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11 amazing ideas to recycle used coffee grounds

By | Coffee & Sustainability

All around the world people consume millions of cups of coffee every day — 94 million cups a day in the UK alone!

But what to do with all the leftover coffee grounds? Let them accumulate in landfills?

Starbucks, for example, has been offering theirs to customers for free with their Grounds for Your Garden program since 1995.

Instead of thinking about them as waste, used coffee grounds can be a valuable material for many household uses: in your garden, for beauty products, for arts and crafts projects.

So, read on and discover fantastic ideas for using spent coffee grounds around your house!


In the garden


In compost

Coffee grounds are a good source of organic material and are rich in nitrogen so they are great for your compost. They can be considered as green material in a similar way to grass clippings.

Compensate with brown material such as sawdust, leaves, paper or cardboard. Make sure you mix them with other green material: a diverse feedstock will ensure a diversity of microorganisms. Too much will actually be harmful to bacteria and worms.


don’t add too much coffee grounds to your compost bin or it might have detrimental effects. Linda Chalker-Scott, MasterGardener at Washington state university, suggests as an optimal amount 10 to 20% of the total volume and not more.

What about using coffee grounds directly on cultivated soil?

As mulch

Chalker-Scott advises against using pure coffee grounds for mulching.

First of all, because coffee grounds are easily compacted, preventing air and water for seeping into the soil.

Secondly, even though experiments in the lab have shown enhanced sugar beet seed germination and improved growth and yield of cabbage and soybeans, it is not known what their effects are in the field.

In fact, decomposing coffee grounds can release toxins that might even inhibit plant growth and seed germination of most plants. They could actually be good against weeds.

So, don’t use pure coffee grounds as mulch, especially directly on plant roots.

Instead, try using a thin layer (no more than half an inch) of coffee grounds and cover with a thicker (four inches) layer of coarse organic mulch like wood chips.

Against slugs and pests

You might have heard that coffee grounds are great for keeping slugs and even cats from messing around with your precious garden. While this is most likely unverified information, using a spray solution with 1-2% caffeine on leaves does indeed kill off most molluscs.


Against odours


Used coffee grounds can be used to absorb odours. Just place them in an open container at the back of your fridge or freezer and forget about them as you collect more used grounds. Empty the container after a week or so.

You can even use them around the house or in your car. Let them dry first by spreading them on a baking tray. Then, place them in a stocking and tie a knot making it into a ball. You can wrap the stocking around the grounds more than once to make sure the coffee doesn’t seep out.

Moreover, you can keep a bowl with coffee grounds near the sink to rub your hands with to get rid of the smell of garlic or fish.


In your beauty routine


As a scrub

Use as a natural scrub on its own or mixed with a bit of honey and coconut oil. It’ll be more delicate on your skin than non-natural exfoliants and you won’t be polluting the environment with nasty microbeads.

As a facial

Coffee has astringent and antioxidant properties which make for a great toner reducing redness and tightening the pores.

Mix the grounds with milk or heavy cream until you get a paste and gently rub it on for a minute. Then sit back and relax for another 20.


stay away from the area around your eyes where the skin is thinner and more delicate.

Against cellulite

Beware of coffee scrubs as magical “cures” for cellulite. Cellulite is a change in how the fat under your skin is shaped making it look lumpy or dimply like an “orange peel”. Almost 80 to 90% of women have cellulite and it is not a disease in any way but many dislike the way it looks.

Unfortunately, even though caffeine has been shown to break down fat cells in (really) high concentration, it’s very difficult to make it reach those cells through topical creams.

The good news is:

coffee grounds body scrubs do seem to reduce the appearance of cellulite for a week or so after use. Caffeine’s astringent properties tighten up the skin while exfoliating increases microcirculation plumping up the skin making cellulite look less obvious.

Coffee scrub soap

Why not use the exfoliating properties of coffee grounds in a delicious smelling soap?

It’s easy!

Melt 225 grams of glycerin soap into a metal and glass bowl placed on top of a pan with boiling water, creating a double boiler. While the soap melts thanks to the vapour’s heat, lightly grease some muffin tins or prepare your molds.

