A coffee roaster’s guide to F1 hybrids

Janice Kanniah
January 19, 2022
f1 hybrids coffee

With climate change and other issues having a significant effect on the agricultural industry, coffee farmers face an uncertain future. Many simply don’t know how well their crops will continue to grow, and this is bound to have an overwhelming impact on their livelihoods. 

To battle these challenges, horticulturalists have taken steps to produce new hybrid varieties of coffee that can handle changing growing conditions. If implemented correctly, they could help producers to continue delivering high-quality coffee to meet global demand.

F1 hybrids have emerged in recent years as not only having great cup potential, but also a solution to coffee production’s impending climate crisis. Read on to find out more about these varieties and their benefits for the coffee sector.

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f1 hybrids coffee

What are F1 hybrids?

Today’s coffee varieties have been in production for decades, if not centuries.

As time has gone on, pests and diseases, such as coffee leaf rust have become increasingly prevalent, although robusta coffee is more resilient than arabica. More concerning yet is the fact that arabica has relatively little genetic diversity.

This lack of diversity means that arabica is and will continue to be extremely vulnerable to these issues, as well as the adverse effects of climate change.

It is believed that, in the not too distant future, there will be a possible shortage of arabica coffee due to climate change. If this isn’t addressed soon, it could spell catastrophe for those who rely on coffee production as their primary source of income.

F1 hybrids are a potential solution to the growing angst among coffee producers. Put simply, they are “hybridised” coffee cultivars propagated in laboratories, with the aim of blending the best features of several different varieties.

F1 varieties have been created by crossing two genetically distant arabica varieties. They are selected for their positive qualities with the first generation of offspring planted.

The results breeders look for include higher yields, wider climate adaptability, and resistance to various commonly found plant diseases.

While these characteristics make a plant attractive to farmers, the qualities they hold in the cup also need to meet the high demands of the modern coffee consumer, who regularly seeks out new and exciting coffees.

However, it can take up to three years for a coffee plant to mature to the point of bearing fruit commercially. This means breeding new coffee varieties, such as F1 hybrids, is a long process that can take 20 years or more to bring to market.

pour over coffee

Why are they popular?

Any new, rare, or experimental coffee generally causes a stir in the market.

In the case of F1 hybrids, the prospect of new flavour profiles and an exciting backstory have seen their popularity grow. This, together with high yields and good quality potential, make them a good choice for farmers and consumers alike.

Their exceptional quality potential and high yields mean that this is a win-win situation for farmers and coffee consumers alike.

While they’re only just beginning to break into the market, things are looking up. At the 2017 Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence, the F1 hybrid “Centroamericano” scored 90.5 points on the SCAA scale.

This specific varietal is a hybrid of Rume Sudan (an Ethiopian landrace) and a rust-resistant variety known as T5296. It was made available to Central American producers back in 2010.

According to World Coffee Research this hybrid is resistant to coffee rust and also yields between 20% and 40% more than other varieties grown in the region.

Higher disease resistance and yield mean that not only have these coffees been able to reach the quality demands of the specialty market, but they will, over time, become more widely available, too.

Larger yields and higher altitudes generally don’t go hand in hand. Still, with the new hybrids able to adapt to different growing conditions, we may see an influx of outstanding quality arabica in the future.

roasting coffee

Sourcing & roasting F1 hybrids

As commercial production in F1 hybrids is still relatively new, sourcing these coffees can be challenging. Furthermore, with a rise in popularity, the price for F1 hybrid coffees may match that of other rare strains of arabica.

Similarly to how we saw the price for Geisha coffee rise due to its rarity, you can expect to see hybrid coffees towards the high end of the price range. Still, as more farmers integrate these exciting varieties into their crops, the cost should normalise, making these coffees more accessible.

So far, the quality levels of F1 hybrids have been very encouraging, offering sought-after flavour profiles valued by specialty consumers. 

For example, Rooftop Roasters in British Columbia, Canada, has supplied its customers with a range of Centroamericano coffees sourced from Aquiares Estate in Costa Rica. The range includes washed, natural, and red honey lots.

“We bought all three processes of the Centroamericano to test out the effect of processing methods on flavour,” the company says. “With this natural process, we tried to draw out the tropical papaya notes, rich sweetness and complexity.”

Such complexity and fruit-forward flavour profiles generally favour a fully developed light roast. Alternatively, they could work with a medium roast at the lighter end of the spectrum. This way, roasters can balance out the acidity and give a smooth mouthfeel.

Ultimately, roast profiles for F1 hybrids are very much in the experimental stage. As these coffees become more common and more accessible, more roasters will figure out how to get the best out of them.

F1 hybrids are an exciting answer to many of the problems and challenges that coffee farmers expect to face in the coming years.

However, while we’re still in the early stages of bringing the new varieties to consumers, it remains to be seen where the hybrids will fit in the coffee market.

If the current results are anything to go by, F1 hybrids could quickly become some of the most sought after coffee varieties in the world, challenging the likes of Geisha or SL34 in terms of cup quality.

At MTPak, we love to see innovation in the coffee industry, which is why we are always looking to help improve the quality and sustainability models for any size of coffee roaster. We offer various styles and sizes of coffee packaging, made from environmentally conscious materials.

If you’re looking for a business that can support your roastery’s aspirations and goals, MTPak is ready to be your partner in success. Contact our team today to get started with your new packaging solutions.

For information on our sustainable coffee bags, contact our team.

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