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In what way does the altitude at which coffee beans are grown affect the flavor of the final roast?

I often see coffees labeled with marketing materials such as "contains only beans grown above x thousand feet." Does the altitude at which the beans are grown actually affect the final flavor of the coffee? If so, what are the mechanisms which cause this, and what does it do to the actual flavor of the final product?

  • Your second question might belong in another more scientific SE site – Anthony Pham Jan 28 '15 at 1:26
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    @PythonMaster Do you have a specific SE site in mind? This strikes me as primarily about coffee (and this is the site for coffee experts); I can't imagine another site where it would be considered more on topic. Does this mean you would consider all growing questions offtopic? This may make a good meta discussion. – Sam Whited Jan 28 '15 at 1:32
  • No. I was just talking about your second question since you want the mechanics of that cause these effects. That's all. – Anthony Pham Jan 28 '15 at 1:33
  • It's a good thing to discuss; meta discussion here. Thanks! – Sam Whited Jan 28 '15 at 1:37
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Based on the study entitled Effects of Altitude, Shade, Yield and Fertilization on Coffee Quality (Coffea arabica L. var. Caturra) produced in Agroforestry Systems of the Northern Central Zones of Nicaragua the summary describes following on the altitude subject:

...

Altitude had the strongest influence on coffee physical characteristics, biochemical composition and organoleptic quality. Shade influenced significantly the physical characteristics and biochemical composition of coffee beans; nonetheless, the organoleptic quality was significantly enhanced by shade only in the altitudinal range of 950-1255 m. Fertilization and yield influenced positively physical characteristics of the coffee beans as well as their biochemical composition. The organoleptic quality was influenced by fertilization, but not by yield. Biochemical compounds showed strong relationships with organoleptic characteristics.

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