Did you know Beethoven is not only known for his exquisite music but also his recipe for brewing the perfect cup of coffee?
It’s not known how he came by this personal recipe, but its measurements are exact. It starts with grinding precisely 60 coffee beans — no more, no less. He would even count the beans out to be certain, and if he made a mistake in his count, he would start over.
This was important to creating the coffee he wanted, and I don’t blame him. No one willingly drinks terrible coffee!
While Beethoven’s formula might not make your perfect cup, these days there is what is considered a perfect ratio for brewing.
The ratio for the perfect balance of coffee & water is called the “Golden Ratio.” This ratio was developed by the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) to ensure the best cup of coffee or The Golden Cup Standard.
One of the biggest questions we hear from new home coffee brewers is “how much coffee do I use to make ___cups of coffee?” Learning a new brew method or experimenting with the right recipe can make you feel like a mad scientist or just leave you confused & with a bad cup of coffee. We get it, not everyone is a coffee nerd or you just don’t have the time, we are here to guide you in the right direction.
Keeping a kitchen scale next to your coffee gear is a simple and painless way to implement these ratios into your regular routine. It takes seconds to weigh your coffee and water, but it’s worth it once you take that first sip of your coffee – and every sip afterward.
Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee Using the Golden Ratios
Imagine using a gallon of water and two small beans to make a mug of coffee. Not only will the coffee be weak, but the beans will over brew because of too much water, producing a bitter, dull flavor.
Now imagine using a small glass of water to brew coffee with a bathtub full of grounds. That will be an overpowering cup, but also one that’s under extracted since the grounds didn’t get the water they needed to extract a balanced amount. The result will be strong and sour.
There’s no single objectively ‘best’ ratio, but there are a few ratios that have risen above the rest. We’ll call these the Golden Ratios. There are plenty of people in the world that enjoy their coffee outside of these ratios (we all have different preferences, after all), but most people find that these ratios are the most satisfying.
Here are the Golden Ratios: 1 gram of coffee to 15-18 grams of water (1:15-18).
What does this actually look like practically when making your coffee?
The best answer is: 12 grams of ground coffee per 180 ml of water (180g of water). This requires a scale, which is a worthwhile investment if you care about the quality of your coffee, but a lot of people just want to keep things simple.
The simple answer is: for most home coffee brewing is 2 Tbsp. (11.6 g) of ground coffee beans per 6 oz. of water. A standard coffee measure should be 2 Tbsp. (2 Tbsp. = 1/8 cup = 11.6 g).
The SCA defines 11 grams or 0.36 oz. per 6-oz cup as the proper measure for brewed coffee using the American standards.
Some coffee pot manufacturers deviate from the 6 oz. per cup standard. You should check the total water capacity of your pot before assuming that the pot will be measured in 6 oz. cups.
These Golden Ratios use enough coffee to brew a rich mug without being overpowering. They use enough water to extract the coffee to a balanced and satisfying degree.
Which Ratio Should You Use?
Figuring out which coffee to water ratio you personally prefer is a matter of trial and error. Brew a few cups of coffee at different ratios to see how they taste. While I personally enjoy 1:15, you may be a 1:18 kind of person – only you can decide.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how the Golden Ratios differ.
1:15 Ratio – With less water used, coffee brewed with this ratio will be slightly more concentrated. However, since there was less water to extract yummy things from the coffee grounds, the final brew will be less extracted than the other Golden Ratios. This is likely to be a rich and crisp cup with a more pronounced acidity.
1:18 Ratio – With more water used, coffee brewed with this ratio will be slightly less strong, but also slightly more extracted (since more water leads to more extraction). This is likely to be a more mellow and rounded cup with a gentle acidity.
1:16 and 1:17 Ratios – These ratios fall in-between 1:15 and 1:18 in terms of strength and concentration, and are the most commonly used ratios around the world (though all four are considered rich and balanced).
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. Brew, explore, play. Find your favorite ratio and stick with it.
Let me show you how to actually use these ratios.
While a kitchen scale that measures in grams is the ideal way to go about this process, you can still use volume measurements. 1 gram of water equals 1ml exactly, so you can use a liquid measuring pitcher for the water. For the coffee beans, 1 tablespoon is somewhere between 4 and 7g of coffee (I’d just assume 5g, personally).
The explanation below may seem more complicated than is necessary, but I promise you’ll pick up the trick so quickly once you do it a couple times. Trust me, a single math problem on your phone is well worth the boosted coffee quality!
If you’d like a single 8oz mug of coffee, here’s how to find your coffee to water ratio:
- 8 ounces of coffee is about 225 ml of liquid, so we’ll brew with 225 g of water.
- For practice sake, let’s say you’re using a 1:15 ratio (it’s golden). Divide your total water weight by the ratio (225 / 15) to produce 15. That’s the amount of coffee you need.
- You now know that, if you’re using a 1:15 ratio, you’ll need 15g of coffee and 225g of water to brew your 8 oz mug.
What if you want three 8 oz mugs of coffee?
- 24 ounces of coffee is about 680 ml of liquid, which is how much water you’ll use.
- If you prefer a 1:17 ratio, divide the total water weight by 17 to find out how much coffee you need (680 / 17 = 40).
- You now know that you’ll need 680 g of water and 40 g of coffee beans to brew three mugs at a 1:17 ratio.
What if you have 22 g of coffee and want to know how much water to use?
- Multiply your coffee beans by your favorite Golden Ratio (let’s say 1:16 this time).
- 22 g of coffee multiplied by 16 is 352 g of water.
- You now know exactly how much water to use with your coffee beans.
See? The math isn’t difficult at all and shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds to figure out if you’ve got a phone close by. Better coffee is literally just a single math problem away!
Here’s a pro tip for you: write down your common recipes on a piece of paper and keep it near your coffee setup. That way you don’t have to do math every morning – you can just read your cheat sheet!
Coffee Grind: Coffee beans should be ground right before brewing to extract the freshest, most consistent flavour & have minimal air contact which can drastically change coffee flavour.
Water Temperature: Water Temperature is also very important. Too cold of water will result in flat, under extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will cause coffee flavour to degrade. Water temperature at the time of contact with the coffee should be 200°F (93.0°C) (plus or minus 5° variation).
Brewing Time: The amount of time the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another very important factor. Depending on your brew type the timing changes. In a drip system it should be around 5 min. French Press, contact time should be around 2-4 minutes for espresso….that is a whole new post.
If you can learn to use these golden ratios when you brew coffee, you’ll never have to guess about whether you’ve used enough coffee or water again. This takes another variable out of your hands, making it easier and easier to get balanced and rich coffee.
Just remember to start with freshly roasted, high-quality beans. Ratios won’t do you any good if you’re using mediocre beans.