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 first 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.

Temperature—the intensity of heat present in a substance.

Heat water up and its particles begin to move much more rapidly. This increase in movement speeds up the rate at which coffee’s flavor compounds are dissolved into water.

The extraction rate increases.

As we alter the temperature of our water, we alter the extraction rate.

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If we fail to apply enough heat for an adequate time, too few flavor compounds will be extracted, and our result will be an under-extracted or sour brew. If we apply intense heat for too long, we run the risk of extracting too many flavor compounds, and our result will be an over-extracted or bitter brew.

Focus—the intensity at which you engage in a task

Intensify our focus and our attention becomes much more targeted. This increase in concentration speeds up the rate at which we extract knowledge, meaning, or accomplish a task.

The extraction rate increases.

As we alter the intensity of our focus, we alter the extraction rate of our time.

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Like with heat, too little or too much intensity of focus can lead to undesirable effects. Without focus, we may move too slowly or become overwhelmed with external stressors, resulting in an unfinished project. With too much focus over an extended period of time, we may drain ourselves and experience burnout.

The intensity of our focus affects the efficiency of our time, just as temperature affects the efficiency of a solvent.

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