When the soap has melted turn off the heat, add 25 grams of coffee grounds to the melted soap — you can add more or less depending on how “scrubby” you want it!

Now, you can also add essential oils like vanilla and a bit of coconut oil to make the soap softer on your skin if you like.

After mixing everything thoroughly, you’re ready to pour the mixture in your molds. Be careful as it’s still hot.

Once they’ve completely hardened, pop the bars of soap out of the molds. Wrap them in parchment paper for the perfect gift for coffee lovers!


For arts and crafts


Wood staining

Using coffee grounds for wood staining is incredibly cheap, simple and gives you a nice organic effect.

You’ll need a jar, some steel wool, gloves and, of course, your used coffee grounds.

Place the steel wool in a jar with a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of vinegar, water to cover it and the coffee grounds. Leave to soak for at least two hours, but overnight works best. Of course the more you leave it in the darker the stain will get!

Why use steel wool and vinegar?

The iron will dissolve in the vinegar creating a solution (iron acetate). The substance reacts with the tannins in the wood making it darker. This allows the coffee stain, that would fade away quickly in sunlight, to be durable indoors and outdoors.

Once the solution is ready apply a coat of stain to the wood, either with the steel wool itself or with a paintbrush. Use gloves for this step as it can get quite messy!

Let dry for 20-30 minutes and repeat. To have a darker stain you can repeat the process, but wait for each coat to dry first as the stain looks darker when wet.

Paper staining

Coffee grounds are a great way to create an aged paper effect for greeting cards, an antique notebook, or a pirates’ map!

Place coffee grounds in a tray and fill with boiled water. Let it steep for 5 minutes. The intensity of colour depends on the amount of coffee grounds, but you can always go back and add more.

Add a sheet of paper to the tray and let it sit for at least five minutes.

When the paper is a shade lighter than you’d like it to be, take it out of the coffee. It will darken as it dries.

Hang it to dry or lay it on a sheet of plastic. Be careful at this point as the paper is fragile when wet. I suggest using paper of a heavy quality for best results.

Once dry press it under a pile of heavy books to flatten it.

Easter egg dying

Dying hard-boiled eggs for Easter is a fun family tradition, a great way to spend time with your kids involving them in a creative activity — especially if it’s green and safe!

You can use natural dyes from all sorts of products you can find in your fridge or pantry, like spices, fruits and vegetables for different colours.

One of them is coffee grounds!

To give your eggs a natural brown shade mix one cup of coffee grounds with one cup of boiling water in a jar. Add one spoon of vinegar to set the colour. Dip in the hard-boiled egg and leave to steep for not more than an hour or the colour might start to seep through the shell.

After the egg is dry you can rub it in cooking oil to give it a nice shine!

Experiment with the quantity of coffee grounds for different intensities. And you’re ready for Easter!


Now, you’re ready to go forth and create something from (almost) nothing!


By | Coffe Basics

Take your time to enjoy your coffee


How often do you take a moment to really enjoy your coffee?

We might drink an impossible number of coffees a day but we often fail to pay much attention to it as we focus on our morning newspaper or conversations with the people around us. You’re probably still able to tell if it’s good or bad, but how much more are you missing?

Every good cup of coffee has its unique flavor characteristics, subtleties in the smell and taste reflecting the specific environment where the beans grew and the hard work put into processing it.

Don’t worry though!

You don’t need to be a professional “cupper” to grasp a bit more of what’s in your cup. All you need is to take some time to mindfully taste your coffee and you’ll begin to discover a whole new world of flavors.

And there is one simple tool to help you: the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel.

Let’s have a look at what it is and how it works with our easy step-by-step guide.


What is the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel?


The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a simple tool to describe coffee flavor, developed by SCAA in collaboration with the World Coffee Research in 2016. First published in 1995, this update is the largest and most collaborative piece of research on coffee flavor ever completed and much more accurate than the original.

