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How Altitude Affects Coffee Taste

Ever wonder why your coffee tastes different at home than it does when you take a trip up to the mountains or down to the beach?  Well, just as there are effects on baking and the fact that it’s definitely more difficult to breathe the higher you go in elevation, the taste of coffee also changes with increasing altitude.  Mostly, this effect is due to the way beans are grown, but it is also thanks, in part, to the brewing process.

When coffee beans are growing and developing a lot of different factors come into play.  There’s the moisture in the soil and in the air, soil density, topographical elements, and the presence of, or lack thereof, disease.  When coffee beans are grown at higher elevations tend to be harder and richer.  Due to the higher elevation, there is less oxygen in the air, which is also why it may seem harder to breathe when traveling from low lands to higher ones, or when hiking a mountain.  The lack of oxygen causes the plants to grow slower, therefore giving the beans more time to mature and develop more intense flavor profiles.

Beans grown at higher elevations also have different tastes based on how high up the plants actually were placed.  They may have a more earthy flavor when grown at lower altitudes, or a more fruity, acidic taste if grown higher up.  The beans grown in Yemen are typically around the range that produce a less acidic, sweet, chocolaty taste.  Moka coffee sounding familiar right about now?  That is exactly why “mocha lattes” which have a chocolate flavor, because the taste they are trying to mimic has it’s roots in chocolaty coffee, literally.

Coffee taste at different elevations also has to due with the effects on the brewing process.  When at higher altitudes, cooking works a bit differently.  Water boils at a lower temperature, and things generally take longer to bake.  The results to coffee are similar in that if the water isn’t hot enough, you’re typical coffee maker is not going to do the trick.  In order to get the water to boil and create the right amount of pressure, a stovetop coffee maker is a go to for those at higher elevations.  Again, we circle around and find ourselves at the Moka Pot.  Created for this exact purpose, the Moka pot will give you a perfect cup at elevation every time.

Whether you’re on a round-the-world holiday or you’re just sitting at home on a regular day, your coffee making process may take a bit of tweaking to get just right.  As with anything, it takes some trial and error to find exactly what you like.  So, don’t be afraid to try and not like a certain bean or brew, at least you’ll be familiar with which varieties you are not as big of a fan.  Plus, now that you’re a pro at what to do and what the effects are, you’ll have a perfect cup in no time at all

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