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The Complete Guide to Mastering Coffee Extraction: Unlocking the Secrets to Brewing the Perfect Cup!

Pouring fresh filtered water from a gooseneck kettle over Witch Coffee coffee grounds

Coffee, one of the world's most beloved beverages, is more than just a morning pick-me-up. Behind every delicious cup of coffee lies the intricate process of extraction. Coffee extraction is the process of dissolving and extracting desirable compounds from coffee grounds using water. During this process, hot water comes into contact with coffee grounds, extracting soluble compounds such as sugars, acids, oils, and flavour compounds. The goal is to achieve a balanced extraction, where the desirable flavours are extracted while minimising undesirable ones.

One of the key factors influencing coffee extraction is the quality of water used in the brewing process. With coffee consisting of 97% to 99% water, it's no wonder that any impurities or contaminants in your water can impact the taste. Whether it's minerals, bacteria, chlorine, or other substances, the purity of your water can significantly influence the final result. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the power of coffee extraction and explore how using fresh water can elevate your coffee brewing game to new heights.

A mug of 100% Arabica Witch Coffee beans from Ethiopia, Colombia, Indonesia and Brazil

Understanding Coffee Extraction

Before we delve into the significance of using fresh water for coffee extraction, let's first understand the process itself. Coffee extraction is a complex interaction between water and coffee grounds, where various chemical compounds are extracted from the grounds into the water. The primary components extracted during this process are:

Solubles: These include sugars, acids, oils, and flavour compounds that give coffee its unique taste and aroma.

Insolubles: These are compounds that remain in the coffee grounds and do not dissolve in water.

The extraction process occurs when water comes into contact with the coffee grounds. The rate and efficiency of extraction depend on several factors, including water quality, temperature, brew time, and coffee-to-water ratio.

A sleek, minimalistic water filter with fresh water coming out into a glass cup

The Role of Fresh Water

Water serves as the primary solvent in the coffee extraction process. Using fresh water is the best starting point for optimal coffee extraction, as it ensures the purity of the extraction process. Fresh water is free from impurities and off-flavours that could otherwise taint the taste of the coffee.

The Impact of Water Quality on Extraction

a. Mineral Content

Fresh water typically contains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonates. These minerals play a significant role in coffee extraction. Calcium and magnesium ions help to extract flavourful compounds from coffee grounds, enhancing the overall taste of the coffee. Bicarbonates contribute to buffering the water's pH, preventing excessive bitterness during extraction.

However, it's essential to find the right balance of mineral content. Water that is too hard (high mineral content) can lead to over-extraction and make the coffee taste harsh and bitter. On the other hand, water that is too soft (low mineral content) may result in under-extraction, yielding a weak and sour cup.

b. Chlorine and Impurities

Water treated with chlorine or containing impurities can significantly impact coffee extraction. Chlorine, commonly used to disinfect water, can lead to off-flavours and undesirable aromas in the brewed coffee. Impurities like iron, sulfur, or strong odours can also ruin the delicate flavours of coffee, altering its taste and aroma.

The Importance of Water Temperature when Making Coffee

Water temperature during extraction is another critical factor influencing the coffee brewing process. The ideal water temperature for coffee extraction is between 90°C to 96°C. At this temperature range, water efficiently extracts the desired flavours without over-extracting bitter compounds.

The temperature of the water affects the rate of extraction. Hotter water extracts more quickly, while cooler water takes longer to extract the desired compounds. Proper water temperature ensures a balanced extraction, bringing out the best flavours from the coffee grounds.

For Witch Coffee bags, the ideal hot water temperature for coffee extraction is 96 degrees Celsius (205°F). This specific temperature is carefully selected to optimise the extraction of flavours from the coffee grounds, resulting in a well-balanced and exceptional coffee experience. At this temperature, the water efficiently releases the aromatic compounds, oils, and delightful flavours locked within the beans, allowing us to showcase the unique character of each coffee blend we offer.

A red clock saying 2PM next to a cup of freshly-brewed Melbourne barista Witch Coffee coffee bag

Why is Brewing Time Important in Coffee Extraction?

Brew time, also known as contact time, is a crucial aspect of the coffee brewing process that directly impacts the extraction rate and, in the end, the flavor profile of your coffee. It refers to the duration for which water comes into contact with the coffee grounds during the brewing process.

Getting the coffee brew time right is vital for achieving a well-balanced and enjoyable cup of coffee. If the brew time is too short, it can lead to under-extraction, where the water doesn't have enough time to fully interact with the coffee grounds, resulting in a weak and sour-tasting brew. On the other hand, if the brew time is too long, it may lead to over-extraction, where the water spends too much time in contact with the coffee grounds, extracting undesirable bitter and astringent flavors.

The ideal brew time varies depending on the brewing method used. For instance, in drip coffee makers, a recommended brew time of around 4 to 6 minutes is suggested. This allows sufficient time for the water to fully extract the desired flavours from the coffee grounds without going overboard. On the contrary, espresso machines use much shorter brew times, typically between 25 to 30 seconds. The finer grind of espresso coffee requires a faster extraction to avoid over-extraction and achieve the desired bold and concentrated flavour. Learn more about coffee grind size here.