One note:

the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel will not tell you if the coffee is good or bad: that’s really up to you and your preferences. What it will do is help you savour that lush cup of coffee and discover the complexity of both aromas and tastes.

Without further ado: let’s start tasting!


Step 1: Get familiar with the Coffee Flavor Wheel


Have a look at the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel: what do you notice?

The most obvious aspect is that it’s colourful. This is not casual. Sometimes when we don’t have exact words to describe a flavor we might associate it with a colour: if something is toasted or burnt it might taste brown, or if it’s under-ripe it might be green.

Later you can follow your tongue’s intuitions to explore particular colour sections of the wheel and then try and pinpoint more specific taste notes.

But that’s not all:

Look at the structure of the wheel: in the centre we’ll find the more general categories of flavor, such as fruity, sweet, nutty, etc. As you go outwards the tiles become more and more specific.

So, if you detect fruity characteristics at first, you can then ask yourself: is it more berry-like or more citrusy? And then, does it remind you of grapefruit or orange, lime or lemon?


Step 2: Prepare your cup of coffee


Pay attention to the aromas of the freshly ground beans; look at the colour and thickness of your crema and how the sugar settles on it as you add it.

Now, breathe in through your nose. Keep in mind the Flavor Wheel: do you pick up nutty hints? If so do they remind you of peanut, hazelnut or almond?


Step 3: Take a sip


What are the first flavors you perceive? Try to identify the main categories at this stage. It’s helpful to take notes of the first words that come to mind.


Step 4: Slurp


Instead of taking just a sip, slurp your coffee, letting some air run through your mouth: this will allow the coffee to spread in a more uniform way around your tongue. Can you try and hone in on more specific attributes? Is that sweetness more like caramel or honey?


Step 5: Focus on texture


Consider the body of your cup. Is it light and slick or dense and creamy? Refer to the words in the table to help you describe the mouthfeel of your coffee.


Step 6: Swallow


Finally, what kind of sensation does it leave in your mouth once you swallow? Does the taste linger for long or disappear? Is it a harsh and unpleasant aftertaste or a neutral one?


Step 7: Take a break and practice mindful tasting


If you’re feeling a bit lost at this point: do not give up! It’s not a competition.

As you start comparing different coffees and practice this mindful tasting, it will become easier to detect the subtle characteristics of this complex drink.

But most importantly:

You’ll begin to appreciate it more. And not just the coffee, but that peaceful window of time you’ve cut out for yourself to savour the little things in life.


If you want to practice your mindful tasting on a variety of coffees why not try one of our amazing blends?

The health benefits of coffee: life expectancy and the brain

By | Health & Beauty

Have you ever wondered about the health benefits of coffee? I can already see it:

You’re pouring your fourth of fifth cup of the day. And suddenly a malicious voice from the other side of the room interferes saying the last thing a coffee lover wants to hear: “That stuff will kill you”.

We’ve all been there.

You’d like to laser them with your eyes, instead you panic wondering whether your enemy is right and you should quit. With no answers ready at hand the only thing you’re left with is sipping that warm, comforting drink still in your hand. It’s good, isn’t it?

But the question you’re asking is: is coffee bad for you?

Luckily for you, it seems like it is not. Not only it will not kill you but, apparently, coffee can make you live longer.

Yes, you read that right.

Roasted coffee is a complex mixture of more than 1000 bioactive compounds (1), some of which are very familiar, like caffeine —a good friend responsible for getting us through those prolonged study or working sessions, but also of some more surprising benefits. This molecule and many others contained in coffee beans have the potential to lower the risk of some of the most common diseases of our age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancers.

Let’s jump right in and have a look at some of the amazing health benefits of coffee beans.


Coffee will not kill you


Let’s start with a great news: coffee will not kill you. If anything, it might prolong life.

Bare with me as I give you a bit of background.

Sometimes scientists conduct what are called long-term observational studies, following people’s daily habits for even as long as 20 years! It’s not “bigbrothery” with a young man in a lab coat watching everything you do and taking note in his little pad.

