How Does Elevation Affect Coffee?

crazy by Editorial Staff | Updated on April 26th, 2023

There is a wide range of factors that influence the taste of coffee. The National Coffee Association (NCA) states that the final product flavor of coffee can be influenced by a wide range of factors, including plant variety, soil chemistry, climate, sunshine and rainfall amounts, and even the particular altitude at which coffee is grown.

Roasting coffee beans at different elevations is important in the product’s final taste. Coffee beans roast more slowly at higher altitudes, where the air is cooler, allowing more flavor to be extracted. 

Sunrise coffee in nature. Moka pot with coffee on wooden table with mountain fog on shade of sunrise background. Good morning. 16:9

Research has shown that the outcome of coffee beans roasted at Low-elevation may not be as desirable as that of high elevation due to harsher growing conditions. 

The benefits of high-elevation coffee

High-elevation coffee is coffee that is grown at higher altitudes. High altitudes above 900m to 1500m and beyond provide an ideal environment for growing coffee. The benefits of high-elevation coffee are numerous. Some of the benefits are; 

Coffee grown at high elevations have more flavor complexity

Coffee grown at high elevations has a much more complex flavor than coffee grown at lower elevations. This is due to the slower maturation process of the bean, which allows for more time for the flavor compounds to develop.

Additionally, coffee grown at higher altitudes tends to be less susceptible to pests and disease. The extra caffeine can be a natural deterrent to insects and other pests, meaning fewer defects in the crop, resulting in a better cup of coffee. 

Increased Antioxidants and Nutrients

In the research conducted by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2013, it was discovered that coffee beans contain higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients at higher altitudes. This is due to reduced oxygen levels, increased light intensity, and cooler temperatures at high elevations. The study showed that raw and roasted coffee beans contain more antioxidants at increased altitudes. 

These antioxidants have been linked to various health benefits, including better heart health, stronger bones, and improved immunity. 

Coffe field in Minas Gerais State, Brazil

High-elevation coffee is denser and has a higher caffeine content

Study shows that high-elevation coffee is denser and has a higher caffeine content than coffee grown at lower altitudes. This is due to the cooler temperatures, more intense sunlight, and the coffee beans’ slower maturation rate at high elevations. 

The increased caffeine content means you can get an extra energy boost from your cup of coffee. Thanks to the unique environment found at high elevations, you can enjoy a cup of coffee with more complexity and energy than ever before. For these reasons, coffee connoisseurs prefer coffee grown at higher altitudes.

What are the drawbacks of high-elevation coffee?

Although High-elevation coffee is the most preferred type of coffee, it comes with certain drawbacks.

Exposure to extreme temperatures

High-elevation coffees can be subject to extreme temperatures, which can have a negative impact on the quality of the beans. Higher temperatures can be harmful, especially if the air is dry. Robusta coffee is much less adaptable to lower temperatures than arabica coffee.

This makes high-elevation coffees more vulnerable to changes in temperature, which could lead to decreased quality and fewer antioxidants, reducing the potential health benefits of consuming high-elevation coffee.

However, with proper care, high-elevation coffees can still retain their full flavor and antioxidant content, making them a great choice for coffee lovers looking for a unique taste experience.

Higher cost of production

High-elevation coffee often has a higher cost of production due to the more complex growing process and the need for specialized equipment. For example, the harvesting of coffee beans from higher altitudes requires the use of machinery that can access these difficult-to-reach areas. 

Long shipping times and lower availability

High-elevation coffee beans can often be more difficult to transport due to long shipping times and lower availability. This is because these beans have to travel further distances, especially when compared to coffee beans grown at lower altitudes. 

View of a coffee plantation near Manizales, Colombia

Effects of low altitude on coffee

Caffeine levels are lower in lower-elevation coffee beans, and the flavor complexity is less nuanced. Low-elevation coffee is coffee that is grown at below 900m altitude. Study shows that the yield of lower-elevation coffee plants is also higher due to faster ripening times, though the beans must be treated with special care.

Low-elevation coffee plants are subject to harsher growing conditions, such as higher temperatures and less rainfall. This can cause the coffee to grow differently than at higher altitudes. 

At low altitudes, the growth time for coffee beans is faster than those grown at higher elevations. As a result, the beans ripen quickly and can produce a high yield, but the flavor complexity will be compromised.

Strategies for successful low-altitude coffee production

Coffee farmers can still produce high-quality coffee at low elevations, but they must be aware of the challenges that come with it. To achieve success, farmers will need to adjust certain farming techniques. This can include adjusting the water and nutrient levels in the soil, providing shade to the plants, and harvesting the beans early.

Additionally, farmers should invest in appropriate irrigation equipment in order to keep their crops hydrated and healthy. With these strategies, farmers can produce high-quality coffee at low elevations, even if the altitude isn’t ideal for growing coffee.

Brewing high-elevation coffee

Brewing coffee from higher elevations can be a rewarding experience. When brewing high-elevation coffee, it is important to pay special attention to the grind size and water temperature. Coffee grinds should be finer when brewing high-elevation coffee, as the beans are denser and require more time to extract their flavor. 

Additionally, water temperature should be lower than normal when brewing high-elevation coffee in order to avoid over-extraction. With some experimentation and proper technique, you can craft a perfect cup of high-elevation coffee that celebrates the unique complexities of these beans.

How to buy high-elevation coffee

When it comes to buying high-elevation coffee, here are some tips that will guide you in making the right choice.

Understand the Different Elevations

When it comes to understanding the different elevations, it’s important to note that coffee is grown from anywhere between sea level and 6500 feet in elevation. The higher the elevation, the harder and denser the beans will be and the more complex the flavor. 

Knowing this information can help you make an informed decision when buying high-elevation coffee.

Identify High Elevation Coffee Varieties

A few varieties of coffee beans are commonly grown at higher altitudes. Arabica coffees thrive at higher elevations and produce more complex flavors than those grown at lower elevations. Some other high-altitude coffee beans include Typica, Caturra, and Bourbon. These beans are distinctively harder and denser than their lower-elevation counterparts, giving them a richer flavor when brewed.

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Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.


Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.