The difference comes down to precision. Coffee experts have shared with Well+Good time and time again that making the perfect homemade cup of joe is a lot like a science experiment: It’s based on maintaining specific temperatures, nailing exact coffee-to-water ratios, and more.
So, how to ensure that your coffee measurements are as accurate as possible? Enter: A kitchen scale. The best way to accurately measure ingredients is by weight—it's much more precise than measuring (read: eyeballing) by volume and is especially important when it comes to making coffee. And BTW, a kitchen scale isn’t only handy tool for making the perfect pour-over: The same concept applies to baked goods. Here's what to know.
Why a kitchen scale is essential for making the perfect cup of joe, according to a barista
According to Jiyoon Han, co-owner and founder of New York coffee company Bean & Bean, making the perfect cup of joe is heavily contingent on the exact measurements of water and coffee. "These ratios, she says, can alter the taste, smell, and appearance of your brew," Han says "This is especially true when it comes to making pour-over coffee."
According to Han, making good pour-over coffee at home is easier if you are able to precisely nail the proper brew ratio, which is 1:15 coffee to water. "With a scale, you can control this by weighing 15 grams of coffee, then brewing 225 grams of water, and controlling the ratios based on what the scale reads,” Han says.
One of the best features of a kitchen scale—like this one available on Amazon—is the ability to “tare” or reset the scale to zero to automatically subtract the weight of an item (like your pour-over coffee maker) from your measurement. For example, once you have your pour-over equipment on top of a scale, you can use the tare feature to clear the weight, making it even easier to focus solely on the coffee and water measurements...without adding or subtracting a bunch of numbers.
Weighing the coffee is more accurate and precise than using volume-based measuring cups or spoons. Because these measure only in volume, they won’t account for the coffee ground size or weight. For instance, extra course grounds weigh less than more finely-ground coffee grounds but will take up more space in a measuring spoon—this will throw off your ratios.
Weighing the coffee is more accurate and precise than using volume-based measuring cups or spoons. Because these measure only in volume, they won’t account for the coffee ground size or weight.
According to Han, if your ratios are off, it’ll affect the brew’s taste and color. “Weaker, more watery coffee tends to appear lighter in color since more water is brewed through the ground coffee resulting in a diluted cup,” Han says. Of course, if a tablespoon is the only thing you have on hand, it’s not the end of the world. But, a scale and a timer will be the best tools to measure the coffee-to-water ratio and the time and flow rate of the two.
A pastry chef agrees that kitchen scales are also essential for baking
Chef-instructor of pastry and baking arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, Trung Vu, also agrees that kitchen scales are a must when it comes to baking. “Digital scales are used in professional kitchens all the time and are preferred over volume measurements provided by measuring cups and spoons,” Vu says, highlighting again that they’re far more precise.
“A kitchen scale is an essential tool for baking but can also be useful for any other kitchen task. When you scale with greater accuracy and consistency, you will be rewarded with a more consistent final product,” Vu says. Digital scales are also helpful when scaling and converting recipes to make more (or less) quantities. “With a digital scale, you also easily increase or decrease a recipe based on your needs. For instance, if a recipe yields 10 cupcakes, but you want to make 12 or 14, you can multiply the recipe by 1.2 or 1.4 and easily make a few more,” he says.
“A kitchen scale is an essential tool for baking but can also be useful for any other kitchen task. When you scale with greater accuracy and consistency, you will be rewarded with a more consistent final product,” chef Vu says.
When shopping for the perfect scale, Vu says there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind, including weight capacity, sensitivity (how accurate the scale will be when measuring small amounts), the ease of reading the display (some scales have pull-out displays to accommodate larger or wider containers on the scale), and if it’s battery-operated or uses an AC adapter.
An RD explains the benefits of drinking coffee:
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