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January 30, 2017 /
A Guide to the DIY Extraction Tasting

The very first post on Barista Hustle was about understanding the taste of extraction. This week I’d like to share a simple experiment that will allow you to taste those differences in extractions side by side. All you’ll need is coffee, scales, a grinder and an espresso machine. Soon I’ll be detailing the same experiment for brewed or filter coffee.

An important part of a Coffee Professional’s development is the opportunity to regularly taste coffees side by side. Consumers rarely get to taste different coffees simultaneously, which makes it incredibly hard for them to develop their palate. Professionals often get to taste like this multiple times every day which can make the process of palate training incredibly swift. Unfortunately, the act of tasting coffees next to each other doesn’t necessarily make it useful. You need to know why they’re different, otherwise your brain won’t be able to match the proper variables with the effects they produce.

Extraction and strength are two variables that are inherently linked and difficult to separate. This experiment is designed to allow you to forget about strength and just taste the difference in extractions (I plan on writing a lot about strength soon).

You can run these experiments with any coffee and grinder. In fact, using your usual coffee and equipment – no matter the quality – makes it infinitely more relevant to you and your typical coffee-tasting situation.

Step 1 – Espresso

Start with your typical espresso recipe – it’s probably delicious and balanced so it will be the middle of the road for the experiment. If you’re familiar with espresso recipes, that’s great! If not, you’ll need to measure your dose and yield.

Dose = The weight of coffee in the portafilter in grams.
Yield = The weight of liquid espresso in grams.

Don’t worry about the shot times. As long as your grinder is calibrated to make your usual recipe taste great, grind size and time don’t matter for our purposes here.

Once you know these variables, you can type your typical espresso yield into the calculator. It will figure everything out for you. You can use this calculator right now and run the experiment, but I highly recommend understanding what’s going on first.

You’ll be making 7 espressos with the same dose and different yields. Those yields will sit above and below your usual recipe in intervals of 4 grams. For example my typical espresso yield is 40g, so the the 7 espressos will look like this:

If you’ve never made espresso to weight before, here’s a very quick guide:

– Grind, weigh, distribute and tamp your usual dose into the basket. Be as accurate as possible with the dose weight.
– Tare your cup on a small set of scales.
– Start the espresso shot and place the cup and scales beneath the spouts.
– As the espresso progresses, the weight will increase. Stop the shot when the scale reads 2-6g less than your target yield to allow for some drips to exit the portafilter.
– Once again, don’t worry about changing grind size, dose, or monitoring shot times. They’re not important right this minute.

Follow this process for all 7 espressos, aiming to be within 1-2 grams of the target yield (weight) each time.

At this point, you have 7 espressos with different extractions and strengths. The next step will dilute those espressos so that they all have a very similar strength.

Step 2 – Dilution

The longest espresso shot will also be the weakest, so we need to dilute all of the other espressos down to the same concentration. Unfortunately we can’t make espresso any stronger, so this is the only way to achieve parity.

The shortest shot will be the strongest, so it will need the most water. The amount of water needed will reduce as the yield of each espresso increases. The calculator below will tell you exactly how much water to add. Here’s the amount of water needed with my example recipe.

Now you have 7 espressos with very similar strengths, and very different extractions.

Step 3 – Tasting

You now have a neat flight of espressos with different extractions and similar strengths. It’s time to taste.

Firstly, divide your espressos into 5 sections:

1 & 2: Aggressively Under-extracted
3: Mildly under-extracted
4: Correctly Extracted
5: Mildly over-extracted
6 & 7: Aggressively over-extracted.

Taste the coffees, and record anything that comes to mind. There’s no such thing as an incorrect descriptor. Whatever your mind and palate recognises as a flavour is perfect. The more honest you are about a flavour the easier it will be to recognise it upon the next encounter.

Write down your thoughts in the form on the experiment page.

I don’t want to influence your results too much, but feel free to use my original post on extraction and flavour as a reference. The espressos will be weaker than you normally drink, so try to disregard mouthfeel and body. Instead, focus on flavour, sweetness, acidity and balance.

Step 4 – Pattern Match

Hopefully after this experiment you’ll be much more in tune with the tastes of your espresso extractions. Experiments like this are extremely valuable for palate development and speed up the pattern matching process like nothing else. The more readily you can identify faults in a coffee, the faster you can fix them!

 

If you have found this useful and want to enjoy delicious coffee with the rest of the community – register for our monthly Superlatives coffee subscription. Or if you just want to keep up with every thing Barista Hustle – sign up to the Newsletter.

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Jan F-F
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Jan F-F

Hi Matt. Interesting experiment here, and I definitely agree that dilution is a great methodology for eliminating the confound of strength from your judgments. I see so many people get tripped up by confusing these two concepts. As I’m sure you know as an avid refractometer user, it’s pretty difficult to overextract properly-roasted espresso. So I’m not sure you’ll necessarily see overextraction in the longer shots – especially if your default is underextracted as most shops’ shots are. But by running shots longer in terms of time, you get more bitters. By running shots shorter times, sours are more prominent… Read more »

Aaron
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Aaron

Thanks Matthew ! But I can’t make 7 espresso in a short time. Some of these 7 espresso might cool down. How would it infect the test results and how should i deal with it ?

Jason Card
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Jason Card

Thanks! I am always on the lookout for more practical experiments for training (and for learning more myself). We will be trying this one very soon.

Chanho Hong
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Chanho Hong

This is exactly what I have been doing with my boys. Thank you Matt for your great work! Nice guidance for all!

