Changing Things up for Santa Inez
If you’ve ever taken my brewing class you’d already know that “The one thing we never change is our desired extraction!” After all, you’re always aiming for the same brew strength in your cup and the same percent of solids extracted from your coffee grounds. Until you’re not. Let me explain.
Think of this half wheel of flavor notes as representing all of the different flavors you can get out of a coffee. Notice how the upper section of lighter colors is the lighter more acidic flavors (floral, fruity, etc). The middle section which is caramel-colored is where all the flavors of sugars browning are found—those caramel, chocolate, classic coffee backbone flavors. And lastly, the bottom section of darker colors is where the darker flavors live, and these flavors aren’t all that great. The tend to overpower the others and make a cup of coffee taste bitter.
What’s really cool about coffee brewing is that these flavors aren’t all extracted uniformly from start to finish. Rather, they are dissolved in order of how they are arranged in a clockwise fashion. First, the lighter acidic compounds come out, then the more complex caramelized flavors, and lastly the heaviest bitter ones. This works to our advantage because we can brew through all the flavors we do want from about 12 o’clock to 4 o’clock on the wheel (fruity-floral-chocolate-caramel) and leave behind the rest of the stuff we don’t want (ashy- medicinal-burnt).
If you’re a pro and can consistently achieve even extraction, then you want to maximize the amount of positive flavors, like all the way through to 4 o’clock on the wheel. That’s why our recipe at Corvus for cups of coffee is 18 grams of ground coffee for 336 grams of water used to brew. However. Sometimes, that sweet spot of “all the flavors you want and none that you don’t” is in a markedly different spot on that metaphorical flavor clock.
As it turns out, one of the new coffees in our lineup gets kind of funky a little “earlier” on in that half wheel than most. To put it another way, the section with purple colors starts a little after 3 o’clock instead of right at 4. Imagine that “Turpeny” flavor note sitting on the wheel where “Syrup-like” currently lives. This doesn’t mean the coffee is somehow flawed. It’s not. It’s name is Santa Inez and it’s one of the most delicious coffees I’ve tried in a while.
For this coffee we want the same strength of the final brewed cup but I've found that a slightly lower percent of extraction(again, a little before 4 o’clock on the wheel) tends to taste much more lively. If you want to extract less flavor from the coffee grounds while ending up with the same strength of brew, one easy adjustment is to start with more coffee. That’s why I increased the dose of ground coffee from 18 grams to 21 (or went from an almost 1:19 ratio to 1:16). This took the brewed cup from fairly good to unbelievable. Like, stunningly good. If you’ve got your method down for brewing and have a firm grasp on the relationship of strength and extraction, see what adjusting your ratio can do for a coffee! The industry recommended extraction is based on the general preference of a large study of people's taste opinions. While this is still fairly reliable, it can be good to remember that end result in the cup is what determines if the numbers make sense, not the other way around.