Robusta

Sweet Maria's has never intended to be "Robusta Central," but we do believe that each cultivar of coffee needs to be judged on its own merit. The Robusta coffees we offer have attained the highest level possible in cup score given the limitations of the species. A good robusta has different cup characteristics from a good arabica because of the difference in the plant material. Aside from picking and processing defects, robustas have higher caffeine, higher levels of chlorogenic acids, and often a lack of balance between types of acids and a lack of sweetness. This leaves the cup harsh, bittering, and often salty in nature. A good robusta will offset these detriments in the cup with a taste of positive acidity and perceived sweetness.

We offer a premium Robusta coffee selection for use in espresso blends. Robusta coffee is the common name for Coffea Canephora, a different species of coffee from the genus Coffea and cousin to the higher-grown Coffea Arabica L. that is the basis for specialty coffee. You may be interested to know that the bulk of cheap coffee in the world is actually arabica, not robusta. Arabica accounts for 75% of the worlds coffee production with the top 5% qualifying as specialty grade coffee.

The most dedicated robusta-producing regions I have been to are in India and the plant, its blossoms and fruit are ironically more beautiful than arabica's. The uniformly ripe and well-spaced clusters of fruit and flowers are very attractive. The plants can easily top the age of heirloom arabica trees, 30 to 80 years old as I have witnessed, with massive trunks, pruned to create an orchard-like grove that can be harvested from the shade beneath the tree. It's too bad the plant imposes limits on the ultimate quality of the cup. This limitation, bias against robustas by quality-minded roasters who pay better for coffee, and the fact that Robustas trade on a different commodity index that allows for a horrendously high number of defects in a sample, leads to a cycle of failure for the robusta grower. What incentive is there to invest in plant health, improve cherry selection in picking, process with greater care, prepare the coffee to higher standards, and transport it with care if the market doesn't reward this work with better prices?

Yet the vast majority of Robusta produced in the world is directed toward the bulk commercial trade, used to pump up caffeine content and as a cheap filler in institutional coffee. Robusta simply isn't picked and prepared to the same standards as specialty arabica coffee. And when it is, it still has that Robusta flavor, a distinct taste that can remind one of the last time they ordered a cup at a truck stop. In that way, the best Robusta will never attain the refined cup flavors of a well-prepared, high-grown arabica. I just think you reach a quality threshold when a Robusta is picked ripe, well-processed, hand-sorted, and transported promptly; the coffee will be "good enough" to add positive properties to a certain style of Espresso blend. That's about the limit of what a Robusta can do though, to not detract from the cup.

Robusta is normally not for use in filter-drip coffee blends, except those of the lowest order. Common robusta has hard, rubbery off flavors due to both the plant itself, and the way it is processed without care. That said, you might be surprised with the cup quality of some of our premium Robusta coffees. Roasted to Full City+ or light Vienna you can indeed brew a French Press and get a very interesting, aggressive, pungent cup. If you like dry-process Sumatras, you might find this quite palatable. (And people who use a dab of cream and sugar might like it too).

There is a core use for Robusta coffees that are picked, sorted, processed and prepared with as much care as top grade Arabicas; this valid use is in the 5 to 20% range in espresso blends. Robustas add body, crema, and a distinct flavor to espresso. If you are familiar with traditional Italian espresso you will recognize this taste. It also aids the espresso in distinguishing itself in milk drinks. We don't rate Robustas on the cupping scale since traditional cupping doesn't apply on a coffee solely intended as a blend component in espresso.

See our Blending Article for specific comments about Robusta in Espresso Blends. Also, Robustas such as these are now being used in filter coffee "high caffeine" blend since the caffeine levels are doubled in Robusta over Arabica. But this really isn't something I am going to endorse, or even investigate myself even though such brands as ShockCoffee are doing exactly this. Also check out Nestle's description of Robusta -interesting! Robusta has also gained favor in Europe after the noble tradition of the large roasters to buy only arabica coffees. This shift occurred as stable old firms started to look toward short-term profits, and ways to cut costs to achieve good quarterly figures for investors. The breakthrough came when it was found that the disagreeable aspects of the robusta cup could be lessened by steaming/soaking the coffee before roasting. It would be like starting a decaf process, without actually following through on decaffeination of the coffee. But this sad practice has led to an erosion of cup quality in Europe, akin to the long, slow slide in American coffee quality that peaked in the 1970s and gave way for the rediscovery of coffee quality in the form of the Specialty Coffee movement.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
India Robusta AB -Sethuraman Estate
Huge clusters of Robusta coffee cherry, Sethuraman farm
Appearance.2 d/300gr, 17+ Screen
GradeEstate AB
ProcessingWet Process Kenya Type
RegionMagundi, Chikmagalur, Karnataka State
Varietal(s)Robusta
RoastThis depends on your blend, but I would say that robustas need a minimum of Full City++ meaning the coffee has audibly reached 2nd crack, and I prefer 460 probed bean temperature (external) which is a Vienna stage. Like most coffees for espresso, best to rest an extra day post-roast.
Sethuraman Estate is located in the Chikmagalur district near the town of Magundi, on the Bhadra river and at an altitude of 2500-3200 feet. This lot of single-origin, wet-processed, AB grade robusta was shipped to us in GrainPro preserving the nice aromatics and is perfect for your espresso blends. We offered wet-process Sethuraman Estate coffee before and feel it has a clean cup with minimal distractions found in non-estate types. The farm is planted in SLN 274 Robusta. It is hand-picked, and they use a pre-seperator which essentially works like a pulper before the pulper by removing half-ripes, then they use a demucilager post-fermentation; the result is nice crema (but with rather large bubbles), fruited hints, some dark sweetness and brightness. In fact, I could cup test and drink this as a regular brewed coffee at FC+/Vienna roast, something that can be very unpleasant with average robusta coffees. It out-cupped all the robustas on the table, and while too strong as a straight shot espresso, the rustic sweetness could be discerned in the espresso aroma. There is a note in the aroma of this coffee like maple, quite unexpected in Robusta. And there are no off flavors associated with typical or even specialty grade robusta. For me, Robusta needs to do it's job in a blend, not detract from the arabicas, and actually add some positive flavor attribute. While the aromatics from this cup are low (as with all robustas) I still detect a definite sweetness there, very rare aromatic quality in canephora coffees!. The preparation is outstanding and the roast is very even. I would keep Robusta below 15% in an espresso blend but because of the quality of this robusta, you can go up to 25% before it starts to overtake to cup too much. Robustas have less aroma that arabicas, but this lot actually has a nice, dark, mildly sweet note to it. The aftertaste is extremely long and persistent, turning pungent in the finish as would a bittersweet chocolate.