Instead, every once in a while people report what they’ve been up to: if they feel sad or happy, if they’ve had a heart attack, if they exercise, how many coffees they drink or cigarettes they smoke. And sometimes what scientists look at is how many people have died in that period and what are the differences between their lifestyle and the lifestyle of those who are still alive.

What did they find?

Firstly, that there is no higher risk of dying, for any cause —not even from cancer or cardiovascular diseases— if you drink coffee or decaf, even for those who drink up to 7 cups of coffee a day. (2)

Dr. Robert Van Dam, who teaches Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, said that “These findings fit into the research picture that has been emerging over the past few years: for the general population, the evidence suggests that coffee drinking doesn’t have any serious detrimental health effects.”(3)

According to him, this is an important finding because many people who want to improve their health think they have to give up that hearty, stimulating drink they so enjoy in the morning. To the people who ask themselves “Is coffee bad for me?” they should be reassured. Rather, they should focus their efforts on other aspects of their lifestyle like physical activity, quitting smoking and eating more fruits and veggies.

But there is one little catch.

Keep in mind that the Harvard study in question identifies a “cup” with a 8-ounce cup containing approximately 100 mg of caffeine, not the 16 ounces you would get in a grande at Starbucks containing 330 mg of caffeine. So you should probably still keep count if you’re a bit shaky as you come out of the coffee shop.

Also, beware:

black coffee is very low in calories, but not the same can be said for a 24-ounce mocha Frappucino at Starbucks with whipped cream: it has almost 500 calories—I mean, if you have four, that’s probably your whole daily calorie intake!

And, no offence to Starbucks, that sounds more like cake than coffee. So do check how much milk or cream you’re adding to your coffee. You might be consuming more calories that you think.

But the best part is:

some recent research has found that people who drink coffee usually live longer than people who don’t.

One recent meta-analysis (that is, a study studying other studies on a certain subject) found that people who drank 7 cups of coffee a day had a 10% lower risk of all-cause mortality. (1)

However, drinking 3-4 cups a day seems to bring the most advantages, lowering the risk of all-cause mortality by 18%. (4)

Does this mean that people who hate coffee should start drinking it or that you should drink more?

Of course not. As one of the most consumed beverages in the world, along with water and tea, it is important to know that at least it has no concerning health effects and that it can be part of a healthy diet.

With a couple of exceptions. Like everything else coffee has some pros but it also has its cons.

There are some people who should avoid or at least reduce their coffee intake.

Women with osteoporosis for example. Also, some research suggests that caffeine during pregnancy can reduce foetal growth and may even increase risk of miscarriage or stillbirth (5-6). And even though some studies propose that there are no long-term effects of coffee on high-blood pressure, if you are having trouble controlling your hypertension you might want to try switching to decaf for the time being. (3)

Now that we’ve put our minds at ease, let’s look at why coffee is good for your brain!


Coffee improves your energy levels and makes you smarter


It might surprise you to discover that caffeine (aka 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is the world’s most frequently ingested psychoactive substance. (7) In other words, caffeine is a drug. So after we’ve drunk a cuppa, caffeine travels through our bloodstream to our brain and because it is both fat- and water-soluble, it easily passes through our blood-brain barrier. (8)

But why does caffeine make us less tired? Let me explain.

When you’re awake, your brain is continuously working: your neurons are happily firing away all day. A by-product of all this partying is adenosine, a biochemical compound which regulates the activity of your central nervous system. The brain keeps monitoring levels of adenosine and when there’s too much it slows down neural activity. And we become sleepy.

What has this got to do with caffeine?

Caffeine is a bit sly, you’ll find. Because it has a similar molecular structure to adenosine it is able to bind itself to its receptors in the brain, but without activating them. So the brain can’t detect adenosine levels even when they are high. (8)

One of the most interesting consequences of caffeine’s action on arousal, vigilance and fatigue is that it also improves learning, memory, performance and coordination (even though it’s just short term)! (9)

It turns out, this might be an evolutionary advantage for plants containing caffeine: one study showed that honeybees were three times more likely to remember the scent of a flower after consuming caffeine. This means that it will be easier for those bees to go back to that plant, thus ensuring its reproductive success. (8) Smart plant makes bees smarter. And humans too.


