Coffee in High Altitudes

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were wondering in the store how brewing coffee or pulling espresso differs at higher altitudes. We’re basically at sea level here, but we’d been talking about the kind of coffee some of us have found in the higher elevations of Montana — more bitter and like ‘coffee water’ than what we make and drink here.

We found the answer in this interesting piece on coffee in Santa Fe, NM. A Qasimi discusses how the higher altitude affects brewing and roasting:

I don?t drink home-brewed coffee in Santa Fe. I?ve often found it sour and lacking in the depth, robustness and natural sweetness that makes great coffee great. How does high altitude affect coffee and espresso quality at home and with the use of commercial equipment? Drip coffee machines that merely boil are convenient devices but they deliver water to the grounds at below the ideal range of temperatures, leading to underextraction of the beans and a sour, dull or poorly developed brew.

Thus, the only way to compensate for altitude is pressure — and that means espresso — but pulling a proper espresso shot is not easy at this altitude either. Ironically, though the best coffee grows at higher altitudes, with water?s lower boiling point in elevated places, brewing can get tricky. Roasting, on the other hand, merely benefits from altitude: The best possible results come from roasting the beans at the same altitude as they?ll be used and particularly at high altitudes that allow for faster roast development at lower temperatures

Recipe: Grandma’s Blueberry Delight Latte

We love Monin’s Chai Tea concentrate — The deliciously spicy flavors of clove, green tea, cinnamon, ginger and orange blossom melding into a sweet and tangy brew. Not only is it delicious by itself, but it’s a great complement to other flavors — and Grandma’s Blueberry Delight Latte is a perfect example of how to use it to mix up your daily latte.

Ingredients

Directions
Combine espresso, Monin Chai, Monin Blueberry and steamed milk in mug.
Top with whipped cream. Dust with brown sugar and pie spice

Cleancaf or Dezcal?

Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.

Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.

If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.

Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.

Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.

Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.

New! CoffeeSmarts

Flavored lattes originated in:

  1. Seattle
  2. Rome
  3. Portland
  4. Vienna

You’ll find out the answer to this and 59 other caffeinated trivia questions in CoffeeSmarts, a fun and interesting Q&A game that covers everything from coffee history to concoctions. In addition to the 60 Q&A cards, CoffeeSmarts includes a 16-page CoffeeTips guide with information on brewing, drinking and traveling to some of the world’s most infamously perky places.

Or…you can find out the answer…after the jump!

Roasting Art

We found this great article on coffee roasting and it inspired us to think more about roasting beans at home. We carry three different models of roasters, and have been thinking about trying out the i-Roast 2 to get more familiar with the roasting process. Do you roast your own beans at home? Got any tips for us? We’d love to hear them!

Article reprinted here for your reading pleasure.