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How do you measure your coffee?
Be honest now — do you just pour it into your French press, give the thing a shake, blearily eyeball it and chuck in the water?
I’ll admit to doing the same sometimes. But obviously this isn’t how you end up with great coffee. Plus, it’s wasteful. If you make more coffee than you drink or use more coffee than you need it’s bad for both the planet and your wallet.
And coffee is so strong that it’s bitter and syrupy isn’t exactly enjoyable. Don’t get me started on the opposite problem either. Brown water masquerading as coffee…
Clearly, the best way to ensure brilliant, consistent coffee is to measure your ground beans.
But you’ll need different amounts of coffee for different coffee-making methods. Plus, unless you’re weighing the grounds the grind size will have an impact on how much your measuring implement holds.
What to Use
This brings us, of course, to coffee measuring equipment.
You can use a tablespoon (like an actual tablespoon) or a measure intended for flour, sugar etc, but a tablespoon size coffee scoop is a better choice.
A coffee scoop is deeper than most measures, and has a handle that will fit into most airtight coffee cans. However, the best way to measure your coffee is a digital scale.
This may seem like overkill, or make you feel like an apothecary and/or a drug dealer. A good compromise is to simply measure a few scoops with your preferred coffee spoon on a digital scale and settle on what an average dose from it is.
Usually, a slightly heaped tablespoon is about 5 grams of coffee.
It’s all About the Ratio
What else goes into making coffee?
I’ve posted before about the importance of water temperature, but the thing that’s really key to a great cup of coffee is the ratio of coffee ground to water.
Too much water and you’ve got a hot, brown nothing-soup, too little and you’ll be drinking a coffee syrup strong enough for an ant to stand on.
For a drip coffee maker, which we are going to use for this first explanation as drip coffee makers are still the most popular at-home option in the USA, a ratio of 1:15 to 1:18 is usually needed. That means 1 gram of coffee to every 15 to 18 grams of water. A gram of water is equal to a milliliter, which makes measuring it easy.
If measuring in grams, you can zero your scale with an empty kettle on it, and then pour in your water.
Unless you’re making a thimble of coffee for a mouse, you won’t be using 1 gram of coffee and 15-18 of water, so I’m afraid there will be a little math.
Luckily, there are plenty of calculators online to do the math for you!
Have a Go!
For two 6oz cups of coffee, you’ll need 355mls or grams of water. I went with a 1:17 ratio for my coffee, because I wanted it strong but drinkable.
The 1:15-18 ratio is just a guide, though, so play around if you like. You might want to go up to 1:19 or even 20, or 1:14 depending on your taste.
If you are boiling your water in a kettle rather than using a drip machine, you may want to add just a tiny bit of extra water to account for evaporation. A few grams should do.
For this amount of water, my ratio required 21 grams of beans. I measure mine before I grind, as that way I don’t waste any ground beans. This makes my coffee last longer, and means I get a really fresh cup every time. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, it’s environmentally responsible to use just the coffee you need due to all the water, labor, and power that goes into growing and processing coffee.
Okay, now just whack your coffee and water in your drip machine. You’re ready to go. Next time, tweak your ratio if this cup isn’t just so.
Other Brewing Methods
Even for those of us who rely on an old faithful drip machine most mornings, as coffee obsessives, we tend to have a few different coffee-making methods up our sleeves.
Each of these has a different range for a perfect ratio, and in some cases a different grinding need.
So, let’s start by talking about grind.
If you use multiple brew methods, some with course ground and some fine ground beans needed for a decent brew, then then it is more important than usual to either weigh your coffee or know what weight of ground coffee is equal to a scoop.
A larger grind means less coffee per scoop if it’s a scoop you’re using, so switching between methods and therefore grinds might really mess up your ratio!
I find that having a few post-its reminding me of the basics — like how many grams of each grind my scoop holds — really helps with the coffee making process day to day. I mean, I don’t always have my head one hundred percent in the game, who does?
I’m about to talk generally about some popular brew methods, but again you may need to experiment to work out exactly how you like your coffee. So, taking notes can’t hurt!
It’s still pretty hot as I write this on an early September day, and cold brew has been a lifesaver all summer.
