Making a great cup of coffee at home isn’t difficult, but there are a few basic principles to find the golden ratio. One of them is how much coffee to use for one cup and the coffee to water ratio. Once you have this right, you’ll want to be able to create the best cup of coffee every time. You don’t want to end up saying “this coffee is a bit strong,” or “this one tastes like crap.” How much coffee per cup? The answer is, it depends. Well, that’s not very helpful, so we’ll have to dig deeper.

Why does it even matter? First off, you want to get the best flavor possible out of the beans you use. There might be floral, nutty, chocolate, or caramel tones, but the wrong amount of coffee per cup could ruin everything. Second, many people drink their coffee with milk or cream, so you need strong enough flavor to punch through the milk. Third, you have chosen to brew coffee a specific way, so understanding how to get the most out of the brew is important.

How big is a cup of coffee?

Any consideration of how much coffee per cup has to begin with what is meant by a cup. Unfortunately, a “cup” is not a precise measurement, so we need a better standard.

Let’s start here. Don’t think of one cup as you might in baking. In America, one cup is the equivalent of 236 milliliters or 8 ounces of water. But, Also, none of this has anything to do with a physical cup or mug since they come in various sizes. Instead, the most common measurement of a “cup” of coffee is 5 fluid ounces or 150 milliliters. Your morning cup of coffee may be larger or smaller than that, but 5 fluid ounces of water is the way we will do our calculations. This means 8 cups of coffee is equal to 40 fluid ounces.

How do you calculate how much coffee per cup?

Calculations? Relax. It’s not as complicated as it seems. You can be quite precise about it, or give it attention and not go overboard. The point is a “scoop” is absolutely meaningless. How big or small is a scoop? What if the grounds are fine? What if the grounds are coarse? With coffee making, the requirement is to be consistent in the amount of coffee you use. There is still room for personal taste, but there are a few key considerations.

The accepted standard for coffee to water ratio is 1:18. This means 1 gram of coffee grinds per 18 millimeters of water. Obviously, the best way to achieve this is to use a scale, but that’s a bit too much effort in the morning when you just need your fix. Remember, here everything is measured based on the ground beans, as opposed to the beans before they having been ground. By measuring the ground coffee, we can put aside the issue of the coarseness of the grind.

The coffee can be measured in grams, tablespoons, or even scoops as long as all of these are clearly defined. One of the best ways to be certain about the correct amount is to use the Chamberlain Steeped Coffee Bags. These are similar to tea bags. There is a measured amount of coffee in each bag and all you need to do is steep the coffee in hot water. You get the same coffee to water ratio every time.

Using a scale is by far the best way to figure out the exact weight of the grounds and always get the same amount of coffee per cup. But, trying different coffee beans is no problem once you understand the ratio of coffee to water. Each type of bean can be different from the other, but if you keep the ratio the same, you’ll never have trouble. One of the best places to buy a wide range of fresh beans is at Chamberlain Coffee.

Using tablespoons to measure coffee

At the outset, it has to be said that measuring coffee by tablespoon is like measuring water by gulp. Tablespoons are a specific measure, and in most situations, they do well, but coffee is different. The amount of coffee in a tablespoon will be variable. Even the method used to remove the cherry pulp from the bean affects the moisture remaining in the beans. The coarseness of the grounds also determines the amount of coffee in a tablespoon. The whole idea is precision and consistency.

If you don’t have a scale, tablespoons or scoops will do, but we need to understand what is meant by a tablespoon when it comes to coffee. In general, a tablespoon of coffee equals approximately 10.6 grams. So, for a cup of coffee, you will want to use 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of coffee grinds. We’re not talking about instant coffee crystals, but grounds from actual coffee beans. If you are using scoops, you’ll want the scoop to be equal to 2 tablespoons.

Earlier, a “cup” was defined as 5 ounces. With precise measurements that’s true. But, when using scoops or tablespoons, a typical cup of coffee would be 8 ounces of coffee per cup, and for that, you will want to use 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of coffee. Each tablespoon is about 5.3 grams of ground coffee, so you can figure out the right ratio from there.

Later, we’ll take a look at precise ratio measurement, but for now, here’s a basic guideline when using tablespoons and an 8-ounce cup.

·     1 cup = 8 oz water + 2 tablespoons coffee

·     2 cups = 16 oz water + 4 tablespoons coffee

·     3 cups = 24 oz water + 6 tablespoons coffee

·     4 cups = 32 oz water + 8 tablespoons coffee

·     5 cups = 40 oz water + 10 tablespoons coffee

Pay attention to the size of the cup you use because that influences the amount of coffee to use. A super product is the 20 ounces Chamberlain XL To-Go that will keep your coffee hot for hours. Also, take a look at the one hundred percent ceramic Chamberlain Family Mug. It’s a quality 12-ounce mug that feels great in the hand and has a stunning look.

Using coffee ratios

Now, let's get more sophisticated and consider the precise measurement of coffee ratios. Here, you're going to need a scale, but they're cheap enough if you don't have one already. The concept of the coffee ratio is pretty simple. It is the ratio of ground coffee to water. It is the formula you apply to get the ideal strength, viscosity, and flavor.

