A major aspect of the SCAA events is education. As you may have read in an earlier post, I am working towards my Barista Guild Association certification. As of right now, the BGA offers two levels of certification for baristas. To pass the Level 1 exam, they recommend a variety of courses which include: Customer Service, Introduction to Cupping, Introduction to Espresso Pt. 1 & 2, and Brewing and Extraction Pt. 1 & 2. The testing includes both written and practical sections where one must display knowledge presented in all of these classes. After taking just the one class in Boston, I am truly excited to keep plugging away towards my certification.

During my second day at the expo, I had the opportunity to attend the “Brewing and Extraction” skill building workshop. The class was divided into two parts. The first part focused in on the essential elements of proper brewing. These elements include: brewing ratio (coffee to water), proper grind in relation to brewing method, choosing an optimum brewing method using proper brewing techniques, good quality water, quality coffee (duh!), and using the proper filtering medium.

The second part was a more hands on brewing lab where we learned how to use a variety of brewing devices. It was the first time that I had used a syphon or vacuum pot! Some brewing methods are easier than others to master, as I’m sure you’ve noticed on your own coffee journey (were these more difficult or easier to use?). I would say that the most difficult part of moving from brew method to brew method is simply learning the proper technique. During the class, we were given samples, which exemplified proper and improper execution of each essential brewing element. Understanding what improperly extracted coffee tastes like can only enhance your ability to properly brew your favorite cup.

So here’s the quick nutshell explanation: An under extracted coffee will taste thin and weak, with a mild aroma. The flavors may also be sour or overly tart. An over extracted coffee will taste quite strong and overly bitter. The aroma will most likely be pleasant, but bitterness and astringency will linger on your palette. You can also assess your coffee visually (to an extent of course). If you can see to the bottom of your cup while it’s full of coffee, you can assume its flavor to be weak and undeveloped. If you look into your cup and it seems like you are staring into an oil can, it’s a safe bet that it’s going to be overly strong and super bitter. In the end, it all comes down to your taste! People enjoy a wide variety of coffee flavors and strengths.

The range of what most people deem to be acceptable is based on a study conducted in the 1950s by the Coffee Brewing Institute. Here’s one of their videos from 1961. See any brewing devices that you recognize? This study is still referred to today, although its findings have been retested with similar results. The results found that most people prefer their coffee to have a strength (measured by Total Dissolved Solids or TDS %) range of 0.5% to 1.8% – weakest to strongest respectively. The SCAA says that the optimum range is from 1.15%-1.35%, which also means that your cup of coffee is somewhere in the range of 98.85%-98.65% WATER. So like the video from above says, put “care” into your coffee brewing, and you will reach coffee perfection time and time again.

So I didn’t want to get too science-y throughout the post, but there is so much going on during coffee extraction. Your cup of coffee in the morning goes through a number of chemical changes, which most folks never even think about. Coffee is a beautiful science, and I love the way it works. Thanks for sharing in my journey. Want to learn more? Let me know! Leave a comment, or ask a question! I love helping you love and learn more about coffee! Stay tuned for my next post for some of my favorite cold-brewing and iced coffee recipes!

As always, take care and drink great coffee!

1 comment

  1. Ben, for espresso at home, is there one best suggestion (brew, technique, vessel)? My mother-in-law (when she was well enough) used a two-part, beautiful china piece. I have not tried making it myself.

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