How To: The Golden Ratios in Coffee Brewing
Written by: Garrett Oden
Did you know that Beethoven would count out 60 coffee beans every time he made a cup of coffee? He knew something many of his time didn’t: measuring your coffee beans and water is the best and easiest way to control the strength and balance of your coffee.
I’m not going to suggest that you count every bean each morning. We have a better, simpler system for brewing delicious coffee: ratios.
A cake baked without a balanced ratio of flour and milk won’t taste right, and rice cooked with too much water will have a strange texture. In the same way, coffee grounds need a certain amount of water to produce a rich and balanced brew.
There’s no better way to brew coffee with a pleasant strength and balanced extraction. Ratios are the key to consistently delicious coffee, and I’d love to show you how to use them.
Keeping a kitchen scale next to your coffee gear is a simple and painless way to implement these ratios into your regular routine. It takes seconds to weigh your coffee and water, but it’s worth it once you take that first sip of your coffee - and every sip afterward.
The Golden Ratios
There’s no single objectively best ratio, but there are a few ratios that have risen above the rest. We’ll call these the Golden Ratios. There are plenty of people in the world that enjoy their coffee outside of these ratios (we all have different preferences, after all), but most of us will find that these ratios are the most satisfying
Here are the Golden Ratios: 1 gram of coffee to 15-18 grams of water (1:15-18).
Imagine using a gallon of water and two small beans to make a mug of coffee. Not only will the coffee be weak, but the beans will over brew because of too much water, producing a bitter, dull flavor.
Now imagine using a small glass of water to brew coffee with a bathtub full of grounds. That will be an overpowering cup, but also one that’s under extracted since the grounds didn’t get the water they needed to extract a balanced amount. The result will be strong and sour.
These Golden Ratios use enough coffee to brew a rich mug without being overpowering. They use enough water to extract the coffee to a balanced and satisfying degree.
Let me show you how to actually use these ratios.
How To Use The Ratios
While a kitchen scale that measures in grams is the ideal way to go about this process, you can still use volume measurements. 1 gram of water equals 1ml exactly, so you can use a liquid measuring pitcher for the water. For the coffee beans, 1 tablespoon is somewhere between 4 and 7g of coffee (I’d just assume 5g, personally).
The explanation below may seem more complicated than is necessary, but I promise you’ll pick up the trick so quickly once you do it a couple times. Trust me, a single math problem on your phone is well worth the boosted coffee quality!
If you’d like a single 8oz mug of coffee, here’s how to find your coffee to water ratio:
- 8oz of coffee is about 225ml of liquid, so we’ll brew with 225g of water.
- For practice sake, let’s say you’re using a 1:15 ratio (it’s golden). Divide your total water weight by the ratio (225 / 15) to produce 15. That’s the amount of coffee you need.
- You now know that, if you’re using a 1:15 ratio, you’ll need 15g of coffee and 225g of water to brew your 8oz mug.
What if you want three 8oz mugs of coffee?
- 24oz of coffee is about 680ml of liquid, which is how much water you’ll use.
- If you prefer a 1:17 ratio, divide the total water weight by 17 to find out how much coffee you need (680 / 17 = 40).
- You now know that you’ll need 680g of water and 40g of coffee beans to brew three mugs at a 1:17 ratio.
What if you have 22g of coffee and want to know how much water to use?
- Multiply your coffee beans by your favorite Golden Ratio (let’s say 1:16 this time).
- 22g of coffee multiplied by 16 is 352g of water.
- You now know exactly how much water to use with your coffee beans.
See? The math isn’t difficult at all and shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds to figure out if you’ve got a phone close by. Better coffee is literally just a single math problem away.
Here’s a pro tip for you: write down your common recipes on a piece of paper and keep it near your coffee setup. That way you don’t have to do math every morning - you can just read your cheat sheet!
Which Ratio Should You Use?
Figuring out which coffee to water ratio you personally prefer is a matter of trial and error. Brew a few cups of coffee at different ratios to see how they taste. While I personally enjoy 1:17, you may be a 1:15 kind of person - only you can decide.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how the Golden Ratios differ.
1:15 Ratio - With less water used, coffee brewed with this ratio will be slightly more concentrated. However, since there was less water to extract yummy things from the coffee grounds, the final brew will be less extracted than the other Golden Ratios. This is likely to be a rich and crisp cup with a more pronounced acidity.
1:18 Ratio - With more water used, coffee brewed with this ratio will be slightly less strong, but also slightly more extracted (since more water leads to more extraction). This is likely to be a more mellow and rounded cup with a gentle acidity.
1:16 and 1:17 Ratios - These ratios fall in-between 1:15 and 1:18 in terms of strength and concentration, and are the most commonly used ratios around the world (though all four are considered rich and balanced).
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. Brew, explore, play. Find your favorite ratio and stick with it.
Write a few recipes down and before you know it, you’ll be a master of balanced coffee.
Even if you’re not as precise as a rocket scientist, as long as you stick within this range of ratios, you’re golden (see what I did there?).
If you can learn to use these golden ratios when you brew coffee, you’ll never have to guess about whether you’ve used enough coffee or water again. This takes another variable out of your hands, making it easier and easier to get balanced and rich coffee.
Just remember to start with freshly roasted, high-quality beans. Ratios won't do you any good if you're using mediocre beans.
Here's my top tip for always having fresh, delicious beans on hand:
Let us send them to you! Our JavaPresse Coffee Subscription sends you freshly roasted beans that we've sourced from some of the best coffee farms in the world. Our farm partners are eco-friendly, pay fair wages, and grow some amazing beans.