When we brew coffee, we are essentially dissolving a percentage of the ground coffee with hot water. A cup of filter coffee is, at a minimum, 98% water. This means that the tiny 2% of coffee solids in the cup have transformed plain water into the glorious, fruity, and chocolatey cup of coffee we are drinking!
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Given that, it is safe to say that coffee is an incredibly strong flavoring agent. Now, the difference between a delicious cup of coffee and one that is too strong or too weak might be down to a few grams of ground coffee. This is why pretty much all cafes use scales these days. Scales are the only way of knowing exactly how much coffee we are using and exactly how much water we are adding to it.
What Is a Coffee Scale
A coffee scale refers to a scale that we use specifically for measuring and brewing coffee. But what’s the difference between a coffee scale and a regular kitchen scale? Two main things — the accuracy of the scale and a timer.
When we are brewing coffee, the difference between using 13 grams of coffee and using 14 grams of coffee can make a big difference in the cup. The same thing goes for water — if we plan on using 300g of water but instead go over by 20g, this too can have a negative impact on our cup of coffee, leaving it tasting a little weak. We need a coffee scale to be super accurate, down to 0.1 of a gram. The more accurate our set of scales is, the more consistent our brewing will be.
Whether you’re timing the pours of a V60 recipe or counting the time for an AeroPress brew, a timer is an essential piece of brewing equipment. And while many people are happy using the timer on their trusty iPhone, or using a stopwatch, having a timer built directly into the scales is a really nice feature to have. Not all scales have this feature, but many do.
Benefits of Using a Coffee Scale
By far, the biggest benefit of using a coffee scale is consistency, hands down. But there are multiple either benefits that come along with this one.
Scale and Timer
As opposed to a regular kitchen scale, many coffee scales, like those made by Hario and Acaia, include a timer in their feature set. This is super handy— not needing a separate timer or stopwatch.
If you’ve just made a delicious cup of coffee, the only way to brew that same coffee, again and again, is with the use of a timer and a scale. We need to not only know exactly how much coffee we used but also how much water we poured onto that coffee.
Scales aren’t just good for pour-over style coffees either — cold brew can also benefit from using scales. The cold brew coffee brewing method is simple, yet it requires precise measurements of coffee and water in order to get repeatable results.
Use the Right Amount of Coffee
Coffee is quite a strong flavored ingredient. The difference taste-wise between a brew containing 20g of coffee vs. a brew containing 23g is pretty massive. A scale provides us with a way of knowing exactly how much coffee is going into our brew. This will lead to better-tasting coffee and possibly using fewer coffee thanks to over-estimation being taken out of the equation.
Scales can also be great when using standard varieties of instant coffee — knowing exactly how much to use can help curb the chances of those bitter flavors coming through. A scale is also incredibly handy when making bulletproof coffee — not only to measure out the correct amount of coffee but also the butter, MCT oil and water that need to be used. Bulletproof coffee can serve as a breakfast replacement and measuring exact portions can improve the taste dramatically.
You Can Follow Brew Recipes
The ability to weigh your coffee as you are brewing opens up the exciting world of brew recipes! Recreate competition brews down to the second and follow unique recipes for the best siphon coffee maker as used by specialty cafes in Japan!
How Does a Coffee Scale Work
The basic functions of most coffee scales are actually super simple — they have an on/off button, a tare button, and if the particular scale in question has a timer, a stop/start button. The on/off button is probably self-explanatory, so we’ll skip that one! The tare button is used to zero out the scale — if you place your grinder on the scale and press tare, the scale will now read zero, allowing you to measure the weight of your coffee only. The stop/start button will control the timer. Some of the higher-end coffee scales have an auto-start feature, which begins the timer as soon as the scale detects that you’ve begun pouring your water for the brew.
Pros and Cons of Coffee Scales
- A scale makes it easy to repeat your favorite brews
- You may end up using less coffee
- A scale can be used to measure the ingredients of other drinks too
- Scales can be very inexpensive
- You’ll need to choose and buy a scale
- Some scales aren’t waterproof, meaning you’ll need to be careful when pouring
How to Choose the Best Coffee Scale
As simple as a scale might seem, there are so many small nuances that make or break a great coffee scale. From the way it charges to its portability and accuracy, let’s take a look at what makes a great coffee scale.
