Extraction, Extraction, Extraction

Honestly, if I never heard the word extraction again, I would probably die happy. However, I am a content coffee professional, so I will probably hear the word extraction every day until I die (or get a job in a different field).
Extraction is super important when it comes to brewing coffee.

Essentially, extraction is what the water pulls from the coffee, and what brings the flavor. What we’re aiming for is the perfectly extracted cup of coffee. It is the goal of any and all coffee professionals, and that’s what we are attempting anytime you see us pulling shots, doing pour overs, or even prepping batch brews.

Why is extraction so important?

Well, extraction is the control that the barista has over the taste. The farmers have picked the best possible growing locations, grown their coffee with care, and processed the coffee in specific ways to affect the taste. Then the roaster has determined the perfect roast levels to give you the best tasting cup of coffee. Now it is up to the baristas (or you if you’re a home barista) to make sure what ends up in your cup is as tasty as can be.
We do this, by adjusting our ratio, grind setting, and brew time until all the factors line up perfectly.

So what does that perfectly extracted cup of coffee taste like?

It’s sweet and juicy; it’s well balanced; it has a long, pleasing finish; it’s just an objectively good cup of coffee.
Well, what if it’s not well extracted?
Here’s where it gets fun. Not only can an experienced barista taste when coffee is incorrectly extracted, but they can also tell you whether it is over or under extracted. And by the end of this post, you will too!
The good news is, the distinction is really easy on paper.
Under extracted coffee is sour. Over extracted coffee is bitter.
But can you actually tell me the difference between sour and bitter? More importantly, can you identify it when you taste something?

Experiment time:

Go to your local grocer and buy a lemon. Cut yourself a slice. Now, separate the actual fruit from the rind. I want you to pull apart the rind, and take a taste of the white part. Is that sour or bitter? Now taste the actual fruit. Is that sour or bitter?

Here’s the answer: The rind is bitter. The fruit is sour.

Notice how the flavor of the rind is generally unpleasant, it hits mostly the back of your tongue and leaves your mouth feeling pretty dry? While the fruit is a really sharp, almost acidic feeling that hits you really strongly in the front of your tongue? That’s the difference. And it will be the same in coffee! Easy, right?

No? Well, like with anything else, this comes with practice. And once you’re able to identify the problem with the extraction, you can adjust your brewing variables. Which is something I’m super excited to talk to you about next week!

So, what do you think? Does extraction sound easy enough? Do you want to learn more about how brewing relates to extraction? Comment below and let me know what you think! And check back next week to learn more! Follow us on Instagram @black_river_roasters for more cool coffee info!

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