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Elevation in coffee farming

Why should we care about elevation in coffee farming – a little bit of information about coffee?

If you ask the barista, they will probably tell you that the coffee at the higher elevation, the higher quality. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Through this article, let’s see what elevation really means with 43 Factory Coffee Roaster.


Is elevation in coffee farming a proxy for quality?


The higher altitude gives the beans a sweeter, more complex flavor. In fact, there is an organic correlation between altitude and temperature. Therefore, it is also possible to understand the fact that better quality, more delicious coffee is due to temperature.

If grown higher with lower temperatures, coffee plants will grow more slowly. Fresh coffee berries will ripen over time. The longer ripening time allows the beans to fully infuse complex flavors.

In growing conditions with lower temperatures, coffee plants are less susceptible to the effects of a number of pests, especially leaf rust – an extremely dangerous fungus that causes a lot of damage to plants. annual crop. Similarly, coffee berry borers are also inactive and harmful when not in the right temperature conditions, usually 20-30°C or 68-86°F. This helps the finished coffee beans limit defects and do not carry the bitter, acrid notes produced during the plant’s resistance to pests and diseases.

Elevation in coffee farming

Elevation in coffee farming

According to studies, the ideal temperature for growing coffee is 17-23°C / 63-73°F. Growing in low temperature conditions makes coffee trees produce less, need more care and harvest time later than the normal crop. However, with the quality and advantages of limiting the impact of pests, this is considered quite a lot in the process of farming research.

In general, most coffees grown at lower temperatures will have a fuller and better flavor.


Elevation in coffee cultivation decreased


Just as altitude affects temperature, so does latitude. Take a country like Colombia, famous for its premium, high-quality coffee. Farms in regions like Nariño are just 100 miles from the equator and, according to the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, reach 2,300 meters above sea level. What is the result? High acidity, sweetness, pronounced aroma – all make up a beautiful cup of coffee.

But if we go to Cerrado Mineiro in the south of Brazil, 15 times further from the equator than Nariño, we find that the farms are at a much lower altitude: only 800 to 1,300 meters above sea level. And according to the Brazilian Association of Coffee Production Areas, the average temperature of the region is 23°C, which is within ideal coffee growing conditions.

So why should we look down on coffee grown only 1,100 meters above sea level, when local temperatures are still relatively cool?

Nor is it just latitude that can affect local temperatures. The Galápagos Islands lie in the middle of the equator, with farms just 200–300 meters above sea level. However, the temperature is similar to that in Cerrado Mineiro, thanks to the Humboldt Stream that brings cold air up from Chile and Peru. Coffees from here tend to be sweet and savory with caramel notes.

Elevation is an unfair scale. While it can indicate coffee quality, without the right context – knowledge of latitude, local climate and more – it can become meaningless. It is useful when applied to farms in a particular area but should not, for example, be used to compare Hawaiian and Venezuelan beans or Indonesian and Yemeni beans.

Unlike altitude, temperature fluctuates seasonally, daily, and even hourly. And even if the scale isn’t perfect, we need to know how quickly the beans have grown. It affects the flavor, aroma and ideal roasting profile of the coffee.


How does the growth rate affect coffee beans?


Roasters have a better way of measuring this concept of coffee grown at low or high temperatures: they talk about density or firmness. Slow-growing or high-density coffee beans; Fast growing seeds are soft or have low density.

Unfortunately, the coffee industry has no unit of measure for density. Some countries describe coffee grown at a certain height as hard bean and soft bean, but this goes back to the original problem: the ideal altitude will vary from country to country and region to region.

Elevation in coffee farming

This is because roasters, even more than coffee buyers, baristas and consumers, need information about the density of the beans. Slower development not only leads to more complex flavors; it also affects the material composition of the particle.

Unroasted green kernels have low density, cracks tend to open. The kernel lines with higher density have a closed fissure.

But if we look inside the bean, we see a bigger difference: the low-density seed has more air pockets. This means that during roasting, heat will transfer more slowly and erratically. Therefore, roasters need to use a lower temperature to avoid burning and burning beans.

Coffee quality is complex. It is influenced by many factors: coffee type and variety, farming and processing methods, soil quality, altitude, local climate and how it changes from year to year, storage and export conditions. imported, roasted, brewed… However, how fast or slow growing fresh coffee can have a significant impact on the flavor of the coffee when it’s brewed (not to mention how it’s roasted). For this reason, altitude is a valuable thing to know. We only need to understand it in the context of latitude and local climate.

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