Compared to wine or chocolate, fresh coffee is an uncertain thing. It has no real, fixed character until someone ‘extracts’ the coffee into a beverage by brewing it. And how that brewing is done can make a huge difference. To give yourself control over coffee flavour, nothing beats getting control of the variables.
The way to do this is by using a recipe. Good coffee roasters will give you a recommended recipe that will allow you to experience each product just the way they intended. For example, a recipe may state that you should use 20g of ground coffee and extract 40g of espresso for a double shot. Maybe you want to follow the roaster’s recipe exactly, or maybe you will come up with your own personalised version. In either case, two key things to control for best results are how much ground coffee you use and how much water you use to carry flavour into your cup.
But why should you do this with scales, rather than scoops, measuring glasses, jugs or other traditional tools?
Here are a few key advantages:
- Quickest results. With scales, you can directly use brewing recommendations from coffee roasters, which are now nearly always stated in grams
- Get more consistent results. Scoops give you a different gram weight with each type of coffee and each time you scoop. Measuring glasses can be hard to use when coffee is fresh and there’s lots of crema. Scales avoid both these problems.
- Avoid mess. No need to transfer liquids from measuring glasses to cups (which also kills your crema).
- Minimise waste. You can save money by weighing out just the right amount of beans for grinding, or milk for steaming
- Reduce complexity and clutter in your coffee setup. A single set of scales can be used to measure your beans, ground coffee, hot water, espresso beverage and even milk
- Explore and enjoy more. Using recipes and scales can help you get quickly to best results for a wide variety of coffees and different brewing methods. Some modern products really do rely on tight control of variables to come out tasting their best.
Six quick tips for choosing scales:
- Look for a scale that can work on any surface. Some that register weight through their feet don’t perform well on an uneven surface (such as the drip tray of your espresso machine)
- Look for a resolution of 0.1g
- If you’re making espresso, make sure the scale is thin enough to put on your machine’s drip tray and still leave room for your cups
- If you intend to make drip coffee, look for a scale with a large enough platform to hold your drip pot safely
- For getting realtime information (e.g. as your coffee pours out) a relatively fast response time is needed
- The more water resistant the scale, the less careful you will need to be with it