Brewing Coffee Manually

Better coffee. One cup at a time.

Coffee Brewing Dosage- How Much Coffee Should I Use?

While I have talked some about dosage (the amount of coffee you use) it is an important topic that deserves it’s own post. It’s one of the most common questions that comes up when people begin brewing coffee at home. How much coffee should I use to brew a cup of coffee?

The Strong Coffee Misconception

First we need to talk about strong coffee, weak coffee and roast levels. It has become fairly common to refer to a dark roasted coffee as a strong coffee. This is simply incorrect.

When people make the mistake of using “strong” to describe the flavor of a coffee, they are usually trying to describe the smokey, roasty notes of a dark roasted coffee. There is no correlation between how strong or weak a particular cup of coffee is and the roast level of the coffee.

The strength of a cup of coffee is based on the ratio of extracted chemical compounds from the grounds to the amount of water in the brew. It is a term that should be used to describe concentration not the flavor.

Assuming even extraction of the coffee grounds, your dosage is the largest factor that impacts coffee strength. A strong cup of coffee is full of the flavor characteristics that the coffee and roast profile contain. It is the brewer who has the power to make a cup of coffee weak or strong not the roaster.

The Standard Brewing Dosage

The standard brewing dosage for a 6 fluid ounce cup of coffee is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. If you are brewing your coffee by weight, it is 10.6 grams of coffee per 177 grams of water.

The Black Bear Micro Roastery has an awesome chart that breaks down dosage by weight as well as quite a few different units of volume. If you are not of a happy mathematical disposition, you may want to print this chart as a reference until you can figure out your personal dosing preferences.

If you are brewing by weight, the standard ratio is 16.7 grams of water to every 1 gram of coffee. If you would like an excellent break down of how to compute ratios, visit Garrett over at Coffee Brew Guides for a thorough explanation.

Brewing Coffee By Weight or Volume

It is pretty much universally accepted in the coffee world that brewing by weight (or mass if you want to get science-y) is the more accurate method. I have previously discussed why you should consider adding a scale to your manual brewing arsenal, but here are a few quick points relating to dosing.

  1. Weighing your coffee is more accurate– To some extent, measuring by volume is always going to involve a small amount of eyeballing it. What is a level tablespoon and where exactly does that water measure? Remember that meniscus from high school chemistry? If you have an accurate scale, then it should be easier to be consistently accurate with weight over volume.
  2. Weighing your coffee is easier- It might sounds like a royal pain to weigh and brew\your coffee with a scale, but I find it to be easier than using volume. Once you get in the habit of weighing, it should be a seamless process that you don’t even have to think about.
  3. By Volume is better than nothing- Brewing coffee by volume is still very preferable to not measuring your dosage at all. The advantages of using a scale are slight compared to the advantages of measuring your dosage over eyeballing it. If you don’t have a scale or are intimidated by it, don’t sweat it. Your tablespoon and 2 cup Pyrex will do a fine job.

Personal Preference and Dialing in a Roast

One more thing, don’t let the “Standard Brewing Dosage” keep you from brewing coffee the way your enjoy it. The standard has been established as a baseline to get you in the ballpark of what is considered acceptable coffee strength. It is not an iron clad rule that should keep you from exploring and learning about your personal coffee preferences.

I vary my dosage from the standard for a variety of factors including but not limited to: brewing method, particular coffee characteristics, random whims and experimentation. If a coffee doesn’t taste right to you, experiment, adjust and find your sweet spot. Have some fun with it.

4 Comments

  1. Nice article John. I like the picture!

    • Thanks Ken! I wanted to go with a different picture but Ruth convinced me that this one was better. It was a product of having abundant quantities of ground coffee on hand today.

      As with the scale article, free spirits get a pass on dosing. When you got it, you got it ;)

  2. Thank you confirming the standard, however, I’ve also heard that if you prefer a weaker cup of coffee, you should still brew 2tbsp:6oz (or by weight as you mentioned) & then add water to your liking. Is there any validity to this? Is this really different than simply adding more water or less coffee when brewing?

    • RJ,

      That is a good question. You could certainly water down your coffee a bit if you feel like it is too strong.

      I think a better more long term option would be to increase the amount of water that your use to brew with. If you like a slightly weaker cup of coffee. Try using 9 grams/ 5 teaspoons of ground coffee for a 6 oz. cup.

      If you find that you are getting into a range that is more in the 1:20 range or even less coffee. I would then move back to brewing a coffee in the 1:20 range or so ( around 9 grams per 6 oz.) and dilute it. Passing too much water over the coffee could result in over-extraction. Over-extraction is when you pull too much of the solubles out of the coffee and it tastes a little (or a lot) off.

      I hope that helps. Play around with it and find the cup of coffee you enjoy most, then make it that way.

      Let me know what you come up with.

      Thanks,
      John

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