Inside FitMud's Ingredients: A Look At Robusta Coffee Beans
Posted on 11 September 2015
Black gold. Joe. Cuppa. Jitter juice. Mud.
Coffee has just about as many nicknames as it does ways to prepare it (my personal favorite? Iced Vietnamese), and it’s been a staple in most cultures around the globe for hundreds of years. But what’s so special about our beloved java when it comes to getting healthier skin?
You’re probably thinking it’s the caffeine.
That’s just one element that makes coffee such a potent base for a body scrub. Coffee acts as an amazing exfoliant and it contains powerful antioxidants and oils that help nourish and protect your skin.
However, not all coffee beans are created equal—the best tasting coffee beans don’t necessarily make the best coffee scrub!
What fuels FitMud? Why we use hyper-caffeinated Robusta coffee beans
There are two types of beans most widely produced across the globe: Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.
In modern times, coffee shops like Starbucks work tirelessly to sell only the most delicious coffee, made from Arabica beans. Arabica beans have:
- High fat and sugar content for a sweeter, softer taste
- Higher “acidic” flavor, which the human palate enjoys
- Flavors of sugar, fruit, and berries
FitMud is made with Robusta coffee beans that we grind immediately before packaging to deliver our customers the freshest scrub possible. Each bag starts with 7oz of Robusta grounds, to which we add oils and minerals that further nourish and protect your skin.
So what characteristics do Robusta coffee beans have?
- Strong, bitter, harsh taste; “burnt rubber” or grain overtones
- Twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans (2.2% per bean vs 1.2%)
- Much higher chlorogenic acid (CGA) content—an antioxidant
Since no one will be eating FitMud, the choice is clear: by using Robusta coffee beans we can pack our coffee scrubs with twice as much caffeine and significantly more antioxidants (25%-80% more) than if we used Arabica beans. We’ll leave Arabica to be tasted and let our Robusta beans do the dirty work!
Today’s availability of Robusta coffee beans—and coffee’s impact in skincare—is a relatively new phenomena thanks to a few key global economic shifts and, believe it or not, World War II.
A Robust-a history: Colonization, World War II, and the "Coffee Cartel"
Robusta was only officially recognized as a type of coffee in 1897—named Coffea robusta or Coffea canephora. It originated in the Ethiopian highlands and was reportedly exported out of Africa by Portuguese, Dutch, and French colonists, spreading it primarily to South and East Asia, which are now the largest producers of Robusta coffee today (namely Vietnam and India).1
Because of its lower cost and longer shelf-life, soldiers during World War II were served instant coffee ground from Robusta beans and returned home with an appetite for this instant coffee. By 1960, Robusta coffees grew in market share in the US (30%), England (50%), France (75%), and Italy (40%).2
Fun fact: the stereotype of European tourists visiting America and calling our coffee “toilet water” or “mud water” is based on this prevalence of Robusta instant coffee!
Robusta plants are less susceptible to insects and temperatures, so farmers started growing more Robusta in countries like Brazil as frosts and diseases such as “coffee leaf rust” eliminated acre after acre of Arabica farmland. This bolstered the production of Robusta, which now accounts for 30% of Brazil’s production—who makes ⅓ of the world’s coffee.1 Since 2000, Vietnam has become the leading Robusta producer, pumping out 39% of the world’s Robusta coffee beans.3
In 1989 the “coffee cartel,” who regulated prices of the popular Arabica beans, failed to renew their agreement on global Arabica prices (the ICA: International Coffee Agreement), leaving farmers unprotected in trade contracts and causing what is now known as the Coffee Crisis.4
The ‘Big Four’ coffee companies (Nestlé, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee) saw the volatile Arabica market and created new steaming methods to remove the bitter flavor of the more economically-stable Robusta coffee, which coincidentally removed much of the actual coffee flavor inherent in the beans. To combat this flavorless product, they marketed these cheaper Robusta grounds as flavored blends.
Did you ever notice how many ‘French Vanilla’ or ‘Hazlenut Mocha’ flavored coffees popped up in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s?5
Now to come full circle: specialty coffees and artisan coffee roasters are gaining in popularity and most people are starting to rediscover Arabica beans for their taste. Based on consumer demand, there is even a “100% Arabica” movement embraced by many premium coffee roasters, removing Robusta from their product lines completely.
Meanwhile, production of Robusta in countries like Vietnam is still on the rise, giving those more interested in the health benefits of Robusta beans access to far greater volumes and qualities of Robusta beans than ever before.
Benefits of using Robusta beans: More than just caffeine
Coffee is growing in popularity for skin health in recent years; and much to the surprise of many, it’s not all about the caffeine content. The caffeine in a coffee bean only accounts for 1-3% of its total weight, while oils account for 13%, and up to 7% of chlorogenic acid—both very potent aids for skin health.
