoying statement: “it depends”. I know, right?

It depends on the flavors you would like to extract from your coffee. Generally, because the Robusta can withstand longer roasting, darker roasts can be achieved without damage to the bean. The darker the beans get, the sugar caramelizes, enabling some sweetness. However, keep in mind that Robustas are still fundamentally different from Arabicas so direct comparisons aren’t to be made. Robusta will taste stronger no matter what you do.

A light-roast, charaterized by a light brown color and more acidic flavor, typically achieved right before the first crack at around 360-400F. It’s less common to roast Robustas to a light-roast level, since it’s less characteristic with the usual Robustas flavor profile. You’re free to experiment, and remember Robusta are great to combo with Arabicas.

Medium roast always serves as the middle ground, providing a balanced effect with acceptable acidity, body and a slightly chocolatey and nutty flavor. It’s also perfect when blended and used in either espressos, pour-overs, and whatever really.

Dark roasts provide the harsh, intense kick you might be familiar with if you had espresso without sugar in Napoli. It can balance out acidic Arabicas and add a body basis which can be great for your lattes and cappuccinos, as well as traditional-like espressos, which I personally like a lot.

As I might’ve stated elsewhere, I came to appreciate less acidic flavors in my espresso and I tend to like darker-roasts generally. However, I found that even medium-darker roasts of some Arabica beans still yield an unpleasant acidic feel to it, so for espresso I prefer a good blend.

Rules Of Thumb

  • Always make sure you’re using high-quality beans, try to find the best supply source. This is easily overlooked and is often the reason people bash on Robusta. Enormous amount of Robusta coffee shipments don’t undergo quality control procedures that many Specialty Arabica farms do, resulting in bad quality coffee. There is special robusta coffee, too, so do your research before purchasing.
  • Don’t roast just like you roast your Arabicas, adjust accordingly, keep close attention to that first crack sound so you can avoid over-development resulting in burnt beans. Read the characteristic flavor profile, cup your roasted beans and write notes!
  • Write notes for every batch you roast, see what you like and didn’t like and research how to eliminate unpleasanties until you enhance your roast game.
  • As far as storage goes, the same applies here. Keep your beans in an airtight, cool and dry container.

Finally

Whether you’re about to roast your own Robusta beans, or just wanted to read and learn, I hope this was beneficial to you.

Further Reading

Here are some useful links to read futher on the subject. I learned that Vietnamese people are more into roasting Robusta and there’s plenty of content out there to learn from.

Have Fun!

-NGUYEN coffee roasters

-M2 Sniper Pro+ Roasting Robusta

-The Coffee Chronicler on Robusta


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