Weighing the Options!
When I first started making coffee at home I used to eyeball everything: How much coffee to put in my Portafilter or how much liquid espresso to yield. And when making a filter coffee I would often spoon coffee by the recommended scoop.
Using a scale to weigh our coffee and espresso can seem extreme when first starting to brew coffee at home. Let's be honest, it can be difficult to do much thinking before your first morning cup. I get it! But there is a step you should be adding to every method of brewing coffee at home. I know, I know. Using a scale to brew coffee? Trust me, it’s worth it.
A coffee scale will change the way you brew coffee. Your brew will be tastier, more balanced, and repeatably delicious every single morning!
Here's why I believe you need to incorporate a scale into your everyday coffee brews, and a few options to purchase.
When trying to brew the best cup of coffee possible, accuracy is essential to the best cup of coffee! When starting out with coffee, many of us use the volumetric approach to measuring our doses and brew ratios. The problem with this, is that each coffee can be more or less dense, making voluemetric measurements inaccurate compared to weighted measurements. Further, the volume of your coffee and espresso can vary widely depending on freshness and roast level, making a scale that much more useful in seeing your true brew ratio.
We'll save brew ratios for another time, but a standard rule of thumb for filter coffee is a 1:16 ratio of dry coffee to water.
This has to be one of the most beneficial reasons for using a scale. Once coffee and water are measured, a scale enables you to repeat this with the same result every time! Ever brew an AMAZING cup of coffee, but when you try to repeat a recipe it just isn't the same? Weigh your coffee! You'll get more similar results every single time.
But what if you don’t need a scales help? What if you’re already consistent?
I really hate to say it, but unfortunately you’re not. And here’s why:
Every coffee has a different density. Maybe you recently purchased an Ethiopian coffee and are using two scoops per brew. Those two scoops might weigh 20 grams. But before this you bought a Costa Rican coffee and were using two scoops for that brew as well and you loved it! Those two scoops from the Costa Rican coffee may have only weighed 16 grams.
Because of your love for your Costa Rican results you feel that the Etiopian coffee should taste good with two scoops. But you've got an extra 4 grams of coffee in your brew and your ratios are much higher than that of the Costa Rican! All of a sudden your coffee is bitter, over extracted and leaving a dry taste in your mouth.
To add to this depending on which coffee you are buying you may have different weight from scoop to scoop of the same bag. Coffee blends will have different coffee varietals from different regions having different densities. One scoop of your house blend from your favourite roaster may have a different weight than another identical scoop.
Using a scale allows you to play around with different espresso brew ratios so you can find that perfect shot. It allows you to experiment with a new coffee to find the cup of your dreams! Some espressos will taste better with a 1:2 ratio (for example, 20 grams of ground coffee to 40 grams of liquid espresso) which can mellow the body and highlight subtle notes, while other coffees may have a more satisfying body at a 1:1 ratio.
Like I mentioned earlier a brew ratio of 1:16 is very standard for most filter coffee methods. But maybe you're a fan of dark roasts and want to add dairy to your cup? First, I'll pray for you. But you may want to make a stronger cup by using less water and more coffee!
Which Scale to buy?
When it comes to which scale to purchase, in theory any kitchen scale will do the job. As long as is measures in grams and is small enough to fit on your espresso machine drip tray.
But as brewing at home has become more popular and weighing coffee become more standardized we have seen manufacturers design and release scales designed for brewing your favourite cup of Joe! Here are my personal favourites, from budget friendly to barista competition ready.
Budget Friendly: NEXT-SHINE Digital Kitchen Series Scale
If money is tight, (there is a world pandemic happening while writing this), you may be wondering if there are any decent budget options.
The Next-Shine Kitchen scale is nothing extraordinary or fancy but it is a scale that will get the job done.
It is small in size, perfect for an espresso machine but large enough for your favourite pour over carafe. It may not have all the bells and whistles, and may have its flaws but at this price can you really complain? Not much else to say about this one! If you want a very cheep scale this is the one for you.
Find it HERE
Highly Recommended: Hario Scale with Timer
One of my personal favourites is the Hario Scale with Timer. This little scale is a reliable piece of tech and one of the original scales designed for coffee!
I've personally owned this scale for four years with no signs of this thing slowing down. It truly is a great scale for the person who wants to step up their coffee game and buy right the first time.
One of the pro's about the Hario Scale is its built in timer. Timing your brews and Espresso shots is as crucial to a good cup as your ratios, so this feature is a nice touch.
One con about this device is its size for Espresso. Depending on your machine this scale can be long and awkward to sit on the drip tray of your machine. Do some research and find out if it will work for you.
Serious about Espresso?: Brewista Smart Scale II
Want to step up your espresso game? The Brewista Smart Scale is a great little scale that any barista would love to use.
It's water resistant with manual and programmed automated modes for your Pour Over and Espresso. If you’re looking for a decent scale to continually make better, more consistent brews, then this is the scale for you.
If you were hoping to get the Hario Scale but its size is holding you back, this Smart Scale is a great option and will last you for years to come.