Knowing what is good coffee helps define how to make good coffee?

Before we investigate how to make good coffee it helps to look at what is a good cup of coffee? A cup of coffee that makes you happy would be a good place to start.

(Need good coffee now? See our How to Make Coffee database and analysis of the common steps in making good coffee.)


For today we are going to assume that the beans were picked at the right time the processing, transport, roasting and storage were ideal.


In the 1950s, the National Coffee Association looked to MIT associate professor of food technology, Earl Lockhart, a biochemist by training, to determine what makes a good cup of coffee. His findings in the ’50s still form the basis and fundamentals for consistently brewing a good cup.


As a general guideline, a good cup of coffee (or espresso for that matter) will dissolve 18-22 percent of the ground coffee into the water. Espresso uses pressure and less water to get to a 7.5-9.5% strength or higher while coffee is generally made between 1.15 to 1.5, with stronger brews more common in Europe and outside the US.

coffee tds strength chart - how to make good coffee

Here is a close up of just the coffee section highlighting the differences in the brew strength. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) defines a Golden Cup of coffee to be between 18-22% extraction with a strength of 1.15-1.35% dissolved solids. If you dissolve less of the coffee bean into the water, the coffee will most often taste sour and may even taste like drinking vegetable soup. If you go over 22% extraction, the coffee will start to taste bitter and dry and make your mouth pucker.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.43.12 PM Here is the same chart with an added “high extraction” zone. With very uniform grind size and a consistent extraction from all of the coffee particles, it is possible to push extraction above 22 to 24-25% or so before making the coffee too bitter. For more information on how to get high extractions check out the resources at the bottom of the page.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 8.58.01 PM

Want to find out how to make good coffee now – check out our how to make coffee database and our analysis of over 100 recipes and the common tips and tricks in pour-over coffee and more




High extraction yield: