Caution: Contents Magical

When I first started researching various coffee making methods, I was wholly unprepared for the precise, technical measurements. Every article utilized a scale and none of them gave me alternatives for measuring my coffee.

I wanted to learn how to make a good cup of coffee every morning without relying on a scale. And I knew it would be dependent upon understanding the correct amount of coffee to water.

Don't get me wrong: I admire someone who has all of the tools and makes a perfect consistent cup of coffee every day. I’m just not there yet. But I still want to make a delicious cup of coffee in the morning.

Surely there is a reliable way to measure coffee without a scale—right? Luckily, yes! It’s called the Golden Ratio.

What is the Correct Amount of Coffee to Water?

Quick Rule-of-Thumb:

Roughly 6-8 oz of water to 2-3 tablespoons of coffee. If using a finer grind of coffee, reduce to 1-2 tablespoons.

How did I come to this rule-of-thumb? By using the Golden Ratio.

Precise Golden Ratio:

1 gram of coffee to 15-18 grams of water. It is generally agreed upon that this range creates the most desirable brew.

If you were to use too much more water, the coffee would be become weak or bitter. And with more coffee, your brew will be highly concentrated and potentially sour.

It’s good to experiment. Use the Golden Ratio as a reliable guideline, and figure out where your preferences reside.

If you simply want to make good coffee quickly, use the rule-of-thumb above. Otherwise, we’re about to get as precise as possible measuring coffee without a scale—and that includes math.

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

How to Measure Coffee using the Golden Ratio

You can use the rule of thumb above and make some great coffee right now. But if you want to master precision without a scale, utilize the original ratio: 1 gram of coffee to 15-18 grams of water.

All you need for precision without a scale is a measuring cup and a classic tablespoon:

  • One tablespoon holds 4-7 grams of coffee, depending on the fineness of the grind.
  • In a measuring cup, 1 ml of water is equal to 1 gram of water.

Therefore, you can use your measuring cup and tablespoon to track how much you use of each until discovering the ratio that works best for you.

This will require some math; the good news is that once you’ve figured out the amounts of water and coffee you need, you’ll be able to make consistently delicious coffee without a scale.

The Pitfalls of Measuring without a Scale

The gaping hole in our precision is the tablespoon. One tablespoon of coffee is roughly 4-7 grams. For the purpose of our recipes (below), we assumed one tablespoon is 5 grams. However, that will vary depending on the fineness of the coffee’s grind and the coffee bean itself.

One way around this is to simply use a coffee scoop. You may already have one that came with your coffee maker. If you know how many grams your scoop holds, you can use the Golden Ratio to achieve absolute precision without a scale.

Otherwise, I recommend taking a couple notes on how much coffee and water you use each time you make coffee. From those notes, you’ll be able to adjust your ratio a little bit each time until finding the ideal sweet spot for your flavor preferences.

How to Precisely Make Coffee without a Scale

Start with the amount of coffee you want to make. Let’s say you want to make two cups of coffee, which is 16 oz.

  • Figure out how many milliliters are in sixteen ounces. A quick Google search shows me it’s about 473 ml. Measure this out with your measuring cup.
  • Divide the amount of water (473 ml) by the ratio (15-18 g); this gives us 26-31 grams of coffee needed.
  • If each tablespoon is about 5 grams of coffee, and we take the average of the coffee range ((26+31)/2=28.5/5=5.7), then we need between 5 and 6 scoops of coffee for our 473 ml to make a delicious two cups.

While the math isn’t complicated, it can be confusing. Hence why many people without a scale simply refer to the rule-of-thumb: 6-8 oz of water per 2-3 tablespoons (1-2 tablespoons if using espresso grind). However, using the Golden Ratio is going to give you far more precise results that will be easier to recreate.

Making One Cup of Coffee with the Golden Ratio

For the sake of clarity, let’s go through the math again but make one cup of coffee.

  • One cup of coffee is 8 oz, which is about 236 ml. Therefore, measure out 236 ml of water in your measuring cup.
  • If we divide the amount of water (236 ml) by the recommended ratio (15-18 g), we know we need between 13 and 15 grams of coffee.
  • If we assume a tablespoon holds about 5 grams, we know that we need between 2 and 3 tablespoons of coffee ((15/5)+(13/5)/2=2.8).
  • Therefore, to make one cup of coffee using the Golden Ratio, we need to measure out 236 milliliters of water and 3 tablespoons of coffee.
Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

Should You Invest in a Scale?

If accidentally having a slightly subpar cup of coffee one morning is unacceptable, throw down twenty dollars for a scale, my friend.

However, if you’re okay with getting it mostly right and having a solid cup of coffee each morning without the fuss or hassle of pulling out a scale, the Golden Ratio is about to become your new best mate.

I use the same amount of water and coffee every morning and I enjoy my cup of coffee every morning. That’s what is simple and best-feeling for me. Whether or not you invest in a scale depends on what coffee-making routine works best for you.