High altitude and variable temperature kettles

OakIris

New member
Feb 19, 2016
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Colorado
I purchased a Bonavita Variable Temperature electric kettle so that I could take advantage of its "ability" to heat water at different temps for coffee, tea, cocoa, etc., as well as having a gooseneck kettle for my pour over coffee brewing. There is a great chart in the User's Manual that shows the proper temp (according to whom? I guess Bonavita....) for brewing coffee, cocoa and different types of tea. I had no idea that different teas (herbal, white, green, black, Oolong) required different water temps for optimal brewing.

I live in the metro Denver area; Denver is known as the Mile High City, and where I live is slightly higher in elevation at 5384 feet above sea level. So, I live at relatively high altitude and water boils long before it reaches the "official" (sea level) temperature of 212°F. I wasn't thinking about that, tried to get the kettle to get up to 208°F to make some Earl Grey tea - the chart said the water needed to be at that temp, you see. And I am getting frustrated, thinking there is something wrong with the kettle because it won't go over 202° no matter how long I wait.

Needless to say, water starts boiling at around 202° at this altitude, and here I am trying to get water to go to a higher temperature than its boiling point. :oops: Obviously, the kettle failed to do this for me! lol It should have been clear to me that the chart Bonavita provides is for optimum temps at sea level - DOH! If they recommend 200°F for coffee, that means I should set the kettle for 12°F less than boiling temp, which is approximately 190°F at my altitude. Black tea needs a higher brewing temp - 208° according to the chart - thus I would set the kettle for 198°F, or 4°F below boiling point.... Please let me know if I have it figured out or if I am still confused!

I have no idea if I will be able to detect the subtle improvements in taste that are apparently caused by brewing coffee and tea at their "proper" temperatures, but I would certainly like to find out!

My wife commented the other day that whoever spent their time trying to make the "perfect" cup of coffee had way too much time on their hands. She has a point. I sure would like to start concentrating on the end product and enjoying the wonderful taste of my coffee, as opposed to spending my time trying to perfect my brewing technique. I may have to figure out my own techniques, actually, instead of following what is recommended by the experts on line because, though I am only about 2 weeks into the experiment, I must admit that I have yet to really enjoy the taste of any of the coffee I have made since starting to accurately weigh the amount of water and coffee I use for each pot (Chemex.) I keep thinking that if I hold my face just right as I am pouring in the water, all will be well and I will be thrilled with the results. And then, the whole point of the exercise, I will be able to duplicate those results over and over again to get the perfect cup of coffee every time for my apparently unsophisticated taste buds! Maybe all I need is to get the proper water temperature down....:roll:

Holly
 
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OakIris

OakIris

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Feb 19, 2016
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Colorado
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I apparently need to find a coffee forum site for newbies, lol, not much help for folks like me here.

Holly
 

Mr.Peaberry

Member
Aug 7, 2013
890
2
Get yourself a pressure kettle. Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes because of the lower atmospheric pressure. You just need to heat it in a pressure kettle to get it to the "correct" boiling point.
 

Musicphan

Active member
May 11, 2014
1,508
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Kansas City
Your first post really didn't pose a question for the forums... to be honest I'm not sure how to handle your issue. Have you talked to any local roasters or coffee shops... Sweet Bloom / Huckleberry - you have nice choices in Colorado.
 

Mr.Peaberry

Member
Aug 7, 2013
890
2
Musicphan is right...you didn't pose a question; however, you DID pose a request:"Black tea needs a higher brewing temp - 208° according to the chart - thus I would set the kettle for 198°F, or 4°F below boiling point.... Please let me know if I have it figured out or if I am still confused!"

Per your 'request': You are still confused!

You can't heat water to 212°F because it keeps boiling off at 202°F. If you can't keep the water from phase change unless you are below 202°F, then how would a setting on a machine incapable of rewriting the laws of physics going to make a difference? I am not trying to be a smart ass here...I have a habit of reducing things to the ridiculous in order to make a point. It works in person, because you can sense my sincerity and not assume I'm just being an asshole. You can get a pressure cooker inexpensively on Amazon here. This is not a coffee question or a tea question, this is a physics question. Not sure how high water will heat in a pressure cooker, but once you let out the pressure in the cooker, my guess is that the water will boil until it reaches 202°F so maybe you need to build a decompression chamber...lol! Good luck with that...your wife will have you committed!!

Peaberry
 

KaiserJeep

New member
Mar 6, 2016
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Silicon Valley, CA
Peaberrry is correct about the physics - there is no way to compensate for the altitude. Even if you could boil water in a pressure vessel, as soon as you released the pressure to pour, it would foam up in a froth of steam and boiling water - which is dangerous and might burn you.

