Robusta Beans

Is Robusta Coffee Strong?

Table of Contents

Yes, robusta coffee is generally considered to be a very strong type of coffee. Robusta beans contain almost twice as much caffeine as the more popular arabica beans, giving robusta coffee a harsh, bitter taste that many find overpowering. However, there are ways to mellow out robusta’s intensity through proper roasting and brewing techniques. Read on to learn what makes robusta coffee so strong and assertive compared to other coffee types.

What Gives Robusta Coffee Its Strength?

A cup of coffee.

Let’s see the reasons for the strength of the 100% Robusta coffee:

Natural Caffeine Levels

The key reason why robusta coffee packs such a powerful stimulating punch is its naturally high caffeine content which also causes many benefits of robusta coffee. On average, robusta beans contain about 2.7% caffeine, compared to just 1.5% for arabica varieties. This significant difference is largely due to genetics – robusta plants simply produce beans that contain almost double the concentration of the stimulant.

When roasted and brewed into an invigorating cup of coffee, the caffeine from those robusta beans hits your system hard and fast. Just one 8 oz cup can contain over 100mg of caffeine, compared to around 70-80mg for arabica [1]. No wonder many find the intensity of robusta coffee to be almost too much to handle!

Robusta’s Bitter Flavor Profile

Another factor that adds to the intense nature of robusta coffee is its inherent bitterness. When tasting coffee made from high-quality arabica beans, you typically experience tasting notes that range from sweet and fruity to rich and chocolaty. Robusta is another story – these beans lend a harsh, rubbery bitterness to any roast.

According to coffee experts, that bitterness can be chalked up to robusta’s lower sugar content. With less natural sweetness to balance out the flavor, you mostly get an unapologetic punch of overpowering bitterness. This acrid taste only intensifies the strong stimulating effect of robusta’s high caffeine levels.

Temperature and Quality Also Play a Role

While caffeine content and bitter flavor are the two main reasons for robusta’s intensity, the brewing temperature and bean quality should not be overlooked. Bracingly hot water tends to extract more of those bitter compounds, making for an especially assertive cup. And lower-quality robusta beans among other types of coffee beans can exaggerate unpleasant flavors even further.

So in summary, it is robusta’s sky-high caffeine levels, inhospitable bitterness, high brewing heat, and mediocre bean quality all working together that give this coffee its dominating strength. When drinking a properly prepared cup, the experience can be almost too hard-hitting for coffee lovers accustomed to the smooth taste of arabica varieties.

Robusta’s Intensity Without Sacrificing Caffeine

A cup of coffee.

Fortunately, there are some effective ways to soften the acrid bite of robusta coffee without losing too much of its treasured caffeine content. Let’s look at tips for both pre-brew bean preparation and optimal brewing methodology.

Preparing Robusta Beans

Light Roasts – As counterintuitive as it may sound, choosing a lighter roast is one of the best ways to smooth out bitterness in robusta beans. Roasting naturally makes any coffee more astringent, so minimizing roast time limits harshness somewhat. Light roasts also help retain the beans’ inherent sweetness by preventing the sugars from caramelizing too much.

Low-Defect Beans – Start with higher-quality robusta beans with fewer defects. Lower-grade robusta crops tend to include more unripe, overripe, insect-damaged, and moldy beans, all of which exacerbate undesirable flavors. Paying a slight premium for beans graded as “premium” or “specialty” quality ensures fewer bitter notes make it into your cup.

Flavored Beans – Going with pre-flavored robusta beans, such as vanilla or chocolate, can mask bitterness substantially. The flavor oils infused into the beans fill in the harshness gaps with their inherent sweetness and richness. Just take care not to overwhelm the subtle robusta base note.

Brewing for a Smoother Cup

Proper Water Quality – Good mineral water makes a huge difference in drawing out robusta’s best qualities rather than its defects. In particular, starting with water that is not too hard can prevent astringency and highlight natural sweetness during extraction.

Low Temps – Using a lower brewing temperature around 190-200° F lessens the extraction of bitter compounds considerably. But don’t go too low or it will be underwhelming. Right under boiling strikes a good balance.

Quick Steeping – Brevity is key when steeping ground coffee, whether in a French Press plunger or drip filter setup. Just two to three minutes of brewing time for robusta is plenty to extract good flavor while limiting harsh over-extracted compounds.

Low Bean-to-Water Ratio – Using one heaping tablespoon of ground coffee or less per six ounces of water prevents over-extraction with robusta’s concentrated beans. This weakened ratio highlights better flavor notes.


While intense, there is an art to drawing out the finest qualities of robusta coffee despite its naturally strong disposition. With a nuanced approach from crop to cup including proper bean prep, low-temp brewing, and measured mixing into creative coffee cocktails, robusta’s harsher edges give way to a smooth yet lively caffeinated reward. So don’t be afraid to give this assertive underdog bean a fair chance to shine – you may be hooked by its buzz after all!

Was this article helpful?
Thanks for Your Feedback!

Follow Us for More News about Coffee World