Can Altitude Affect The Flavour of Your Coffee?
As we all know the taste of coffee can differ depending on many factors such as
Origin | Processing method | Coffee Varietal | etc
But did you know that the altitude at which the coffee is grown has just as much of an effect? Let us tell you why.
Altitudes influence the maturing process of the coffee fruit thus the tasting profile. It is so significant that most specialty coffee roasters include this piece of information on the bags so customers and baristas are aware of it.
But hey! Don't forget, coffee plants are only able to grow around the equator and in warmer climates still, this area is referred to as the The Coffee Belt.
Okay now time to go on a journey together through the different altitudes coffee plants can be found in and what makes them have their own unique profile.
Low Altitude - 1,200 m (4,000 ft) and lower
- Coffee takes less time to ripen
- Softer beans
- Not robust enough for darker roasts of coffee
- Tast profile: Soft, Mild, Simple, Smooth, Nutty, Chocolatey
High Altitude - 1200 m (4,000 ft) and higher
- Low temperatures mean development process of the coffee fruit is longer
- Allows distinct and deeper flavours from inside the fruit to flourish
- Tend to preserve their flavour for a longer period of time when stored
- Taste profile: Complex, Floral, Fruity, Spicy
Of course high and low are relative terms as the highest grown coffees in some origins barely make it to over 1200 m, however they have the right conditions to produce dense and harder beans that would be classified as higher elevation beans. For example some countries in Central America grow coffees below 900 m that are classified as hard beans. The easiest way to truly know what each specific coffee would be referred to is by allowing each farmer or roaster to decide this as the standard would change from region to region.
Also always remember, there is no 'best' type of coffee, it's all about your preference and what brewing method you prefer. Just make sure its always specialty coffee.
We hope you enjoyed this journey through the different altitudes coffee grows at and hopefully next time someone asks if elevation is relevant when choosing coffee you can answer like an expert!