You will have to compensate for the lower boiling point. This might involve using a different coffee, a different roast of the same coffee, or a different brewing method, until you find something that you can prepare at the higher altitude that you like as much. Try to do this experiment with an open mind and without worrying overmuch about following an exact recipe. Likewise for the tea - except tea can simply be steeped slightly longer in slightly lower temperature water - the results are not exactly the same, but close.
 
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OakIris

OakIris

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Feb 19, 2016
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Colorado
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Thank you for bearing with me. I didn't ask a proper question, did I!?!?

Musicphan is right...you didn't pose a question; however, you DID pose a request:"Black tea needs a higher brewing temp - 208° according to the chart - thus I would set the kettle for 198°F, or 4°F below boiling point.... Please let me know if I have it figured out or if I am still confused!"

Per your 'request': You are still confused!

You can't heat water to 212°F because it keeps boiling off at 202°F. If you can't keep the water from phase change unless you are below 202°F, then how would a setting on a machine incapable of rewriting the laws of physics going to make a difference? I am not trying to be a smart ass here...I have a habit of reducing things to the ridiculous in order to make a point. It works in person, because you can sense my sincerity and not assume I'm just being an asshole. You can get a pressure cooker inexpensively on Amazon here. This is not a coffee question or a tea question, this is a physics question. Not sure how high water will heat in a pressure cooker, but once you let out the pressure in the cooker, my guess is that the water will boil until it reaches 202°F so maybe you need to build a decompression chamber...lol! Good luck with that...your wife will have you committed!!

Peaberry

lol - I think I confused you with my confused and confusing post. My question was not clear and was expressed more by implication than by a direct statement, as pointed out by both you and Musicphan – sorry about that!


I realize that the laws of physics cannot be changed, and was not expecting anyone to be able to tell me how to do such a miraculous thing. Water boils at my altitude at around 202°F, not at 212°F as it does at sea level. My poorly worded non-question was supposed to be:

Am I interpreting Bonavita’s chart correctly for my elevation?

So, looking at the nice sea level water temperature chart given by Bonavita, this is how I interpreted it for my altitude:

Bonavita – boiling temp is 212° = 202° for me
Bonavita – ideal temp for coffee is 200° or 12° below boiling temp. = 190° for me (or 12° below boiling temp.)
Bonavita – ideal temp for black tea is 208° or 4° below boiling temp = 198° for me (or 4° below boiling temp.)
And so on - just subtracting the same number of degrees from the high altitude boiling temp. that Bonavita subtracted from the sea level boiling temperature to get their ideal temps for each type of tea, etc.

You said I am still confused, Peaberry, so, unless I confused you with the way I originally worded it, what are the correct/ideal water temps for slightly above mile high altitudes? I don't expect to ever have that "perfect" cup of coffee, but I would like to be at least in the ballpark!

Holly
 

Mr.Peaberry

Member
Aug 7, 2013
890
2
Hello Holly,

Okay, I think we are on the same page. The good thing about being in the high altitude is that water boils at 202°F, and the bad thing about being in the high altitude is that water boils at 202°F. This is what I mean...

By focusing on the boiling point of water at sea level versus high altitude, we have lost sight of the fact that the recommendations being made by Bonavita are for the ideal extraction temperatures for coffee and various types of tea regardless of how you arrive at those temperatures. Because I'm at sea level where I live, I must boil water and then wait longer than you for it to cool to the "ideal' coffee brewing temperature. This is the good thing about living in the Rockies; not the only good thing about living in the Rockies mind you, but certainly the most meaningful good thing about living in the Rockies in my opinion. :coffee:

The recommended temperatures do not have to be normalized for the lower boiling point of water, you just won't know if the 208°F recommendation for black tea produces a beverage that, for you, is significantly better than black tea extracted at 201°F UNTIL you are able to steep a pot of black tea at sea level.

Now you've got me wondering if perhaps the recommended coffee brewing temperature is nothing more than an artificial construct devised by the marketing departments of the big coffee companies to avoid having the discussion we just had...kind of like a "one-size-fits-all" solution for the entire coffee consuming world. Of course one can compensate for brewing at a higher temperature by adjusting the fineness of the grind, or the contact time. Hmmmm....

Peaberry


 

MelissaJones

New member
Jun 15, 2017
5
0
Ugh thats so fustrating :( I use the Ovente KG83 Electric Kettle and have no problems with it. Let's me adjust the heat to whichever setting I like and I am always happy with my results.
 

MelissaJones

New member
Jun 15, 2017
5
0
Try getting a Hamilton Beach 40865 Glass Electric Kettle, 1.7-Liter. The have adjustable heat temperatures so you can avoid those issues.
 

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