Let’s break down the bean and look at how each compound can help to improve the health and appearance of your skin.
Caffeine is the most well-known by consumers, and Robusta beans pack twice as much caffeine as the Arabica beans most likely used in your morning cup of coffee.
Most widely known is caffeine’s diuretic properties that draw moisture from your body, which is why you may need to use the restroom soon after drinking coffee. However, when applied topically (onto your skin) the diuretic properties of caffeine draw out excess moisture from your skin, helping to tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.
It’s important to note that these effects should only be expected to remain temporarily; apply a coffee scrub daily for 7-14 days before a vacation or big event you want to attend, then maintain by using your scrub every few days afterward!
When people talk about coffee being a powerful antioxidant, the chlorogenic acid (or ‘CGA’) is the compound responsible for this effect. It’s also the CGA in coffee that causes a laxative effect, “hurrying” your bowel movements and giving coffee a similar reputation to that of prunes. Robusta beans contain up to 100% more CGA than Arabica beans.
There is evidence that chlorogenic acid helps prevent UV-induced oxidative damage. In layman’s terms: evidence shows that using coffee scrub regularly can help reduce the damage that sunburns cause in the event that you take in too much sun.6
Using a coffee scrub regularly will allow your skin to better stave off damage, but applying a source of chlorogenic acid after-the-fact will have little effect in recovery from skin damage.
Coffee grounds (both Arabica and Robusta) are great for removing dead skin cells to keep your skin soft and glowing. For those who struggle in combatting acne, coffee grounds are effective at buffing your skin to keep pores from clogging, which will help you stay clear of acne.
This exfoliating effect of coffee grounds aids in the natural renewal process of your skin, which allows for the moisturizing elements in coffee scrubs like FitMud to penetrate deeper in your skin. A coffee scrub which exfoliates and moisturizes will aid with both skin discoloration and wrinkle reduction.
You can also remove buildup and product from your hair very efficiently using coffee grounds. Simply work it into your hair and wash out thoroughly. Be careful if you have a lighter shade of hair (natural blonde hair or bleached colors) because the coffee can darken your hair temporarily.
While oils make up 13% of the coffee bean, much of the oil is lost in the roasting process. Some oils still remain though, which is why you often see a small layer of oils floating at the top of your morning cup—these oils are your skin’s allies!
The oils leftover from the roasting process mix with the other oils and minerals in the coffee scrub, helping them better absorb into your skin. When paired with the exfoliating effect of coffee grounds, these oils help the salts, sugars, and other nutrients reach even deeper into your skin and provide a more lasting effect, which is what keeps your skin feeling silky smooth even after you wash the coffee scrub off.
What can you do with your leftover coffee grounds?
Here are some great reasons to save your coffee grounds, even if your favorite coffee uses the Arabica beans that make for a less effective coffee scrub.
You can let your grinds dry out and stick them in an open container to deodorize certain smelly parts of your home; refrigerators, pantries, etc.
- Much like how grounds can exfoliate your skin, they can also act as a degreaser to scrub your pans clean of those pesky stains and sticky bits of food.
- Keep finding scratches on your wooden furniture? You can hide wood scratches by using leftover grounds as a sort of watercolor paint. Simply dip a cotton swab in steeped grounds and dab until the color matches. Go slow so you don’t over-do it!
- The chlorogenic acid in coffee acts as an insect-repellant—Robusta especially. Simply create a ring around plants you may want to protect in your garden.
- If you use your fireplace often, you might find it difficult to clean the ashes without them billowing up as you sweep them into a dustpan. Sprinkling coffee grounds over the ash will help alleviate this frustration by causing the ash to attract to the grounds, making it less of an annoyance.
This little bean has travelled the world and weathered several wars—economic and political—and is currently one of the favored products of coffee growers in top coffee-producing countries like Brazil and Vietnam. It’s packed full of oils and compounds that make your skin very happy.
Maybe you don’t want to endure the bitter taste of a Robusta coffee just to save the grounds for creating your own coffee scrub, but you can still benefit from using a coffee scrub made from Robusta beans by trying out one of FitMud’s all-natural coffee scrub blends (does Coconut Coffee Scrub sound enticing?).
1) Robusta Coffee - Wikipedia
2) Coffee: A comprehensive guide to the bean, the beverage, and the industry
3) Arabica vs. Robusta - Barking Dog Coffee Roasters
4) The Coffee Crisis - Coffee & Conservation
5) So you say there's a coffee crisis - Coffee Geek
6) Efficient topical delivery of chlorogenic acid by an oil-in-water microemulsion to protect skin against UV-induced damage - NCBI