Stop the Scoop

One thing I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout my blog is that coffee should be measured by weight using a scale. Coffee beans come in different sizes, weights, moisture content and density so using a volume measurement such as a tablespoon or nondescript “scoop” doesn’t tell us much about our coffee recipe. Green coffee loses about 20% of its weight during roasting and there are a lot of factors that can impact the final weight.

The standard for measuring coffee is grams of coffee to milliliters of water. For drip, pour over and filter coffee the mostly widely recommend ratio is 1 gram of coffee to 16.7 ml of water (based off 60 grams coffee per liter of water or 30 grams for 500 ml). Recommended ratios can vary from 1:15 to 1:18, but the best way we can modulate our coffee taste is to adjust the grind size not to adjust the ratio. Since one milliliter of water weighs exactly one gram this makes doing pour over on a scale easy, take the amount of coffee you have multiplied by 16.7 and that is how many grams of water you need to pour. Or take the amount of water you want to use in milliliters and divide by 16.7 for how much coffee to use.

The term “cups” is confusing because in the coffee world it can mean 4 ounces, 5 ounces, 150 ml or 8 ounces depending on the manufacturer of the brewer. You can use a large measuring cup to figure out what your brewer’s markings mean.

I was helping a friend with their coffee recipe once and they told me they used a certain number of tablespoons for every cup of water, once I figured out if they were talking about 4, 5, or 8 ounce cups and I figured out the rough weight of one tablespoon of their coffee, I found out they were using a 1:28 brew ratio, which is a really diluted coffee.

Check our our post about kitchen scales.

Check out the brew recipe guide below and others on the resources page. I find this useful as I measure my water going into the brewer with a 1 liter measuring cup and disregard the markings on the machine.

If you really can’t weigh out coffee every day because you don’t have a scale at work, are traveling or just don’t want to deal with it, what you can do to try and improve your coffee recipe is, for each type of coffee you use, weigh how much one “scoop” is so you can try to hit the correct ratio when brewing. For me using a level “scoop” that came with my grinder I get between 10 to 11 grams of coffee, which isn’t that exact, but at least I have a baseline for roughly how many scoops I need. For example, to get 30 grams for a 500 ml brew would be about 3 scoops.

Another way is that if you have a grinder with a timer like I do, you can figure out how many seconds it takes to grind your desired amount. Not always exact, but better than nothing. If you use this method you can keep beans in your grinder hopper if you stick with one type of coffee bean. I often change my brew size so this wouldn’t work well for me, if you have a daily brew size it may work for you. Some higher end grinders include a scale and the option to dose by weight or to program grind times for different doses.

I mentioned before that my process is to keep my grinder hopper empty and weigh out my coffee beans then grind until empty. I found this the best way as I rotate through a lot of different types of coffee throughout the week. Most grinders do retain some grounds so if you don’t want to mix your coffees give your grinder a good cleaning when switching out coffee or you can grind a few grams of your new coffee to flush out the old grounds before dosing. With larger brews this makes less of a difference so I usually just switch coffees without worrying about retention. They have grinders made and marketed for low retention, but they are usually well into the $400 to $800 price range.