How Does Altitude Affect Coffee? – Have you ever questioned the barista who made your coffee about it?
If so, they most likely provided a lengthy explanation that included a footnote regarding the elevation at which the coffee was grown. One would wonder, what does height have to do with the coffee you’re going to sip? What purpose does it even serve?
Explain why elevation is important
Your current elevation will directly affect the size, shape, and flavour of the coffee you are about to drink. However, knowing a little about it can help you select a coffee you adore.
You don’t need to demand a coffee from a specific elevation the next time you step into a coffee shop.
We discussed how the farm’s elevation and climate might affect the type of coffee a farmer may decide to grow in my previous article about how farmers select their coffee plant varieties.
To summarize, robusta types prefer a lower elevation of 600 to 2,400′ with milder weather, while arabica often prefers higher altitudes of 1,800 to 6,300′. The elevation inside the ranges has a significant impact on the coffee.
Precisely how do you determine elevation?
Elevation affects the coffee bean’s physical characteristics. Take a good look at the beans the next time you get your hands on a bag of green coffee (coffee that hasn’t been roasted).
Are they compactly shaped and small? Is the fissure line straight, zigzag, or closed? Which shade—jade, light green, or blue—do they have? The elevation at which the coffee is cultivated influences each of these traits.
Hard beans grown at 4,500 feet or above in elevation are the most sought-after coffee beans. Due to the slow growth in a high-altitude environment, these are highly thick. A closed fissure line, which may be dodged or slightly off-centred, should be present.
Conversely, coffee beans from lower elevations would typically be less thick and have a semi-open fissure. There will be some colour differences because the type of coffee used and the beneficiary process affect the colour.
When processed differently—by using a honey process as opposed to a full wash—the same coffee from the same farm can have a different hue when it is green.
The bean density will probably be the best signal for identifying the coffee’s altitude.
Why is elevation higher better?
The taste is the critical factor driving the increased demand for coffee grown at higher elevations. When properly cared for, high-elevation coffee will yield the more delicious, fragrant, and acidic cup we enjoy.
Still, lower elevation coffee tends to have less acidity and character in the cup.
Your barista is informing you of the elevation of the coffee you are about to drink for this reason. The general rule is that coffee cultivated at greater altitudes tastes better, so if it was grown at 5,200′, it should be tasty.
Although many other variables can affect the flavour of the coffee you are about to drink; elevation is one of the most significant.
Try coffees from various elevations and locations of the world, and feel free to ask your barista for more details about the coffee you’re about to sip!