My increasing reliance on scales

These days I drink relatively little espresso (compared to my total coffee intake). Most of the time it is the Chemex or the press. I am pretty much a 60g/l kind of person when it comes to brewing and, after I was rightly schooled by Kyle Glanville whilst in LA, my grind for the Chemex is pretty coarse. However I just can't let go of the obsessive chasing of detail. The moment's where things just come together by mistake are few and far between for me, so I obsess. I tend to use a larger Chemex so when I only want a large cup it bothered me that I didn't know visually exactly how much water to add, or when I had added enough without guesswork. And guesswork just won't do.

These days I drink relatively little espresso (compared to my total coffee intake). Most of the time it is the Chemex or the press.

I am pretty much a 60g/l kind of person when it comes to brewing and, after I was rightly schooled by Kyle Glanville whilst in LA, my grind for the Chemex is pretty coarse. However I just can’t let go of the obsessive chasing of detail. The moment’s where things just come together by mistake are few and far between for me, so I obsess. I tend to use a larger Chemex so when I only want a large cup it bothered me that I didn’t know visually exactly how much water to add, or when I had added enough without guesswork. And guesswork just won’t do. So now I tend to put the chemex or press with the coffee in on a scale, tare it off and then pour the correct weight of water. I dislike transferring water from kettle to measuring jug to brewer so this seems the only sensible way.

Weighing a chemex

It seems so obvious – and whilst no one told me to do it like this surely I am not the only one? Is this too geeky?

37 Comments

  1. I am in a very similar place as you right now although not as knowledgable and experienced. I have backed away from espresso over the past few months while enjoying coffee via press and Chemex. I think the reason I have gotten so much out of the manual sytems as of late is that I redirected the exacting methods of espresso prep into the brewed process rather than just treating brewed coffee as an afterthought. I weigh and measure all aspects of the brewing process so when I stumble on something great, I can understand how I arrived there and repeat it. I think I am actually more methodical with the press and especially the Chemex than I have been with espresso. It is quite rewarding. I have preferred several coffees out of the Chemex, and sometimes the press, than what I have comparatively experienced out of the Clover. This includes Esmeralda. I attribute this to my adherence of relying on weights and measures. I’ll get back into espresso, but this is way too much goodness right now.

  2. My customers think I’m a little obsessive, but I put it in perspective by explaining how in Moscow, you couldn’t make a french press of some random coffee without a stop watch and some scales…..bless you for making me feel so normal.

  3. I guess I am consoled by drinking a lot of truly excellent cups of coffee…

  4. In my 3 cup Chemex I maintain SCAA coffee to water ratio using a scale for the coffee and a measuring cup for the water… but you’re saying you weigh the water?

  5. Yeah – if I want 300ml of liquid then I tare the scales with the brewer on it and then pour til it says 300g. Accurate, fast and no heat loss. Works for me!

  6. Preeetty geeky, but I think we can all understand. I may have to add this to my regular brewing ritual.

  7. That would be the way to do it… however, following the trend displayed in several videos floating around, I’ve started to believe a little heat loss is a good thing. In many of the instructional videos of Asian origin I’ve seen, they transfer the water at least twice and then pour from a foot or two above. I don’t know what’s right or wrong, and I’m sure they both produce great cups of coffee when all the other variables are right.

    Anyway, now I know what to do when I have a scale and don’t have a measuring cup. Thanks!

  8. Hahaha…Relax and enjoy. Be with the force Luke, I mean, James.

  9. but what happens if your scales are broken?

    could you not add a scale in ml to the side of the chemex bulb?

  10. Yes. of course it’s geeky… but your readers on the blog are likely to be the ones who have a chemex, a good grinder, and a scale and they are now kicking themselves for not thinking of this system earlier.

  11. About brewing single cups, do you find it necessary to grind finer for equivalent extraction to larger brewings? The finer grind is the only way to match up the extraction time, since with the Chemex the filtration drip-through area is really only the part of the cone that hangs into the lower half of the Chemex, so it doesn’t scale up with larger coffee mass as do filter baskets with ribs or other mechanism that allow filtration through larger areas.
    On the side of the Chemex I have lines drawn with permanent marker. I have to reapply the lines after the dishwasher, and isn’t as easy to read because it doesn’t take into account the water still waiting to drip through, so I think I will get a digital scale (my triple beam balance would be intrusive, I think).

  12. Hey Jim! I’ve done it like that for the past six months or so (ever since I got the scale) and I’m loving it. Glad I’m not the only one doing stuff like that!

    Regarding the temperature: Flip, I don’t boil the water but sometimes measure the temperature with a digital thermometer or just judge by the sound of the water when it’s ready to pour. This tends to work quite good actually (with some practice).

  13. Interesting…I measured the water before i put it in the kettle and have a place marked on the kettle (doesn’t come off) where I know it is 1 litre or 350 ml etc. then i just pour the entire contents of the kettle. surely this makes more sense?

  14. Hey Jim. Fantastic, all we need now is a kettle with a temperature stability of 0.1deg Celcius and we are there.

    And the Geeks will rule the world……..

  15. One question about Chemex – I only see paper filters for them. Are there gold filters? I’m wondering for two reasons, 1) I prefer not to create the waste caused by paper filters (ya, I’m one of those eco/green people :), and 2) I’d always heard that paper filters could affect the taste and such of coffee.

    I’m tempted to try a Chemex after seeing your endorsement. I am strictly an espresso drinker, as I really love the body and density of it, and the flavor of great espresso. I’ve become pretty explicit myself, after getting my Expobar Brewtus II. “Regular” coffee has always just been like brown colored water, lacking body, density, those wonderful things espresso does to your tongue (similar effects as tannins in wines, etc.), and good taste to me (I realize everyone is different, and obviously this is just my opinion). But, I also wonder if I’ve just never had a really great cup, or if I’m simply just someone who only likes espresso. But, I love trying things out, and obviously a Chemex isn’t something that’ll kill the wallet to try and find I don’t like (or better, do like!).

