Chemistry

Extracting Awesome

I like coffee. I don’t like it as much as my husband, father, mother, or twin sisters like it, but I like it. I generally like it iced, as I am perpetually too warm. When I saw this article by The Pioneer Woman, I was all “Hey, I’ll try that, but I won’t measure anything or be scientific about if at all.” I ground up a little over a cup of beans that I got from Costco and added it to a pitcher of cold water. I don’t know what volume this pitcher holds. For a chemist, I’m really bad at estimating volume. That project is now filtering. I don’t know what it taste like yet.

Note the highly scientific filtering system.

I know that I should have been much more scientific about this. It turns out, coffee is one of those overly complicated foods (read tons or organic taste and smell compounds) that lends itself to scientific discussion very easily. So I consult the food science bible, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

According to Dr. McGee (whose degrees are in LITERATURE, that’s shocking, if you’ve read his book) there are three main factors the average coffee consumer can manipulate to achieve the perfect cup of caffeinated consciousness:

1. Ground size.

a) Smaller grounds=greater surface area exposed to water=faster goodness extraction.

b) Consistent partical size is key, as “Too great a range of particle sizes makes it hard to control the extraction during brewing. Smaller particles may be overextracted and large ones underextracted.” This means your coffee ends up both bitter and weak sauce. Which is weak.

2.  Time exposed to water.

This is pretty self explanatory. Too short=weak ass coffee. Too long=bitter sauce.

3. Temperature.

According to McGee, the best temperature for brewing is 190/200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot, but below boiling. Higher=bitter compounds extracted too quickly. Lower=slow, slow, slow compound extraction.

There’s a lot more science juice for your mind grapes on this subject. If you care to learn more, read the book.

Since I brewed this coffee in cold water, I let it live in the fridge for like, 5 days. Soooo, hopefully that’s long enough? This, ideally, resulted in really smooth, strong coffee. I hope.

Let’s taste.

I poured a little out to taste in its pure state, before the half and half.

It’s a little watery looking, but tastes great!! Not bitter! I can taste chocolate notes!

Now for the creamy goodness.

Hello, soldier.

For an experiment with such poorly controlled parameters, this was highly successful. But don’t worry, next time I’ll actually measure out my starting materials. I know you are all really worried about that.

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2 thoughts on “Extracting Awesome

  1. Yes the chemist in me cringes, the coffee lover is intrigued. I have had really good cold brewed coffee. But my Bunn and I have a love/ love relationship. And it does the whole perfect temperature thing very nicely. And takes 3 minutes. Have I mentioned I’m not known for my patience?
    Your coffee loving Mom

  2. Pingback: Need/want/must have in my life. « No Replicators

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