David Duhalde Rahbæk
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David Duhalde Rahbæk

What would the filter-counterpart to this experiment be?
Locking the coffee weight and varying the water poured in e.g. a V60, after which I dillute all of them…??

Or maybe do it with a clever, and different steep times. Or cupping bowls with post-filtering…

Matt Perger
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Matt Perger

It assumes that the shorter shots will have a lower extraction and adjusts the water accordingly. It scales to match your recipe so you should be as close as possible without a refractometer.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Thank you!

Christopher Schaefer
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Christopher Schaefer

How does this experiement take in to consideration the rate of solids extractions? The longer pulled shots should have more solids and, while Matt you encourage us not to get caught up on body and mouthfeel (especially due to dilutino), I have to wonder if the amount of solids will impact this study.

Jan F-F
Guest
Jan F-F

That’s the point though. Bitter/sour balance is related to extraction, but it’s not just extraction. You can have a bitter and underextracted shot. The classic example would be an overly tight shot that runs for 40 seconds. If you aren’t sure what I’m saying, just pull a given volume in your standard shot time, and then bracketed by 6-10 seconds… with grind compensation to get equal weight in each case. Flavor balance changes while extraction doesn’t very much. I think your experiment above ideally would be executed with grind compensation to produce different volumes in the same time. I know… Read more »

Matt Perger
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Matt Perger

Make sure your cups are hot, cover them w a lid, dilute with hot water, start with the longer shots and be as quick as possible!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Bitter/sour is because of the extraction, no? This experiment is designed to highlight that.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

I’ll be running through that soon!

Gregory Levine
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Gregory Levine

Thanks for a great learning experience, Matt. Something is seriously wrong with my espresso, as the first descriptor for every single shot was “sour”. This makes me sad, and I don’t know what to do about it. I know it’s sour, I fight it every day. What shocked me was the lack of any noticeable difference in the different extractions. I tasted them all in order expecting them to get better. They did, a little. Maybe I need to start pulling 45 second shots…

Luis Marquez
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Luis Marquez

How did you estimate the extraction % for each shot? I’m assuming it is not important that we measure the actual extraction when we do the experiment.

Sune A
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Sune A

Actually, wouldn’t it be better to start with the shortest shot? Then when you dilute in the end with boiling water, the coldest shot will get the most hot water, and the temperatures will be (more) even. 🙂

Matt Perger
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Matt Perger

I see where you’re going, but the grind change needed to slow the shot down would increase surface area so much that you might end up with a higher extraction in a shorter shot. No guarantee there that the espressos would have different extractions, and as you mentioned, a much more difficult and wasteful experiment for most.

Sergio Ortiz
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Sergio Ortiz

Hi Matt, first of all I want to thank you for introducing this great approach, it has been really constructive for me. My question is related with the one above: if the relation Strength = Formula (ratio) * Extraction is true for each cup, and we maintain the strength constant throughout the essays, being the extraction changed since it is the aim of the experiment, then the formula should be adjusted consequently in each case. If I understand correctly, you can calculate the formula = dose / (yield + water added), but yield + water added will also be a… Read more »

Wymann Liew
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Wymann Liew

Hey matt, my mates and I did the experiment and stuff. We achieve a lot of results and understanding on extraction. But what we faced on the 6th cup was that it has gotten a lot saltier than it should. We were pulling Ethiopia on the Mithos one. Any comments on that?

Gregory Levine
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Gregory Levine

Thanks, Karl. Also decided to try my own advice. Went all the way to 45 secs and settled on 35-40 for a big improvement.

Karl
Guest
Karl

Take ur grinder apart, clean it all out, erase all memory of ur old recipe, put the grinder parts togerher again, try to find the place where it tastes as it should from scratch.
Takes a while but the end result is usually the better cup.

Karl
Guest
Karl

It serves a very similar purpose to that of having one fully extracted espresso side by side with four split up ones. (Using one cup for the espressos first 10 gs, then another for the best 10 and so on.)
Not the same but these two experiments togerher ought to cover a pretty big deal of espresso tasting 101!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Oh! Easy. The shorter shots have lower extractions, the longer shots have higher extractions. The deviation across them will likely be around 4% (from experience) so I factor that into the calculation, adding less water to the less extracted shots, and vice versa.

Sergio
Guest
Sergio

I think what I just wanted to ask is, how, in detail, can you calculate the correction of water in order to guarantee all the cups have the same strength. Thank you

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

I’m not sure I completely understand your question. Could you rephrase? I’d love to help!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi Luis, I went with a simple formula of longer shot = more extraction based on my experience and data. Not totally accurate, but pretty good.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

If you want to see exactly what I did, feel free to download the excel file and have a look into the formulas 🙂

Fadli
Guest
Fadli

The vast majority of espressos made in today’s coffeehouses will have a time somewhere between 22 and 40 seconds. A very large majority of those will be somewhere between 25 and 32 seconds. Is it include the pre-infusion of the machine?

Mike Troup
Guest
Mike Troup

So the difference in extraction % is tiny, even across such a large difference in timing – once dilution has been accounted for by topping up the shorter shots, any difference in taste will be due to the different times the various solutes take to dissolve. Interesting – and it helps me to justify to myself my preference for a slight ristretto balance, but slightly diluted.

Giovanni V Tam
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Giovanni V Tam

If I want to dose 22.5g of coffee what coffee basket size do you recommend? 20g or 22g?

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