Coffee Beans 101: What Are The Different Types?


We all love our coffee. We pretty much base our entire day’s worth of energy around that cup of coffee we had in the morning. In the US, we consume about 400 million cups of coffee per day, according to the Huffpost.

But what do we actually know about the coffee we are consuming? We know there is a variety of ways to drink it, it keeps us wide awake after pulling an all-nighter, and quite frankly, it just tastes good.

There are about 25 major species within the Genus “Coffea” but only three are cultivated for commercial coffee consumption. These are in your every day lattes, mochas, Americanos, and more:

Coffea Arabica (Arabica)

This species makes up about 70% of the world market for coffee beans. Being a higher value taste, this fancy grade coffee bean is sold mostly through specialty coffee shops. Arabica being grown on steep terrain makes mechanical harvesting impossible. The hand picking ensures a better quality of selection with less under/over ripe beans being selected.

Coffea canephora (Robusta)

This high caffeine content species makes up about 27% of the world coffee bean market. Being a cheaper to produce coffee bean but with a lower taste profile, this coffee is often sold for use in instant coffee. It is produced primarily in Indonesia, West Africa, Brazil, and Vietnam. Also known by botanists as Coffea bukobensis A. Zimm., Coffea canephora Pierre ex Froehner var. kouilouensis Pierre ex De Wild., Coffea canephora Pierre ex Froehner var. sankuruensis De Wild., Coffea robusta L. Linden (GRIN), Coffea robusta L. (Smit). Is commonly known in the trade as Congo coffee or Congo coffee tree (USA).

Coffea arnoldiana De Wild (Liberian)

This species, grown in Malaysia, Liberia and the Ivory Coast, makes up about 3% of the world coffee bean market.

According to Peter Baskerville’s A Complete Glossary of Coffee Terms, other types of coffee that have been developed from the two main types (Arabica and Robusta) include:

