Freshly roasted beans are the key to a rich and flavorful brew. But did you know that they are not the only factor that determines the profile of your cup? The process of extraction plays an even more significant part in building up the taste of your coffee.
How bitter, acidic, or sweet your coffee will be, all depends on how long you extract the Java for. From how to pinpoint the ideal length of extraction to making delicious coffee extract a new staple in your pantry – this guide is a must-read for all coffee enthusiasts.
If you think about it, extraction is not the most critical part of brewing – it is the entire process. Without it, there is no brew – period. But despite its importance, extraction is still the most disregarded aspect of coffee making. Why? Because it is the least understood part of brewing.
We all know what flavor we can expect from our beans – after all, that’s written on the package. But what we fail to understand is that we cannot squeeze the most out of the grounds if we do not time the extraction right.
Why is that so important? Because extraction is the process in which the coffee’s flavor and micro-components dissolve in the water. During the brewing process, water is pushed through the grounds, extracting their unique flavorful and aromatic fragments into our cup. By controlling their extraction, we control the taste and overall profile of the brew.
Although it seems like a straightforward process, extracting the beans is somewhat complicated. Because coffee’s compounds do not all get extracted at the same time, the process of extraction can seriously enhance or destroy the taste of your cup.
Your Java beans contain:
When brewing coffee, the acidity and fruitiness are the first ones that hit the pot, followed by the sweet notes, and finally topped with the bitter flavor.
To control the extraction, you should play a few rounds of trial and error first. Play around with different extraction times and grind sizes, and you’ll find the ideal extraction for you. Trust me; your palate will know when you’ll have hit the jackpot.
Generally, if the brew is too sour, it is under-extracted. You should switch to a coarser grind or extend the brewing.
If your cup is bitter, that is a sign of over-extraction. A finer ground will slow down the process. Or you can simply cut the brewing time shorter.
Many factors affect the extraction, and with that, the taste of your brew.
Finely ground beans extract quickly – obviously since the fragments are smaller and their surface is more exposed. However, they often need more extraction time because they are compact, which leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Coarse grinds, on the other hand, are more acidic. The extraction time here is shorter, but the components do not get fully released. That results in a flat cup with a weak taste.
The more you brew, the more bitter your cup will be. The less you brew, the more acidic the coffee. Find the perfect balance, and you will enjoy the fullest taste with sweet notes and just the right kick. Of course, that also depends on the type of brewer and brewing method, but this is a good general rule to follow.
The hotter the water is, the quicker the extraction. The coffee is at its peak when the brewing water is just below the boiling point – about 200 degrees F.
Your coffee is under-extracted if you fail to release enough of the flavorful components of your grind. If you’ve ever tried a ristretto (a super-short espresso), then you know what under-extracted tastes like – sharply sour, extremely sweet, with a dash of salt, and a pretty quick finish.
If you under-extract your coffee, you will not get the sweet notes that wrap up the flavor beautifully. Your taste buds will be drenched in sourness, and finally, you will be left with a salty aftertaste.
If your brew is over-extracted (like a shot of espresso that is left to brew and fill a large mug), that means that you’ve already taken out the flavorful components and left your water to just flow through the empty grounds. And, you’ve guessed it, this leads to a hollow and bitter cup.
If you over-extract your coffee, the polyphenols will cause dryness that will stay on your tongue long after you’ve reached the bottom of your cup. The coffee will be hollow and, well, taste bitter. Think of drinking a cup of tea and then pouring boiling water over the same, already-steeped tea bag. Now imagine drinking that cup. That’s what over-extraction tastes like. Empty-like and definitely undesirable.
You may need to put in a lot of work to find the extraction balance that gives you the oomph you crave for – but it will be so worth it. You can recognize the perfectly-extracted cup from miles away. It is ripe, rich, sweet, not too acidic, and with a complex body. The ideal cup of joe leaves a pleasantly lasting finish on your tongue that keeps the refills coming.
Although not exactly in line with the topic, we cannot be talking about coffee extraction without even mentioning coffee extract. That’s right! I’m talking about that aromatic, flavor-enhancing, almost-magical liquid that can seriously transform any dessert.
Since we know that real coffee extract is hard to come by, we’ve decided to share our secret with you. Here is what you need to make one at home:
Now that you know what over and under extracting means in the world of brewing Java, the next step is to try out different grinds and brewing times to strike the ideal balance that satisfies your coffee needs, perfectly. But finding the optimal extraction shouldn’t consume your energy, either. Remember, the whole point is for you to enjoy your morning brew. If it tastes good, you must have done something right – make that your rule!