  16. Stuart, tbh I once thought about PIDing my kettle. Luckily I gave it to a person who needed it more than me ;)

  17. I recently purchased a Jing temperature controlled kettle

    (http://jingtea.com/tea-ware/tea-making-accessories/temperature-controlled-kettle)

    and with 1L of water in it it consistently turns off at 94C (when set to 90). It also has a “keep warm” feature but the temperature has to drop at least 8 degrees (C) before it gets it up to temp. again. But regardless of the temperature features it is a nice kettle anyway (though disregard the side markings…they’re way out!).

  18. Recently I’ve come to worry about the temp less and less. It has just become habit to use the water about 15 seconds off the boil. Everything is tasting great, nothing tasting like the temp is wrong anyway! I’d like to do more monitoring of the steeping water in different methods – surely the Chemex loses heat the fastest due to having a large exposed area opposed to the jacketed up Eva Solo? Anyone played with this? I do need to buy a datalogger at some point. Recommendations? (I am not buying overpriced Fluke software!)

  19. I’ve messed around with monitoring water in a press via a Fluke. I was curious as to what the temp was doing over that four minute period. If the pot was preheated properly, the temp would drop between 9 and 11 degrees F. If a non-heated pot was used, the temp would drift around 20 degrees. I abondoned the temp measuring and never looked into getting data on the Chemex, because as you said, nothing tastes wrong. Messing around with different amounts of coffee, grind, and steep times is where I get the most benefit.

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  21. I like to preheat my chemex with a pot of hot water while i’m preparing the coffee and wetting the filter, then dump the water out as soon as i’m ready with my next batch of water. Seems to help a little on the heat stability side of things…

    It would be cool if there were so sort of jacket like the eva solo has.

  22. Hi James!
    I know this is rather old blog post to answer, but i just thought i`d remind You (and doing this although i`m pretty sure You know this already and grasp the subject better than i ever could) that at higher temps water is actually somewhat less dense. So when weighing out 300 grams of off-boil water, You´re actually using a bit (very un-scientific, i know) more water by volume than 300 mls.
    http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_water.htm

  23. Personally, I am always in way to big of a rush to get that specific, maybe I need to slow down. I do enjoy having a cup of my favorite flavored coffee after having a little of my favorite herb. ;)

  24. Have you actually noticed any taste advantage from measuring with such accuracy?

  25. My bells and whistle piece of crap cuisinart drip machined died, won’t turn on, out of warranty blah blah blah!

    I am interested in the manual pour over method. I purchased a Clever Coffee Dripper. Now, I need to get a grinder and a scale and kettle!

    Thinking of getting either the Capresso Infinity 565 grinder or the Kitchen Aid Pro Line. Both are available at Sur La Table where I have some gift certificates from this past xmas.

    For the scale thinking of getting the Oxo Good Grips scale http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=120843&RN=1151 .

    And, last but not least either the Hario Kettle or this one http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.cupping-brewing.php

    Any thoughts or suggestions on these products?

    Thanks!

  26. Using my Clever Coffee Dripper, it was pretty easy to estimate the amount of water to add for two cups because I’d fill to almost the brim, but when the Wife was ill and wanted no coffee, I had to get the scale out to properly dose for one cup since I’m terrible at estimating where to stop the pour in the middle of the cone. I do 450 ml water and 28 g fine ground coffee for two 200 ml cups and cut that in half for the one cup.

    Works great, no guessing, and I use this with my second CCD when I tested stale versus aerated coffee… I’m going to test the Melita filters with the micro-perforations next to see if I can taste a difference.

    Adam, that scale should be sufficient for dosing water for pourover, but you’d want something more accurate (and a better grinder) if you plan on using it for espresso. I actually keep a pocket jewelry scale for espresso and a scale similar to the one you found for pour-over and weighing out greens for roasting coffee.

    -Chris

  27. Does anyone use the Hario stainless steel beehive kettle? Do you need this type of kettle for something like the CCD?

    How about the Pino Kettle Pro?

    Thanks!

  28. the trick to getting good coffee at home is a excellent coffee machine. i have a Saeco brand Espresso maker, and it makes very good tasting coffee. also grinding the beans yourself just before you make it enhances the taste as well :)

  29. Although a bit tedious it is worth taking care to measure out the right volume of coffee. I tend to do it by rough volume rather than weight. There’s nothing worse than making it too complicated and ending up sipping a cup of rocket fuel ;)

  30. “I dislike transferring water from kettle to measuring jug to brewer so this seems the only sensible way.”

    Huh. Well, I heat enough water to both rinse and brew on the stove, in a kettle, to boiling. I then pour the entirety of it into my Buono and use the Buono for both rinsing and brewing – brewer and receiving container on the scale, tared, after rinsing. So I guess this is really just one more step than your process.

    I used to heat the water on the stove in the Buono but I had to obsessively watch the temp for it to reach the desired temp or let it reach boiling and wait the amount of it took for it to cool down.

    I’ve found that it makes things simpler to heat the water I need in the kettle and then pour it into the Buono. After the transfer process and rinsing are complete, invariably the water is right smack dab in the middle of the optimum temperature range – right around 200º.

    So, geeky? Uh, yes. But who am I to judge. I’d expect nothing less.

  31. Scales are vital now a days especially with prices rising people want to make sure they are not getting shorted and companies do not want to over shoot their estimates. i love sales and will continue to use mine on a daily basis

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