What's the Ideal Coffee-to-Water Ratio?
We've got the so-called Golden Ratio for your morning cuppa.
There are several variables that add up to making a delicious, balanced cup of coffee, including grind size of the beans, roast, water temperature and brew time. But the ratio of coffee to water is one of the most-important components. It’s not exactly one-size-fits-all, but there’s an easy formula for finding your ideal ratio. Here’s how to brew a cup of Joe at home like a pro.
Get to know the golden ratio
“The phrase ‘golden ratio’ implies that there's one perfect ratio for all coffee brewing, and it's just not quite that simple,” says Ben Helfen, an education support specialist for Counter Culture Coffee. That said, there are a few standard coffee-to-water ratios for various methods of brewing. For drip coffee brewing — which encompasses most home coffeemakers, bulk brewers and pour-overs — Helfen says that the ratio of 60 grams of coffee to one liter of water, or roughly 1:17, is the one most commonly used by coffee pros (and is often referred to as “the golden ratio”). For immersion brewing like a French press, where water sits with the ground coffee rather than passing through it, Helfen says that lower ratios in the 1:14 to 1:15 range are more ideal.
“When I'm dealing with coffees that are very different in roast level or variety type, I will make adjustments to things like the brew time and grind setting, but very rarely will I change my ratio,” Helfen says.
Jenny Bonchak, founder and CEO of Slingshot Coffee Co., explains that finding the perfect ratio is all about striking a balance between strength (how many coffee particles end up in your final brew) and extraction, or its intensity. As a rule of thumb, she recommends aiming for a 1:14 to a 1:16 ratio.
She explains that an average cup of coffee is 12 ounces, or 336 grams. So, if you're making one cup using the 1:16 ratio, you'd use 25 grams of coffee to 400 grams of water, which is a yield of approximately 12 ounces after accounting for water absorption. At home, she starts with a 1:16 ratio; her go-to recipe to make coffee for two is 50 grams of coffee to 800 grams of water.
Weigh your coffee and your water
You’ll notice that pros talk about the amount of coffee in grams, rather than tablespoons or scoops. In order to more precisely measure your coffee, Bonchak recommends investing in a gram scale.
“One of the most-important pieces of equipment to have in your repertoire for a great cup of coffee is a gram scale,” she says. “All of us coffee pros wouldn't be without one. Weigh your water, weigh your coffee.”
The reason weight is so important when it comes to coffee is because of its density. “Lighter roasted coffees are more dense than darker roasted coffees, and certain types of varieties of coffee from some countries can be denser than others, even at similar roast levels,” Helfen explains. “Because of this, the same scoop size might weigh more or less depending on the coffee.”
Make sure your water temperature is right
After you find your ideal coffee to water ratio, you’ll need to pay close attention to water temperature. It’s vital to brewing a balanced cup because it plays a key role in the extraction process. Pros agree that your water temperature should be in the range of 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
“If your goal is a hot cup of coffee, but your water is not in that ideal range, you risk under-extraction and what can be perceived as grassy, peanut-y or paper-y” flavor, Bonchak explains. “On the flip side, you can over-extract with water that is too hot and experience flavors that are bitter and astringent.”
If you don’t have a thermometer, Helfen recommends heating your water to boiling and then letting it sit for a minute or two with the lid off.
Craft your cold brew
Though Bonchak drinks her coffee hot at home, Slingshot has built its reputation on its stellar cold brew. The ratio of coffee to water is still a key factor, but with cold brew, you’re swapping in time for water temperature in the extraction process.
“Cold or room temperature water doesn't extract your coffee as quickly,” she says. “I recommend a more coarse grind, and brewing in a cold environment for 12 to 16 hours."
Don’t dump it out
If you happen to brew a too-strong cup, don’t pour it out! Freeze it to use as coffee ice that won’t dilute your cold brew as it melts or incorporate it into recipes like these:
Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Save 1/2 cup of your morning coffee to dump into this well-spiced meatless meal.
Chocolate Aztec Cupcakes
This spice-laden recipe uses 1/3 cup of fresh-brewed coffee to up the chocolate flavor.
Is it chocolate? Is it salami? All we know is this adorable dessert includes a few tablespoons of coffee.
Complete Breakfast Smoothie
Jeff Mauro’s breakfast smoothie calls for ¼ cup of very strong coffee to blend with bananas and peanut butter, among other ingredients.
Coffee Snow Cone
This 3-ingredient recipe will use 3 cups of hot coffee, for an icy and irresistible finish.
Melissa d’Arabian’s chocolate-topped dessert calls for 1 ½ cups of hot fresh-brewed strong coffee.