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Why a set of espresso scales is the most important tool in your home barista kit.

12 Feb 2024

People always ask me how I make such good coffee. I'll let you in on a secret; its not my expensive coffee machine, its not my fancy grinder (okay, maybe it is a little bit) and its not all my expensive coffee tools. Don't get me wrong, these things all help when combined to make consistently great espresso, but the number 1 thing I recommend first to aspiring home baristas is "weigh your coffee with a good set of espresso scales"

What is "good coffee?"

This might be subjective but good coffee isn't going through a whole bag of expensive coffee trying to make that one AMAZING shot of espresso. Its about getting consistent, flavorful espresso time after time and using at most, one shot to dial in a new bag.

Minimizing wastage and building confidence to buy expensive coffee.

Have you ever looked at coffee prices and thought, "I'd love to try that but I'll probably waste it before I get a good extraction?" What if I told you that you can dial in coffee inside one shot?

If you are like me and making 2-3 shots of coffee at home per day, have easy access to a local roaster and not paying shipping costs, I would recommend buying a fresh roasted 250g bag of whole beans as required and storing in a vacuum canister; more on this in another post.

In a 250g bag of whole beans, you will generally be using around 20g of coffee per double shot, this gives you effectively 11 shots of coffee, 1 shot to dial in and 10 grams to run through the grinder to get a feel of the grind level before using a whole 20g to test the dial. As you progress and learn to feel out espresso grind levels, you should almost be able to get the first shot in a range that may not be perfect, but acceptable for a milk based drink. A home barista with practice, can dial in a new bag of coffee and make almost zero waste; it is possible!

Why you should weigh coffee with espresso scales?

  1. Consistency: Achieving consistency in your coffee brewing process is paramount for replicating exceptional cups every time. If you aren't measuring the amount of coffee beans going in, how do you know what to adjust if the shots aren't coming out how you want?

  2. Flavor Optimization: Coffee is a ratio game. Espresso is usually 2 parts liquid coffee for every 1 part of whole beans. Ristretto is equal parts. If you aren't measuring the amount of coffee beans in, you cant know what measurement of liquid coffee you require when extracting your coffee.

  3. Recipe Refinement: Weighing coffee enables you to fine-tune your recipes with precision. It allows you to make minor increments such as increasing or decreasing your grind amount to make a watery shot a bit bolder, or take the edge off something slightly over-extracted.

  4. Waste Reduction: Pulling coffee shots without any idea of the amount of coffee beans going in can lead to wasted beans and subpar brews. By weighing your coffee grounds, you minimize waste and ensure that every bean contributes to a perfect cup.

    Are my kitchen scales okay?


    Probably not! Most kitchen scales generally only measure to a whole gram (18g) and not to a decimal place(18.1g). This means if your scales are showing 18g, it could be anywhere between 17.5g and 18.5g which is outside the acceptable tolerance for dosing coffee. Everyday kitchen scales are also not as responsive as we need when measuring on the fly while extracting coffee underneath our Portafilter. In short, they are better than nothing but do yourself a favor and get yourself a dedicated set of espresso scales to add to your coffee station or pop next to your espresso machine.

    Key points to remember.

    • Use a set of scales that is accurate to 0.1g. Most quality espresso scales will have this feature and are rechargeable via USB-C and do not require replacement batteries.
    • To determine what sizing of beans to use, determine the size of your Portafilter Basket and aim for somewhere in that range. Most 58mm Portafilters will use between 18-20g of ground coffee and 54mm Portafilters will use around 16-18g of ground coffee. You can take this a step further and use a Bottomless Portafilter to further diagnose your extraction.
    • Aim to be within 0.2g of your target dose. So for a 20g dose, you want to be within 19.8g - 20.2g. The closer the better!

     

    Simply put, if you aren't using espresso scales to measure your whole coffee beans going in and your liquid espresso coming out, you are flying blind and playing a chances game with your coffee. Sure you might get it right, but more often then not, you will be throwing away good coffee beans or at the very least, not unlocking the full potential.

    Not sure where to start?

    With years of experience in coffee brewing, we have come up with a comprehensive range of tools to assist the aspiring home baristas in their journey to that perfect cup of coffee. You can view our range of Barista Tools, Coffee Accessories and Espresso Scales to get your on your way to consistently great coffee.

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