White Coffee mug sitting on white plate filled with coffee

Coffee to Water Ratio: The Best Ratio of Coffee to Water For Every Brew

We may earn a commission if you purchase from our link at no cost to you. Learn More

A lot of us were raised with a pretty slapdash method of coffee brewing. Dump between 6 and 12 cups of water in the Mr. Coffee, and throw in a couple of scoops. If this method yields a bitter cup of coffee, we usually blame it on inferior beans. If our morning cup is too weak, we just dump in more ground coffee next time.

While this approach will get you more or less caffeinated in the morning, it sadly ignores one of the most basic principles of good coffee brewing: the correct water to coffee ratio. 

Now, if the word “ratio” gives you hives and flashbacks to your middle school math teacher, don’t worry. We’ll break it all down for you, including the correct brew ratios for drip, pour over, and immersion coffee brew methods.

What is a Brew Ratio?

If you don’t find yourself using the term “ratio” in your everyday life, don’t worry. We also haven’t spent too much time calculating how long it would take two trains going forty-five miles per hour to collide, so we’re not here to judge your math proficiency.

A ratio  just measures the relationship between two things. So, if we say the ratio of blue to green jelly beans is 5:1, that just means that for every green jelly bean, we have five blue jelly beans. 

A brew ratio is the amount of ground coffee relative to the amount of water. This is usually measured by weight, not volume. This is because a half cup (volume measurement) of ground coffee can have vastly different weights depending on the variant of bean, how its ground, and how it’s roasted. So weight gives you the most accurate measurement. 

So for example, if you see a brew ratio of 1:3 and you are using Imperial units of measurements, that means you need one cup of coffee per every three ounces of ground coffee. 

A note about units: One sticking point when calculating the best coffee to water ratio is units of measurement. As you know, U.S. measurements are different from metric measurements, used in most of the rest of the world. This can create quite a headache if you don’t make sure you are using the right units. One liter with eighteen grams is going to give you a very different ratio than if you used one cup with eighteen teaspoons, both both can be expressed as 1:18.

The convention with coffee brewing, however, is to measure brew ratio in terms of grams. This is pretty straightforward to work with when you’re using a digital kitchen scale, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Why Use a Brew Ratio?

At this point you might be rolling your eyes and asking why we’re bothering to calculate the ground coffee to water ratio. Why not just print a coffee recipe on the side of the bag and be done with it? 

The nice thing about brew ratios is that they scale. If you normally make a single cup of coffee for yourself in your French press, then how do you figure out how much coffee you need if you have two friends over? A ratio can help you there. A 1:5 ratio easily scales to a 3:15 ratio, and you have the same great-tasting coffee that you enjoy when you’re making a single serving. 

A correct coffee to water ratio also helps you fine-tune your coffee to get your brew exactly the way you want it. Splurged on some really nice beans for yourself? Don’t waste them by substandard brewing! Finding your coffee too weak or bitter? You might not have the correct amount of water added to extract the full flavor from your coffee. 

Using a brew ratio also keeps you from grinding or brewing more coffee than you’re going to use. Once you practice with a brew ratio for a while, you’ll know exactly how much to make to keep all of the coffee drinkers in your home happy. 

If you combine the right brewing ratio with your favorite roast of beans and it’s ideal brewing method, you can achieve a truly magical cup of coffee.

The Golden Ratio for Coffee Brewing

Even tiny adjustments in the coffee to water ratio can alter the final product. Luckily, you don’t have to spend hours measuring microscopic amounts of ground coffee to find the ideal ratio – though of course you can, if that appeals to you! 

Coffee aficionados have mostly agreed on the perfect coffee ratio – called “the golden ratio.” According to the National Coffee Association, the golden coffee ratio is one to two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of cold water. This is supposed to give the best taste regardless of the beans or brew method. 

The more precise version of the ratio is 1:18, which means you need 18 units of water for every one unit of coffee. Again, this is almost always expressed in grams, so one gram of ground coffee pairs with eighteen grams of water.  This is a little more accurate since you can use different units of measurement, based on weight, and scale it as needed.

Problems With the Golden Ratio

So we’ve discovered the perfect coffee recipe then, right? Not exactly. You may have spotted one glaring problem with this supposed best coffee to water ratio: people have different tastes. Maybe you mix your morning brew with plenty of oat milk and like a stronger, thicker cup. 

Additionally, different coffee variants and roasts do require different ratios to taste as good as they can, which affects how many grams of coffee per cup you need to produce the ideal cup.

Though the golden ratio is a good starting place, it doesn’t take differences among brewing options into account. A French press needs a different brew ratio than a cold brew, for example.

Coffee Brewing Chart: TDS and Extraction Yield

So if the Golden Ratio isn’t the foolproof answer to flawless coffee, what can you do? Paying attention to the TDS and extraction yield can help you find the right ratio.

Coffee Brewing Chart: TDS and Extraction Yield

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

Wait, what? TDS? I thought we were talking about coffee.

Bear with me. TDS stands for total dissolved solids, and is basically the way we measure how much of the material from your coffee beans ends up in the brewed coffee. Most of us just call it “strength.” 

Since we’ve already tackled middle-school math here, let’s get into a little bit of chemistry, shall we? 

A solution is basically something dissolved in a liquid, so coffee is a solution. TDS is a term used to measure all sorts of things dissolved in water, from pollution to tea. 

