The Perfect Coffee to Water Ratio

What is the perfect coffee-to-water ratio? Check this out:

coffee to water ratioCoffee to Water Ratios

Coffee, in its simplest form, is just water mixed with ground coffee beans.

There is much more to it than that, though. There is a myriad of factors that affect how good it will taste. If you want a complex, balanced, sweet, aromatic, sour, or bitter flavor, you need to be aware of two things.

The quality of the coffee beans and the water, and how exactly you choose to mix them.

The last factor is undeniably the most important. It can get pretty intricate pretty fast: the grind size, brew time, water temperature, and the brewing device are just some of the things that will impact the quality of the final cup.

Arguably, the most crucial factor is the brew ratio.

The brew ratio is the ratio of ground coffee to water and will affect your drink’s strength and mouthfeel, amongst other things. Therefore, approximating will not lend to a consistently good final brew.

Using coffee-to-water ratios for any brewing method will allow you to have a final target weight and a constant extraction for every coffee, resulting in a taste that you will begin to know and love.

So, let’s take a look at the importance of the brew ratio and its significance in making a great cup of coffee.

Why is The Coffee to Water Ratio So Important?

A coffee’s flavor will vary depending on the technique used to make it. Think of it as you would any other recipe; it is a delicate art, and each ingredient you use matters. By increasing or decreasing the amount of water or coffee beans you use, you can alter the taste and the viscosity of the beverage. This is why baristas and coffee enthusiasts alike often use scales and timers when brewing.

Some baristas swear by recipes such as “60 grams of coffee per liter of water for so many cups.” But others will instead focus on ratios. Understanding these ratios is simple. If you have 1g of coffee and 1g of water, the ratio of coffee to water is 1:1. If you have 1g of coffee and 15g of water, the ratio is 1:15.

But nobody brews a 15g cup of coffee, which is way too small for the much-needed caffeine hit.

What is more common is a 300g cup of coffee. No matter the brew ratio, most baristas will aim to keep it consistent. This is so that they can work effectively and efficiently and so that if they like how coffee tastes, they can easily replicate it in the future.

If you do not have a gram scale, a good rule of thumb is that one tablespoon equals approximately 7 grams. In addition, to pre-weighing your coffee, you should weigh your water in real-time when possible to ensure your measurements are 100% accurate. For manual brews, weigh the water while pouring from a kettle. For automatic drip, weigh the water before you pour it into the brewing reservoir.

Different Brew Methods Require Different Brew Ratios

If you have a high-quality coffee that has been masterfully roasted to emphasize its best characteristics, you will want to brew it perfectly so that you can enjoy all of its nuances.

For many people, filter coffees are the perfect way to enjoy all of the variety that your coffee has to offer. The flavors are clean, and it is a more diluted drink. The opposite of this would be an espresso, a more intense beverage that can only display two or three primary flavors but does it wonderfully. With these different styles of coffee comes a different ideal brew ratio, grind size, and extraction time.

For espresso, you will generally be using an excellent ground coffee bean as well as a short brew time – typically around 25 to 30 seconds, and very little water. An ideal ratio would be between 1:1 and 1:3. There are shorter and longer variations of the espresso, the Ristretto, and the lungo, where the recipe varies slightly.

The rule of thumb for immersion coffee is a coarser grind and a longer brew time. Therefore, immersion and drip will require a lot more water, and obviously, a lot more coffee. You will often hear that the best ratios of coffee beans to water are somewhere between 1:15 and 1:18. However, this is not always the case. When one talks about good ratios, it is generally in terms of what is accepted as preferable.

Is There an Ideal Coffee-to-Water Ratio?

Well, not really. It all comes down to personal preference. Around the world, different cultures prefer different types of coffee, some prefer subtle, delicate brews, and some prefer intense, flavorsome ones. So while many people will recommend different ratios that they swear by, it always depends on the coffee bean and personal preference.

It is essential to know what brew ratio to use for what kind of coffee you are making. Filter coffee at 1:20 would be unpleasantly weak, and at 1:10 would be too intense for most people’s palates.

Those are the extreme ends of the scale, and your aim should be to find the right balance for each bean. You will want to be able to perceive all of the individual nuances that led you to purchase that in the first place.

The fragrances, aromas, and flavors will all be accessible to you should you get your brewing ratio right. For some people, bypassing the brew altogether is ideal for bringing out all the subtle characteristics.

They will brew their coffee with a relatively small amount of water to get the intensity and avoid the heavy mouthfeel. Then, they will dilute it with water; this is a unique technique, but those who practice it swear by it.

So, now you know what you know, you should be well on your way to making the perfect coffee. Of course, it is not always easy because there are so many variables to take into consideration. But when you master it, oh boy, is it worth it! You’ll appreciate all of those subtle notes written on your packet of coffee just like a professional barista would.

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Nathan is the founder of The Darkest Roast (featured in the NY Times, Yahoo, and Tasting Table). He is a self-taught coffee expert and has tried 100s of coffees from around the world. Nathan's goal is to help you find the best coffee, so you only drink the best.

1 thought on “The Perfect Coffee to Water Ratio”

  1. I have just started using a clever dripper and enjoy it’s ease of use. Do you have any recommendation for grind setting? I’m using a 1:17 ratio. I also enjoy a dark roast. Does that affect what grind and/or ratio? I’m a newbie on this, but really enjoy a good cup of coffee.

    Thanks, Tom


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