We recently saw on social media that a roastery was promoting an Ethiopian coffee, emphasising that the altitude of 2,000m above sea level at which it was grown was impressive!!!! And this made us think about how incomplete the information we receive is and how little is known about all the factors that influence the cultivation of coffee and its impact on quality. Because altitude alone does not tell us much, if it is not accompanied by latitude (location of the place where the coffee has been grown with respect to the Equator), microclimate, soil quality, species, variety, process, etc.
All this information boils down to the need to produce denser coffee beans. Density in coffee is synonymous with quality, because a bean grown at the right altitude and latitude is most likely to grow in a cold microclimate with less oxygen, which will slow down the ripening of the cherry on the plant. Slow ripening is essential to produce quality coffees, because the longer the cherry spends on the plant, the more sugars the cherry will absorb during its development and the more complex its flavour will be.
The quality in coffee, is very much affected by the chemical composition of the green bean, which is directly affected by its pre and post harvest processing conditions (such as variety, climate, soil, altitude, process, storage, etc.). How we measure quality includes: bean size and shape, crop year, number of defective beans, cup quality and moisture, density, water activity.
What is moisture? Moisture content is the amount of water (in the form of vapour) in a sample, given as a percentage of the sample's original weight. In coffee, there is no exact standard for an ideal moisture content, but a generally accepted range goes between 10-12%, with some important exceptions like Sumatra being closer to 12.5%; And Ethiopia and Kenya being closer to 9,5%.