why measuring coffee by weight matters
If you go to your favorite hipster, third wave coffee shop, you’re likely to see your barista weighing your shot or your pour over. Weighing the coffee, rather than relying on a tablespoon measure, might be an additional step - but it’s an important step.
Need convincing? There’s a few elements at play here: precision, variability, repeatability.
If you treat coffee like a science, one of the most important elements in understanding how your brew will taste is consistency. Consistency in measurement, consistency in process. Consistency helps you understand how changes in technique or brew altered the flavors you were able to extract. It helps you isolate certain decisions, which might have made for a better (or worse) coffee. This is how you’re able to improve your coffee little by little, and once you’ve found your recipe, to brew it that way each day.
This consistency means that measuring coffee grounds by weight is critical.
Difference in beans means that not every tablespoon is a tablespoon
As we looked into in a previous post, a tablespoon of coffee might weigh differently based on what roast of coffee you’re using. Coffee beans ground finer will tend to weigh more for the same volume, partially because you can more efficiently pack them into the space. Coffee beans ground more coarsely don’t fit into the space as uniformly, leaving more space for air (and therefore, weighing less). Roast matters too. Light roast beans are typically heavier than dark roast because they’ve had less of their solubles burned off during the roasting process. Ensuring that you’re tracking by weight will ensure that you’re getting the same amount of stuff with every brew.
Even if every bean weighed the exact same, and was ground the exact same way, volume is still imprecise because of how we measure it: with our eyes! Trying to make sure that the tablespoon or cup is level, that it isn’t packed, that it really is full: these concepts are all subjective. Some instructions suggest to use a heaping tablespoon, others suggest level tablespoons, but there’s no consistent standard. But a gram is always a gram. An ounce is an ounce. There’s no human fallibility when you’re measuring, so there’s less that could go wrong.
Solving for the bean roast and grind, and the volume used, is hard enough when you’re the one brewing coffee each day. But it becomes even more difficult to then communicate this to other people. Perception of volume and understanding of grind sizes might differ between two different coffee brewers. If everything is measured by weight, there’s a less chance that things will be lost between recipes. When you tell your friend how you’re brewing your coffee, how you’ve made it taste so good - you can be sure that your friend will be able to recreate your brewing instructions. And if they don’t, not your problem.
If you want to use the resources from industry groups like the Specialty Coffee Association or the National Coffee Association, their suggestions and recommendations for brewing will be in grams and ounces. The industry works this way, so it’s easy to fall in line.
So consider measuring by weight. You’ll need a scale, but the extra step is worth it. We promise.