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While I have talked some about dosage (the amount of coffee you use) it is an important topic that deserves it’s own post. It’s one of the most common questions that comes up when people begin brewing coffee at home. How much coffee should I use to brew a cup of coffee? Here are my thoughts on finding a good coffee to water ratio.
The Strong Coffee Misconception
First we need to talk about strong coffee, weak coffee and roast levels. It has become fairly common to refer to a dark roasted coffee as a strong coffee. This is simply incorrect.
When people make the mistake of using “strong” to describe the flavor of a coffee, they are usually trying to describe the smokey, roasty notes of a dark roasted coffee. There is no correlation between how strong or weak a particular cup of coffee is and the roast level of the coffee. Learn more about coffee roast levels here.
The strength of a cup of coffee is based on the ratio of extracted chemical compounds from the grounds to the amount of water in the brew. It is a term that should be used to describe concentration not the flavor.
Assuming even extraction of the coffee grounds, your dosage is the largest factor that impacts coffee strength. A strong cup of coffee is full of the flavor characteristics that the coffee and roast profile contain. It is the brewer who has the power to make a cup of coffee weak or strong not the roaster.
How Much Coffee Per Cup?
If you are standing at your coffee maker right now wondering how much coffee to make a full pot of coffee, the answer is 1 cup of ground coffee. I use one cup of ground coffee for a 12 cup automatic coffee maker. (One cup is equal to 16 tablespoons).
This is not the coffee to water ratio I would recommend for manual coffee brewing and I think there are some things to discuss about auto drip coffee makers dosage too.
The Standard Dosage for Manual Brewing– Golden Ratio
The standard brewing dosage for a 6 fluid ounce cup of coffee is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. If you are brewing your coffee by weight, it is 10.6 grams of coffee per 177 grams of water.
This coffee to water ratio is known as the “Golden Ratio”- 1 gram of coffee to every 16.7 grams of water. There is an excellent break down of how to compute ratios, visit Garrett over at Coffee Brew Guides for a thorough explanation.
Here is a handy coffee dosage table for the “Golden Ratio” (16.7:1)
If you are not of a happy mathematical disposition, you may want to print this chart as a reference until you can figure out your personal dosing preferences.
How much coffee for 12 cups?- Automatic Drip Coffee Maker Dosage
For a 12 cup coffee maker, I use 1 cup of ground coffee.
When brewing with an automatic coffee maker, I use significantly less coffee than the standard coffee to water ratio. You are certainly welcome to use the “Golden Ratio” mentioned above but I feel 1.33 tablespoons (or 1 heaping tablespoon) per 6 fluid ounce cup of coffee works really well. Some coffee enthusiasts will balk at this dosage but I have my reasons:
- It won’t fit-If you are wanting to brew 12 cups of coffee in your coffee maker, the “standard” dosage will be 1.5 cups of ground coffee. This is simply not going to fit in most coffee makers. A good rule of thumb is to use your coffee machine at 2/3 capacity (8 cups) if you are going to use that much coffee.
- You will go through coffee really fast– At 127 grams of coffee per 12 cup batch, you will be through a twelve ounce bag of coffee in less than three batches. Yikes.
- Quantity of quality- I look at an automatic coffee maker as a way to make a large quantity of coffee easily. You can make a pretty good cup of coffee with an auto drip but most people are looking for volume. Get the most cups of coffee per bag by scaling back a bit.
Here is my recommended dosage for automatic coffee makers. Start here and adjust to your preference.
Brewing Coffee By Weight or Volume
It is pretty much universally accepted in the coffee world that brewing by weight (or mass if you want to get science-y) is the more accurate method. I have previously discussed why you should consider adding a scale to your manual brewing arsenal, but here are a few quick points relating to dosing.
- Weighing your coffee is more accurate– To some extent, measuring by volume is always going to involve a small amount of eyeballing it. What is a level tablespoon and where exactly does that water measure? Remember that meniscus from high school chemistry? If you have an accurate scale, then it should be easier to be consistently accurate with weight over volume.
- Weighing your coffee is easier- It might sounds like a royal pain to weigh and brew your coffee with a scale, but I find it to be easier than using volume. Once you get in the habit of weighing, it should be a seamless process that you don’t even have to think about.
- Brewing by volume is better than nothing- Brewing coffee by volume is still very preferable to not measuring your dosage at all. The advantages of using a scale are slight compared to the advantages of measuring your dosage over eyeballing it. If you don’t have a scale or are intimidated by it, don’t sweat it. Your tablespoon and 2 cup Pyrex will do a fine job.
Personal Preference and Dialing in a Roast
One more thing, don’t let the “Standard Brewing Dosage” keep you from brewing coffee the way your enjoy it. The standard coffee to water ratio has been established as a baseline to get you in the ballpark of what is considered acceptable coffee strength. It is not an iron clad rule that should keep you from exploring and learning about your personal coffee preferences.
I vary my dosage from the standard for a variety of factors including but not limited to: brewing method, particular coffee characteristics, random whims and experimentation. If a coffee doesn’t taste right to you, experiment, adjust and find your sweet spot. Have some fun with it.
What is your coffee to water ratio for your favorite manual brewing method? How about for automatic coffee machines? Are they different? Share your tips in the comments section below.
(Post Updated 10/10/20, Originally Posted 7/7/2015)
Nice article John. I like the picture!
Thanks Ken! I wanted to go with a different picture but Ruth convinced me that this one was better. It was a product of having abundant quantities of ground coffee on hand today.
As with the scale article, free spirits get a pass on dosing. When you got it, you got it ;)
Thank you confirming the standard, however, I’ve also heard that if you prefer a weaker cup of coffee, you should still brew 2tbsp:6oz (or by weight as you mentioned) & then add water to your liking. Is there any validity to this? Is this really different than simply adding more water or less coffee when brewing?
That is a good question. You could certainly water down your coffee a bit if you feel like it is too strong.
I think a better more long term option would be to increase the amount of water that your use to brew with. If you like a slightly weaker cup of coffee. Try using 9 grams/ 5 teaspoons of ground coffee for a 6 oz. cup.
If you find that you are getting into a range that is more in the 1:20 range or even less coffee. I would then move back to brewing a coffee in the 1:20 range or so ( around 9 grams per 6 oz.) and dilute it. Passing too much water over the coffee could result in over-extraction. Over-extraction is when you pull too much of the solubles out of the coffee and it tastes a little (or a lot) off.
I hope that helps. Play around with it and find the cup of coffee you enjoy most, then make it that way.
Let me know what you come up with.
I had to double check on your measures, since you abbreviated TSP to mean Tablespoons. For decades of recipes and as a bartender, tsp = teaspoon, Tbsp = tablespoon. Okay, now I understand your technique.
Thanks so much. I really do enjoy your “work”. Woo Hoo!
The main condition of making a perfect cup of coffee is to maintain coffee to water ratio. So I was searching for a perfect chart for this and happy to reach you. Thanks for sharing the Golden Ratio chart. Now I can make a perfect cup of coffee.
I want to buy an automatic coffee maker. Do you have any suggestions?
I came hear hoping to learn how the golden ratio was established. Perhaps you could add a bit explaining it, or at least provide a link or citation.