The size of the perfect coffee scale depends on your brewing method. If you are brewing espresso, you’ll want to choose something small — small enough to fit under the cup that collects the coffee from the portafilter. If you are brewing mostly pour-over coffees, you need to make sure the scale has a large enough platform to comfortably accommodate your carafe.
Ideally, we want a coffee scale that is accurate down to 0.1 of a gram. While you can certainly get away with a scale that is accurate to half a gram, or 0.5, is it always better to be more accurate if you can.
All digital scales include a tare function. It is essential. Some scales, though, go a step beyond and include an auto-tare function. This is where a vessel of some sort, maybe a grinder or a cup, is placed on the scale — the scale will detect this and automatically tare the scale for you. This is an optional feature and one that can be toggled on and off.
While not standard on all coffee scales, a timer is a great feature to include. It just helps minimize the number of objects you need in order to brew a cup of coffee. A classic example of a coffee scale with a timer is the Hario V60 drip scale — simple, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive.
Scales can be delicate things, and having a spill or water leakage over one can mean the end of that particular scale. Just like the world’s best mug warmer, a coffee scale too should be at least water-resistant. Water-resistance is particularly important if you are using your scale with an espresso machine.
Are you too a mega coffee geek that wants to bring a coffee scale along with your AeroPress and grinder while away on holidays or on a camping trip? If this sounds like you, then you’ll probably need a coffee scale that is slimmed down and easily fits into a backpack.
Auto Shut Off
Some scales have an auto shut off function. While on some scales, this function can be togged on and off, on others, the auto shut off function is a permanent feature. This is not an ideal feature for a coffee scale, and here’s why: If you leave your scale and walk away or do something else for 40 seconds, and the scale is inactive, it will automatically shut off. This can happen at the end of the brew while the coffee is still dripping, though, or it might happen after you’ve weighed out your coffee and are getting ready to brew. Either way, the auto shut off feature can be a little frustrating and should be avoided.
How is the scale powered? Is it a USB chargeable, does it use batteries, or does it require a wall outlet? Which is best is up to you and what you like. USB chargeable is certainly becoming the most common on high-end digital scales and does make the most sense these days.
Do you have a beautiful white kitchen countertop that is just screaming for a matching white scale? Or maybe that pop of color is what your kitchen needs. There are some absolutely beautiful coffee scales available in almost every color and design you might want — a scale to match your alarm clock that also brews coffee? Check. Use a recyclable coffee pod holder and want something that will match? Easy!
No-one wants to recharge a device or replace batteries too often. A scale with poor battery life is not only frustrating, but if it takes batteries, it is also bad for the environment. Scales generally aren’t power-hungry, so this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Like a French press travel mug can have a no-leak lid and stainless steel mug is resilient to corrosion and is leakproof, a coffee scale too can have multiple special features. These may include an auto-start timer, pour-speed practice and even brew guides build into the scale!
How to Use a Coffee Scale
Coffee scales are super simple to use and will improve your coffee game dramatically. So let’s get down to it and brew a V60 using coffee scales!
For this recipe, we’ll follow a classic bloom and 2 pours pattern (if this doesn’t make sense, it will in a moment). For this recipe, we will use 36.6 grams of coffee and end up with 600g, or about 600ml of brewed coffee. If you want to brew a smaller size, say 300ml, just cut the coffee and water amounts mentioned in half.
- Boiling water
- V60 paper filter
- Timer (if the scale doesn’t include it)
- Pour-over kettle (optional)
Step 1 — Prepare
First, boil your water. Rinse the paper filter in the V60 using hot water. This will not only rinse the filter but will also preheat the brewer and the carafe or mug.
Step 2 — Grind the coffee
Next, turn on your scales. Place an empty container on the scales and press tare (T). Add 36.6 grams of coffee to the container. Transfer the coffee beans from the container to the grinder and grind the coffee at a medium grind size, similar in texture to table salt.
