Traditionally, coffee beans have been separated into two distinct varieties. Arabica, which is generally thought to be the superior tasting bean, and Robusta, which is slightly more bitter tasting, but much more resilient (hence robust-a). As with any modern commercial crop however, things these days aren’t quite so simple. Coffee producers across the world have been experimenting with cross-breeding different coffee varieties to try to create coffee beans that taste incredible, and are also hardy enough to survive in difficult conditions.
Why is there a need for hybrid coffee?
Hybrid coffee varieties are being developed for two main reasons. Firstly, the demand for coffee across the planet has never been bigger, so in order to keep up with the demand it’s important for coffee farmers to be able to produce large amounts of coffee that taste amazing, with as little wastage as possible. Unpredictable trading conditions can also mean that variations in the crop yield could make a huge difference in whether or not a farmer makes any profit.
The second reason is to battle the coffee plants greatest enemy, the dreaded coffee leaf rust disease. This is a fungal disease that can be absolutely devastating to coffee farms, as once a plant is infected there is no way of curing it. By creating hybrid coffee variations farmers can breed the superior tasting Arabica plants with the hardier Robusta plants, in an attempt to produce a crop that gives them the best of both worlds.
Examples of hybrid coffees
You have probably tried a hybrid coffee before without even realising it, but if you’d like to look out for them in the future here are some of the varieties you might see.
Timor Hybrid – This is a naturally occurring hybrid from the island of Timor in Southeast Asia. This is a cross between the local Arabica and Robusta varieties, and has been widely cultivated due to its resistance to coffee leaf rust.
Jember – This coffee was developed by Indian breeders in the 1940’s and was introduced to Indonesian farmers, which is where it tends to be grown to this day. It is named after the Jember Indonesian Coffee and Cacao Research Institute who first introduced it as a commercial plant.
F1 Hybrids – These are new hybrid coffees that researchers have been developing in labs over the last few years in an attempt to cultivate varieties that are as disease resistant as possible, while still tasting amazing. These are now being grown in Central America so will likely become very popular in years to come.
Are hybrid coffees better?
The quality of a coffee in terms of taste comes down to a number of factors, not just the species. Factors such as altitude, temperature and distance from the equator all impact how a coffee cherry ripens. Plus, different varieties seem to prefer different conditions, so sometimes the final product is more down to the skill and experience of the coffee farmer. It’s true that typically Arabica coffee still tends to have the best flavour, but there are some hybrid coffees out there that are among the very best beans in the world. As time goes on and hybrid coffee becomes even more important just to keep the industry alive, it might be that every cup of coffee served on your local high street will be made with hybrid beans.
Whether you’re brewing with pure Arabica, Robusta, or a hybrid between the two, you need to be confident that your coffee machine can reliably produce the very best tasting cup every time. The best way to avoid risking a sub-par cappuccino is using the tried and tested automation technology found in WMF coffee machines. By automating the grinding and tamping process, it ensures every espresso tastes perfect, every single time. From the compact WMF 1100 S to the classic portafilter style of the WMF Espresso, there’s an ideal WMF machine for any business. Download a brochure to see our full range.