ExtractMojo

June 16th, 2009
mojo1

This post should probably start with a disclaimer – I did not pay for my ExtractMojo, it was very kindly sent to me by Vince Fedele at Terroir Coffee to use and give feedback upon.  I am very grateful to both him and Andy Schecter and Scott Rao also for getting me involved.

In many ways I am surprised that this isn’t a hotter topic of conversation, especially online.  Then again many of you reading this may have done the same thing as me – download the trial software, have a little play, think it is a cool little automated coffee brewing control chart.  I sorely underestimated it.

Given a second chance I’ve gotten stuck into assessing the way I am brewing coffee.  It has proven extremely enlightening.  I have come to a rather worrying conclusion:

Great coffees are letting us get lazy.

I should probably explain that a little bit more.  In coffee brewing there are very few fixed, set in stone, rules.  The closest we have is that when you evenly extract between 18-22% of the ground coffee during the brew then you end up with a good tasting brew.  Properly brewing within those boundaries tastes better than outside of them.

Most of us are guided by our tastebuds when we brew coffee.  I suspect we’ve been tricked a little by stellar coffees.  For example I was very fond of a coffee last year from Kenya that was a peaberry lot from Muchoki.  It was very tasty, very distinct, very characterful and interesting.  So much so that even a bad brew, an underextracted brew, tasted pretty good.  There were tonnes of fruit notes, a pleasing sweetness, it was clean and crisp.  Yummy!

However, in hindsight, I’ve come to see that I was enjoying an underextracted, but updosed brew that hit the strength marker and was sufficiently interesting and tasty not to make me work harder.

This is where a tool like the ExtractMojo comes in.  Over the last couple of months it has pushed me, challenged me and looked at my coffee brewing with cold emotionless eyes.  Nothing else has pushed me so hard to try and improve what I do, and how I brew coffee.  Recently the coffee I make has been tasting even better, and this makes me very happy – though I suppose  a bit embarrassed too.  I should add (here if nowhere else) that I am not saying that increases in greens quality have caused a decrease in brew quality.  I have no evidence of that.

It took me a little while to get my head around the software.  I’d come to it used to brewing control charts, but also used to controlling more variables than it let me.  1  After a little while it made more sense, and what really surprised me was that once you understand the relationships then you realise that the software doesn’t just analyse the brew, it also offers a route to fix bad brews which was eye opening.

People will always dismiss tools like this as missing the point, that taste is always more important than numbers.  Taste does of course win.  Yes, you can create a brew that falls within the 18-22% range that is poorly/unevenly extracted and tastes bad.  This is missing the point.

Tools like this are an incentive and a route to better coffee brewing.

Your coffee may well taste great.  In fact it probably does taste great, as the raw materials are exceptional.  That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t taste better.  Being satisfied is a terrible place to be.

  1. By now some of you are probably bored of my ramblings about TDS, brewing charts and such.  I will continue to be a big fan of programs like the SCAE Gold Cup program for spreading awareness of brewing ratios, extractions and paying attention to the mechanics of extraction.  ↩︎

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