February 12, 2024

Coffee Science —

Principals Behind Coffee Extraction: Enhancing your Coffee Experience

Principals Behind Coffee Extraction

Enhancing your Coffee Experience.

Written by Mekki Jaidi

Photos by Taylor Glenn

Updated on February 12, 2024

The Core of Coffee Extraction

Coffee extraction is the essential process in brewing, where water pulls flavors and aromas from coffee grounds. The balance achieved during this process determines the coffee's strength and quality, highlighting the importance of mastering extraction for any brewing method.

Mekki Jaidi, formerly in New York finance, founded Outpost in Jackson Hole in 2014. He expanded into O2 Cleaning, Terrain, and Provisions. In 2021, he acquired Snake River Roasting Co. He actively contributes to the Jackson Hole community through nonprofit work and lives there with his wife, two daughters, and son.​

Understanding these principles can elevate your coffee from ordinary to exceptional.

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Unveiling the Essence

Central to the coffee brewing process, extraction involves a precise interplay of chemistry and physics. Controlled variables such as temperature, grind size, and brewing duration are critical.

This scientific approach ensures the capture of desirable flavors while preventing the undesirable bitterness of over-extraction and the acidity of under-extraction, optimizing the coffee's taste profile.

The Alchemy of Variables

Adjustments to grind size, water temperature, and contact time are essential in manipulating the coffee's ultimate taste, embodying the precision and expertise necessary in the art of coffee brewing.


Grind Size

A finer grind increases the surface area, enhancing flavor extraction, essential for espresso. Coarser grinds, perfect for French press, slow down extraction, offering a richer taste.

Water Temperature

The ideal range (195°F-205°F) ensures optimal extraction, releasing the full spectrum of coffee flavors.

Contact Time

The brewing time affects the extraction intensity. Quick for espresso, longer for cold brew, each method has its magic.

Water Quality

Soft water, low in minerals, is the canvas for coffee art, allowing the coffee's true flavors to shine.

Achieving the perfect cup of coffee requires a deep understanding of the interplay between various brewing factors.

Balanced Cup

The perfect cup of coffee strikes a harmonious balance between acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. It should not be overly sour or excessively bitter, but rather offer a complex flavor profile where the inherent characteristics of the coffee bean are fully expressed.

This balance allows for a cup that is rich and full-bodied, with a pleasing aroma and a taste that lingers pleasantly. The ideal brew highlights the bean's origin, processing method, and roast level, offering a truly satisfying sensory experience.

The Sour Side of Coffee

Under-extraction occurs when water has not had enough contact time with coffee grounds, leading to insufficient extraction of flavors. This often results in a coffee that tastes sour or acidic, akin to unripe fruit. It's a sign that the desirable sweet and complex flavors, which require longer to dissolve, remain locked within the grounds.

Bitterness Beyond Balance

Over-extraction happens when coffee grounds are exposed to water for too long or the water is too hot, pulling out too many bitter compounds.

This results in a coffee that can taste overly bitter, much like the astringency of burnt toast or dark chocolate taken to an extreme. It overshadows the coffee's nuanced flavors, leaving a harsh aftertaste.

The Fine Line of Flavor

Mastering the alchemy of variables in coffee brewing allows us to navigate between under-extraction and over-extraction, guiding us towards the perfect cup. This ideal brew captures a delicate balance, where the coffee's inherent sweetness, acidity, and bitterness harmonize, revealing the bean's full potential.

By understanding and adjusting these variables, coffee enthusiasts can enhance their brewing technique, ensuring each cup is a testament to the art and science of coffee making.

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