Coffee can help you improve your mood and fight depression


As part of the 30-year-long Nurses’ Health Study, started in 1976, following more than 100.000 registered nurses in the US, a group of scientists from Harvard School of Public Health analysed the links between depression and coffee consumption in a sample of 50.739 women in a study that lasted 10 years.

Impressive, right?

The results showed that the risk of depression was lower in those women who drank more caffeine, and the more coffee you drank the lower the risk. (10)

So what was going on?

It’s probably due to coffee’s psychoactive effects: apart from adenosine, caffeine also acts on other neurotransmitters, for example serotonin, which is a natural mood stabiliser, and dopamine, which helps control the brain reward and pleasure centre — this hormone doesn’t just cause an emotional response: by pushing us to seek rewards, it leads us to action. Thus, they contribute to regulating anxiety and to a general feeling of well-being as well as putting our lives in motion.

One note from this study:

for some people with particular genetic backgrounds or who are oversensitive to it, caffeine could have an opposite effect: it can make you anxious and induce insomnia or other sleep disturbances, which are not particularly uplifting nor pleasurable.(10)

Coffee lowers the risk neurodegenerative diseases: dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s



Worldwide, around 50 million people are affected by dementia with 60-70% of these cases attributable to Alzheimer’s disease, while 10 million worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s. Because of these neurological disorders cognitive function deteriorates beyond what is expected from the normal ageing process, affecting memory, thought, comprehension, coordination, motor functions and language, among other things. (11-12)

But that’s not all:

these diseases don’t only have an impact on the people living with them but also on their families, both emotionally and economically. In 2015, the total global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be US$ 818 billion, equivalent to 1.1% of global gross domestic product (GDP). (11)

The combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s in the US alone is estimated at $25 billion. And there is no known cure, at the moment, only some treatments to help slow down the process and manage the symptoms. (12)

So it is exceptional that numerous studies have found that drinking coffee significantly reduces the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (1) In particular for Alzheimer’s, the effect is more pronounced for caffeinated coffee than for decaf and the lowest risk was found in people who drank 3-5 cups per day: a 65% decrease! (13)

But before you gets your hopes up, consider this:

much of the research has been done through observational studies which, even if long term and statistically accurate, can only point us in the right direction, but cannot fully explain the link or prove the connection. Further studies are needed to confirm the potential, positive interaction.

How does it all work?

Coffee has amazing effects on motor and cognitive skills which are affected in dementia. Some have suggested that coffee also has protective effects against inflammation in the brain.

Think about it this way:

an unregulated release of adenosine in the brain causes a chain reaction of enzymes leading to inflammation, thus through its ability to block adenosine receptors, caffeine might also reduce the inflammation itself, often linked to neurodegenerative diseases. (14)

As Parkinson’s affects predominately dopaminergic brain cells, it is thought that the neuroprotective effects of coffee are linked to its influence on dopamine, but it is still not clear how. (15)


In a nutshell


Let’s rewind and gather our thoughts a moment before finally responding to our rude (and ignorant) villain from the beginning.

Coffee does not kill you. It actually may lower the risk of all-cause mortality by 18%.

In addition, it stimulates the brain in many ways: from improving cognitive performance (it basically makes you smarter for a little while), to reducing depression, to potentially benefitting neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Remember: three cups a day give the most benefits, even though drinking more doesn’t really carry many side effects. But be careful about adding milk, cream and syrups to your coffee. They make it much more caloric.

Check your intake if:

  • you’re a pregnant woman;
  • a woman prone to fractures;
  • a person with hypertension.

Now, it’s your moment. Go and tell that fool how wrong they were!

Don’t miss Part 2 of our in-depth guide to the amazing health benefits of coffee: follow us on social media for updates on this and other topics.


Warning: The contents of this website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



(1) Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ, 2017.

