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Better coffee should be available to everyone. That’s the goal for EasyToEspesso.com, and it’s a dream that I strongly believe in.
You should be able to make better drip coffee, and you should have easy access to more advanced brewing methods, better beans, and all the tips and tricks needed to go from coffee beginner to master barista.
Understanding coffee measurements — and specifically the coffee to water ratio — can be a tough task for an aspiring caffeine savant, but it’s an important one. Learning how to measure coffee properly is a crucial early skill regardless of your preferred coffee brewing method (well, coffee pods aside).
I’ve put together this calculator to make things easy for you, including a few presets based on common intensity preferences for some standard brewing methods. Just remember that these presets won’t be for everyone, so I encourage you to try a few different brew ratios until you find your favorite. Enjoy!
How Do You Read a Coffee to Water Ratio?
When you see a ratio of, say 1:3 here. That means 1 part of coffee for every 3 parts of water. These ratios are always weight-to-weight, so it more specifically means 1 gram of coffee for every 3 grams of water (or 1 lb of coffee for every 3 lbs of water).
If that’s the kind of math that makes your head spin, just remember this:
The higher the second number, the weaker the coffee.
1:3 is a lot stronger than 1:10.
How Many Ounces in a Coffee Cup?
This is where things get confusing. If you are used to the US standard of 8 fluid ounces per cup, you’ve probably found that you can’t make 12 full cups of coffee in your 12-cup coffee maker.
The definition of a cup varies from country to country. In Canada, a cup is 7.6 oz. In Japan, it’s 6.7 oz. The metric system standard for a cup is 250 milliliters, which is about 8.45 oz.
Oh, and that American cup? Technically it’s 8.12 ounces.
Coffee machine manufacturers further muddy the waters by using 4, 5, or 6 oz to measure their cups. That’s why your 12-cup coffee maker actually holds no more than 72 oz — roughly the equivalent of 9 US cups of coffee!
The coffee calculator on this page ignores all of this, opting to just use an 8 oz cup measurement. If you want to know how many grams of coffee per cup for a different cup size, you can just use the ounce option instead.
Instead of worrying about those notches on your drip coffee maker, I would suggest just measuring how many 8-oz cups your carafe holds (only to the fill line) and using that to determine how many cups of coffee you can brew at once.
What Is the Best Coffee to Water Ratio?
Different brewing methods require different amounts of coffee grounds. Immersion methods, drip methods, and espresso all require different amounts of grounds because the brew time, temperature, and pressure are not consistent between methods.
You can also make stronger coffee by adding more grounds (or less water) to your brew — although we’ll talk about the limits of that below.
But that’s enough generalities, let’s look at some specific types of coffee makers and what coffee ratio you should be using with each of them.
Drip coffee ratio
If you aren’t sure what coffee maker you have, it’s probably a drip coffee maker. Drip coffee is the most popular type of coffee maker due to its ease of use and consistently good (although not great) coffee.
You can make drip coffee at about a 1:17 ratio to get a decent brew that even casual coffee drinkers will enjoy. If you want to kick it up a notch with a stronger drink, you can easily go up to a 1:15 ratio of grounds to water.
Let me translate that into how much coffee grounds per cup. At the weaker end, you can use about 2 and 2/3 Tbsp per cup of coffee in a drip coffee maker (that’s 2 Tbsp and 2 tsp). At the high end, you may want to try about 3 and 1/3 Tbsp (that’s 3 Tbsp and 1 tsp) for one cup of coffee.
Let’s say you wanted to make a full pot of coffee. How much coffee for 12 cups?
Here’s where that pesky ounces-per-cup problem comes back. Let’s assume your 12-cup coffee maker is measured based on 6-ounce cups, which is reasonably common. That would mean that you would need 25 Tbsp of ground coffee for a full pot of normal strength coffee.
French press ratio
French press coffee is made to be stronger and heavier than coffee made with the drip brew method. If you are new to French press coffee or prefer something more akin to drip coffee, a grounds to coffee ratio of 1:16 is a good starting point. French press lovers will likely hate that weak a brew, though, and will quickly want to graduate to a 1:10 ratio.
At 1:10, you’ll need about 4 and 2/3 Tbsp (4 Tbsp and 2 tsp) for a single cup of French press coffee.
Cold brew ratio
Cold brew is different than most of these methods because it produces a coffee concentrate. Keep in mind that the ratios here are for the concentrate itself rather than the final diluted coffee.
A cold brew coffee ratio of 1:8 should provide a good starter brew that is perfect for the typical coffee drinker. If you want to try something stronger, cold brew can easily go as far as a 1:5 coffee ratio.
Your brew-strength preference will likely depend on how you are diluting the concentrate. Some people prefer more water in the initial brew and less in the dilution phase. Others prefer to make the brew strong and water it down more. You’ll want to tweak both of these steps to dial in the perfect cup of cold brew coffee.
Pour over coffee ratio
There are a few different types of pour over funnels, and each one comes with its own recommended ratio of coffee to water.
