Extraction: What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

You can’t get far into the world of coffee without hearing mention of this mysterious phenomenon known as extraction. It’s the secret behind that perfectly balanced cup of coffee or espresso, the “piéce de résistance” that showcases sweetness, body, acidity and the balance between them all. But what is extraction and why does it matter? To put it simply extraction is how we remove the “good stuff” from our coffee. There are several different factors that contribute to extraction:

1. The water to coffee ratio
2. Temperature
3. Water quality
4. Filtration
5. Grind size
6. Pressure.

All these factors combine to affect coffee and it’s ability to produce certain characteristics. Each factor relies on the others, causing taste profiles to morph and change. There is no perfect recipe for extraction, every coffee behaves differently and changing one factor automatically affects the others. Here at Deeper Roots we are about to engage in a series of extraction experiments, focusing on what really matters and how these factors directly affect each other and the extraction profile. Navigating your way through every factor to achieve that “optimum balance” can be difficult. The goal of our experimentation at Deeper Roots is to provide a series of road maps that allow you to reactive optimum extraction and enjoy every cup of coffee you consume! The first factor up for the challenge…PRESSURE! Be on the look out for our findings as we get to play with our new La Marzocco Strada EP!

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Potato Defect in Coffee

Have you ever drank a cup of coffee from East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, etc.) and tasted a distinct potato taste?  We at DRC have seen this potato defect for years but have been truly impressed by what the growing specialty coffee production has done for the Rwandan economy and have been equally impressed by the taste of the coffees from there.  In order to enjoy this wonderful coffee and support what’s going on in Rwanda, this year we’ve bought another coffee being willing to take the occasional potato defect head on.  But, it’s caused us to want to take a dig and find out a little more about this defect and give our readers an overview about what’s happening.

After some digging we’ve found that the dreadful potato defect is hypothesized to be from microorganisms infecting the coffee bean that could have been transmitted due to damage from insects called Antestia bugs.  It is thought that these bugs transmit a chemical from the methoxypyrizine family (2-methoxy 3-isopropylpyrazine) when they feed on the unripe fruit and create a defective bean.  There isn’t definitive proof that these bugs are the sole culprit.  When they burrow into the bean they leave small holes in the fruit where other chemicals could enter but again, that’s just a hypothesis.  Regardless, the damage that the Antestia bugs create are hard to detect when farming and processing and the final, hideous aroma whether it’s from the bugs or not can’t be detected often until the coffee is ground.  We’ve talked to some of our friends at Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn, NY and they occasionally experience the same thing with this exact Rwandan.  It only happens ever now and then, but when it does, it’s easy to detect and discard before serving.

A lot of time and research is currently being spent to determine the exact cause for this defect and how it can be prevented in the future.  But for now, when you grind an East African coffee, pay attention to the dry aromas before you serve it.  If you smell some potato just dump the grounds, purge your grinder and re-brew.  It’s an unfortunate defect but it’s an interesting reminder that we serve an ever changing, highly intricate, agricultural product.

Brew on people.

-Adam