How to Measure Coffee: Nail the Coffee to Water RatioCLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!
Does your coffee taste off, but you’re not sure why? Chances are you aren’t measuring your coffee properly. But how exactly do you measure the perfect coffee to water ratio? Stay tuned to find out.
Coffee to Water Ratio Calculator
Before we get into 17:1 ratio vs. 15:1 ratio and how to measure coffee for French press vs. drip coffee and so much more, here’s a quick calculator we created to make the process really simple.
Since most people are using a standard drip coffee maker and aren’t great at coffee math, we created a tool to help you out.
Just let us know how many cups of coffee you want to make and what you’re measuring with:
(This is 72 ounces of water)
Eliminating Tablespoon Confusion
As an American, when we start talking measurements like milliliters and grams my eyes glaze over.
Just give it to me in good ol’ fashioned tablespoons.
The problem is, going from grams to tablespoons in measuring coffee can be a little confusing. In fact, when I googled grams to tablespoons I got the answer of “15”:
But, when talking about measuring coffee, that just didn’t seem right to me.
So I grabbed my handy tablespoon and my coffee scale to see just how many grams of coffee you get from a tablespoon.
Here’s my very scientific experiment:
First, I took what one might a call a “heaping” tablespoon, not exactly leveled off.
I plopped it down on the scale, and it was exactly 5.0 grams. (I realized later that the digital reading didn’t show up well on my camera, but I promise it was exactly 5.0).
I played around a couple more times and tried to really level off the tablespoon and it dropped to something like 4.3 grams.
So as you’ll see later in this article, I’m not smart enough to understand all the different conversion calculators or to say they are “wrong” I just know in the world of coffee grounds, a tablespoon of coffee is going to get you about 5 grams of coffee.
That’s why you’ll see in our chart below and our calculator above, we say 10.6 grams of coffee is about 2 tablespoons.
Why Measuring Matters
In order to make a consistent cup of coffee each and every time, it’s important to develop the habit of accurate measurement. To do that, there’s no substitute for a small kitchen scale that measures in grams. With it, you can measure water, beans, and grounds.
Our preferred ratio of water to coffee beans is 500 grams (or milliliters) of water to 30 grams of whole coffee beans. Feel free to experiment, but this produces the closest thing to a universally acceptable coffee strength.
What You’ll Need
How It’s Done
*We are going to be brewing with a roughly 1:17 coffee to water ratio to brew about 2 cups of coffee using the charts below. If you don’t have a scale yet, use the volume measurements to get by.
Measure the water
Put your empty, cool kettle on the scale and hit the tare button. This resets the scale to zero so that you’ll only measure what you put in the kettle.
Then, slowly add water to the kettle until it reaches 355 grams. Once you hit the mark, set the kettle aside.
Tip: If you’re planning on boiling water, you can add a little more to compensate for water evaporation.
Measure the Beans
Reset your scale and find a clean bowl or container to place on top for your grounds. Hit the tare button to set things back to zero.
Next, either scoop beans into your container until you reach 21 grams. If you are using whole beans and grinding them fresh, you can measure weight with the whole beans before grinding them.
Now that you have the perfect amount of water and coffee, it’s time to start brewing. Add your grounds to your drip brewer‘s filter and pour the water into the reservoir.
Adjusting the Servings
That wasn’t so bad, right? The part that intimidates most people is determining how much coffee and water to use based off of their desired servings.
Because of this, brewing without an automatic drip can be daunting. Especially for those of us less mathematically inclined, nailing the coffee to water ratio can be deceptively troublesome. However, there’s no need for guesswork and mediocre coffee any more.
For reference, you can check out this great chart as a starting point, and adjust the ratios to your liking as you brew on into the future. This one roughly follows the 1:17 rule, but you can increase or decrease how much grounds you use for brewing to achieve higher or lower intensities.
However, you should not, decrease or increase the water component as you adjust. Stick to the appropriate amount of water for your brew size and change the amount of coffee you are using instead. That way, you aren’t actually affecting how much coffee is brewed, just how it tastes.
Coffee Brewing Ratio Chart
Mixing it Up
These guidelines are all fine and dandy, but what if you want a stronger or weaker brew?
Need More Power!
With drip brewers, adding extra grounds to adjust your coffee to water ratio works to strengthen your brew to an extent. 1:15 to 1:18 is considered the “golden ratio;” however, we used about a 1:17 ratio because it falls around a nice mid level of intensity. We wouldn’t really recommend going past 1:15 though because there really can be too much of a good thing.
If you add too many grounds for the amount of water you’re using, your coffee will feel muddy or heavy. Also, it probably won’t taste much stronger than a more appropriate amount would. So save your grounds and you money and don’t overdo it.
For those of you who have reached at upper limit, it may be time to invest in a darker roast or a different brewing tool altogether. Drip brewers can only do so much, and if you’re craving a straight shot of espresso, they just aren’t going to cut it.
Trying to Avoid Heart Palpitations…
On the other end of things, you can go up to a 1:18 and possibly slightly past that, though not much. This will make a lighter, weaker coffee that is better enjoyed with minimal additions.
Like with strengthening your brew at the lower end of the ratio spectrum, having too little grounds can also have problems. Not only will your coffee taste weak, it may also be overextracted. If that is the case, your coffee will taste incredibly bitter. No one wants that!
Other Brewing Methods
With Third Wave of coffee brewing in full force, there’s a good chance you’re brewing with something other than an automatic drip brewer. So below, we have a handy break down of how you should be measuring your coffee for each of the most popular brewing methods.
Keep in mind though that these are mostly just rules of thumb. As we mentioned before, changing up the coffee to water ratio is also how you change the strength of your brew. So think of these recommendations as a place to start your experimentation until you land on the combination that’s best for you!
