On Weights and Measures
On Weights and Measures
Ten years ago or so, my wife and took a series of cooking classes at The Chopping Block in Chicago, including a bread baking class. (My bread-baking game was already strong well before the pandemic hit.) As an introduction to the class, the chef instructor had two identical ½ cup measuring cups filled with flour on her teaching table. Although they appeared to be identical, when she weighed them out for us, it turned out that one weighed a full 10g more than the other. That might not seem like much, but in the world of baking that can be the difference between a perfect loaf of bread and a brick. Even though most recipes you’ll find will give measurements in volume, to get the most consistent results time after time, you really want those powdery, potentially packable ingredients to be measured by weight.
Speaking of powdery, potentially packable ingredients - coffee. Ask any espresso drinker and they’ll tell you that a difference of 1-2g in their portafilter can be the difference between dark, syrupy bliss and a thin, sour swill that’s unfit for human consumption. Small differences in the amount of coffee grounds exposed to water across all brewing methods, though, can really make a profound difference in the end result. Selfishly, if you’ve tasted my coffee at my tent and enjoyed it enough to actually buy some, I want you to experience the same coffee at home that you had with me.
All of that to say – if you don’t already have a scale for your coffee, GET ONE! You simply cannot make consistently good coffee consistently if you’re not measuring it by weight. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you do want something digital that’s accurate to 0.1g if you’re mainly brewing espresso and to 0.5-1.0g if pretty much any other form of brewed coffee gets you through your day. If you mostly drink espresso or pour-over coffee, a “coffee scale” with a built-in timer might be convenient enough to be worth the few extra dollars they typically cost.
Once you’ve got your scale, below is a rundown of how I brew my most commonly drunk coffees. I’m happy to discuss Aeropress, pour-over, and French Press techniques in person…and I’m always excited to hear about new ways to make this incredible beverage.
- Gaggia Classic espresso machine w/ stock Double Shot portafilter
- 18g very fine grounds, grounds distribution tool, tamper
- 21-23s brew time
- 34-36g espresso out
- Bonavita 8C coffee brewer
- 63-65g grounds – on the finer side of a medium grind
- 1000mL cool, filtered water
- 60g : 1000mL is a good starting point; I like my coffee a little strong
- 1 Quart (32oz) mason jar, with lid
- 90-100g (approx. 3 – 3.5oz) coarse grounds
- Fill jar with cold filtered water, stir, and refrigerate 18-24hrs (16hrs as an absolute minimum)
- Break the crust with a spoon and remove the foam
- After the grounds settle on the bottom (give it ~30min if possible), filter the liquid through a coffee filter to remove ultra-fine grounds (no one likes chewy coffee) and bittering oils