(2) The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality. Ann Intern Med, 2008

(3) Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Ask the Expert: Rob van Dam on coffee and health. 2015

(4) Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Nonwhite Populations. Ann Intern Med, 2017

(5) Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with risk of low birth weight: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. BMC Med, 2014

(6) Caffeine intake during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Eur J Epidemiol, 2014

(7) Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters.  J Food Sci. 2010

(8) Lani Kingston, How to Make Coffee: the Science Behind the Bean. 2015

(9) Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects. Brain Res Brain Res Rev, 1992

(10) Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women. Arch Intern Med. 2011

(11) Dementia factsheet. World Health Organisation, 2017

(12) Causes and Statistics. Parkinson’s Foundation.

(13) Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2009

(14) What influences neuroprotective effects? Hypoxia/Reoxygenation Impairs Memory Formation via Adenosine-Dependent Activation of Caspase 1 J Neur, 2012.

(15) Dopaminergic Neurotransmission in the Human Brain: New Lessons from Perturbation and Imaging. Neuroscientist, 2012

Testing WayCap With Cool Coffee Blend

By | Video Tips | No Comments

Check out our video demonstration on how to use WayCap capsules with one of our own blends: Cool.

This blend contains 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta to create the right balance between the sweetness and smoothness of Arabicas and the structure and decisive taste of Robusta.

In the cup, the flavour is intense and captivating, the crema dense and persistent although not excessively thick, the taste is full and rich.

Cool Blend contains:

India Washed Kaapi Royal
Brazil Alta Mogiana
Honduras SHG
Guatemala SHG

Arabica_vs_Robusta_Coffee_Whats _the _difference

Arabica vs Robusta Coffee: What’s the Difference?

By | Coffe Basics

There is one coffee bean which is considered the queen of beans: it dominates the world’s coffee production and rules the specialty market. People don’t just swear by its superior quality, they “believe” in the pureness of its complex, sweet and acidic bouquet. They show it off in its untainted state everywhere they can: “100% Arabica!”, they invoke with one fist in the air.

And then there’s Robusta. Such a dirty, blasphemous word. Critics often describe it as tasting of burnt rubber. Definitely not sexy advertising. An Arabica and Robusta blend? Sacrilege!

Yet, it’s the second most traded kind of coffee in the world.

Is Arabica really better than Robusta?


The short answer is: yes and no. Like wine, the kind of grape or, in this case, the type of beans, each with different chemical features and qualities, does affect the ultimate flavour profiles. Bare with me and we’ll have a look at these specific characteristics in a moment.

But keep this in mind:

the quality and the complexity are very much influenced by a number of factors: the particular variety of the plant, its husbandry, harvesting, processing and roasting. The care and attention taken during each of these steps is what turns a mundane beverage into a rich and unique experience.

What are Arabica and Robusta?


With over 120 species of coffee discovered around the globe, only two are really likely to show up in your cup of morning brew: Coffea arabica, or simply Arabica, and Coffea canephora, aka Robusta. They might look quite similar at a first glance.

Don’t let this fool you!

There are many botanical and chemical differences between the two, giving them distinctive tastes: the one sweeter and fruitier, the other nuttier and full bodied with a higher caffeine content. Stick with me as we take a closer look at the eternal debate: Arabica vs Robusta, which one is better?

For starters, they occupy 60% and 35-40% of the world coffee trade respectively. Other species in East Africa and Madagascar are sometimes used locally to make coffee on a very small scale. So, what are the main differences between Arabica and Robusta?

Let’s jump right in!

Origins and Distribution


Even though Robusta has long been considered Arabica’s ugly sister, recent research suggest that, in fact, it is not. It turns out that Robusta is actually its parent! By sequencing its genes, scientists have discovered that, somewhere in southern Sudan, Robusta crossed with another species called Coffea euginoides giving birth to a new hybrid: Arabica.

Nevertheless, Arabica was probably the first to be consumed —at the beginning in its wild varieties flourishing in the shady rainforests of Ethiopia— and then farmed. Cultivations quickly crossed the narrow Red Sea to their Arabian neighbours who tried to monopolise the coffee trade.