Cold brew is a funny one, because it is usually being brewed to be diluted later. Even if it isn’t, steeping times hugely vary so this quick guide should be considered very personalizable.
The dilution method also means there are two water factors — the initial steep and the dilution.
A ballpark for cold brew is between a 1:4 and 1:8 ratio. So, between four and eight times the coffee in water.
Play around, and do keep in mind that the length of the steep and the temperature you’re storing your cold brew at will make a difference. It’s a fine art, sure, but it’s also really hard to totally fuck up!
For a middle-ground 1:6 ratio, and a good place to start, you’ll need 28.4 grams (1 ounce) of coffee for each 170ml (6oz) cup of water.
So, an ounce of coffee per standard 6 ounce serving of water.
That’s pretty easy to remember, right?
When diluting your cold brew after it has infused, start with a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water, or in easier terms a third coffee to two thirds fresh water. Most people also add ice.
Again, play until you have the perfect balance. Sometimes I’ll just drink a small glass of the concentrate with ice… but I might be the only one.
The specifics of the perfect pour over are a topic most coffee snobs could debate about for hours.
Generally, 1-2 tablespoons of coffee per 6oz (177 ml) of water is the standard. But 1-2 is a big difference!
You do need somewhat more coffee in the mix for pour over generally, as the water neither has contact with the coffee for long nor any force except gravity pushing it through the grounds.
I would say starting with 1:16 or 17 as a ratio would be a good middle ground, with room to maneuver either up or down depending on taste. Of course, the roast of your coffee, its grind and the tasting notes inherent to it will change how much you want to use.
For 1:16, you’ll need 10 grams (0.35 ounces) for each 6oz water serving.
As pour over is popular for single origin and otherwise bespoke coffees, you may well want to be extra precise!
A French press or cafetiere is where you can really get away with slip ups. As I mentioned in the intro, I sometimes eyeball mine.
Anyway, you can get away with anything from 1:10 to 1:18.
I tend towards a stronger brew that I sip throughout the day, but I have a big double-walled pot that works for that. You might have a two-cup situation and really want a perfectly balanced brew. If that’s the case, start with 1:14 and work from there.
For 1:14, use 12 ounces (0.45 grams).
As French presses require a larger grind size, you may want to measure with scales more regularly than for other methods! Larger grind sizes tend to be less uniform, that means the gaps for air in say, a scoop, will vary in size and throw off your calculations.
Aeropress and Other Vacuum Options
The Aeropress is helpful, because it has numbers on the side that correspond to scoops!
Stick it two scoops, fill to the two, three and fill to the three, and so on.
Aeropress claims you should add coffee to the 1 or 4 numbers if you use 1 or 4 scoops. The ovals are for 2 or 3.
If you fill less water, up to the ovals, you’ll make an espresso-esque coffee. More, something like a long black.
As there are guidelines on the Aeropress and most of its cousins, I won’t give you an example brew here!
Espresso is something of a wildcard, with ratios for grounds to liquid being anything from 1:2 to 1:6.
A ratio of 1:6 is traditional in Italy, and a 1:2.4 ratio is the norm in many Seattle coffee shops!
Espresso can range wildly from syrupy to strongly-flavored but fully liquid. What do you prefer? Use that to determine your ratio!
If your machine is automatic or semi-automatic, it will do the work for you. Otherwise, try a 1:3 ratio. You won’t want a 6oz espresso, that would be heart-palpitations territory, so for a single ounce espresso go with 14.2 grams (3 ounces) of coffee.
Well, just listen to the ratios! This is by no means an exact science, but you know coffee right? It’s all about taste.
Play around and find your perfect level. And if you’re serious, get a scale! Like I said up top, there’s no need to weigh every dose of coffee you use but a scale will really help you to learn what X amount of coffee looks like at various grind levels and calibrate your use of your tools.
If you don’t have space or money for a scale, maybe borrow one or have a coffee experimentation day at a friend’s house (do normal people do that kind of thing, or only coffee bloggers). If you have a favorite barista, maybe they could even let you have a look at a dose or two on their finely attuned scale!
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