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Coffee Brewing Basics: Ratio

Coffee Brewing 101: Coffee/Water Ratio

So far in the Coffee Brewing Basics series we have discussed the process of extraction and the impact of coffee grind size. This post isn’t about extraction.

Instead, today we will focus on the strength of our coffee, which comes from the ratio of coffee to water used during coffee brewing.

Many people believe that how strong a coffee tastes has to do with the coffee bean itself (either the type of coffee bean or how it was roasted). This is completely not true.

Yes, roast level and different types of coffee WILL have different flavors.

But strength has to do with how much coffee is used in the coffee brewing process.

Coffee and Water Measuring

I am somewhat of a minimalist. Measuring my coffee on a digital scale was one of the things I initially resisted because I didn’t see the reason to buy yet another piece of coffee making equipment. I reasoned that I could just measure coffee in a measuring spoon and I’d be good.


A digital scale is a must if you’re serious about making good coffee at home. You don’t need to spend a lot here, you can get a basic one for around $10.

Measure your coffee and water by weight, not volume. The volume (how much room it takes up in a tablespoon or coffee scoop) can vary based on coffee varietal and roast level.

Measuring water by weight is easy too.  Here’s a formula that you need to know and memorize.  Ready?

1 gram of water = 1 mL. Easy!

So here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Measure your coffee beans BEFORE you grind them.
  2. Measure how much water you will use. If you are using an automatic coffee maker measure the water before you pour it in the machine. For French Press, Chemex, or Pour Over coffee I prefer to put my coffee making vessel directly on the scale and measure as I’m adding water.

These two measurements give you the coffee weight and the water weight. This is how you get your coffee/water ratio.

Coffee/Water Ratio

The ratio of coffee to water is the primary influencer on how strong a coffee tastes.

So what coffee/water ratio is the best? That is really a matter of personal choice. Do you like your coffee on the strong side or a bit weaker?

I would advise starting with a 1:18 ratio (27 g coffee beans per 500mL water).

My default is a ratio of 1:18 but I will change that for different brewing methods.  For instance I have found that I prefer French Press coffee at a 1:20 ratio.

Here is a basic breakdown to help you decide what coffee/water ratio to use.

Strong coffee: 1:10 (50g coffee beans per 500mL water)

Good starting point: 1:18 (27g coffee beans per 500mL water)

Weaker coffee: 1:30 (16g coffee beans per 500mL water)

The ratio you use really depends on your preference.  I would advise starting with a 1:18 ratio and then tinkering until you find your perfect cup of coffee.

Measuring Coffee by Volume

If you are like me you might hesitate and refuse to by a digital scale at first. I promise you it’s worth the investment but I totally get where you are coming from!

I still want you to be able to make and drink great coffee. So here is a helpful way to roughly estimate the weight of medium ground coffee (this is not exact and varies with roast level and type of coffee bean):

1 tablespoon = 5 grams

More Coffee Brewing Basics

We have two more important topics to discuss in our Coffee Brewing Basics series: water (which makes up 99% of coffee by volume) and coffee brewing time.  Be sure to check out these upcoming posts to find out more.

Here’s to drinking better coffee!  Cheers friends!

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