And guess what? It didn’t work.

As the stimulating drink became more and more popular, seed and plant smugglers could not be stopped, and coffee farming took over the plains and mountainsides of the equatorial region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, now known as the Coffee Belt.


So what about now?

Today, although many countries grow both species, most of the world’s Robusta is found in Central and Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, especially India, Indonesia and Vietnam, while Arabica is mainly grown in East Africa, Central and South America.

The Coffee Plant


The coffee plant is an evergreen which grows as a shrub or a tree, sometimes pruned to about 1.5 m (5 ft) high.

Why is that? Let me explain.

The cherries on a branch mature at different times so hand-picking is still the best way to collect to the plump red cherries without including the unripe ones which would spoil the batch. Unless you use harvesting machines or a team of giant farmers, you better prune those trees!

So, what are the differences between the Robusta and Arabica trees?

The Robusta tree is usually bigger than its Arabica counterpart: it can reach up 10-12 m (33-40 ft) in height against 3-4 m (10-14 ft) of the latter. But that’s not all.

It also has double the yield of Arabica which will produce around 1-5 kg (2 -11lb) of cherries per season, if well cared for, making Arabica more expensive to grow… with some unpredictable consequences. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. We’ll talk more about that later.

And lastly, Arabica’s cherries are generally larger and more elongated than Robusta’s and its beans have a characteristic curved crease in the middle.

Climate and Environment


First of all, coffee plants like mild, humid climates and are sensitive to rapid temperature changes. They are extremely susceptible to frost which might only do some damage to the year’s production or…it could kill off entire plantations!

For instance, in 1975, during the Brazilian “black frost”, more than 200 million coffee trees were affected by the five days of subfreezing temperatures, which sent coffee prices skyrocketing around the world.

Then, where do Arabica and Robusta grow?

They are mainly found around the equator and in Tropical and Subtropical areas. Specifically, the heartier Robusta can grow in the lowlands up to 900 m (3000 ft) above sea level where the temperatures are warmer at about 20-30 °C (70-85 °F).

By contrast, the more delicate Arabica thrives on the mountainsides at higher altitudes 900-2000 m (3000-6600 ft) above sea level, where the climate is more temperate, though optimal altitude varies with proximity to the equator. Beyond that, rainfall patterns determine flowering periods but intense rains or droughts can damage the flowers and cherries.

Usually, Arabica grows in regions with distinctive wet seasons, and consequently, flowering times are quite predictable and sometimes happen even twice a year!

But, how much water does it drink up?

It needs between 1500 and 2000 mm (60-100 in) of rainfall annually and its deep roots allow it to survive when the most superficial soil is dry. The cherry ripens 9 months after flowering. On the other hand, Robustas cherries take longer to mature, around 10-11 months. They are cultivated in areas where the weather is unstable and require frequent and heavier rains, 2000-3000 mm (80-120 in) a year.

Chemistry and Flavour


Let’s begin by saying that the chemical components in the beans, such as oils, sugars and acids, are tightly linked with the particular flavour profile of a coffee.

For example, Arabica generally contains a higher number of oils (15-17%) and sugars (6-9%) than Robusta, making for a sweeter cup with more complex aromas and a smooth and supple texture.

But there is more!

The sugars in the bean also break down when roasted creating compounds that lend acidic notes to the coffee, even though Arabica actually contains less acids than Robusta.

However, Robusta’s low oil content (10-12%) generally gives a longer and more stable crema when pulling a shot of Espresso. You know that lustful, golden, tanned froth on top of an Espresso? Well, it is made of tiny air bubbles where many of the oils are suspended. But, too much fat actually destroys the foam!

Robustas definitely taste more bitter and “hard” than Arabicas. Why is that?

Robustas have a lower sugar content (3-7%) and double the amount of caffeine (1.7-4%) and Chlorogenic Acids (CGAs).

Does this mean that Arabica is a better quality bean? Not at all! It makes Robusta great if you’re looking for a bit of an extra kick in the morning or if you like cappuccinos, as its stronger taste still manages to shine through the milk.

