You may have noticed that when you buy coffee beans or grounds often times the package states what the elevation was in which the beans were grown. The packages will often rave about how high their coffee was grown and make it seem like such a big deal that it was grown at high elevations. I am here to clear up what it means when something is grown at higher elevations and if it really matters at all.
The argument is that the higher the elevation the coffee is grown, the better the coffee. But why?
The difference in the taste and quality of the beans is ultimately due to two variables; water and temperature. The high elevation the beans are grown at means the coolers the temperature and the less water that the beans were exposed to during their growth. Cooler temperatures and less water results in a slower production rate and therefore the plant is able to devote more energy to bean production. More energy to bean production results in more sugars within the beans that create different flavors within the coffee beans.
Here is a simple graphic to help illustrate this:
To boil it all down, if you are into third wave coffee and enjoy fruity flavors in your coffee, than higher elevation is a big deal to you. The higher the elevation the beans were grown; the more unique flavors that will be present in the beans. If you prefer medium-dark roast coffee, then the elevation doesn’t matter as much due to the fact that the longer coffee is roasted the more fruity and unique flavors get burned out. Buying a dark roast coffee at sea level versus 4,000 feet would barely have a difference in its flavor and therefore would not be worth the money. However, a light roast grown at sea level versus a light roast grown at 4,000 feet would have a very large flavor difference resulting in more complex and fruity flavors for the beans grown at elevation.
Happy Coffee Drinking!