Pour over drinkers tend to have very strong opinions about their recipes, so you’ll find lots of advice in this space. I’ll offer some starting numbers, but I’m sure you’ll want to work out your own preferred pour over process.
James Hoffman’s famous V60 recipe is a great starting point for this funnel, and he recommends a ratio of 1:16.7. That might sound a bit weak, but you’ll find that pour overs thrive on the complexity that comes at that end of the coffee ratio scale.
With Chemex, you can start a little stronger than V60. I would go with 1:15 and adjust from there. And yes, that is the same ratio as a strong drip coffee.
The coffee golden ratio
I should briefly mention this term because it gets thrown around a lot. The golden ratio for coffee was originally proposed by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) as a way to achieve what they call their Golden Cup Standard of coffee.
Their golden ratio is about 1:18, which is on the weaker end of the range we are talking about. Despite the buzz around the term, it only makes sense with certain brewing methods and certain taste preferences. I would just recommend sticking with the method-specific ratios above or finding your own favorite rather than trying to match this golden standard.
How Many Scoops of Coffee Per Cup?
A scoop of coffee should be about 2 tablespoons of grounds when filled level with the top of the scoop. For drip coffee, that means you’ll be using about 1.5 scoops for each cup of coffee.
However, not all coffee scoops are created equal, so you may want to get out a measuring tablespoon to verify just your real coffee scoop size. That will give you a better idea of how many scoops of coffee per cup with your specific equipment.
Adjusting the Coffee Grounds to Water Ratio
In general, more coffee grounds or less water will result in a stronger brew. Even if you like strong coffee, there are obviously limits to how far you’ll want to go, otherwise, we’d all be drinking coffee sludge.
You’ll definitely want to experiment with your coffee strength, but how can you tell when you are not using enough coffee grounds? Is it possible to use too much coffee? Let’s take a look at what happens when you go too far with your experimentation.
What if you add too few coffee grounds?
Intuitively, you just expect that more water would make for a weaker brew. That’s true to an extent, but if you go past a certain point you’ll actually start introducing new flavors, most of which you won’t enjoy.
If your ratio of coffee grounds to water is too low, you’ll end up over extracting. Over-extracted coffee is bitter, often in a way that overwhelms the natural complexity of the brew.
What if you add too many coffee grounds?
If you love your coffee strong, you want to keep pushing the ratio of coffee to water, adding more and more grounds to your brew. But this can also hurt the quality of your coffee if you take it too far.
When you reach a certain level of under extraction, you’ll start to lose some of the complex flavors of the coffee beans. Instead, you’ll just be pulling the sour notes, leaving the sweet flavors still in the grounds. Instead of making your coffee stronger, you just end up making it taste worse.
Should You Weigh Your Coffee and Water?
Coffee experts tend to recommend weighing your grounds (or beans) and your water instead of measuring them by volume.
For water, you probably won’t notice a huge difference either way. But for some methods, like inverted AeroPress or pour over, you may find it easier to have the coffee maker on a scale and weigh the water rather than trying to use measuring cups for hot water.
For grounds, the increased accuracy of weighing instead of using a tablespoon or scoop can matter quite a bit. If you take a few beans and grind them up, the volume (how many tablespoons of coffee) you’ll get will depend on the grind size. Fine grinds pack together better than coarse grinds. On the other hand, those beans will weigh the same whether you grind them coarse, fine, or even just leave them as whole beans.
Most people will still opt for using scoops or measuring spoons/cups, and that’s okay. If you ever want to take your coffee making to the extreme, though, a kitchen scale can really help you perfect your brewing process.
How Many Cups of Coffee in a Pound of Beans?
How much coffee can you get from a bag of beans? I’m going to assume that you aren’t as obsessive as I am about measuring this, but you still want a decent estimate to plan your grocery runs.
One pound of coffee beans is 454 grams of coffee. If you make strong drip coffee (1:15 ratio), you’ll be using about 15.8 grams of coffee per cup, so that means you’ll be able to make just over 28 cups with one bag — or two 12-cup pots with some beans left over. If you use the stronger ratio for French press coffee (1:10), you’ll actually need 23.7 g per cup. That means your bag of beans will only make 19 cups.
If you go all the way to a 1:5 ratio, at 47.3 g per cup you’ll be looking at just over 9 cups from a single pound of beans. Even if you like the flavor of very concentrated coffee, this is a pretty solid reason to avoid overdoing it — strong coffee can get expensive!
The Measure of a Coffee
There are a few tricks of the trade that every aspiring coffee snob should know: Invest in a good coffee grinder, never use stale coffee, and learn how to measure coffee grounds. Measuring coffee is complicated by inconsistent cup sizes and the varying methods of preparing coffee.
My goal here was to equip you with the information necessary to confidently make coffee with the perfect grounds to water ratio. I also want you to have the knowledge to play around with that coffee to water ratio, learning to dial in exactly how much ground coffee per cup to use to make your ideal ratio of brew.
I hope you find the coffee ratio calculator helpful, and definitely let me know if there are any more coffee calculations that you need for your coffee journey.