Many know to adjust their recipes when baking at high altitudes, but did you know you may have to adjust your bread machine as well?
Your bread machine and/or recipes may need to be adapted for elevations above 3,000 feet. Why? The air pressure is lower and the atmosphere can be drier and less humid. To combat this, you’ll want a bread machine that has a few additional features to ensure perfectly risen, crusty, baked bread is always the result.
How is Baking at High Altitude Different?
According to the Colorado State University Extension service, there is a lower atmospheric pressure at altitudes above 3,000 feet due to a thinner blanket of air above. While at sea level, atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch, at 5,000 feet it’s 12.3, and when at higher elevation it drops even more.
What does this mean? This decreased pressure can affect culinary activities in two ways. First, water boils at lower temperatures and liquids evaporate faster. Secondly, leavening gasses expand quicker in bread and baked goods. This means baked goods lose moisture more quickly and rise more easily at higher elevations.
To compensate for this, you’ll want to make sure you have a bread machine with a few specific features.
Things To Look For in a High Altitude Bread Machine
Although the easiest thing would be for bread machines to just have a high altitude setting, unfortunately, this does not yet exist – although it would sure be great if someone developed it at some point! This is because settings and recipes need to be adjusted differently at different altitudes.
For example, the adjustments needed at 3,000 feet are less than those at 5,000, or those at 7,000, etc.
Because of this, there is no quick answer as to which bread maker is the best for high altitudes. Instead, we’ll review some of the features that are most needed for baking at high elevations and which machines have them. Here we go!
Customizable or Programmable Bread Machine Cycles
Because many bread machines are intended to be used at sea level, you’ll have to do some adjusting to help them work at high altitudes. In order to do this, you’ll want a bread machine with customizable programs. This is your most valuable feature for high-altitude baking!
Your rising time will be shorter at high altitudes than it is at sea level. So you may wish to adjust your settings for this or compensate by decreasing the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25%. Additionally, you may want to program a longer mixing cycle to allow the gluten to develop more fully. Some bakers also recommend programming your machine for a third or fourth rising period. You’ll likely need to experiment a little and see what works best for you.
Smaller Loaf Sizes
Some also find that smaller loaf sizes work better at high altitudes. This is because the proofing time for larger loaves can potentially over-proof the loaves at higher elevations. If interested in trying this technique, look for bread machines with 1-pound and 1 1/2-pound-sized loaf settings.
Our Top 3 Selections for High Altitude Bread Machines
3) Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme
The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme bakes everything from cake and dough to sourdough starters, meatloaf, and jam. It has two kneading blades and a viewing window so you can take a look at your dough or bread as it’s being made. Additionally, it has three crust settings (light, medium, and dark).
The lone downside is that it only bakes 2-pound loaves.
As to its ability to bake bread at higher elevations, Zojirushi is a brand known for providing helpful tips on using bread machines at higher altitudes. This machine even includes a manual with specific tips for baking at high elevations.
Don’t trust us? Check the reviews! You’ll find multiple people living at high altitudes recommending this machine. Some find few adjustments are needed – others recommend adding extra water or decreasing yeast to help.
This particular model comes with an instruction DVD, manual, and recipe booklet as well.
This model is perfect for customizability. Better yet, you can store your own settings so you don’t have to remember them or write them down. That’s right, the “Homemade Course” function includes 3 memory settings so you can program your own rise, knead, and bake times, and have the bread machine remember them for you.
This feature lets you customize each stage of the baking process for high-altitude baking. After you store these settings, the bread maker will save them for the future. So easy!
2) Breville BBM800XL
The Breville BBM800XL Custom Bread Maker is another bread maker that offers a ton of customizability, making it a perfect option for those living at high altitudes. This bread maker allows you to refine any function, allowing users to bake the perfect loaf even on top of a mountain.
Think programming your machine will be too complicated? The control panel buttons on this bread maker are straightforward and user-friendly. Simply use the “modify” button to change the times of one of the phases of the bread cycle.
Want to pause your loaf for a quick peek and see if more water is needed for your dough ball? Just press start to begin the cycle, and press and hold the pause button until you see the word PAUSE on the screen. Press again to continue the cycle. Should I also mention this bread machine has a fruit and nut dispenser AND collapsible kneading paddles? What more could you want from a bread maker!
The Breville Custom Bread Maker also stores your customized settings for personalized recipes making baking at higher altitudes simpler. In addition, it makes 1-pound, 1.5-pound, 2-pound, and 2.5-pound loaves for even more variety.
For more info, check out our complete review of this model here.
1) Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker
Another Zojirushi bread machine? Indeed! The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker has two kneading blades and dual heaters: one heater on the bottom of the bread maker and the other on the lid to assist with even baking. It has many of the same features as the Zojirushi Supreme, our #3 pick.
Why is this one #1? The Zojirushi Supreme is the older of the two machines, while the Virtuoso Plus is newer. The Supreme is slightly less expensive, but the parts may be harder to source if they ever wear out. The Virtuoso Plus is the newer model, and you can ensure parts will be available longer.
Both the Zojirushi Supreme and the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus include programmable settings (referred to as the “Homemade Course”) so you can adjust your bread machine recipes for higher altitudes.
Want to see all this bread maker can do? Check out this youtube video for a full product review and tips:
The Runner Up
Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker BB-SSC10
One last bread machine that we’d like to mention is the Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker BB-SSC10. This smaller bread machine makes 1-pound loaves, which may be better at high altitudes. Additionally, it also comes with that handy programmable “Homemade Course” feature with 3 memory settings if you’d like your machine to remember your favorite customized settings.
This machine also has double heaters in the body, a single kneading blade, and a few less settings than other Zojirushi models.
Additional Tips For High Altitude Bread Makers
In addition to adjusting the settings on your bread machine, you can also alter your bread machine recipes for high altitudes. Here are some tips for doing so.
- Try decreasing the yeast by ¼ to ½ a teaspoon
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more liquid per cup of flour. Be sure not to add too much though – the dough should still come clean from the sides of the pan in the final mixing stage.
- Program a longer mixing cycle to allow the gluten to develop more fully.
- Decrease sweeteners by a ½ teaspoon (includes sugar, honey, etc.)
Some tips provided by bread machine expert Beth Hensperger in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook include these:
- Program your machine for a third or fourth rising period.
- Add a tiny bit of extra salt to control the yeast growth.
- Add extra gluten to strengthen the dough.
- If using the dough-only setting and baking bread in the oven, increase oven temp by 25°F.
Customization is the Key to High Altitude Baking
Baking at high altitudes can sometimes be a challenge. Operating a bread machine at these higher elevations can be daunting as well. Luckily, we’ve provided you with a short list of the best bread machines for high altitudes to make the process as easy as possible. You know that your biggest feature to look for is customizability. Some other tricks you may want to try include baking smaller loaves, decreasing yeast, or adding a little extra water. Either way, some experimenting will be necessary, so you better get started!