Extraction Part II: Ratios and Balance

Making coffee is a relatively simple process; coffee’s flavor compounds are extracted using water as a solvent. But, we can affect the extraction rate of a coffee through five variables: temperature, agitation, time, ratio, and grind size. This is the second in a series of six posts examining the factors affecting extraction in coffee and what they can teach us about the daily pursuits we engage in.

A brew ratio—the amount of coffee used in relation to the amount of water used.

Increase the ratio of coffee to water, and there are more water molecules than coffee particles. As the number of water molecules increases, they can now dissolve more flavor compounds from the coffee. This increases extraction because the water dissolves all of the flavor compounds, even the undesirable ones.If we have 1 gram of coffee and 24 grams of water (1:24 ratio), each water molecule works to dissolve the compounds of that 1 gram of coffee, resulting in a weak, but over-extracted brew.

If we have 1 gram of coffee and 2 grams of water (1:2 ratio), each water molecule will have to work harder to dissolve the compounds of that 1 gram of coffee, and it won’t be able to extract enough of the flavor compounds. This results in a strong, but under-extracted brew.Scannable Document on Jun 15, 2017, 5_01_47 PM

Balance—the optimal proportion of an activity in relation to other activities

When the time spent on an activity is in balance, we experience optimal extraction. Increase the ratio of any activity to the time in a day, and the extraction from that activity increases.

Too much time spent on one activity—think 24 hours of Netflix—can lead to over-extraction. We extract the desirable effects, but after too long we begin to extract the undesirable ones as well.

Too little time spent on too many activities—think allocating just one hour for 24 activities you find important—can lead to under-extraction. We only spend enough time to extract the initial effects, but we don’t spend enough time to extract the most desirable effects of an activity.
Scannable Document on Jun 15, 2017, 5_07_06 PM
Like with brew ratios, there are optimal balances of time allocated for activities important to us. These activities differ in time needed for optimal extraction (I don’t need to run for two hours each day, but I do need to sleep for eight), but thinking about the balance in our lives can help us extract the most desirable things while stopping before extracting too many undesirable ones.


  1. Pingback: Extraction Part VI: Conclusion—Metaphors | Intermittent Diversion
  2. Alex · January 21, 2018

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