Brewing coffee well is more difficult than you might expect. In the not-too-distant past, making coffee at home was a simple process: you measured out a few tablespoons of pre-ground coffee from a tin, loaded it up in your countertop coffee machine and pressed the start button. While undeniably easy and convenient, this method tends to produce a basic cup of coffee completely devoid of the complexity that can make coffee such an enticing taste experience. Life is full of trade offs, and coffee brewing is no exception. As high quality coffee shops have started popping up on main thoroughfares all over the country, the average coffee drinker has been able to experience firsthand the incredible range of flavors coffee is capable of yielding. If you want to replicate this experience at home, however, you’ll find that it’s not as easy as you might assume.
Coffee brewing is chemistry, and like all good scientists professional baristas carefully monitor every variable at play in the brewing process. Everything from the mineral content of the water used to the temperature and duration of the brew will affect how the resulting coffee tastes, and a good coffee shop will tweak these variables until they achieve a solid recipe. For the home brewer, this level of thoroughness might seem overwhelming. There are a few tools that can help you achieve a quality cup of coffee at home, however, and one indispensable tool is a basic kitchen gram scale. Proper brewing relies on precise measurements, and measuring coffee in tablespoons is not quite precise enough to produce consistent results. Instead, you’ll want to measure out your coffee with a gram scale. This is especially useful if you like trying different types of coffee, as different coffees have varying densities, and a scale helps account for and equalize this variable. Additionally, you can use your scale to measure out the precise amount of water needed to properly brew your coffee. For drip coffee, a good starting ratio is 1:16 (i.e., 1 part coffee for every 16 parts water), and a gram scale makes this very easy to figure out. You simply multiply your coffee dose by 16 and add that much water. Pretty much any scale will do, and they tend to be pretty affordable. For this reason, they’re an accessible and inexpensive tool to help you improve your home coffee brewing.