Do You Need a Scale to Make Coffee?
QC Specialist Kelly Sanchez says—for a consistently better cup of coffee—the answer is yes
Scales are indispensable to scientists, chefs, and Blue Bottle baristas alike, so it’s strange that one of the coffee world’s most stubborn myths is that these tools are anything but an advantage.
“There are so many reasons why using a scale makes it easier to make good coffee, not harder,” says Kelly Sanchez, Blue Bottle’s Quality Control Specialist for Perfectly Ground Coffee. “The idea that adding new tools to your routine will complicate it is simply not true.”
While we work hard to make sure our cafes are welcoming to our guests, we’re always thinking about how to make it easier for you to brew our delicious single origin, blend, and espresso coffees at home. In Kelly’s expert opinion, a good working scale is essential to bringing out the best in your coffee, no matter how (or where) you make it.
“People come to our cafes not only because the coffee is good, but because it’s dependably so,” says Kelly. “Being able to consistently provide the best, perfectly roasted coffee every time is important to us.”
This consistency relies on getting the right coffee-to-water ratio. Though it might be tempting to guess the amount of coffee you need, eyeballing is, at best, a recipe for inconsistent flavor.
For one thing, a scoop of coffee can vary in density depending on a many factors, including the variety, size, and roast of your beans. But measuring by weight, rather than by volume, will normalize your brew regardless of these factors. A digital scale helps you to achieve this certainty—not just once, but every time you brew. You can learn more about attaining the coffee-to-water ratio (which varies depending on the kind of coffee you’re making) from one of our other experts, Director of Training Michael Phillips.
“Using a scale helps you find out where you're making mistakes. It really eliminates the mystery of weight and ratio, so you can focus more on pertinent variables, like grind size and coffee origin,” says Kelly.
Using a scale can also help refine your coffee experience, allowing you to learn more about what you like and what you don't. When you’re able to better evaluate your taste, you can tweak your technique, coffee-to-water ratio, brewing time, and even brewing method, in pursuit of it.
“If you’re making coffee every day, with a scale you can be positive that you’re getting what you want every time,” says Kelly. “You’re getting better coffee, consistently. Wouldn’t it be awesome to taste wonderful coffee with the assurance of future deliciousness potential?”
In our cafes, Blue Bottle baristas use the Acaia Pearl Scale behind the bar. Though its ultramodern design is definitely eye-catching, Kelly admires the Pearl for its timer, ability to charge, and water resistance. It also features Bluetooth connectivity, with which “real coffee nerds,” as he says, can use the Brewmaster app to monitor their average pour rate—crucial information for perfecting your pour-over technique.
As accurate gram scales have become more affordable, the options for good ones have proliferated. The Hario Scale, for example, is an affordable alternative to the Pearl that’s durable, travel friendly, and with its wide platform, admirably spill resistant. Kelly points out that it also doesn’t turn off automatically, which makes it easier to use when he’s making multiple cups of coffee.
While these are just a few of the many excellent options out there, at home, Kelly uses the Bonavita Electronic Scale. Though it has a higher price point, its integrated timer makes it perfect for manual coffee brewing.
Regardless of the kind you prefer, using a scale empowers you with more precision and knowledge than ever before. With this advantage, home brewers have the privilege of continuing to deepen their control over flavor and consistency.
As Kelly says, “In a way, you become your own quality control specialist.”