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.

Best Value Kitchen Scale

As I mentioned before a scale is one of the most important things you can use for better coffee. Don’t use scoops, tablespoons or volume to measure your coffee. You should weigh it and follow the ratios shown here for making filter coffee. One exception is if you know the exact weight per “scoop” of your coffee and you don’t have a scale handy, such as at the office or somewhere else.

I tested six different kitchen scales for use with pour over coffee and general kitchen use. The best one I found was the FEESPEC Coffee Scale with Timer. I tested scales from about $10 to $75 and this one worked the best. Fun trivia, a penny weights 2.5 grams and a nickel weighs 5 grams if you ever need to test a scale’s accuracy.

Here is the rundown:

  • The FEESPEC Coffee Scale with Timer, quick startup, accurate, includes a timer and accurate down to .1 grams. There is a little lag when using it for pour over, but at this price point it works well. I also like that you don’t need to long press for most functions, only to restart the timer.
  • My existing kitchen scale that I got for $10 about seven years ago, it was only accurate to 1 gram and didn’t have a timer. Worked well, but it was time for an upgrade to have better accuracy and a timer.
  • The Hario V60 Drip Scale, accurate down to .1 gram, but only has the ability to weigh in grams. Also I learned that at higher weights it starts rounding to the half gram. Living in the U.S. there are just times I need to know ounces and pounds. There was a bit of lag when using this to pour over and it also has a built in timer. Didn’t feel the scale was worth it at this price point.
  • The OXO Kitchen Scale with Timer, for the price it just didn’t perform to my expectations. The startup time was slower than the FEESPEC and requires a long press to turn it off. It is accurate down to .1 grams and has a built in timer.
  • The Salter High Precision Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Food Scale, which wasn’t actually high precision as the scale would round to the closest half gram so that was one out right away.
  • The KitchenTour Coffee Scale with Timer, this is actually the exact same scale as the FEESPEC with different branding on it so I went with the lower price model.

What is the big deal about scales? Also, are these really value scales? People who make espresso often use scales that cost $140 to $225 so these are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum for coffee scales.