It’s Just a Cup of Coffee, Right? Don’t Let the Barista Hear You Say That

At first glance, or to the uninitiated, preparing a cup of coffee is simply combining hot water and ground coffee beans… but that is just not the case. Further, it’s almost criminal what gets labeled as coffee in some regions. In a more ideal world, the pleasure that is a real, true, and good cup of coffee is something that should be within everyone’s reach.

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Like any activity in life that creates pleasure, coffee has become a phenomenon and a passion, even an addiction. For that reason humans all over the world have developed a variety (at least 22 that we know of) of different methods for preparing this beverage, not counting all its variants with compliments like milk, liquors, chocolate, matcha, mineral water, ice, cream, etc. Coffee extraction itself has become an art form. That’s right, extraction, what at first glance appears to be just pouring hot water over coffee grounds. But let’s take a little dive into this living phenomenon. On average, ground coffee yields about 22% of its chemical compounds when extracted, among them, caffeine (bitterness), acids (sweet or sour flavors), lipids (viscosity), sugars (sweetness and viscosity) and carbohydrates (viscosity and bitterness).

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Each part of the process is equally important, down to the variety of the bean, the type of grind, whether fine or coarse as the extraction method dictates (for example, a Moka pot needs a finer grind while a French press will use a coarse grind, with drip methods occupying a medium range); all of these elements will have an effect on the final result. The same with the temperature of the water, too hot can cause an over extraction while not hot enough will lead to a poor extraction. The ideal water temperature is between 91°-96° Celcius (195°-205F°), but we haven’t even talked about cold brew yet.

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Likewise for the thickness of the filter, as well as the time that the coffee is steeped, and whether or not the grounds are soaked uniformly, the quality and taste of the water, all of these factors contribute to the final result of a coffee’s flavor. It’s all these minute details that invite enthusiasts to explore and work on perfecting a brew according to their taste, just like a piece of art. It’s worth spending a little time and investigating how to prepare Turkish coffee or cold brew.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular extraction methods.

Moka pot or Italian coffee maker

The extraction is done through steam and pressurized water, obtaining a full-bodied coffee with an intense flavor, ideal for espresso or very concentrated Americanos. It is a quick, stovetop technique.

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Drip method. This has the advantage of the water evenly wetting all of the coffee, and the mechanism allows the water to be poured quickly or slowly depending on the flavor that is sought. The faster the pour, the lighter the flavor will be, while a slower pour gives a more full-bodied coffee. This method also allows for some control over the acidity.

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Flask o chemex

A traditional drip method. The filter is 30% thicker than the filters of other techniques. It is a good option for coffee lovers, and allows multiple cups to be made at once, but you’ll have to study and play with this technique a bit. The result is a less acidic coffee, with less body and more sweetness.

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French press

Immersion method. The components of the coffee, such as sweetness, are well preserved, and this method results in a beverage with greater density. It can be steeped to taste, which changes the flavor.

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Drip method. A time consuming method that requires a medium grind, although the result is a superior, complex, and pure flavor.

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