When and why I use digital coffee scales before brewing. 

Digital coffee scalesUsing digital coffee scales to weigh the coffee before brewing.

When I tell you I sometimes use scales to weigh my coffee to the nearest gram before brewing, you might be forgiven for thinking I’m a total coffee nerd.

Not so. 

Most of the time I don’t even use a coffee scoop. I simply measure by sight using the nearest spoon that comes to hand.

I have two modes as a gourmet coffee drinker.

The first mode is when I simply want a cup of coffee. For this purpose I use a drip brewer, add coffee to the filter by eye and wait for my dark and glorious brew to be ready.

I don’t use the best coffee – although I use good coffee – and I don’t fret about the exact amount of ground coffee, the exact amount of water, and so on. I’m just making coffee.

In my second mode as a coffee drinker, everything changes.

This is when I want to taste all the flavors and nuances of a particular bean or blend.

When I’m in serious tasting mode I pay very close attention to how I brew the coffee.

  • I grind the coffee to the correct degree of coarseness 
  • I measure the coffee grinds to the nearest gram
  • I measure the water to the nearest fluid ounce
  • I make sure the water is at exactly the right temperature
  • I make sure all the coffee grinds are evenly exposed to the water
  • I watch the clock to make sure the water and coffee are in contact for the right amount of time

So yes, I use digital scales. And I make the coffee using my Chemex brewer, so I have complete control.

You might think this sounds like a lot of fuss for nothing. But that’s not true if you want to get the very, very best from a really good coffee bean.

It turns out that while making coffee is pretty simple, it’s not so easy to make the perfect cup of coffee. If you are just a little off with the proportion of water to coffee grinds, you’ll miss the mark.

The same goes for the temperature of the water, and for the time it takes for the water to drip through the coffee. These factors can make a big difference.

So when do I get fussy and brew my coffee carefully?

Certainly I brew in this way when making coffee that has been sent to us for review. If a roaster has gone to the trouble and expense of sending us some of their coffee, it’s only fair that I take some care when brewing it.

But I also brew in this persnickety way for another reason. Sometimes I just want to experience the pleasure of doing something right. When you make coffee manually, using a Chemex, coffee dripper or press pot, it becomes a hands-on experience.

And in the same way a pastry chef might take pride in preparing the dough in just the right way to make fabulous pastry, a coffee lover can enjoy the same kind of satisfaction when making coffee.

Why digital scales and not just a coffee scoop?

I guess I could use a coffee scoop, if only I could find one that leveled out at exactly the right volume. I have three coffee scoops at home. All are different in size. And none measure the correct amount of coffee to within even the nearest 2 or 3 grams.

That’s why, when I really want to get it right, I use scales.

There are various brands of digital coffee scales, many of which you can find on Amazon, if you can’t find any locally. 

The scales I use, which you can see in the photo above, is the Escali Arti, also available on Amazon.

If you just like to make a decent cup of Joe, you don’t need scales. But if you really want to get the very best from a coffee, you do.

About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…

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