Step 3 — Add coffee to the brewer
Transfer the ground coffee to the V60. Shake the V60 to level out the coffee bed, then make a small hole in the coffee bed, just like you are about to plant a seed.
Step 4 — Brew
Press start on the timer and quickly pour 90g of water over the coffee. Try to pour the water evenly and try to wet each particle of coffee evenly. Now give the V60 a swirl. The idea here is to make sure all the grinds are wet. Don’t be concerned about being too rough— the coffee can take it! This step is called the bloom, and we will let this sit for 40 seconds.
Step 5 — First pour
When the timer reads 0:40, we’ll begin our first pour. We’ll pour in a circular motion, evenly over the coffee, until the scale reads 360g. This should take around 40 seconds. Once you’ve finished pouring, pick up the V60 and give it another swirl. The swirl this time will level out the coffee bed. Let this begin to drain.
Step 6 — Second pour
At around 1:40, we will begin the second and final pour. Pour in fairly slow and even circular motion. We want to be finished pouring, with the scale reading 600g by 2:30. Perform one final swirl of the V60. This swirl, again, is to level out the brew bed and allow all of the coffee to extract evenly.
Step 7 — Drain
Let the coffee drain. This should take around 1 minute. Total brew time will be close to 3:30, depending on the coffee and your exact grind size.
Step 8 — Enjoy
Give your brewed coffee a stir and a good smell, then enjoy!
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
As with most coffee gear, spending more does buy you a higher quality product. But a more expensive coffee scale may not result in better-tasting coffee.
Take Keurig and Nespresso coffee makers, for example — both Keurig and Nespresso offer rich tasting coffee, so spending more on a machine doesn’t necessarily mean better-tasting coffee. It does, on the other hand, mean a more reliable, longer-lasting machine in most cases.
An expensive scale won’t necessarily make your coffee taste any better than a cheap scale will. So long as both scales are accurate, the coffee that can be produced using both scales should be equal. The difference between the two scales, and the point where higher quality comes in, will be reliability, longevity and accuracy.
Do’s and Don’ts With Coffee Scales
- Do use coffee scales! They really will elevate your coffee brewing by a huge amount!
- Do pay attention to the special features. Some scales have really cool features that you might know you need until you have it!
- Do choose the best scale you can afford. A good scale will last a long time and will serve you well.
- Don’t use a non-water resistant scale with an espresso machine.
- Don’t wash your scale using water. It is an appliance, so it should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth and properly dried.
FAQ About Coffee Scales
What is the difference between a kitchen scale and a coffee scale?
A coffee scale is usually accurate down to 0.1 of a gram. A coffee scale also often includes features such as a timer, auto-tare and is often water-resistant.
Does my coffee scale need a timer?
While a timer isn’t essential on a coffee scale, it is handy. If your scale doesn’t have a timer, you can always just use the timer on your phone or watch.
Why use a coffee scale?
The only way to accurately repeat the delicious brew you made yesterday is by using a coffee scale. With a coffee scale, we can know exactly how much coffee and how much water is being used in a brew.
Where to buy a coffee scale?
Amazon has plenty of options to suit pretty much any budget. Otherwise, local department stores often have a well-stocked coffee brewing gear section, as do most specialty coffee cafes and roasteries.
Can I use my digital coffee scale to measure coffee?
Absolutely! That is what your digital coffee scale is meant for! Coffee beans, ground coffee, brewed coffee — you name it!
What is the best ratio for making coffee?
As a general guideline, for French press coffee and using the AeroPress, a 1:15 ratio is good. For most pour-over coffees, a 1:16 or 1:17 ratio is perfect. Of course, this depends on the coffee and your preference. If you are brewing at a 1:15 ratio and your coffee is still lacking, check the roast level of your low acid coffee. Low acid coffees, as well as lighter roasts, can taste much weaker to some people due to their lack of acidity and bitterness.
Brewing a beautiful cup of coffee is a wonderful thing. And able to repeat that brew, time and time again, is fantastic. This is something that can only be done with the use of coffee scales. From perfectly measuring out the beans to pouring the correct amount of water, a coffee scale will have you brewing your favorite recipe the same, every time.