How Does Altitude Affect Your Coffee Brew Temperature

How Does Altitude Affect Your Coffee Brew Temperature

Coffee lovers generally know that there are many brew variables that affect coffee flavor: grind size, brew time, spoilage, water quality, water temperature. But the altitude at which your coffee was brewed? That's right, the altitude at the time of brewing.

Most people don't really need to worry too much about the altitude, but if you are in a mountain production area, you may find that you may need to adjust the brewing parameters. Why is this? Because high altitude can affect brewing temperature.

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The Key To Coffee Brew Temperature

Brewing temperature directly affects the flavor of coffee, and here's a quick look at why.

When brewing, the flavors and aromas in the coffee are extracted from the coffee grounds into the coffee liquor, some things speed up the extraction, and some things slow it down. For example, finer grinding will speed up extraction, as will hotter water. The higher the water temperature, the faster the extraction. The lower the water temperature, the slower the extraction speed.

Of all the variables related to coffee, the most important is the effect of temperature. While fresh roasting and green bean quality are equally important, brewing water temperature plays the most important role.

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Is there anything wrong with the water temperature? Even if the goal is to extract the coffee flavor and aroma, you don't want to extract too much. Over-extraction and under-extraction can have a big negative impact on flavor.

Not all flavors and aromas are extracted at the same time. First, you extract the acidity of the fruit, then the sweetness, then the bitterness, and finally the astringency. In other words, you don't just want to extract the substance but extract the "right proportion" of the substance, which means it would be better if you could control the variables more effectively. The variable, of course, includes brew temperature.

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Ideal Brew Temperature

For example, the Specialty Coffee Association SCA recommends using Batch Brewers' brew water temperatures.

This machine maintains the hot water temperature at 92°C and does not exceed 96°C from the moment the hot water touches the coffee grounds to the end of the brew.

Of course, you must experiment with the brewing parameters of different coffees by adjusting the water temperature. After all, there are cold brew coffees that can be brewed with room temperature water. Generally speaking, the brew water temperature will not be too far from this range, but when your coffee is more bitter, try to reduce the water temperature by 1~2°C. And if the acid in the coffee is more irritating than expected, try turning up the brew water temperature.

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However, the above scenarios are based on the premise that the water temperature is in line with expectations. The results change when you brew at higher altitudes.

Effect Of Altitude On Boiling Point

The boiling point of water on flat ground is 100°C. However, as the altitude increases, the air pressure decreases, and air pressure is the key to affecting the boiling point. When the pressure of the liquid is equal to the atmospheric pressure, the liquid will evaporate. As the air pressure decreases, the boiling point also decreases. In other words, the higher the altitude, the lower the boiling point.

And this will have an impact on your brewing formula. The altitude has a great impact on the brewing formula. Once the boiling point changes, the brewing water temperature range will also change.

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How Does Boiling Point Affect Brewing?

As for how the brewing altitude affects the recipe, not only the water temperature error of the brewing machine can be accurate to 0.55°C, but also the function of setting the altitude to change the brewing water temperature.

When you are at an altitude of about 1500 meters, the boiling point will decrease by about 5.5°C, which will make it more difficult for you to achieve the desired extraction results. If you brew with the same parameters set on flat ground, the brewed coffee may be weak or tasteless. It is too thin. At this time, it is recommended to take the altitude into consideration and adjust the parameters with the hand punching method.

Juan Mario Carvajal, the technical judge of the World Coffee Master Competition WBC and the founder of the South American Specialty Coffee Association, reminded that as long as the brewing coffee has the influence of high altitude, more factors must be considered.

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When Altitude Makes Brewing Coffee More Complicated

While it was mentioned earlier that altitude affects the ideal brew water temperature, altitude also affects many other variables.

For example, sometimes the hardness of the water can be a boost to good coffee at high altitudes, and sometimes it can be resistant. Softer water will speed up extraction, which means that your brewing water temperature can be lowered.

The altitude of Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is 2,640 meters, and the local water quality is very soft, which makes up for the lack of water temperature due to the altitude. Therefore, your extraction is done at a lower temperature, which slows down the extraction due to the lower boiling point.

On the other hand, there is a problem if you are brewing in a high-altitude, hard-water city.

This issue is more complicated than it seems because not all hard waters have the same composition. The hardness can only tell us about the amount of certain substances in the water, but it cannot tell us the content and percentage of ionic compounds in the water. This is what water quality brings. Influence, it is difficult to grasp its actual composition.

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Can The Effect Of Altitude Be Compensated?

If you have a brewer that can be set to adjust the altitude, this shouldn't be too much of a problem. But what if you use a regular coffee machine or a hand pour?

For coffee machines, the importance of adjusting parameters with altitude is not only to have better coffee but also to prolong the life of the machine. For example, at an altitude of 1500 meters, the water is very close to the boiling point when it is heated to 92ºC. Long-term use will have a negative impact on the coffee machine or heating appliance. Special attention should be paid to this part, and the set temperature of the machine must be adjusted according to the altitude.

For a pour-over coffee, it will be simpler than a coffee machine. In an area of ​​​​1665 meters, I would prefer to use the Aeropress to brew coffee because you use the Aeropress pressure to make up for the impact of low air pressure. For brewing with a filter cup, it is recommended to adjust the grinding thickness to the powder-water ratio. When the altitude is higher, the ratio of powder to water can be lowered, or the grinding degree can be adjusted finer in order to increase the extraction speed under the condition of lower water temperature.

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In more extreme situations, such as in areas above 3,000 meters above sea level, where the water has a lower boiling point, finely ground coffee can be used to brew with increased pressure.

To sum up the above, it is easy to mention the influence of altitude, water quality, grinding degree, and pressure on coffee in this article. There are actually many factors, including the quality of coffee beans and machines. But in the end, it's all about brewing a good cup of coffee while allowing the machine to be used under normal conditions and prolonging the life of the machine.

Water temperature is very important, and altitude is only one variable that affects water temperature.

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