Next to the quality of the beans and roast level, the coffee ratio is key to a great cup of coffee. This Coffee to water ratio is also called the brew ratio or coffee. It is the ratio of coffee grounds to water. You can think of the coffee ratio as the strength of your cup of coffee, but it’s not that simple. The amount of coffee to water has a tremendous impact on flavor, mouth-feel, acidity sweetness, bitterness, and complexity. Get the ratio wrong, and a great cup of coffee might be ruined. This post will take the mystery out of coffee ratios, and help you get the most out of those precious beans.
Most people who are serious about brewing coffee, use a scale to weigh the grounds. After a bit of practice, you’ll get a feel for the right ratio and may not have to use the scale, but at the beginning, a scale will ensure precision and repeatability. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a kitchen scale will do.
Everyone is familiar with drip coffee, but there are many other brewing methods to choose from. For instance, you could brew using a French Press, Aeropress, espresso machine, Moka Pott, Chemex pour-over, Vietnamese Dripper, or cold brew. Every brewing method creates a different cup of coffee, but they all require their specific coffee to water ratio. Sometimes you will select a brewing method based on convenience, available equipment, or preferred taste. When you buy our Chamberlain Night Owl Blend coffee, for example, you’ll discover notes of dark chocolate, honey sweetness, and toasted walnuts. We like to use these beans for French Press, espresso, and cold brew because that’s where the flavors shine. Each coffee brewing method uses a different coffee to water ratio, grind size, and extraction time.
No matter what method you choose to brew coffee, the fundamental principle is the exposure of the ground coffee to water. This process is referred to as extraction. In most cases, the water will be hot unless, of course, you are making a cold brew coffee. The water dissolves the flavor compounds in the coffee, so having the perfect amount of each is critical to proper extraction. Other factors include the temperature of the water, the time of the extraction, and the size of the grounds.
Understanding coffee to water ratio
The coffee to water ratio is the number of coffee grounds to water. The amount of grounds is expressed in grams and the amount of water in milliliters. This is universally accepted among baristas around the world instead of tablespoons, teaspoons, or ounces of water or coffee. A tablespoon of coffee is simply not precise enough as many people have different measures of how much a tablespoon of coffee is. That's why it's best to have a scale. So, if the ratio is 1 gram of coffee grounds to 1 milliliter of water, the ratio would be expressed as 1:1. Often, the water measurement is specified in weight rather than volume. Don’t worry, it’s easy. A milliliter of water equals 1 gram. So, a ratio of 1:1 would be 1 gram of grounded coffee beans to 1 gram of water.
The “golden ratio,” as it is called, is 1:18 or 1 gram of grounded coffee beans to 18 milliliters of water. Now, even though 1:18 is considered the ideal coffee to water ratio, there are two important considerations. First, varieties of specialty beans don’t have the same mass, roast level, or flavor profile. Second, each coffee brewing method accomplishes the extraction in its own way. For instance, with a French Press, grounds are immersed in water for a longer time than pour-over or drip coffee. It stands to reason the ideal brew ratio will be different for each method.
To start with, let’s put espresso and cold brew aside until later. Both of these methods have important considerations setting them apart from all the others. The grind size, extraction time, and method of extraction are unique for these, so we’ll skip over them for now.
Do you weigh the coffee beans or the coffee grounds? Well, it depends on who you talk to. Our preference is to weigh the grounds. Grinders retain grounds in the machine; it can be as much as 3 grams of coffee, depending on the machine. If you want to weigh the beans, give the grinder a good shake after you grind. Always grind coffee beans right before brewing to extract the maximum flavor. Here at Chamberlain Coffee all of our blends are freshly roasted and one hundred percent organic. So, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s how to find the best coffee to water ratio for you. Start with the golden ratio of 1:18. Try 10 grams of coffee grinds to 180 milliliters of water. The brew will be medium-strong and full of flavor. If you want a stronger cup of coffee, try a 1:16 ratio, or 10 grams of coffee per 160 milliliters of water. A slightly sour coffee typically indicates the extraction time is too short, while a bitter brew means the extraction time is too long. You can play around with the ratio until the coffee is perfect. A range of 1:15 to 1:18 will do fine, so experiment until you get it right.
Brewing methods and brew ratios
As we mentioned earlier, the ideal coffee to water ratio will be influenced by the coffee brewing method, so, let's take a look at some of the most popular.
What a convenient way to brew coffee. All you have to do is pour in the grounds, add water, wait a few minutes, and plunge. But, to get the best flavor in your cup, there are a few guidelines to follow. Because French Press uses emersion for the extraction, a medium to coarse grind works best. If you can, get your hands on a burr grinder. These grinders allow you to move the burrs for consistent grind size. For the best results, the water should be just off the boil or between 93- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, for the coffee to water ratio. This is a matter of taste, but we suggest you start with a 1:15 ratio. Remember, French Press uses emersion, so the ratio is a bit higher, enabling the water to dissolve most of the flavor compounds. Taste the coffee brew. If it's too strong, drop the ratio to 1:17 and take it from there. Our Chamberlain Family Blend is perfect for French Press. It’s a medium roast with notes of chocolate and red fruit. The aroma is amazing! The vibrancy of the roast is what makes it ideal for French Press Coffee Brewing.
This coffee brewing method has been around for years. It’s similar to drip, well, it is drip coffee, but the filter is thicker than normal. Because of the thick filter, the coffee is rich and smooth. The rich, bold, and smooth flavors are extracted from the grounds as the water passes through.