As mentioned earlier, the standard ratio for coffee is 1:18 or 1 gram of coffee per 18 milliliters of water. But you may want to use a different ratio based on your tase and on the beans you are using. The ratio determines flavor and here are the general guidelines:

·     1:15 tastes concentrated and bright 

·     1:16 tastes smooth and bright

·     1:17 tastes smooth and rounded

·     1:18 tastes lighter and rounded

Remember, these are the guidelines used for brewing coffee in hot water. But the method used for the extraction does impact the ratio. How many tablespoons of coffee you use, how many grams of coffee, how many milliliters or ounces of water is your choice at the end of the day. If a coffee aficionado says you’re doing it wrong then they don’t know as much about coffee as they think.

Now, the standard ratios we've looked at will differ according to the brew method. You need to take this into account and adjust the ratio accordingly. Understanding why the ratios are different is key to brewing the perfect cup. Most of all it has to do with the kind of extraction used, the water temperature, and the duration of the extraction.

Drip coffee Measurement

With drip coffee, also known as pour-over coffee, you pour the grounds into a paper filter and water drips through to a carafe underneath. Simple right? Slow down. The amount of coffee needed is different because of the filter itself. When you go to throw out the filter, it will be much heavier than the amount of coffee you used.

So, how much water is retained by the filter? Generally, the filter will retain two times the amount of coffee used. This means a 1:15 ratio is actually a 1:13 ratio because two grams of water doesn’t make it through to the amount of brewed coffee. Most people agree that drip and pour-over coffee should be brewed using a 1:177 to 1:20 ratio.

French Press

When brewing with a French Press, the vessel is filled with boiling water and left to steep for around 4 to 5minutes. After the extraction is complete, a metal filtered plunger is used to push all the grounds to the bottom. Brewing using a French Press is entirely different than drip coffee. Here, the extraction is happening within the water itself. This means there is no water loss when brewing with a French Press.

Using a French Press for brewing coffee provides greater control over coffee flavor and viscosity. It’s easy to change the coffee ratio based on the beans you are using at the time. The longer you leave the grounds to steep, the stronger the brew. Coffee can be made to your taste and that of your guests.


Have you heard this? “I don’t like espresso; the coffee is way too strong!” Well, the merits of the statement are best left for another article. But it does suggest espresso must be using a different coffee ratio. It’s true. The key difference is baristas aren’t concerned about the amount of water extracted, but rather, the precise weight of the extracted liquid.

With other brewing methods, the ratios are based on the amount of water used to perform the extraction. For example, when you brew with a French Press, the amount of coffee grounds you use directly relates to the amount of water poured into the vessel. Espresso brewing doesn’t give you control over the amount of water used, so it’s all about the yield. So, for 18 grams of coffee, the average yield will be 36 grams or a 1:2 ratio. A barista can play with both the weight of the coffee and the weight of yield to get the best flavor profile from the beans. The grounds are also tamped to control density. In short, espresso brewing has the most variables of other methods, and more variables mean more flexibility.

Cold Brew

It stands to reason; cold brewing impacts the coffee ratio. The coffee grounds never come in contact with hot water. Cold-brew extraction takes place at room temperature. You can do it in the fridge, but it will take longer because the oils are extracted from the coffee grounds at a lower rate. Typically, the extraction time for cold brew is 22 to 24 hours.

The long duration of cold brew extraction results in a concentrated liquid. When the cold brew is served, it is either diluted with water or melting ice does the work. For cold brew, the long duration of extraction at room temperature demands a higher coffee ratio. A typical coffee ratio for cold brewing is between 1:10 and 1:13. In other words, you use more coffee per cup of water.

Key takeaways on the coffee to water ratio

·     A standard cup is 5 fluid ounces

·     The ideal coffee ratio is 1 gram of coffee per 18 milliliters of water

·     Precise measurement requires a scale

·     Two tablespoons of ground coffee weigh around 10.6 grams of coffee.

·     Use 2 tablespoons of coffee for an 8-ounce cup

·     If you’re using a scoop, make sure it is equal to two tablespoons of coffee

·     Cold brew uses a ratio of 1:10 to 1:15 because it is a concentrate and a much longer extraction time

·     There’s no simple answer and it’s all down to personal preference to fo find the golden ratio

The brewing equipment you choose also impacts how much coffee to use. Most manufacturers will provide you with guidance. Single-cup coffee machines typically dispense a 5-ounce cup of coffee on a normal setting. The longer the brewing process, the less coffee you will have to use per cup.

Most of us are anxious for that first cup of coffee to get the day going, and you sure don't want to be playing with a coffee scale and variation in the amount of water. Figuring out the amount of coffee you want to use for the perfect cup ought not to be determined when you have to make breakfast or rush the kids off to school. But, finding the golden ratio you like determines flavor and strength. Whether it's tablespoons or a scale, you can get the perfect coffee to water ratio right every time.