  • Wild Coffee: This is the common name of “Coffea racemosa Lour” which is a coffee species native to Ethiopia.
  • Baron Goto Red: A coffee bean cultivar that is very similar to ‘Catuai Red’. It is grown at several sites in Hawaii.
  • Blue Mountain: Coffea arabica L. ‘Blue Mountain’. Also known commonly as Jamaican coffea or Kenyan coffea. It is a famous Arabica cultivar that originated in Jamaica but is now grown in Hawaii, PNG and Kenya. It is a superb coffee with a high quality cup flavor. It is characterized by a nutty aroma, bright acidity and a unique beef-bullion like flavor.
  • Bourbon: Coffea arabica L. ‘Bourbon’. A botanical variety or cultivar of Coffea Arabica which was first cultivated on the French controlled island of Bourbon, now called Réunion, located east of Madagascar in the Indian ocean.
  • Brazilian Coffea: Coffea arabica L. ‘Mundo Novo’. The common name used to identify the coffee plant cross created from the “Bourbon” and “Typica” varieties.
  • Caracol/Caracoli: Taken from the Spanish word Caracolillo meaning ‘seashell’ and describes the peaberry coffee bean.
  • Catimor: Is a coffee bean cultivar cross-developed between the strains of Caturra and Hibrido de Timor in Portugal in 1959. It is resistant to coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Newer cultivar selection with excellent yield but average quality. ‘
  • Catuai: Is a cross between the Mundo Novo and the Caturra Arabica cultivars. Known for its high yield and is characterized by either yellow (Coffea arabica L. ‘Catuai Amarelo’) or red cherries (Coffea arabica L. ‘Catuai Vermelho’).
  • Caturra: A relatively recently developed sub-variety of the Coffea Arabica species that generally matures more quickly, gives greater yields, and is more disease resistant than the traditional “old Arabica” varieties like Bourbon and Typica.
  • Columbiana: A cultivar originating in Columbia. It is vigorous, heavy producer but average cup quality. ‘
  • Congencis: Coffea Congencis – Coffee bean cultivar from the banks of Congo, it produces a good quality coffee but it is of low yield. Not suitable for commercial cultivation
  • DewevreiIt: Coffea DewevreiIt. A coffee bean cultivar discovered growing naturally in the forests of the Belgian Congo. Not considered suitable for commercial cultivation.
  • DybowskiiIt: Coffea DybowskiiIt. This coffee bean cultivar comes from the group of Eucoffea of inter-tropical Africa. Not considered suitable for commercial cultivation
  • Excelsa: Coffea Excelsa – A coffee bean cultivar discovered in 1904. Possesses natural resistance to diseases and delivers a high yield. Once aged it can deliver an odorous and pleasant taste, similar to var. Arabica.
  • Guadalupe: A cultivar of Coffea Arabica that is currently being evaluated in Hawaii.
  • Guatemala(n): A cultivar of Coffea Arabica that is being evaluated in other parts of Hawaii.
  • Hibrido de Timor: This is a cultivar that is a natural hybrid of Arabica and Robusta. It resembles Arabica coffee in that it has 44 chromosomes.
  • Icatu: A cultivar which mixes the “Arabica & Robusta hybrids” to the Arabica cultivars of Mundo Novo and Caturra.
  • Interspecific Hybrids: Hybrids of the coffee plant species and include; ICATU (Brazil; cross of Bourbon/MN & Robusta), S2828 (India; cross of Arabica & Liberia), Arabusta (Ivory Coast; cross of Arabica & Robusta).
  • ‘K7’, ‘SL6’, ‘SL26’, ‘H66″, ‘KP532’: Promising new cultivars that are more resistant to the different variants of coffee plant disease like Hemileia.
  • Kent: A cultivar of the Arabica coffee bean that was originally developed in Mysore India and grown in East Africa. It is a high yielding plant that is resistant to the “coffee rust” disease but is very susceptible to coffee berry disease. It is being replaced gradually by the more resistant cultivar’s of ‘S.288’, ‘S.333’ and ‘S.795’.
  • Kouillou: Name of a Coffea canephora (Robusta) variety whose name comes from a river in Gabon in Madagascar.
  • Laurina: A drought resistant cultivar possessing a good quality cup but with only fair yields.
  • Maragogipe/ Maragogype: Coffea arabica L. ‘Maragopipe’. Also known as “Elephant Bean”. A mutant variety of Coffea Arabica (Typica) which was first discovered (1884) in Maragogype County in the Bahia state of Brazil.
  • Mauritiana: Coffea Mauritiana. A coffee bean cultivar that creates a bitter cup. Not considered suitable for commercial cultivation
  • Mundo Novo: A natural hybrid originating in Brazil as a cross between the varieties of ‘Arabica’ and ‘Bourbon’. It is a very vigorous plant that grows well at 3,500 to 5,500 feet (1,070m to 1,525m), is resistant to disease and has a high production yield. Tends to mature later than other cultivars. .
  • Neo-Arnoldiana: Coffea Neo-Arnoldiana is a coffee bean cultivar that is grown in some parts of the Congo because of its high yield. It is not considered suitable for commercial cultivation.
  • Nganda: Coffea canephora Pierre ex A. Froehner ‘Nganda’. Now where the upright form of the coffee plant Coffea Canephora is called Robusta, its spreading version is known as Nganda or Kouillou.
  • Paca: Created by El Salvador’s agricultural scientists, this cultivar of Arabica is shorter and higher yielding than Bourbon but many believe it to be of an inferior cup, in spite of its popularity in Latin America.
  • Pacamara: An Arabica cultivar created by crossing the low yield large bean variety Maragogipe with the higher yielding Paca. Developed in El Salvador in the 1960’s this bean is about 75% larger than the average coffee bean.
  • Pache Colis: An Arabica cultivar being a cross between the cultivars Caturra and Pache comum. Originally found growing on a Guatemala farm in Mataquescuintla.
  • Pache Comum: A cultivar mutation of Typica (Arabica) developed in Santa Rosa Guatemala. It adapts well and is noted for its smooth and somewhat flat cup
  • Preanger: A coffee plant cultivar currently being evaluated in Hawaii.
  • Pretoria: A coffee plant cultivar currently being evaluated in Hawaii.
  • Purpurescens: A coffee plant cultivar that is characterized by its unusual purple leaves.
  • Racemosa: Coffea Racemosa – A coffee bean cultivar that looses its leaves during the dry season and re-grows them at the start of the rainy season. It is generally rated as poor tasting and not suitable for commercial cultivation.
  • Ruiru 11: Is a new dwarf hybrid which was developed at the Coffee Research Station at Ruiru in Kenya and launched on to the market in 1985. Ruiru 11 is resistant to both coffee berry disease and to coffee leaf rust. It is also high yielding and suitable for planting at twice the normal density.
  • San Ramon: Coffea arabica L. ‘San Ramon’ is a dwarf variety of Arabica var typica. A small stature tree that is wind tolerant, high yield and drought resistant.
  • Tico: A cultivar of Coffea Arabica grown in Central America.
  • Timor Hybrid: A variety of coffee tree that was found in Timor in 1940s and is a natural occurring cross between the Arabica and Robusta species.
  • Typica: The correct botanical name is Coffea arabica L. ‘Typica’. It is a coffee variety of Coffea Arabica that is native to Ethiopia. Var Typica is the oldest and most well known of all the coffee varieties and still constitutes the bulk of the world’s coffee production. Some of the best Latin-American coffees are from the Typica stock. The limits of its low yield production are made up for in its excellent cup.
  • Villalobos: A cultivar of Coffea Arabica that originated from the cultivar ‘San Ramon’ and has been successfully planted in Costa Rica.

Knowing all the different types of coffee beans is just the beginning to fully understanding coffee. Learning the types of coffee drinks that are made is the next step to become a coffee professional.