For Chemex, the ideal coffee to water ratio is 1:17 or 10 grams ground coffee for 170 milliliters of water. As the water passes through the filter, the coffee grounds absorb some of the water and it is not released into the brew. A 1:17 ratio compensates for the lost water and preserves the flavor profile of the beans.
Brewing using the pour-over method is similar to drip coffee, but the difference is that the water is slowly poured into the filter. With pour-over coffee brewing, you monitor the blooming of the grounds and control the rate of extraction.
The coffee ratio for pour-over coffee brewing will vary according to the density of the grounds and the mass of the beans. A good place to start is a 1:15 coffee to water ratio or 10 grams of coffee to 150 milliliters of water. When you pour in the water, use a slow circular motion and make sure all of the grounds come in contact with the water. Here, you can experiment with both the coffee ratio and the rate of extraction.
Here's where things become a bit more complicated. Making cold brew coffee is similar to using a French Press, but the extraction time takes hours instead of minutes. Also, as the name implies, the coffee brewing is done with cold or room temperature water, instead of hot. A cooler brewing temperature takes longer to break down the flavor compounds in the coffee.
When you make a cold brew coffee, you are making a coffee concentrate. That’s because of the long extraction time. Before serving, the concentrate is diluted according to personal taste. Making a concentrate requires a higher coffee to water ratio. We suggest you start with a 1:10 coffee to water ratio to get the best flavors from the coffee. With cold brew, if you want to experiment with the coffee to water ratio, you’ll need to be patient. Whenever you choose to adjust the ratio, you’re going to have to wait at least twelve hours to taste the result. Check out our Cold Brew Mason Jar and follow Emma’s Cold Brew Recipe.
Now, espresso stands in a class of its own. This brewing method forces very hot water through finely ground coffee at a pressure of 9 to 10 bars. The extraction takes only 25 to 30 seconds, and the output is around 30 milliliters of coffee for a single shot.
With espresso, the weight of the grounds is called the dose, and the extracted coffee is called the yield. This doesn’t change anything in terms of the best coffee to water ratio. Most baristas agree the ideal ratio for espresso is 1:2, but this depends on the freshness of the coffee beans, their density, roast level, moisture content, and the ambient temperature. Getting the perfect ratio for espresso is called dialing in the beans; it is the process of getting the dose and grind to the perfect levels. There is no doubt espresso brewing will uncover the nuanced flavors, but it is a bit fussy when it comes to brewing ratios. For a perfect espresso, try our Fancy Mouse Espresso Blend. Its flavors are complex and combine earthy tones with chocolate and caramel. Yummy!
Take the guesswork out of coffee brew ratios
If you want the perfect coffee to water ratio without having to weigh coffee or perform calculations, we've got the solution. You can try steeped coffee. This coffee brewing method is similar to making a cup of tea. Freshly ground coffee is placed in a linen-like bag that looks like a teabag. Steep the bag in water, wait four or five minutes, and you've got a smooth, aromatic, and flavorful cup of coffee. If you enjoy a stronger coffee, steep the bag for a minute or two longer. The amount of ground coffee in the bag is measured already, and it's the perfect ratio every time. Everyone raves about our Steeped Coffee Bags. We sell all of our blends in steeped coffee bags. Our focus is always on freshness and flavor. And, the bags are eco-friendly. So, if you’re a brewing novice, steeped coffee doesn’t require a scale, measuring cup, special equipment, and any more time than it takes to make a cup of tea. We’ve done all the work for you!
Is there an ideal coffee brew ratio?
This is not an easy question to answer. As we’ve already pointed out, each brewing method may require a different coffee ratio. Getting the coffee to water ratio right is the difference between a great cup of joe and a good one. In some cases, the wrong brew ratio will ruin the coffee altogether, and can prevent the extraction from happening at all. Think about it, when there not enough grounds in a French Press, all you end up with is dishwater. On the other hand, too many grounds result in thick, bitter coffee. Similarly, the wrong dose for espresso, and the wrong extraction time, yields either a sour cup of coffee or a horribly bitter one. That’s why the brew ratio matters when making coffee, and why you ought to pay attention to it.
At the end of the day, the coffee ratio is all about taste. We’ve given you some guidelines, but they are only guidelines. It’s best to start in the right range for your desired strength, and then play around from there. Maybe you want a stronger cup of coffee? Then you should add more coffee to the water. Maybe you do not like your coffee to be strong? Then you should add more water to coffee. Have a look at the flavor profile listed on the bag of specialty beans. Those are the flavors you’re trying to experience in the cup. It doesn’t mean you will find all of those flavors, but it’s a starting point. Once you come close with the coffee ratio, make some small adjustments and see how the taste changes. Once you have it right, all you have to do is repeat the same ratio every time.
So, is there an ideal coffee to water ratio? Probably not. Is there an ideal taste? Absolutely. In the end, it is all up to yourself. It is impossible to make the perfect coffee for every person. Everyone will have a different opinion on how much coffee and water it is ideal to brew with. Take some time and explore different techniques. You could for an example try to find the ideal brew time, coffee makers, a different bean, amount of water, and how much coffee per cup. You do not necessarily need a ratio calculator to make coffee. It is all up to you and your coffee taste to find the perfect brewing process!
Brewing coffee at home is meant to be fun. Remember, you’re not a barista; you’re a coffee lover trying to find a spectacular cup of coffee!