And the really cool thing is:

Robusta’s high caffeine and CGAs content makes it more resistant to diseases, pests and fungi which proliferate in hot, wet climates, such as leaf rust and the coffee berry disease. So, the sturdiness of this species means that overall it is easier and cheaper to cultivate than Arabica.

Why does Robusta have such a bad rep?


Here’s the rub:

while Arabica has many different commercial uses, from lesser-quality to Specialty coffees, Robusta has always been considered as belonging to the low-end category of the market. In fact, its price is half that of Arabica and it is mostly used for instant, soluble or cheap coffees.

Although, in Italy, it has been traditionally blended with Arabicas for its stable and thick crema in Espresso, Robusta was also used to reduce the price of blends during and after war time…not always manifestly.

As we’ve already seen, its hardier nature makes it less expensive to produce. Believe it or not, sometimes the market might want an inferior quality product to keep it cheap.

Remarkably, the concept of Specialty coffee was born out of its distancing from the harsher, bitter and sometimes straight-out awful taste of Robusta: “100% Arabica” was the new claim!

Think about this for a moment:

Arabicas and Robustas prices are set in reference to two different markets: the NYSE in New York and the LIFFE in London. But did you know that a LIFFE Robusta contract allows approximately 450 defects for a 500g sample? That is approximately 10 times the number of defects allowable in a commodity Arabica ‘C’ contract!

Put it this way:

a lot of the bad taste in Robusta is not inherent in the bean, but mainly due to the high presence of black beans and sour beans and all kinds of other defects! In addition to this, there were no cupping protocols for Fine Robustas or premiums for high-quality lots.

The bottom line is:

with no incentives, why would farmers invest money, time and effort into attentive harvesting and processing?

It is only in the last decade or so that governments and international organisations have taken an interest in researching the unique properties of this species and have created specific cupping protocols.

What did they find?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they have discovered that taste improves when each stage of the bean evolution receives the same care as the Arabica bean. In particular, they found that plant variety, cultivating at higher altitudes, hand picking, wet or honey processing, all contribute to developing sweeter, fuller and more complex tastes.

Farmers are already experimenting and producing high quality Robustas and even 100% Robustas which have a market in Korea.

For example, in India, where there is a long tradition of Robusta cultivations, Sethuraman Estate’s Robusta Kaapi Royale (RKR) has become the first Robusta coffee certified by the Coffee Quality Institute’s R Coffee™ System in 2012.

In fact, we actually use Indian Robustas in some of our own Espresso blends: a washed wild Robusta from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve for our Fusion and an India Kaapi Royal for our Cool.




A blend of Arabica and Robusta can constitute a great choice to taste a whole range of flavours, each bean bringing out its own characteristics and advantages, reducing the acidity of the Arabica or the hardness of the Robusta, offering body and sweetness, in a way that a single origin might not.

So what does it all come down to?

We’ve seen how each bean and plant has unique characteristics which need to be considered individually. You wouldn’t just say, point blank, that red wine is better than white, would you?

We’ve also seen how Robusta’s hardiness might have been its downfall for a while, creating a vicious cycle of lower standards and bad reputation.

But things are changing.

So, is Arabica better than Robusta? Not inherently. The market might still consider it of superior quality and treat it as such, but Robusta is full of barely discovered potential.

It all adds up to this:

go and try different coffees. Don’t just think in terms of Arabica vs Robusta. Ask about how they are cultivated and processed. Experiment with single origins and blends and find what works best for you.

Above all, keep your mind open and your tongue curious.


Welcome to WayCap Coffee Blog

By | Coffee Culture

Do you want to be one of these people who is a snob about Espresso but actually knows what they’re talking about?

Would you like a handy list of coffee’s health benefits so you can justify your coffee addiction to your partner?

Have you ever asked yourself what the deal is with decaf?

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If the answer to any of these is YES, welcome to our brand new WayCap blog where we’ll dive into the wonderful world of coffee.

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