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Measuring Coffee

brewing tools

In future posts I’ll go into more detail about how to tweak other variables that will have an impact on your coffee flavor. As I pointed out earlier, the grinder is the most link of your coffee making chain. Without a good grinder, it is very hit or miss – all too often the latter.

But how much coffee should you use? And how much water? There are not fixed and firm rules about this, just suggestions. But for this post we’ll just discuss how much coffee. The first thing to think about is what do we mean by “much”. If you are not measuring your coffee, you will not have consistency from morning to morning. You know your new grinder is consistent, but if today you add 15% more or tomorrow 15% less, we’re talking about a swing of 30%! This is going to make a big difference in the cup, (as coffee professionals say).

For years I made coffee by measuring spoon. I’d dip into the bag and count the spoonfuls. If I felt my coffee was a bit too strong, the next day I’d add a bit less. Then I realized something: different coffees from different regions weigh different amounts but take up the same volume. So, a spoon of Columbian might weigh ten percent less than a spoon of a hard Peru. What this means is that there is really no way to accurately measure coffee except by weight. I have a gram scale and I weigh my coffee (40 grams for a No. 6 filter) every morning.

Gram scales are very cheap and convenient. The Ozeri is very nice, but it does use those small round batteries. The Etekcity scale would also work well as a general kitchen scale and uses two AAA batteries, which are easy to get or have around.  I recommend a scale, BUT if this is starting to get to obsessive for you, then just use a coffee scoop and realize when you get a new coffee you might have to adjust the amount of coffee a bit.

How much is to taste? Most people don’t make 40 grams (a quart) of coffee at once every morning. But keep in mind, that the less you make, the more important your measurements are. If I’m off by 4 grams, and instead of 40 I have 44, I might taste it if I’m thinking of it. But it’s only about a 10% error. If I’m off by 4 grams in a 20 gram batch (a No. 4 filter), that’s an error of 20%! You’ll taste that most likely.

Bottom line: You don’t need to get obsessively obsessive here! But being consistent will overall help your coffee quality. That means using a coffee scoop and no “heaping” measures. Each one should be the same. If your coffee tastes pretty good, but is a bit too strong, add a bit less. You could, by the way, also adjust your nice consistent grinder to be a bit coarser.

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