HomeRoast Digest

Topic: What's "up" with altitude? (7 msgs / 179 lines)
1) From: Randall Nortman
First, thanks to all who responded about my yirgacheffe roasting
problem.  Good ideas, which I will put to the test as soon as Harvey
gets off his rump and replenishes my stash.
So the newbie question of the day is -- what's the deal with growing
altitude and coffee?  I've been doing some searching on this subject,
and the consensus of course is that higher-grown coffee is better (in
particular, that it produces brighter and/or more complex coffee), but
what's the mechanism here?  Is it directly related to altitude (i.e.,
atmospheric pressure and partial pressures of the individual gases),
or does it have to do with things that correlate with altitude, such
as shade, drainage, temperature, etc.  In other words, if you could
duplicate the sun/shade, drainage, rainfall, and temperature of a
mountain top in a greenhouse at sea level, would you get the same
quality out of the bean?  What's actually going on here, or have
horticulturists not quite figured it out yet?  Will arabica really
just not grow at all at sea level, or does it just not produce good
fruit at sea level?
I've seen that high-grown beans tend to be denser, which only leads to
more questions -- why are the high-grown beans denser, and why do
denser beans make better coffee?
Thanks for tolerating me,

2) From: Aaron
Good questions and ones I am not sure about.   Id say the thinner 
atmosphere might add to it as well, so it'd  have to be a  hyperbaric 
chamber for a greenhouse if you really want to perfect the growing 
conditions... if that's the case then, we need to set up an greenhouse 
on the moon, wow now would that be a cup of joe... elevation   238000 
miles, give or take a few.

3) From: Michael Wascher
It seems to be the same for grapes & other fruit. Grow them under adverse
conditions and the plants seem to respond by producing sweeter & tastier
fruit. The best wines are made from grapes that are on high slopes, poor
soil and marginal climate.
I have a fig tree growing out front (I'm in central NJ). The best figs it
ever produced were after a severe winter killed it down to the ground. There
weren't many fruits on the few branches that grew back from the roots, but
they produced the sweetest most succulent figs I've ever tasted.
Is it an adaptation to make the fruit more attractive, increasing the
possibility that an animal will be attracted and transport the seeds to a
more fertile region so the plant's progeny can flourish?
On 5/6/07, Randall Nortman  wrote:
"Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane." -- Philip
K. Dick

4) From: Brett Mason
Close...  Add soil content, the bugs and things that live in proximity, and
you'll get the rest of the 100% replication - in growing...
Add the factors of:
  How and when it is picked
  How and when it is dried / depulped, processed
  How and when it is stored and shipped.
Now you're getting closer...
Amazing the great coffees we get - Thanks again, Tom!
On 5/6/07, Randall Nortman  wrote:

5) From: Angelo
You mean you didn't wrap it in linoleum and tar paper and give it a 
hat made from a five-gallon bucket??

6) From: Ed Needham
I don't claim any firsthand knowledge here, but just what I've read and 
Although there are many island coffees that are spectacular, and grown at 
less than 1000 feet above sea level or less, coffee trees produce the best 
beans at altitude. There are exceptions to this, as well as most everything 
else.  The Maui Moka beans come to mind, growing just up the hill from the 
ocean coastline.  The farms website says 500ft, but I think it may be more 
like 200-300ft above sea level.  See this pic I took from the plantation 
office toward the ocean and judge for yourself.http://www.homeroaster.com/mauimoka.html(seventh picture down you can see 
the ocean)
Growing at altitude seems to affect the bean in a number of ways. The closer 
to the equator the higher up the mountain you can grow coffee, since the 
tree line is higher.  Coffee does not grow well outside of 20 degrees north 
and 20 degrees south of the equator.  Of course it can be grown, but quality 
will likely not be that great.
Shade grown coffee trees slows the growth of the developing fruit/bean as 
does higher altitude and thinner air.  There is also more cloud cover as you 
go higher on a mountain, since coffee trees growing higher up will be "in" 
the clouds much of the day.  This added moisture from the clouds, mixed with 
the hot, but shaded tropical forests, and the rainfall, create a unique 
climate for coffee to thrive. Rainfall in these arid desert equatorial 
regions is increased by the interaction of the prevailing weather as it 
interacts with the mountainous terrain.  The less barometric pressure at 
altitude also affects the cellular growth of the woody structure of the 
"Guatemalan coffee is often marketed by grade, with the highest grade being 
strictly hard bean, which indicates coffees grown at 4,500 feet or above. A 
secondary grade is hard bean, designating coffees grown between 4,000 and 
4,500 feet."http://coffeeuniverse.com/world_coffee_latin.htmlThat's about all I know.  Mike McKoffee will take all your questions now. 
Ed Needham®
"to absurdity and beyond!"http://www.homeroaster.com(include [FRIEND] in subject line to get through my SPAM filters)

7) From: Michael Wascher
No, and it usually survives in decent shape. Buds are just starting to open,
and except for the tips of a few branches it seems to be fine. It's in the
corner of an L-shaped ranch, protected from the winter winds.
I've tried sprouting cuttings, so that I'd have an indoor plant for a
backup, but have had no success.
In the Italian neighborhoods of South Philly I'm told they dig around the
rootball, tip the tree over, cover it with a tarp and then pile leaves &
dirt over it to insulate the tree.
This plant grows so fast that it isn't that big an issue. The plant got
killed down to the ground by a bad winter, so now has 2 years of growth. The
plant has 30-40 branches up to 8 feet tall (the tallest got killed back a
foot or so over winter). It covers about an 8 foot radius, a bit less
towards the drive (where I have to trim it back).
On 5/6/07, Angelo  wrote:
"Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane." -- Philip
K. Dick

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