Pro Tip: You can use the water amount per serving guidelines above for these other brewing methods as well. Just change up how much coffee you’re using.
Let’s start with cold brew, the perfectly refreshing, laid-back summer drink. Keep in mind that this type of brewing creates a concentrate, rather than a finished brew. So later down the line it will be diluted with more water, so don’t start having heart palpitations over our suggested ratios.
If you’re new to the brew, try starting with a 1:8 coffee to water ratio. This should give you a nice, mid-level strength intensity that’s suitable for most. For those of you who already know you’re going to want something stronger, try starting at 1:5.
Moving on to how to dilute it, this stage is equally dependent on your tastes, so remember to mix it up for each cup throughout your first batch. You should dilute the coffee concentrate as you drink it rather than in the carafe all at once.
You should start with a 1:2 ratio of coffee to dilutor with ice. If you aren’t an ice fan, just add a bit more water. Taste the brew and go from there, tweaking the dilution or brew ratio as needed.
Pour Over coffee is a bit more of an artful and exact science. So while you can probably get away with going scaleless for drip or cold brews, you’ll definitely need it for this method. If you’ve brewed Pour Over coffee before, you know how much of a difference having a gooseneck kettle makes. Using a scale to measure is as, if not more, important.
A good place to start your pour over journey is with a 1:17 coffee to water ratio. However, if you haven’t yet been able to get your hands on a scale, you can use 1-2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. This method won’t get you the exact same results every time, but it should be able to get the job done anyway.
Now back to another more forgiving brewer, the French Press. For those of you who are looking to achieve a stronger, bolder brew with thick, heavy flavors, start with a 1:10 ratio. People who prefer something a bit lighter or more tea-like, then start with 1:16.
Use those two ends as guidelines and adjust to fall somewhere in between as you wish. For those of you who still haven’t invested in a scale (seriously, you need to). Start with a 2 tbsp to 6 ounces of water ratio and move up or down from there.
However, because you need a coarse grind with French press brewing, there’s a lot of space between grounds. So weight is going to be much more accurate than using another measuring method.
Next up we have a team favorite, the Aeropress. This is a rather unique brewing tool. By changing your ratios up, you can achieve anything from an espresso-like concentration to something resembling your average brew.
However, unlike with the other brews, this tool actually comes with a measuring system with it. The Aeropress itself has oval markers on it labelled 1, 2, 3, and 4. It also comes with a scoop, the numbers correspond to how many scoops/servings you’re using/making, and the label position act as guides for adding water.
The brand recommends filling the press even to the 1 or 4 numbers if you use 1 or 4 scoops. If you are using 2 or 3 scoops, you can either fill to the bottom or tops of the ovals. Filling to the bottom will create a richer brew for something like a Latte and the tops will weaken the brew a bit to be more appropriate for an Americano or Long Black.
Whole Beans vs Ground Coffee
Buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself is a great way to ensure your coffee is fresh. However, does this affect how you’re measuring your coffee?
Well, if you are using a scale, not really at all. Grinders, especially hand grinders, are typically built to be low static, so your grounds shouldn’t be getting stuck much if at all. Thus, the weight of your grounds should be essentially the same once they’re ground as they were whole.
On the other hand, if you are simply using volume measurement tools, it can be a little difficult to determine how much coffee to grind. But we have a rule of thumb to help you out.
Each tablespoon holds about 5 grams of coffee, and a mL of water weights about a gram. From there, you just need to do some simple math using your chosen ratio.
Keep in mind though, that while this guesstimating may work for some brewers, it leaves a bit too much room for error with others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you need a scale to measure coffee?
For most of the brew methods above, a scale does have a significant impact on the consistency and quality of your coffee. However, the level of necessity does vary between methods.
For Pour Overs and other drip-based brewers, it is absolutely necessary to have a scale. On the other hand, it’s beneficial but not vital for immersion brews like French Press and Cold Brew. It’s nice if you want to step up your brew game, but you can get away without one.
Lastly, if you have an Aeropress, their tool is specifically designed for you to use their measuring tools. So while you certainly could use a scale to do some experimentation, using their guide will do just fine.
How do you measure coffee without a scale?
As you probably noticed on the chart we included above, there are multiple ways to measure how much coffee or water you need for a brew. If you can’t invest in a scale or are just using a brew method that exactness is less important, using your usual measuring tools will work fine.
Things like automatic drip brewers or the clever coffee dripper are designed to give you a little wiggle room on your coffee to water ratio. So if your weights are slightly off because you measured with tablespoons and cups rather than a scale, your coffee will still taste fine.
However, we do not recommend doing this with something like a Pour Over because slight variances can completely change the outcome of your brew.
Does grind size also affect coffee strength?
Yes, to an extent. With measurements and ratios, you have a good bit of wiggle room to find what works best for you personally. However, you can somewhat affect the strength of your brew by switching up how coarse or fine you are grinding your beans.
Now, this is only really applicable if you are grinding your own beans (which you should be) and have a grinder with a considerable range of sizes. For example, you can use a slightly finer grind (like a medium or medium-coarse) from your usual coarse grind, the result will be a slightly stronger brew.
A similar principle applies to the other brew, finer grinds will be a bit stronger and coarser ones will be weaker. However, this doesn’t work the same way as as adjusting the water to coffee ratio. You can adjust those measurements as much as you please for the most part.
But, if you use a grind that is too coarse or fine for the brewer you’re using your coffee will be over or under-extracted. Furthermore, if you use a grind that’s way different than what what’s appropriate for your brewer, you could end up clogging or damaging it.
Different methods and preferences will call for different measurements. Your journey down the Path of the Bean will yield a variety of approaches, so feel free to experiment. In the end, only you can decide what’s best for your cup.
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