Here at Witch Coffee, we've thoughtfully curated our Steeped Coffee Bags to offer a specialty coffee experience. For our coffee bags, we recommend a brew time of approximately 5 minutes for maximum strength and flavour. This timeframe allows the premium coffee grounds to infuse the hot water, releasing the irresistible aroma and rich taste that Witch Coffee is renowned for.

2 sachets Witch Coffee Blue Label single-serve coffee bags in a breakfast flat lay next to a cup of freshly brewed espresso

The Importance of Even Extraction when Brewing Coffee

Achieving an even extraction is crucial in the world of coffee brewing. It ensures that all the flavours, aromas, and essential compounds present in the coffee grounds are extracted in a uniform manner. An even extraction leads to a well-balanced cup of coffee, where no single aspect overpowers the others, resulting in a harmonious and enjoyable drinking experience.

One tool that can significantly aid in achieving even extraction is the gooseneck kettle. This specialised kettle design features a narrow and curved spout resembling the neck of a goose, allowing for precise and controlled pouring. The steady and consistent water flow from the gooseneck kettle enables baristas and coffee enthusiasts to target specific areas of the coffee grounds during brewing, preventing uneven saturation and promoting a more uniform extraction. Read more about gooseneck kettles and why baristas all swear by it!

Mastering Coffee-to-Water Ratio

The coffee-to-water ratio refers to the amount of coffee grounds used per unit of water. Finding the right ratio is vital for achieving a balanced and flavoursome cup.

The Specialty Coffee Association recommends a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:15 to 1:18, which translates to using 1 gram of coffee per 15 to 18 grams of water. This ratio provides a good starting point for crafting your perfect cup, but don't hesitate to let your taste preferences guide you. At Witch Coffee, we believe in the beauty of personalisation and encourage you to customise your brew to match your unique palate.

When brewing with Witch Coffee Bags, we suggest adding 150ml (5 oz) of hot water to your cup. This carefully selected amount ensures a satisfying and enjoyable coffee experience. However, if you prefer a stronger or milder cup, feel free to experiment with different water volumes to adjust the coffee-to-water ratio according to your preference.

A cup of espresso made using Witch Coffee Red Label specialty coffee bag

Benefits of Using Fresh Water for Coffee Extraction

Using fresh water in the coffee brewing process offers numerous benefits that contribute to a more enjoyable coffee experience:

Enhanced Flavour Profile

Fresh water allows the true flavours of the coffee to shine. It helps extract the delicate balance of sweetness, acidity, and bitterness that characterises a well-brewed cup of coffee. Using fresh water ensures that the full spectrum of flavours present in the coffee grounds is extracted, offering a more nuanced and complex taste.

Consistency in Brewing

Using fresh water ensures consistency in your coffee brewing process. By eliminating variables caused by impurities in water, you can replicate your favourite coffee's taste with every brew. Consistency is especially crucial for coffee shops and businesses aiming to maintain the same high-quality coffee standards for their customers.

Protecting Your Brewing Equipment

Fresh water also has a positive impact on your coffee brewing equipment. Water impurities can lead to mineral buildup and scale formation in your coffee maker or espresso machine. Over time, this can compromise the performance of your equipment and even lead to costly repairs. Using fresh water reduces the risk of scale buildup and prolongs the lifespan of your coffee brewing equipment.

What is the Best Water for Making Coffee?

Now that we understand the importance of using fresh water, let's explore the options for obtaining the best water for coffee extraction:

Tap Water

The quality of tap water varies greatly depending on your location. Some tap water may be suitable for coffee brewing, while others might contain higher levels of impurities or undesirable flavours. If you choose to use tap water, consider using a water filter or water softener to improve its quality.

Filtered Water

Filtered water for coffee brewing, whether through a pitcher filter, faucet filter, or under-sink filter, is an excellent option. Filters can remove chlorine, sediment, and certain minerals that can affect the taste of the coffee. However, not all filters are designed to remove all impurities, so it's essential to choose a filter specifically suited for coffee brewing.

Bottled Spring Water

Another viable option is to use bottled spring water when making coffee. It typically contains minerals that can positively influence the flavour extraction process. However, be mindful of the specific mineral content, as some bottled waters might have too high a mineral content for ideal coffee extraction.

Reverse Osmosis Water

Reverse osmosis (RO) water is purified water obtained through a filtration process that removes impurities, minerals, and contaminants. While RO water is free from impurities, it lacks the minerals necessary for optimal coffee extraction. Some coffee enthusiasts choose to add mineral solutions or remineralisation packets to RO water to achieve the desired mineral content.

Coffee extraction is a delicate process that relies on several factors to produce a perfect cup of coffee. Among these factors, the quality of water used plays a crucial role in determining the final flavour and aroma of your brew. Fresh water, free from impurities and off-flavours, allows the true essence of the coffee to shine through, delivering a truly satisfying coffee experience.

Whether you're a coffee aficionado or a casual drinker, understanding the power of coffee extraction and the significance of using fresh water can transform your morning ritual into a delightful journey of flavours and aromas. So, the next time you brew your favourite cup of coffee, make sure to give it the best start with fresh, clean water, and enjoy the rich and nuanced flavours that nature's magical bean has to offer.


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