The Importance of a Coffee Scale
I used to eyeball things when it came to dosing my coffee. Grind enough to fill the portafilter, and scrape off any remaining coffee much like measuring a cup of flour. And while there is a time-tested technique of grinding a mound of coffee, leveling and tamping introducing a scale into this process can change everything, whether you're pulling shots or just using a coffee maker. Let's start with the video below.
Why Coffee Scales are Important
- Accuracy – When it comes to perfecting good coffee, finding the right ratio of ground coffee to water is essential. Different beans can be more or less dense, making voluemetric measurements inaccurate compared to weighted measurements. Further, the volume of your espresso can vary widely depending on freshness and roast level, making a scale that much more useful in seeing your true brew ratio.
- Consistency and Repeatability – Once coffee and water are measured, a scale enables you to repeat this with the same result every time!
- Reducing Waste – When using a grind time function on your grinder it is often easy to grind more coffee than you'll use, resulting in wasted coffee. Using weighted single doses can reduce your waste almost entirely.
- Experimentation – Using a scale allows you to play around with different espresso brew ratios so you can find that perfect shot. Some coffees 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. If you want more control over the flavor of your coffee, or you simply like to geek out and find different flavors in each roast, a scale is an invaluable tool.
Different Scales for Different Brew Methods
A scale can be useful for all different methods of coffee. For automatic drip coffee makers, french press/immersion, pour overs, iced coffee, AeroPress, etc, a scale will be more accurate than using a tablespoon to measure and can greatly increase the flavor of your preferred method. Once again, it is all about finding the right ratio between coffee/water and being able to repeat that result every time. For espresso, it will allow you to take things to the next level and will eliminate a lot of frustration and wasted shots.
How to Use a Scale When Making Espresso
Step 1: Place your empty (and dry) portafilter on the scale and tare it.
Step 2a: For single dosing, weigh approximately 18 grams for a double basket, or 20 grams for a triple basket. Pour the whole beans into the empty hopper and grind.
Step 2b: For timed dosing, manually grind into your portafilter until the grinds fill the basket and begin to peek over the rim. Weigh your portafilter again to check that you have the proper dose for that basket size – 14g for a single basket, 18g for a double, and 20g for a triple. Add or remove grinds as necessary to achieve this dose. Take note of the time spent grinding to calibrate your timed dose setting.
Step 3: Tamp the grinds and lock the portafilter into your machine's group head.
Step 4: Tare the cup you’re going to pull your shot into and place the cup and scale on the drip tray. You can now begin pulling your shot! Make sure to take note of the weight of you liquid espresso and time when you stop your shot.
Brew ratio and shot time can have a dramatic impact on the flavor you taste in your coffee. We recommend Starting off with a brew ratio of 1:1.5 (for instance a 20g dose and a 30g shot of espresso), aiming for shot times of 25 - 30 seconds.
Our Three Favorite Scales:
Acaia Lunar $225
Pros: At about 4 inches square, this little espresso scale fits perfectly only any drip tray. It weighs to the tenth of a gram, is rechargeable, has a built-in timer, and offers multiple auto-tare and auto-start modes that make it easy to weigh and time your shots. Acaia also offers an app that pairs with the scale to offer data collection and recipe saving functionality. It's also water resistant and has an all-aluminum casing making it the most durable option on the market. This is our favorite espresso scale here at Clive.
Cons: At $220 it's substantially more expensive than other coffee scales.
Pros: This compact coffee scale is fast, waterproof, has a built-in timer, is accurate to the tenth of a gram, and is small enough to fit on most espresso machine drip trays. A fantastic scale for the price.
Cons: We haven't found any yet.
Acaia Pearl $140
Pros: Like it's little brother, the Pearl is rechargeable, weighs down to the tenth of a gram, and has a built-in timer and automatic functionality alongside Acaia's handy app. The Pearl is designed with pour over in mind with its large surface and heat pad, but it works wonderfully for weighing the dose in bottomless or spouted portafilters.
Cons: At $140 the Pearl is still relatively expensive, and it's a bit too large to fit under many group heads.