By: Simon LeMay 24 November 2017
It starts off so well – you’ve bought some freshly roasted coffee beans, used a burr grinder, added them to a recommended brew method… yet for some reason your coffee tastes different to last time.
There are many factors that impact the taste of your coffee – from grind size to the time it takes to brew. Every element of coffee brewing contributes to the final cup.
But perhaps one key factor that may slip through the net is the actual amount of coffee you’re using during brewing.
The old age approach of “1 tablespoon of coffee per person” can only get you so far, and having a more accurate approach can ensure you get consistent results when you brew coffee at home, as well as ensuring you get more brews out of each bag of coffee you purchase.
So, weighing your coffee grounds and using scales each time you brew your coffee might just be more important than you think.
There are many factors that go into getting the most out of coffee, and the coffee-water ratio is one of the most important ones.
The truth is a heaped scoop can vary in density and vary in the amount of coffee. This means the ratio of coffee to water changes, which means the amount of coffee flavour extracted during brewing changes. This means your cup of coffee tastes different.
If nothing else, using weights can take you from occasionally stumbling upon a good brew of coffee and wondering how you did it, to knowing exactly how to replicate the best tasting cup you’ve had from the coffee you’re using. Repeatability of success is by far the biggest benefit of measuring anything during your coffee usage, as it is hard to do exactly what you or anyone else truly wants without providing a bit of a framework for how to target it in the first place.
For some, a rough amount of coffee is fine for getting the job done. But for those who want to get the most out of the specialty grade coffee that they buy, precision – in all aspects of brewing – is the key. This is particularly important for cafes and coffee shops, as being able to deliver great tasting coffee consistently with high repeatability lies at the heart of a cafe’s reputation.
Although worrying about a few grams here and there may seem like nothing, when talking about brew recipes that are brewing only a cup or two, those few grams either way will make a very significant difference in the overall flavour. Furthermore, the finer the grind used, the more amplified that problem becomes. So, for those of you making small volumes of coffee, the weight of coffee grounds will be immensely important to your final result in the cup, and even more important will be the quantity of water you choose to brew that coffee with.
As a little primer, it’s worth referring to something we’ve probably all tried – a ‘guess the weight game’ at a fair or carnival. Not only is it immensely difficult to gauge the number of relatively large objects in a jar, but imagine trying to then guess the amount of sand in a glass jar, and what that would weigh by equivalence.
That’s essentially what most coffee users at home are doing, but with much more ‘risk’ and cost associated with their poor guesses. 8g of coarser coffee will take up more volume than 8g of finer coffee as the latter is more densely packed, and though we might look at it and think there’s barely a difference, when it comes to brewing, that could (with only the slightest difference in grinding) be the difference between a totally unfulfilling cup of coffee, and one that is fully brewed and flavoursome!
Even the most professional and experienced baristas know that they cannot tell the difference between 15g and 17g by eye, at least for brewing methods other than espresso. So, they would not leave it to chance and simply estimate whether they would give you a good or bad coffee, they’d simply weigh it and check before making any mistake.
Weighing your coffee means you know exactly how much coffee you have. There are many ways you can measure your coffee, and this depends on how much you want to invest in it.
At the very least, dusting off your kitchen scales and having them ready for your morning brew is a great first step. For those wanting something more practical, there are coffee scales specifically designed for brewing coffee. These are usually very small, handy and practical for your home routine. Some scales may also have built in timers or other useful features so shop around for something that you’ll like. A side benefit to doing this is that any spillages of coffee will not simply go all over your worktop right away, and your scales will form a handy tray to transport any used bits and pieces to the bin after use for weighing. Good for accuracy, good for cleaning too!
Once you’ve got your scales at the ready and ground your coffee beans, you can slowly add your coffee grounds into a cup or in the brew method on the scales. Once the scales hit the recommended amount of coffee (in grams), then you’re ready to add the water. Ask us if you’re unsure about how much you actually ‘should’ be using, and when doing so please do detail your preferences for flavour, as this will be an important factor for our recommendations to your specific needs. That means whether you ultimately want to enjoy the coffee black or milky, and whether you want it to be light or heavy in character and mouthfeel.
If weighing out your coffee, don’t ruin the perfect brew by adding the wrong amount of water. Ensure you add the correct amount of water by placing your brew equipment on the scales and taring the scales before beginning to add the water.
This will all ensure you have more precision and control over the coffee-water ratio. A gooseneck kettle is recommended as it gives you an incredible amount of control over pouring and can help be more precise in how much water you add. If you really want to avoid error, we would advise weighing the water you put it into the device that you eventually pour from. No more pouring error with that technique…
We have coffee-water ratios on all our brew guides for each brew method. This is a great starting point, but by all means, get experimental and test different ratios and see if you can create your very own brew recipe!
The perfect tool for any espresso enthusiast, these scales are big enough to hold a portafilter allowing you to accurately weigh your dose when brewing espresso. They weigh in increments of 0.1g up to a maximum of 2000 grams and sit nicely on any worktop without sliding around.
15cm x 15cm in size. They also weigh up to 2kg meaning they are capable for use with almost any home brewing method, even some of the largest cafetieres! What’s the next reason we recommend these over other, perhaps more complex models? They’re cheap and so can easily be replaced without huge investment. Scales are not the most robust pieces of kit you’ll buy, and even the top quality ones have their moments of failure. By spending £20 on these, you can afford to replace them when you eventually spill some hot coffee or boiling water on them by mistake. We all do it at some stage!
These drip scales are a fantastic tool to assist you in brewing a great coffee at home. They come with touch buttons for ease of use and a built in timer which allows you to time as you weigh your pour. They are incredibly accurate weighing in 0.1g increments up to 200g and 0.5g increments for anything up to 500g.
Hario Drip Scales make the perfect partner to any manual brew method such as the V60 Ceramic dripper & Chemex and help to increase your understanding of the many variables involved with brewing coffee.
These are extremely versatile as they are fast-responding scales. Their built-in timer means they are easily used with espresso machines or any other brewing method, and again hold more than enough in their load capacity to be used with heavier brewing devices like a large Chemex or heavier cafetiere. Saves you buying a timer too, or stealing the one that may be needed for something else in the kitchen at the same time!
Acaia scales are considered one of the top performing scales on the market. They use innovative technology to deliver extremely accurate results and also include useful features for the coffee enthusiast. Designed with a built-in stopwatch so you can track coffee blooming, pre-infusion, and brewing time without a fuss. The auto-off customization will prevent your scale from shutting down during coffee brewing. They also come with apps to help provide additional brewing benefits.
If you want to make a serious investment in scales, then the Acaia scales could be the perfect choice. They are much more expensive – no doubt – but are a great training tool for developing precision in brewing. Tracking the rate at which you are adding water is the key for a dedicated barista to master flow, which is of paramount importance to repeatably create the same brew time and time again at the highest quality levels. It’s also great for verifying and regulating flow on devices where it is not up to a human to pour the water (espresso machines, some filter coffee machines and filter coffees made using stands for example).
If you’d like to learn more about brewing better coffee, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. From freshly roasted coffee, to specialist brewing courses, we’ve got a range of services to help you get more out of coffee. We also sell any of the equipment listed above at more than competitive prices, so please do let us know what you need!