We are well aware that proportion is a vital fundamental in brewing coffee. And in the specialty coffee world, coffee scales are pretty much important. With coffee scales, we can easily identify the accurate amount of coffee and water used in brewing. This allows us to end up with a consistent cup every time.
Even if that is the case, not everyone owns a coffee scale in their household. In addition, spending 20 dollars on this tool may seem a little too much especially if you’re still new to coffee.
Some of us may get worried and feel the pressure of getting themselves a functioning coffee scale for their home brews. However, not possessing this tool doesn’t mean you’re going to compromise quality completely.
In this article we are going to discuss different ways you can have control over your brew’s proportions. We will be going through some tools available in your kitchen that you could still utilize to make a rich, flavorful cup–without having to use a coffee scale at all!
The Golden Ratios
The best coffee to water ratio really depends on one’s preferences. However, there’s a proportion that people deem the sweet spot–the Golden Ratios.
So, what exactly is the Golden Ratio? To be specific, it’s 1:15-18 coffee to water ratio. That means for every gram of coffee, you should use 15-18 grams of water. With this range, you will be able to produce a cup of coffee that’s balanced. At the same time, there will be the right amount of bitterness, acids, and sweetness to your brew.
The golden ratio allows all the elements of your cup to be consistently in harmony. And just like what we’ve always known about coffee and water proportions, using too much water may lead to a weaker cup that’s too bitter for the palate. Meanwhile, too little water risks the possibility of too much concentration and unpleasantly sour flavor notes.
Using The Golden Ratio Without A Coffee Scale
We all know that brewing coffee would be easier with a coffee scale. All you have to do is weigh everything–from the beans to the water–and the scale just shows you how much you’ve already put there.
On the other hand, when luck doesn’t hand us with a coffee scale to use, we have to be a little more creative. Two kitchen tools we can use are a tablespoon and a measuring cup. While using these, you should remember two thing: a leveled tablespoon of coffee will be around 4-7 grams and that 1 gram of water is equal to 1 milliliter of water as well.
How To Find The Right Ratio
For example, you’re planning to brew one 8oz mug coffee. What do you do?
- Since an 8oz cup is about 225ml, measure your brewing water using this amount before pouring it into your kettle.
- Suppose you’re going for the 1:15 golden ratio. In that case, divide your total water by your chosen ratio–225ml divided by 15 equals 15 grams of coffee.
- Since we’ve already known that a tablespoon generally holds 5 grams of beans, you’ll be needing 3 tablespoons for this recipe.
Let’s say this time you need three 8oz cups of joe. What do you do?
- Since we’re talking about a total of 24oz of coffee, that’s about 680ml of liquid.
- This time, let’s say you want a 1:17 ratio. All you have to do is divide the weight of the water to 17 to get the amount of coffee you will need–680ml divided by 17 equals 40 grams of beans.
- Since each levelled tablespoon is around 5 grams of coffee, divide 40 by 5 and you get 8 tablespoons.
So, what if you have 10 leveled tablespoons of coffee beans, how do you know how much brewing water you should have?
- Just multiply 10 tablespoons by 5–gives you 50 grams of coffee.
- And then, multiply the total weight of coffee by the golden ratio you chose to get the amount of water you will need.
- For example, you want a 1:16 ratio–that’s 50 times 16 and you get 800ml of water. And now you can start brewing.
If you don’t have a coffee scale, mathematics would really come in handy in order for you to produce a great brew. If you’re not so great at mental calculations, grab your phone and start the calculator app. Finally, don’t forget to write down all your experimented recipes so you wouldn’t have to do the math all the time!
Drawbacks and Limitations
Since we’re not using accurate scales, a leveled tablespoon would not be equal to 5 grams of coffee beans all the time. Factors such as the size and density of the bean come to place. Beans coming from different regions and roast profiles come in different sizes. Also, one tablespoon of one coffee may either be more or less than 5 grams.
So, what exactly happens when these issues happen?
Let’s say one day you decide to brew a cup of coffee using a 1:16 ratio and three tablespoons of coffee–and the brew tastes immaculate. However, when you open a new whole bean bag, your cup wouldn’t taste the same anymore even with the same proportions. And you realize that one tablespoon of the new coffee already weighs 7 grams.
This means that the 1:16 ratio isn’t the ideal recipe anymore and that you’ve been using 5 to 10 grams of extra beans. In return, the supposed 1:16 ratio suddenly becomes 1:12 without you even realizing it. And because of this, some of the sweeter notes of the coffee weren’t extracted and only the acids end up in your cup, producing an overpowering sour experience.
Proportion truly is a very important factor in brewing coffee. And while having a coffee scale is ideal for precision, this should not hinder you from making your favorite cup if you don’t have it.
Utilize what you’ve learned today and remember the golden ratios every time you’re ready to brew. Enjoy discovering your ideal ratio, enjoy experimenting with your brewing talent!