All brewing methods use water to extract solids out of coffee beans with heat (except for cold brew) and sometimes pressure (if you’re using something like a Moka pot). So essentially your perfect cup of coffee is just water with very small coffee bean parts swirling around in it. Not the most appetizing description, but thankfully there are a number of good TDS calculators out there that you can use to figure out your brew’s TDS ratio if you want to get into ultra-precise measurements

The key takeaway for TDS as it connects to the best coffee to water ratio is not to let your grounds steep too long, or the coffee will lose its subtle flavors. You can’t just let your French press sit there for hours and expect good coffee at the end of the process.  We only want to get the good stuff out of the coffee beans, and if you leave it to steep too long you start dissolving some of the foul-tasting compounds.

Extraction Yield

Okay, now that you know that the real ratio of coffee to water affects the Total Dissolved Solids, are you ready to talk about extraction yield? 

TDS leads to extraction yield, which is usually expressed as a percentage. This is how much stuff from the beans actually made it into your coffee. 

Most of us who love coffee have gradually started drinking it stronger and stronger over the years, so a higher extraction yield should be better, right? Nope! Coffee has an ideal extraction level, and stronger tasting coffee comes from brewing with darker roasted beans. Not trying to force more out of them than they can give. You won’t actually get more of a caffeine jolt either by letting the coffee steep too long – there’s only so much in caffeine in each bean.

This is where the ground coffee to water ratio is crucial because it will help you hit that sweet spot between watery, under-extracted coffee and a bitter, over-extracted brew.

The Best Coffee to Water Ratio For Each Brewing Method

You have some solid lingo under your belt, now. If you’re ready to learn how to apply your new knowledge to improve your preferred method of brewing coffee, here’s your breakdown of the perfect coffee ratio for each method.

Standard Coffee to Water Brewing Ratio

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, the perfect coffee ratio is 1:18. That means that you need one gram of coffee per eighteen grams of water.

Now, there are some variations in preference here. Some recommended a ratio as low as 1:15 while others recommend going up to 1:19, so there is a range.

But if you’re just getting started with measuring your ground coffee to water ratio, 1:18 in a standard coffee maker is a great place to start. If you want to get an idea of a good pour over coffee ratio or drip coffee ratio, 1:18 is still a pretty solid place to start.

Cold Brew Coffee to Water Ratio

Cold brew is different from all other coffee brewing methods because there is absolutely no heat involved. For standard cold brew coffee, most people recommend a 1:8 cold brew coffee ratio, so you’ll need one gram of coffee per eight grams of water.

Cold brew takes between 12 and 24 hours to fully extract the flavor, so that’s why it uses so much more ground coffee than hot-brew methods (and why it’s so pricey at your local coffee shop). The 1:8 ratio is an acceptable cold brew coffee ratio, but some people like to make cold brew concentrate, which is super-strength cold brew.

They use the concentrate to make mixed coffee drinks. A good cold brew concentrate ratio is even stronger, at 1:4 or even 1:1 – through this last one is pretty bold and will use up your coffee stash faster than a midnight deadline.

French Press Coffee to Water Ratio

Other than a good ol’ drip coffee maker, a French press is probably the most popular way to brew coffee at home. Luckily, the French press coffee to water ratio is pretty similar to that for a drip maker: 1:15.

So when making French Press coffee, you’ll want to use one gram of coffee for every fifteen grams of water.

Espresso Beans to Water Ratio

Espresso throws a bit of a curve ball here. Espresso is made exclusively in a machine using high heat and pressure to extract certain flavors and solids from the coffee beans using a relatively small amount of water.

The brew ratio, therefore, is usually in the range of 1:3 or even 1:1. Remember, espresso shots are strong! So the best coffee to water ratio for espresso means one gram of coffee for every one to three grams of water.

How to Measure Coffee Using the Correct Ratio

All this ratio stuff isn’t seeming too bad now, is it? All it takes is a little thinking to get the right amount of coffee for each serving. But wait, your coffee maker has lines for cup measurements and you normally measure your coffee in tablespoons. So, how do you actually use the correct coffee to water ratio when it’s measured in grams?

What You Will Need to Get Started

Luckily, you don’t need all that much to get started. Just a few basic kitchen tools will get you well on your way to making your ideal coffee.

You’ll need a digital kitchen scale, a liquid measuring cup or carafe to measure your water, and a bowl to measure your coffee. That’s it! In all likelihood, you probably have these in your cabinets already since a digital kitchen scale is really useful when measuring baking ingredients or meat, too.

Step 1: Measure the Water

First, set your empty carafe on the scale and reset it to zero. This makes sure you don’t accidentally measure the weight of the carafe itself along with the weight of your water. Add water to the carafe until you hit the right number of grams on the digital scale. That’s it.

Step 2: Measure the Coffee Beans

Same deal. Grab your bowl or whatever container you’re using to hold your ground coffee and place it on the digital scale. Reset to zero, then add your ground coffee beans until the scale reads the right number of grams.

Step 3: Brew Your Coffee

One you have your ground coffee and water perfectly measured, you can continue on to your favorite brew method. It might seem complicated if you’ve never weighed your coffee before, but once you practice a couple of times you’ll do it almost automatically. It really doesn’t add that much extra time onto your coffee prep. If you don’t hit the right flavor, you could try adjusting the amount of coffee or water by a gram or two next time to get it the way you want. Just make sure you write down the measurements you used, so you can recreate the ratio next time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Final Note

Now that you’ve become an expert in brew ratios, it’s time for you to start experimenting on your own. We just gave you all the tools you need to start brewing perfect coffee every time.

However, each person prefers their coffee just a little bit different, so you may need to play around with the brew ratios we provided to find a brew that fits your ideal taste.

Similar Posts